Showing posts tagged as "monusco"

Showing posts tagged monusco

11 Sep
Is the LRA Only Sleeping? | Thibaud Lesueur
“With two hundred men, we could get rid of most of the LRA in DRC,” a foreign security official told me in August when I was touring the Uele district, in the far north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Lord’s Resistance Army has been abusing the population there since at least 2008. But in contrast to the foreign official’s confidence, the striking fact was that the fight against what remains of the LRA is at a standstill. It needs fresh impetus, because the LRA has demonstrated repeatedly its capacity to go underground then surge again more violent than before.
FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group Blogs)
Photo: United Nations Development Programme/Flickr

Is the LRA Only Sleeping? | Thibaud Lesueur

“With two hundred men, we could get rid of most of the LRA in DRC,” a foreign security official told me in August when I was touring the Uele district, in the far north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Lord’s Resistance Army has been abusing the population there since at least 2008. But in contrast to the foreign official’s confidence, the striking fact was that the fight against what remains of the LRA is at a standstill. It needs fresh impetus, because the LRA has demonstrated repeatedly its capacity to go underground then surge again more violent than before.

FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group Blogs)

Photo: United Nations Development Programme/Flickr

6 Dec

Clashes in Eastern DR Congo, April-November 2012 

View fighting in eastern DR Congo in a larger map.

(Source: crisisgroup.org)

25 Nov
Congolese Rebels Seize Goma, Take Airport | AP via ABC News
By Melanie Goumy and Rukmini Callimachi
A rebel group believed to be backed by Rwanda seized the strategic, provincial capital of Goma in eastern Congo on Tuesday, home to more than 1 million people as well as an international airport in a development that threatens to spark a new, regional war, officials and witnesses said.
Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city as the M23 rebels pushed forward on two fronts: toward the city center and along the road that leads to Bukavu, another provincial capital which lies to the south. Civilians ran down sidewalks looking for cover and children shouted in alarm. A man clutched a thermos as he ran.
Thousands of residents fled across the border to Rwanda, the much-smaller nation to the east which is accused of funneling arms and recruits to the M23 rebels.
FULL ARTICLE (ABC News)
Photo: Julien Harneis/Flickr

Congolese Rebels Seize Goma, Take Airport | AP via ABC News

By Melanie Goumy and Rukmini Callimachi

A rebel group believed to be backed by Rwanda seized the strategic, provincial capital of Goma in eastern Congo on Tuesday, home to more than 1 million people as well as an international airport in a development that threatens to spark a new, regional war, officials and witnesses said.

Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city as the M23 rebels pushed forward on two fronts: toward the city center and along the road that leads to Bukavu, another provincial capital which lies to the south. Civilians ran down sidewalks looking for cover and children shouted in alarm. A man clutched a thermos as he ran.

Thousands of residents fled across the border to Rwanda, the much-smaller nation to the east which is accused of funneling arms and recruits to the M23 rebels.

FULL ARTICLE (ABC News)

