Congo: Staying engaged after Operation ‘Umoja Wetu’

The Joint Operation Plan: A Milestone in the political history of the Great Lakes Region The Joint Operation plan to me represents another milestone that has been achieved in the restoration of stability in the Great Lakes region. President Joseph Kabila by reaching out to Rwanda has crafted a new phase of bilateral cooperation between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC).
MONUC’s Ituri Brigade on patrol.
MONUC’s Ituri Brigade on patrol.

The Joint Operation Plan: A Milestone in the political history of the Great Lakes Region

The Joint Operation plan to me represents another milestone that has been achieved in the restoration of stability in the Great Lakes region.

President Joseph Kabila by reaching out to Rwanda has crafted a new phase of bilateral cooperation between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC). This is a move which is meant to consolidate peace and lead the giant country towards recovery.

Despite the unquestionable achievements of the Congolese transition and the electoral process which came in after the transition, sustainable peace is still a daunting challenge.

Certain personalities within Kabila’s inner circle of political operatives had demonstrated little genuine commitment to actual implementation of a political give and take trade off that was necessary to midwife the path to sustainable peace.

Until recently. The chances are high that the peace process would be a reality in view of the latest developments.

However a wider engagement by the international community and other forms of guarantees would give a huge boost to the road to true stability in the DRC.

It is of the utmost importance for the stability of the Great Lakes region and the sustainability of the Congo peace process that the international community remain strongly and collectively engaged.

Security Sector reforms (SSR), restoration of state authority, consolidation of democratic institutions and implementation of decentralisation are four key agendas for which strong international commitment is essential.

Kabila’s latest move provides the fundamental elements of giving forth by various actors of a new political dispensation promised to the Congolese people during the peace talks while representing the onset of a new era for the country.

With a reasonably clear popular mandate and a strong majority in parliament, Kabila controls roughly three fifths of both houses and is empowered to consolidate peace and stability in the country.

Midwifing a sustainable peace process, however, is a very tall order. The joint Operation plan was mooted to rein in the elements of genocidal forces holed up in the Kivus while providing a framework and yardstick of the best approach to pacify the Kivus and by extension the entire country. Its successes have to be consolidated and its achievements safeguarded.

Post ‘Umoja Wetu’ Challenges

Certain concrete International structures to support the peace process following the Joint Operation Plan need to be instituted within Congo.

For instance such sentiments were echoed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Rosemary Museminali who called upon the international community to play its part in helping consolidate the gains registered so far. Diplomatic and political coordination should be stepped up.

The UN Security Council should mandate MONUC to consult with the new Congolese institutions and key countries (the Council’s five permanent members, Belgium, South Africa, Angola) to create a limited-membership international political forum on the DRC.

That forum should advise and support the government on national and regional conflict prevention and management and on protecting the achievements of the peace process.

‘Other than humanitarian work, you know the FDLR has supporters in other parts of the world. The President of the FDLR Ignace Murwanashyaka is in Germany.

So we are asking the international community to consolidate what has been achieved in the Great Lakes region’, was a remark by Museminali recently.

Such sentiments echo the need for the international community to move faster to help propel gains so far registered. Yet another area should be within the provision of support to Congo’s emerging institutions.

Perhaps MONUC should be mandated to facilitate establishment of a framework to give forth to legal and state structural reforms as part of the reconstruction drive for the DRC.

The Congolese are in dire need of support to effect the implementation of the new constitution and the completion of legal reforms agreed upon at the Inter-Congolese dialogue (such as devolution of central government responsibilities to the newly created provinces, judicial reform and anti-corruption legislation).

The joint commission on SSR created during the transition should be renewed, with a clear mandate to support the implementation of an integrated and comprehensive strategy, including the key issue of vetting, donor coordination and payment and sustainment of the integrated national army (FARDC).

The Kabila presidency – the first one elected in over 40 years – is confronted with numerous difficulties, underlining the need for continued international support and mediation assistance.

According to analysts only 45 of the 500 members of the national assembly were re-elected. Some who signed on to the peace process have lost almost all representation in state bodies, creating a danger that they will seek to regain lost power through military as well as political challenges to the new government.

The way forward

MONUC to provide true leadership

Provision of support to Congo’s emerging institutions is part and parcel of the MONUC mandate. During the transition, the mission had the mandate to ‘provide advice and assistance to the transitional government and authorities’ in accordance with the peace deal.

Through various resolutions, the Security Council also mandated it to ‘provide assistance … for the reestablishment of a State based on the rule of law’ and to ‘strengthen good governance and transparent economic management’. This gave it authority to advise the transitional government at key points and avert political crises.

Together with members of parliament, representatives of the executive and key donors, MONUC facilitated the establishment of joint commissions on essential legislation and SSR, which were instrumental to sustaining progress during the transition.

Although it has sometimes been criticised for lack of initiative, on several crucial occasions, MONUC, kept the transition from derailing and pushed it forward.

Nevertheless, the Security Council must now redefine MONUC’s political role with regard to the new political realities being shaped up in the Great Lakes region.

While there is little question that its mandate to protect civilians, monitor human rights abuses and enforce the arms embargo, it is not clear how far MONUC is to remain involved in promoting and safeguarding the remaining agendas of the peace process, such as judicial reform, devolution of central government powers to provincial assemblies and anti-corruption legislation.

Analysts are thus positing that MONUC should form a regional peace-building mechanism in light of the recent developments. 

MONUC should continue to promote their dialogue and support implementation of joint policies and regional agreements, notably in relation to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of foreign armed groups and allegations of support to Congolese militias by neighbours in a concerted bid to consolidate the gains made so far.

On SSR analysts are quick to point out that this must not be treated as purely technical. The command structure, size and control of the FARDC and financial administration of the defence sector have all suffered from political manipulation.

In coordination with donors such as the Unites States of America and the European Union and other regional powers, MONUC has an important role to play, particularly with regard to short-term army training and also police reform.

MONUC had proposed to the Security Council that it takes over training of the integrated brigades, using troops currently in the Congo to work on-site with the integrated brigades.

This would have the advantage that UN trainers would supervise these new units in the field, thus curbing abuses and improving performance.

MONUC troops are already conducting joint operations with integrated brigades, and this proposal would strengthen that cooperation.

However, commentators point out that the UN plan does not include institutional support functions such as improving soldiers’ standard of living by raising salaries, providing adequate food and health care and building decent barracks for them and their families or supplying equipment and other resources necessary for operations, including fuel, communications and transport.

MONUC should also focus on reforming military administration, including military tribunals, financial management and the army inspectorate.

MONUC’s proposal for army training should be adopted by the Security Council. Donors will still need to engage urgently in a comprehensive review of their bilateral policies, so that good governance and the appropriate management of the Congo’s vast natural resources provide the much needed financial support for its army reform.

The transition suffered from international complacency on good governance in the name of safeguarding stability. International political will to address key governance issues now has to be expressed in support of the key remaining areas of the peace process, such as security sector reforms.


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