Perfect testing ground for future UN combat missions?

Today, the world is watching how events in the DRC and Syria play out and the international community is paralysed and clueless on how to solve these conflicts.
Joe B Jakes
Joe B Jakes

Today, the world is watching how events in the DRC and Syria play out and the international community is paralysed and clueless on how to solve these conflicts.

As a result of the United Nations’ paralysis, inability to build consensus for peace and failure to protect civilians in both countries, there is no secret that hundreds of thousands of civilians have been the victims.

Despite many crimes against humanity being committed all over the world, the goal of the United Nations Security (UNSC) to shift its position from policing the world’s conflicts with neutrality to a more aggressive use of force; especially in one of the Africa’s resources rich country, DRC raises some concerns.

Surprisingly, there were little open debates over such drastic move in policy and posture, and not only does this change have its own practical challenges, but it also sets precedence by creating a template for future unwarranted military adventures in other vulnerable parts of the world.

It is public knowledge that countries (France and USA) who sponsored the resolution 2098 to authorize the Intervention Brigade would also want to be seen as big advocates for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P); hence to claim the high moral ground.

However, their indifference to human suffering in the developing world is well known, their infamous lack of altruism is documented and their struggle for economic and political domination is no secret.

Their infamous lack of altruism and hunger for economic and political domination is well inked in the memories of the people in the region.

The paradox is that the UN’s new impetus to resolve DRC’s crisis follows a decade of silence which is a reminder of the inaction during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Only concerned by saving its credibility, the UN chose an aggressive and audacious attempt to defend the dismal record of the MONUSCO. How can the use of force resolve the underlying issues of democratic deficit, rights of minority groups, bad governance and resource management?

In principle, one supports all efforts that would lead to peace including the use of all diplomatic tracks, as well as targeted sanctions to increase pressure, but totally object to any use military force which could potentially flare up.

The case in point is the Kampala negotiation where the negotiation between the DRC government and M23 rebel group has stalled due to an increased military confrontation led by the UN forces.

The key factors in getting to peace in the DRC cannot be dictated and should not be influenced by either military victories or defeats on the front lines, and also coming to the round table ought not to be determined by foreign political actors and prices of minerals on the global markets.

The GLR has been a theatre for bloodletting for so long, and people have witnessed enough violent military activities since the independence time; and it is high time for genuine commitment to peaceful resolution of the crisis.

In a world with various centres of power, the leadership in the GLR is desperately needed to find peace and people deserve unifying leaders who can find a unified front in not only combating today’s insecurity of political nature, but also in confronting the future challenges of economic dimension. In a global race for economic resources, the rule of the game means only the fittest will survive and consequently, those unable to manage their own affairs let alone their resources will always be at the mercy of their masters.

This state of affairs raises questions on whether the GLR can see lasting peace or let’s say whether economic blocs such as the East African Community (EAC) can flourish.

As things stand today, one is sceptical of the region’s ability to look inward first, and then focus outward in order to deal with existing and emerging powers with the view to secure a better deal of their citizens.

Now depending on one’s perspective, it remains unclear whether the UN’s forces in the DRC serve any meaningful purpose for the Congolese people, or whether their presence provides a buffer zone for further exploitation by the various powerful actors.

This is of course a matter of argument and it is up to smart people to determine whether the forces’ presence can genuinely contribute in ending impunity and disarming rebel groups, which they got so spectacularly wrong since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

The establishment of an offensive military force by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) can be seen as an innovation because of the strong mandate to “neutralize” various armed rebels in the DRC, but it has raised practical and legal questions too.

How can the Intervention Brigade back the DRC forces and remain a neutral force? With ongoing diplomatic efforts in Kampala and the UN forces on the offensive, it would be impossible for the M23 not to legally justify and claim their self-defence.

To see a UN peacekeeping force engaged in armed conflict with opposing forces is controversial regardless of whether they claim to be fighting for the purposes of applying international law.

What seems not too controversial, at least in their views is how much the GLR has suffered and how easily it has become the first testing ground for future military expeditions.

The author is a researcher in Diplomacy and International Law based in the United Kingdom

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