Photo: Julien Harneis/Flickr

21 Nov
DR Congo’s Goma: Avoiding a New Regional War
Brussels/Nairobi  |   20 Nov 2012
The east Congolese city of Goma and its key airport have reportedly fallen after heavy fighting to the M23 rebel group. Regional and international actors must now prevent this turning into a new regional war.
The past week has shown history repeating itself in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the same tragic consequences for civilians in the region (see Crisis Group briefing from 4 October for background).
On 15 November 2012, the M23 rebel movement, with – according to the DRC – the backing of Rwanda’s armed forces, broke the 25 July de facto ceasefire observed with the Congolese army (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, FARDC) and launched an offensive against Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
Unable, despite numerous attempts, to extend its control over the resource-rich Masisi territory, constrained by Uganda’s closure of its Bunangana border with the DRC and frustrated by the decision of the UN Security Council to place its main leader, Sultani Makenga, on the UN sanctions list, the M23 had finally decided to make real its threat to attack the city. On 18 November, following three days of fighting, the movement broke the FARDC’s resistance and tried to force the government of President Joseph Kabila to negotiate.
On 19 November, after several fruitless attempts at talks and an ultimatum from the M23 to the government, fighting broke out inside Goma, a city under the defence of the FARDC and UN peacekeepers (MONUSCO). The M23’s ultimatum had demanded the FARDC’s withdrawal from, and the demilitarisation of, Goma and its airport; the reopening of the Bunangana border post; and an inclusive negotiation process to bring in the unarmed Congolese political opposition, civil society and the diaspora. By making this demand, the M23 aimed to reduce the crisis to a domestic affair, thereby preventing Kinshasa from internationalising it in order to negotiate a solution at the regional level through the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) with those neighbouring countries that allegedly support the M23 rebellion.
While negotiations were on the verge of starting in Goma, President Kabila ultimately refused to recognise the M23 as a legitimate interlocutor, and clashes broke out inside the city. The rebels entered Goma on 20 November, forcing the Congolese army to retreat to Sake.
The new offensive is a tragic repeat of the threat by Laurent Nkunda’s Conseil National de Défense du Peuple (CNDP) to take Goma in 2008. Once again, the civilian population is paying a heavy price. As in 2008, the same causes could produce the same fearful effects:
the fall of Goma could lead to serious human rights abuses against civilian populations;
the settling of accounts or even targeted extrajudicial executions against authorities and civil society activists who have taken a stance against the M23 since the beginning of the crisis in March could raise the death toll and fuel more violence;
Kinshasa’s capitulation to the M23 could send shock waves throughout the Kivus and relaunch open warfare between the DRC and Rwanda; and
the UN and the ICGLR, both responsible for conflict management in the region, are being discredited.
As immediate steps, regional and international actors must secure: 
an end to fighting inside Goma;
M23’s commitment to respect MONUSCO’s mandate to fully protect civilians;  and
M23’s concrete assurances, visible on the ground, to respect civilians and property in areas under their control, and prevent further human rights abuses.
To avoid a regional implosion, the following steps are also necessary:
explicit condemnation by the UN Security Council, African Union (AU) and ICGLR of external involvement in the fighting;
immediate efforts by MONUSCO’s leadership to seek to negotiate and secure a formal ceasefire, as well as accelerate the deployment of the Joint Verification Mechanism and the Neutral Force agreed by the ICGLR; 
sanctions by the European Union (EU), UN Security Council, and especially France, the UK and the U.S., as well as the AU, not only against the rebellion’s leaders, but also against their external supporters;
an investigation by the International Criminal Court into the actions of the M23 and new armed groups, and the request by the court that MONUSCO transfer its files concerning M23 leaders; and
the immediate establishment of a joint fact-finding mission in the region by the AU, EU, Belgian, South African and U.S. special envoys for the Great Lakes to determine the best course for arriving at the long-term resolution of this crisis.
The immediate priority is to stop the current fighting and protect civilians.
Long-term solutions will require that the UN Security Council, AU and ICGLR ensure that peace agreements and that stabilisation plans no longer remain empty promises. To achieve this, coordinated and unequivocal pressure on the Congolese government and the M23 rebel movement, as well as the latter’s external supporters, is required from international donors and regional actors. 
(International Crisis Group)
Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr

DR Congo’s Goma: Avoiding a New Regional War

Brussels/Nairobi  |   20 Nov 2012

The east Congolese city of Goma and its key airport have reportedly fallen after heavy fighting to the M23 rebel group. Regional and international actors must now prevent this turning into a new regional war.

The past week has shown history repeating itself in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the same tragic consequences for civilians in the region (see Crisis Group briefing from 4 October for background).

On 15 November 2012, the M23 rebel movement, with – according to the DRC – the backing of Rwanda’s armed forces, broke the 25 July de facto ceasefire observed with the Congolese army (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, FARDC) and launched an offensive against Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

Unable, despite numerous attempts, to extend its control over the resource-rich Masisi territory, constrained by Uganda’s closure of its Bunangana border with the DRC and frustrated by the decision of the UN Security Council to place its main leader, Sultani Makenga, on the UN sanctions list, the M23 had finally decided to make real its threat to attack the city. On 18 November, following three days of fighting, the movement broke the FARDC’s resistance and tried to force the government of President Joseph Kabila to negotiate.

On 19 November, after several fruitless attempts at talks and an ultimatum from the M23 to the government, fighting broke out inside Goma, a city under the defence of the FARDC and UN peacekeepers (MONUSCO). The M23’s ultimatum had demanded the FARDC’s withdrawal from, and the demilitarisation of, Goma and its airport; the reopening of the Bunangana border post; and an inclusive negotiation process to bring in the unarmed Congolese political opposition, civil society and the diaspora. By making this demand, the M23 aimed to reduce the crisis to a domestic affair, thereby preventing Kinshasa from internationalising it in order to negotiate a solution at the regional level through the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) with those neighbouring countries that allegedly support the M23 rebellion.

