Congolese citizens who work for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) organized on May 6 a two-day sit-in in all field offices and antenna across the DRC. They were demanding that the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the DRC Ms. Leila Zerrougui’ s decision to terminate 555 contracts of national staff by June 30 be rescinded. This decision is contrary to the latest UN Security Council Resolution 2463 of March 19, 2019 which calls for the staffing level to remain unchanged. In the meantime, Madam Zerrougui is hiring international staff whose salaries, bonuses, and other benefits constitute a bigger budgetary burden than the few thousands of dollars allocated to national staff.

Also, the national UN staff has been waiting and demanding for the implementation of the nationalization of posts which would open up the opportunity to qualified Congolese to hold some of the supervisory positions. The national staff has denounced this and their signs during the sit-in publicly referred to it as “discrimination and disrespect to the Congolese people”. The unwillingness to nationalize these posts could also be due to a very close link between these high paying jobs to internal politics, individual countries’ interests, and personal relationships. Similarly, we must not lose sight of the fact that humanitarian work is an industry in itself with individual career ambitions and livelihoods to be protected which undermines the most vulnerable people they are asked to serve.

The UN national staff has urged the Congolese government to get involved in this advocacy. The DRC should take interest in this issue for several reasons the chief among them being economic, political and strategic. For example, it is clear that wages paid to Congolese workers are spent locally and has tremendous benefits on local economy and society. To the contrary, wages paid to international staff benefit the economy of the expatriates’ home countries. The Congolese government must also demand that Congolese citizens be given priority for UN contract offers to help create the economic opportunities to DRC’s unemployed youth who are at risk of joining armed groups.