Rethinking MONUC

The year 2009 promises a lot in terms of bringing about sustainable peace process in the DR Congo. The new initiatives unfolding within the area of diplomacy should serve as a key reminder that the international community should undertake a complete overhaul of MONUC’s modus operandi in order to propel this process to its logical conclusion. MONUC’s politico-military strategy in the Kivus and indeed the entire Congo, seems to have overestimated its capacities to manage a crisis the gravity of which it apparently did not fully foresee.  
MONUC personnel train FARDC members.
MONUC personnel train FARDC members.

The year 2009 promises a lot in terms of bringing about sustainable peace process in the DR Congo. The new initiatives unfolding within the area of diplomacy should serve as a key reminder that the international community should undertake a complete overhaul of MONUC’s modus operandi in order to propel this process to its logical conclusion.

MONUC’s politico-military strategy in the Kivus and indeed the entire Congo, seems to have overestimated its capacities to manage a crisis the gravity of which it apparently did not fully foresee.

Thus MONUC is in dire of a new political and tactical direction given the new developments in Congo. It also needs the capacity to react more quickly with what it has in the face of an imminent threat; and it needs more will to act forcefully, impartially  and even proactively to implement its mandate in Congo by supporting the commitments to truly give forth to a new dispensation.

Thus it needs to fully grasp the fact that the status quo in Kinshasa is not in a mood to effect changes without externally generated pressures in addition to what is being effected from within by groups such as Nkunda and company.

A new interpretation of MONUC  Mandate

The Security Council has just renewed MONUC’s mandate. The immediate requirement is to enable the mission to fully carry out the terms of its current mandate, which include in addition to disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR) responsibilities but also  monitoring the movement of armed groups in North and South Kivu and carrying out round-the-clock surveillance of the Congo-Rwanda border to assure Rwanda that its security concerns across the border in Congo can be taken care of.

MONUC must also sort out  the illegal transport of weapons and equipment within the entire Congo. This is actually a very tall order for MONUC.

The Kivu crisis  indicates the importance of MONUC to work within its mandate. According to regional security services analysts, to be effective, it also has to maintain day and night surveillance of the key eastern airports, at Goma, Beni, Bukavu, Kindu and Kisangani, and surveillance at North Kivu flashpoints.

The new developments within Eastern Congo whereby both Rwanda and Congo have endorsed a joint operation plan to militarily flash out the genocidal FDLR will entail MONUC playing a key role in this noble initiative meaning that its strategy will have to be propped up in view of these positive developments.

MONUC has been  ill-prepared to deal with such operations. The then  Secretary General Kofi Annan had clearly identified this problem just before his departure: ‘The establishment of MONUC’s peacekeeping mandate under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter has raised expectations that the Mission will ‘enforce’ the peace throughout the country. However, there is a wide gap between such expectations and MONUC’s capacity to deliver on them’.

So that MONUC can react more efficiently when faced with a crisis and indeed for it to be  more readily identify an emergency in its early stages these analysts contend that it should establish a permanent crisis cell in the office of the Secretary General’s Special Representative.

Further to the joint Rwanda-Congo anti-FLDR operational plans, MONUC might also consider taking the proactive initiative to develop a more robust  Kivu pacification commission, which could involve the Kabila government, the different Mai Mai leaders, civil society representatives, traditional leaders and all other stakeholder groups.

Such a body might usefully draw up a roadmap for the sustained pacification of the Kivus in the wake of flushing out genocidaires from Eastern Congo.

A candid self examination

After renewing its mandate by the Security Council , MONUC should undertake its own candid examination of lessons from its Kivu  experience.

One conclusion from such an internal examination might well be that it needs to be better prepared to act at the limit of its mandate, at least in crisis situations when both many lives and the peace process can be at stake.

This involves the conception the mission has of itself, as well as the tasking, training, composition and commitment of its various contingents.

The bottom line is that MONUC must be more capable, and it must be more willing - and more confident that this is the desire of the international community - not only to protect civilians and people working for humanitarian and non-governmental organisations but also, more generally, to support the security component of the Congolese peace process.

After assisting with sorting out the FDLR menace,  MONUC needs to learn from such measures by adopting a more proactive, preventive stance on the use of force against the large numbers of marauding bands of militia groups in Congo.

The events in Ituri, where over 60,000 civilians have been killed since 1999, clearly show that it cannot wait until the militias strike again.

The Security Council should mandate the mission explicitly to use preventive force, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) should ensure that it devises a coherent strategy to implement that mandate.

New diplomatic moves

General Olusegun Obasanjo’s efforts must be given a new lease of life this year. To deal with the problem more fundamentally, it will be necessary to review the Pretoria agreement.

The FDLR menace will need further carefully thought-out post military operational issues. The success in sorting out the FDLR menace once and for all will be a key pointer of how to sustainably midwife the Congolese peace process.

Obasanjo needs to take a very high stake in the FDLR post military operational program within Congo, if such a thing has ever been conceived.

The Congolese government and MONUC should move with speed  to devise a post operational strategy to ensure that FLDR does not show ever again  its ugly head within the great lakes region.

A key element of this new round of diplomacy should be a focus on crafting a trade-off for both hardliners in both opposing camps.

If the Katangan extremists can give up some ground to let go of the genocidaires then surely more ground can be gained in terms of attaining the consensus needed to give forth to long term peace with in Congo.

Otherwise, hardliners in Kinshasa for instance desperate to hold on to their privileges will take heart in their belief that they can put an end to a sustainable peace process in the entire Congo.

If they have to succeed in such extremist posturing then Congo is not likely to see peace in the near future as it will likely be partitioned into mini-piratical states as the conflict will most likely be taken back to pre-1999 levels.

On the global level the new Obama administration with his African roots should lead British, French, Belgian and South African governments to rein in foreign elements to give forth to a new political order in Congo completely different in approach from the current status quo so that all-inclusiveness can be considered the key plank of a new Congo.

The year 2009 should be the year to redefine a new Congo.

Contact: ojiwah@gmail.com

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