While negotiations were on the verge of starting in Goma, President Kabila ultimately refused to recognise the M23 as a legitimate interlocutor, and clashes broke out inside the city. The rebels entered Goma on 20 November, forcing the Congolese army to retreat to Sake.

The new offensive is a tragic repeat of the threat by Laurent Nkunda’s Conseil National de Défense du Peuple (CNDP) to take Goma in 2008. Once again, the civilian population is paying a heavy price. As in 2008, the same causes could produce the same fearful effects:

  • the fall of Goma could lead to serious human rights abuses against civilian populations;
  • the settling of accounts or even targeted extrajudicial executions against authorities and civil society activists who have taken a stance against the M23 since the beginning of the crisis in March could raise the death toll and fuel more violence;
  • Kinshasa’s capitulation to the M23 could send shock waves throughout the Kivus and relaunch open warfare between the DRC and Rwanda; and
  • the UN and the ICGLR, both responsible for conflict management in the region, are being discredited.

As immediate steps, regional and international actors must secure: 

  • an end to fighting inside Goma;
  • M23’s commitment to respect MONUSCO’s mandate to fully protect civilians;  and
  • M23’s concrete assurances, visible on the ground, to respect civilians and property in areas under their control, and prevent further human rights abuses.

To avoid a regional implosion, the following steps are also necessary:

  • explicit condemnation by the UN Security Council, African Union (AU) and ICGLR of external involvement in the fighting;
  • immediate efforts by MONUSCO’s leadership to seek to negotiate and secure a formal ceasefire, as well as accelerate the deployment of the Joint Verification Mechanism and the Neutral Force agreed by the ICGLR; 
  • sanctions by the European Union (EU), UN Security Council, and especially France, the UK and the U.S., as well as the AU, not only against the rebellion’s leaders, but also against their external supporters;
  • an investigation by the International Criminal Court into the actions of the M23 and new armed groups, and the request by the court that MONUSCO transfer its files concerning M23 leaders; and
  • the immediate establishment of a joint fact-finding mission in the region by the AU, EU, Belgian, South African and U.S. special envoys for the Great Lakes to determine the best course for arriving at the long-term resolution of this crisis.

The immediate priority is to stop the current fighting and protect civilians.

Long-term solutions will require that the UN Security Council, AU and ICGLR ensure that peace agreements and that stabilisation plans no longer remain empty promises. To achieve this, coordinated and unequivocal pressure on the Congolese government and the M23 rebel movement, as well as the latter’s external supporters, is required from international donors and regional actors. 

(International Crisis Group)

Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr

20 Oct
DRC: Tough bargaining with armed groups | IRIN
Since May, the M23 rebellion by a group of army mutineers has allowed a number of armed groups to expand and take back territory from the government.
According to the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), there are now more than 30 armed groups in the eastern provinces. Most of these probably number a few hundred or less, but some might play an important role in the confrontation between the army and the M23.
The conflict currently looks like a stand-off, despite a seemingly huge imbalance of forces. The think tank International Crisis Group (ICG) estimates that the army recently had 7,000 troops deployed against the M23, which numbered only around 1,000. Both sides have been reinforced, with Human Rights Watch and other observers alleging that units of the Rwandan army have supported the M23 during major engagements.
FULL ARTICLE (IRIN)
Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr

DRC: Tough bargaining with armed groups | IRIN

Since May, the M23 rebellion by a group of army mutineers has allowed a number of armed groups to expand and take back territory from the government.

According to the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), there are now more than 30 armed groups in the eastern provinces. Most of these probably number a few hundred or less, but some might play an important role in the confrontation between the army and the M23.

The conflict currently looks like a stand-off, despite a seemingly huge imbalance of forces. The think tank International Crisis Group (ICG) estimates that the army recently had 7,000 troops deployed against the M23, which numbered only around 1,000. Both sides have been reinforced, with Human Rights Watch and other observers alleging that units of the Rwandan army have supported the M23 during major engagements.

FULL ARTICLE (IRIN)

Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr

22 Jun
DRC: Understanding armed group M23 | IRIN
JOHANNESBURG, 22 June 2012 (IRIN) - To the layman the emergence of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) armed group M23 might be seen as of little significance - just another band of gunmen controlling a few square kilometres of turf in a country the size of western Europe. 
“This [M23] is a new configuration and a serious development. More than 200,000 people have been displaced since April [because of M23],” Rupert Colville, a Geneva-based spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, told IRIN. 
FULL ARTICLE (IRIN)
Photo: Samuel Okiror/IRIN

DRC: Understanding armed group M23 | IRIN

JOHANNESBURG, 22 June 2012 (IRIN) - To the layman the emergence of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) armed group M23 might be seen as of little significance - just another band of gunmen controlling a few square kilometres of turf in a country the size of western Europe. 

“This [M23] is a new configuration and a serious development. More than 200,000 people have been displaced since April [because of M23],” Rupert Colville, a Geneva-based spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, told IRIN. 

FULL ARTICLE (IRIN)

Photo: Samuel Okiror/IRIN

19 Jun
How the Security Council Can Support the Protection of Civilians in DRC | UN Dispatch
By Carol Jean Gallo
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, has a lot to deal with on a good day. MONUSCO trains the Congolese army on human rights and sexual violence prevention, works with the national “DDR” commission on the demobilization of child soldiers, deactivates mines and provides assistance for victims of mines, helps public officials address electoral disputes from the recent election, and much more.
Earlier this year, an army mutiny led to the formation of the M23 rebellion in the east. This complicates MONUSCO’s work with the Congolese and the Ugandan armies on conducting operations against the ADF-NALU and the LRA, two Ugandan rebel movements with a destabilizing presence in eastern Congo. The mutiny also poses a challenge to the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration (DDRRR) of foreign armed groups, also in the east; the ADF, LRA, FNL, and FDLR.
FULL ARTICLE (UN Dispatch)
Photo: Julien Harneis

How the Security Council Can Support the Protection of Civilians in DRC | UN Dispatch

By Carol Jean Gallo

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, has a lot to deal with on a good day. MONUSCO trains the Congolese army on human rights and sexual violence prevention, works with the national “DDR” commission on the demobilization of child soldiers, deactivates mines and provides assistance for victims of mines, helps public officials address electoral disputes from the recent election, and much more.

Earlier this year, an army mutiny led to the formation of the M23 rebellion in the east. This complicates MONUSCO’s work with the Congolese and the Ugandan armies on conducting operations against the ADF-NALU and the LRA, two Ugandan rebel movements with a destabilizing presence in eastern Congo. The mutiny also poses a challenge to the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration (DDRRR) of foreign armed groups, also in the east; the ADF, LRA, FNL, and FDLR.

FULL ARTICLE (UN Dispatch)

Photo: Julien Harneis

12 Jun
UN mission ‘failing to protect DRC civilians’ | The Journal
THE INTERNATIONAL Crisis Group has penned an open letter to the UN Security Council warning of the risk of a major escalation in violence and criticising its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo of failing in its mandate to protect civilians.
The ICG warns that “history is again repeating itself” in eastern DRC where there is “a risk of serious escalation of violence”.
The group also accuses the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) of failing in its core mandate of stabilisation and the protection of civilians, saying that the mission’s stabilisation strategy has been too heavily centred on “an expectation that the 2008-2009 rapprochement between DRC and Rwanda was enough to contain the conflict in the Kivus”.
FULL ARTICLE (The Journal)
Photo: Pete Muller/AP 

UN mission ‘failing to protect DRC civilians’ | The Journal

THE INTERNATIONAL Crisis Group has penned an open letter to the UN Security Council warning of the risk of a major escalation in violence and criticising its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo of failing in its mandate to protect civilians.

The ICG warns that “history is again repeating itself” in eastern DRC where there is “a risk of serious escalation of violence”.

The group also accuses the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) of failing in its core mandate of stabilisation and the protection of civilians, saying that the mission’s stabilisation strategy has been too heavily centred on “an expectation that the 2008-2009 rapprochement between DRC and Rwanda was enough to contain the conflict in the Kivus”.

FULL ARTICLE (The Journal)

Photo: Pete Muller/AP 

11 Jun
Open Letter to the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Brussels  |   11 Jun 2012
Excellency, 
History is again repeating itself in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There is a risk of serious escalation of violence and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) is failing in its core mandate of stabilisation and protection of civilians. This month’s renewal of MONUSCO presents a vital opportunity for the Security Council to review its strategy in the DRC. 
Eastern Congo is again rapidly destabilising with the defection of Bosco Ntaganda from the Congolese army and the formation of the M23 Movement, another Tutsi-led rebellion allegedly supported by Rwanda. The government, weakened by presidential and legislative elections last November that were widely recognised as deeply flawed, is seizing the opportunity to please the international community by at last pursuing the capture of Ntaganda. President Joseph Kabila seems to be gambling that this is an opportunity to break the parallel structures maintained by the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple’s (CNDP) within the army, and to remobilise domestic support around anti-Rwanda sentiment by pursuing a military defeat of the M23. In addition to the fragmentation of the army and new fighting between the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and ex-CNDP elements, various Mai-Mai groups have expanded their reach and the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) remains a persistent, if diminished threat, as the FARDC fails to control territory. 
The stabilisation strategy underpinned by MONUSCO was centred too heavily on an expectation that the 2008-2009 rapprochement between DRC and Rwanda was enough to contain the conflict in the Kivus. The bilateral agreement was based on President Kabila’s willingness to integrate Rwanda’s proxy CNDP forces into the army, but the strategy was short-sighted as it made no provisions for addressing the underlying causes of conflict beyond Rwanda’s security objectives. The current mutiny underway in the Kivus is perhaps the clearest evidence to date of how little progress has been made in stabilisation. The 2008 and 2012 crises appear remarkably similar, including their ethnic dimension, reported support from Rwanda and the negative impact on civilians, including displacement and potential for increasing ethnic tensions at the community level. These crises are symptoms of unresolved regional and local conflicts over access to land and resources, as well as a failure to achieve structural reform within the security sector, poor governance and non-existent rule of law, and the inability to address the sources of financing for armed groups, end impunity and extend state authority, including through decentralisation. 
In this context, it would be a mistake if the Security Council seeks to make only minor adjustments to the current course in renewing MONUSCO’s mandate. Without a new approach and re-engagement by the Security Council, MONUSCO risks becoming a $1.5 billion empty shell. 
MONUSCO has lost credibility on several fronts and urgently needs to reorient its efforts. 
First, the mission has had strikingly little success at fulfilling its primary objective to protect civilians, though some of its innovative operational improvements should be acknowledged and encouraged. The population remains profoundly vulnerable to violence and frustrated by the lack of protection as illustrated by the recent attack on UN peacekeepers in Bunyiakiri, South Kivu. Despite progress against the FDLR, the threat of armed groups remains pervasive and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cites an additional 218,000 internally displaced persons in North Kivu between 1 April and 31 May 2012. Durable protection of civilians will only come through an enhanced political process and the establishment of accountable state institutions. 
Secondly, MONUSCO technical and logistical support to deeply flawed elections in 2011 and the inability to successfully promote dialogue between the parties has altered perceptions about the Mission’s impartiality. Neither the Security Council nor MONUSCO articulated clear red lines for the credibility of the process, and the good offices role of the Mission appeared underutilised. With the failed decentralisation agenda, constitutional reforms that further expanded the power of the Presidency and little accountability for violence and massive fraud associated with the elections, the evidence continues to mount in support of the concerns Crisis Group expressed to the Security Council last year about the potential for authoritarian drift and consequences of the failure to resolve grievances through elections. If not corrected, international involvement in the DRC, including through MONUSCO, risks entrenching an unaccountable government and undermining its own eventual rule of law and peacebuilding efforts. 
The Security Council should undertake a review of MONUSCO’s strategy and improve performance. 
MONUSCO’s focus on the use of force to stabilise the Kivus is not enough. Despite the conditionality policy for MONUSCO support to FARDC operations, there remains a lack of clarity about the overall military strategy and articulation of an end state to the military operations against illegal armed groups. What is required is a comprehensive strategy and sustained local and regional engagement by the international community. Clearly there is a need to address both local drivers of conflict between communities and the interplay with regional dynamics, including relations with Rwanda, whether through renewed political dialogue or a national accountability and reconciliation process, or both. 
To bolster the government’s accountability, the holding of credible provincial and local elections, including in the east, is essential. The mistakes of 2011 should not be repeated and clear standards on the organisation and holding of elections should be communicated to the government by the Security Council and MONUSCO, in particular serious reform of the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) and improved transparency in the logistics and supply procedures of the elections. MONUSCO should engage with key stakeholders, monitor CENI adherence to electoral law and report on the process. MONUSCO should not support elections that are clearly not credible. 
Security sector reform (SSR) is vital to stability in the DRC, but little progress can be expected without serious re-engagement and support from all sides, including the government, MONUSCO, the UN Security Council and key partners. Without a clear commitment from President Kabila and the government to a broader peacebuilding agenda, SSR will continue to flounder. The Security Council should only consider an enhanced role for MONUSCO in SSR as part of a broader political strategy for stability in eastern Congo and once some progress has been made in enhancing government accountability, otherwise the UN risks exacerbating rather than improving instability. 
The Security Council should send a signal to the Congolese government and its partners that it is time for a new strategic dialogue. A business-as-usual rollover of MONUSCO’s mandate will send the wrong message to all parties. 
When renewing MONUSCO’s mandate, the Security Council should:
Call on the Congolese government to arrest Bosco Ntaganda and transfer him to the International Criminal Court for trial;
Demand the end to illegal cross-border support to armed groups operating in the DRC, notably by Rwanda, and consider consequences for those parties who do not cease support;
Request the Secretary-General to undertake a strategic review of MONUSCO’s stabilisation strategy and report back to the UN Security Council, including on the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy, with a strong political component, to address pervasive insecurity and the threat of illegal armed groups in eastern Congo.
Enhance attention to key governance reforms — such as the holding of credible provincial and local elections, decentralisation and progress in the fight against corruption — by updating operative paragraph four of Security Council resolution 1991 (2011) to include their achievement as one of the core objectives that is the basis for decisions on reconfiguration of the mission;
Insist on the holding of free, fair and credible provincial and local elections, as well as the timely re-organization of legislative elections in Masisi territory that were canceled by the CENI;
Articulate clear standards for the holding of elections and condition MONUSCO support on serious reform of the CENI and improved transparency in the logistics and supply procedures and accountability for past election-related human rights violations.

Louise Arbour 
President and CEO
READ LETTER (Crisis Group)

Open Letter to the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Brussels  |   11 Jun 2012

Excellency, 

History is again repeating itself in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There is a risk of serious escalation of violence and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) is failing in its core mandate of stabilisation and protection of civilians. This month’s renewal of MONUSCO presents a vital opportunity for the Security Council to review its strategy in the DRC. 

Eastern Congo is again rapidly destabilising with the defection of Bosco Ntaganda from the Congolese army and the formation of the M23 Movement, another Tutsi-led rebellion allegedly supported by Rwanda. The government, weakened by presidential and legislative elections last November that were widely recognised as deeply flawed, is seizing the opportunity to please the international community by at last pursuing the capture of Ntaganda. President Joseph Kabila seems to be gambling that this is an opportunity to break the parallel structures maintained by the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple’s (CNDP) within the army, and to remobilise domestic support around anti-Rwanda sentiment by pursuing a military defeat of the M23. In addition to the fragmentation of the army and new fighting between the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and ex-CNDP elements, various Mai-Mai groups have expanded their reach and the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) remains a persistent, if diminished threat, as the FARDC fails to control territory. 

The stabilisation strategy underpinned by MONUSCO was centred too heavily on an expectation that the 2008-2009 rapprochement between DRC and Rwanda was enough to contain the conflict in the Kivus. The bilateral agreement was based on President Kabila’s willingness to integrate Rwanda’s proxy CNDP forces into the army, but the strategy was short-sighted as it made no provisions for addressing the underlying causes of conflict beyond Rwanda’s security objectives. The current mutiny underway in the Kivus is perhaps the clearest evidence to date of how little progress has been made in stabilisation. The 2008 and 2012 crises appear remarkably similar, including their ethnic dimension, reported support from Rwanda and the negative impact on civilians, including displacement and potential for increasing ethnic tensions at the community level. These crises are symptoms of unresolved regional and local conflicts over access to land and resources, as well as a failure to achieve structural reform within the security sector, poor governance and non-existent rule of law, and the inability to address the sources of financing for armed groups, end impunity and extend state authority, including through decentralisation. 

In this context, it would be a mistake if the Security Council seeks to make only minor adjustments to the current course in renewing MONUSCO’s mandate. Without a new approach and re-engagement by the Security Council, MONUSCO risks becoming a $1.5 billion empty shell. 

MONUSCO has lost credibility on several fronts and urgently needs to reorient its efforts. 

First, the mission has had strikingly little success at fulfilling its primary objective to protect civilians, though some of its innovative operational improvements should be acknowledged and encouraged. The population remains profoundly vulnerable to violence and frustrated by the lack of protection as illustrated by the recent attack on UN peacekeepers in Bunyiakiri, South Kivu. Despite progress against the FDLR, the threat of armed groups remains pervasive and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cites an additional 218,000 internally displaced persons in North Kivu between 1 April and 31 May 2012. Durable protection of civilians will only come through an enhanced political process and the establishment of accountable state institutions. 

Secondly, MONUSCO technical and logistical support to deeply flawed elections in 2011 and the inability to successfully promote dialogue between the parties has altered perceptions about the Mission’s impartiality. Neither the Security Council nor MONUSCO articulated clear red lines for the credibility of the process, and the good offices role of the Mission appeared underutilised. With the failed decentralisation agenda, constitutional reforms that further expanded the power of the Presidency and little accountability for violence and massive fraud associated with the elections, the evidence continues to mount in support of the concerns Crisis Group expressed to the Security Council last year about the potential for authoritarian drift and consequences of the failure to resolve grievances through elections. If not corrected, international involvement in the DRC, including through MONUSCO, risks entrenching an unaccountable government and undermining its own eventual rule of law and peacebuilding efforts. 

The Security Council should undertake a review of MONUSCO’s strategy and improve performance. 

MONUSCO’s focus on the use of force to stabilise the Kivus is not enough. Despite the conditionality policy for MONUSCO support to FARDC operations, there remains a lack of clarity about the overall military strategy and articulation of an end state to the military operations against illegal armed groups. What is required is a comprehensive strategy and sustained local and regional engagement by the international community. Clearly there is a need to address both local drivers of conflict between communities and the interplay with regional dynamics, including relations with Rwanda, whether through renewed political dialogue or a national accountability and reconciliation process, or both. 

To bolster the government’s accountability, the holding of credible provincial and local elections, including in the east, is essential. The mistakes of 2011 should not be repeated and clear standards on the organisation and holding of elections should be communicated to the government by the Security Council and MONUSCO, in particular serious reform of the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) and improved transparency in the logistics and supply procedures of the elections. MONUSCO should engage with key stakeholders, monitor CENI adherence to electoral law and report on the process. MONUSCO should not support elections that are clearly not credible. 

Security sector reform (SSR) is vital to stability in the DRC, but little progress can be expected without serious re-engagement and support from all sides, including the government, MONUSCO, the UN Security Council and key partners. Without a clear commitment from President Kabila and the government to a broader peacebuilding agenda, SSR will continue to flounder. The Security Council should only consider an enhanced role for MONUSCO in SSR as part of a broader political strategy for stability in eastern Congo and once some progress has been made in enhancing government accountability, otherwise the UN risks exacerbating rather than improving instability. 

The Security Council should send a signal to the Congolese government and its partners that it is time for a new strategic dialogue. A business-as-usual rollover of MONUSCO’s mandate will send the wrong message to all parties. 

When renewing MONUSCO’s mandate, the Security Council should:

  • Call on the Congolese government to arrest Bosco Ntaganda and transfer him to the International Criminal Court for trial;
  • Demand the end to illegal cross-border support to armed groups operating in the DRC, notably by Rwanda, and consider consequences for those parties who do not cease support;
  • Request the Secretary-General to undertake a strategic review of MONUSCO’s stabilisation strategy and report back to the UN Security Council, including on the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy, with a strong political component, to address pervasive insecurity and the threat of illegal armed groups in eastern Congo.
  • Enhance attention to key governance reforms — such as the holding of credible provincial and local elections, decentralisation and progress in the fight against corruption — by updating operative paragraph four of Security Council resolution 1991 (2011) to include their achievement as one of the core objectives that is the basis for decisions on reconfiguration of the mission;
  • Insist on the holding of free, fair and credible provincial and local elections, as well as the timely re-organization of legislative elections in Masisi territory that were canceled by the CENI;
  • Articulate clear standards for the holding of elections and condition MONUSCO support on serious reform of the CENI and improved transparency in the logistics and supply procedures and accountability for past election-related human rights violations.

Louise Arbour 

President and CEO

READ LETTER (Crisis Group)