The Security Council sharpen MONUC’s mandate to stop attacks against civilians, widen access for humanitarian assistance, and help the displaced to return home.
The Security Council increase or at least maintain MONUC troop levels through 2007, basing any future reduction on progress towards civilian protection, resolution of conflict, and prosecution of perpetrators of abuse.
MONUC deploy immediately to protect civilians from kidnapping, torture, and rape currently carried out by armed marauders associated with the FDLR around the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu.
MONUC suspend joint operations with the FARDC until clear and verifiable policies are in place to reduce displacement of civilians, prevent reprisals against civilians, and protect civilians from abuses by the FARDC following operations.
MONUC deploy mobile operating bases closer to FDLR bases to facilitate the voluntary demobilization of FDLR troops, while working with Rwanda to implement durable solutions for members of the FDLR.
The United States reduce pressure on MONUC to implement a strictly military solution in the east against armed groups while increasing pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to fulfill their regional responsibilities towards stabilization and peace.
The Security Council ensure that MONUC has the resources it needs, including intelligence, to enforce its embargo on the movement of arms and natural resources in and out of the DRC; and MONUC and troop contributing countries engage far more than they have in the past to fulfilling this aspect of their mandate.
Despite progress made in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over the past few years, much of
it thanks to the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUC, civilians continue to
die from attacks and abuse. As the Security Council debates
MONUC’s new mandate, protecting those most at risk must be the priority.
For a country with as many strikes
against it as the Democratic Republic of the Congo – no state
authority, ethnic animosities, abundant natural resources, and hungry
neighbors – the transformation of the past four years has been
remarkable: a newly-elected government is in place; armed groups are
ever more constrained; Congo’s erstwhile occupier, Rwanda, has made
peace overtures; and thousands of displaced have returned home.
Much of the success dates from
2003, when the Security Council gave MONUC, its struggling mission in
the country, an invigorated mandate and the troops to execute it. Now,
with the national elections over and a government installed,
MONUC’s mandate is again under review. It will officially expire
on February 15, but the new Congolese government has requested time for
consultations, extending the debate by a few months.
MONUC’s mandate is critical because
pockets of extreme insecurity and need persist in the eastern part of
the country, and even the usually calm west has not been immune from
election-related violence. For example, in Ituri District, a team
from Refugees International found in July 2006 that years of conflict
had given way to peace in the northern territory of Djugu; in November,
the area slipped back into chaos as a warlord made a last stand on the
Ugandan border against MONUC and the national army (the FARDC), and
civilians once again found themselves fleeing their newly rebuilt
homes. In Irumu Territory, in the southern part of Ituri, battles
have raged for more than a year with insurgents that had been defeated
by MONUC, then regrouped in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, and crossed
back into the DRC to fight again. In North Kivu Province, around
the town of Goma, advances by the dissident warlord Laurent Nkunda
caused thousands to flee last November before he received a pardon from
the government and promised to integrate his troops with the national
Civilians bear the brunt of these
campaigns; families get caught in the crossfire or suffer reprisals
from one group or the other. FARDC troops continue to extort food
and labor, and rape and sexually assault women and children, to such a
degree that villages still flee in fear of them. And in a country
with its fair share of atrocities, reports emerging from the forest
near Bukavu, in South Kivu Province, are an echo of the dark days of
the war. The tactics used seem designed “to sow intentionally
terror in the population,” recounts a humanitarian assessment of the
area: armed men loosely associated with the remnants of the Hutu force
responsible for the Rwandan genocide, the FDLR, kidnap groups of
villagers and take them back into the cover of the Kahuzi-Biega
National Park. They rape the women and torture the men, releasing
any left alive after receiving their ransom. Whole villages stand
empty now, testament to the success of fear.
MONUC is well poised to address
these challenges, with the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world
and the infrastructure and experience to make use of it. A
temporary increase in troop levels through 2007 would have a decisive
impact, allowing MONUC to move against armed group across the east, cut
off their supplies, and force their surrender. Such an increase
is unlikely, however, in a year that will see a high demand for
peacekeepers. After Security Council members considered reducing
MONUC’s troop strength as a post-elections cost-saving measure, it now
seems that current levels are assured for the next several
months. The Council must guard against any reduction that does
not correspond with verifiable indicators such as a reduction in
attacks on civilians, the resolution of local conflict, and prosecution
for perpetrators of abuse.
While much debate has centered on
MONUC’s role in reforming the FARDC and encouraging good governance,
the Security Council must sharpen the mission’s mandate to focus
clearly on protecting civilians: stopping attacks and abuse, widening
access to humanitarian assistance, and helping people return
home. In April 2006, MONUC had a quiet but notable success in its
deployment of just 100 troops to protect civilians in central
Katanga. This modest commitment allowed MONUC to deliver food,
facilitate the withdrawal of abusive government troops for training,
provide security guarantees needed by the local Mai-Mai militia to
demobilize, and draw people out of hiding in the forest to camps where
they could get help. After a few months, thousands of displaced
people and former combatants across the region returned home, ready to
replant and rebuild.
MONUC must build on this success by
moving to protect other civilians under attack. The most pressing
priority is the protection of those terrorized by the kidnappings,
rape, and torture on the borders of Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South
A clear focus on protecting
civilians would also prompt a shift in strategy for MONUC. In
2006, joint operations between MONUC and the FARDC provoked the
displacement of more than 300,000 people in the eastern DRC, either
during offensives against armed groups or afterwards, when MONUC
withdrew to leave the population at the mercy of hungry, underpaid, and
ill-trained FARDC troops. The United Nations thus found itself in
the untenable position of leading the response to a humanitarian crisis
that its troops had created; in addition, the offensives had little
strategic impact, as neither MONUC nor the FARDC had the capacity to
clear and hold areas controlled by armed groups.
MONUC’s strategy needs to
evolve. Some Security Council members, particularly the United
States, have pushed MONUC to move against the armed groups in the east
with military force, with disastrous humanitarian consequences. Council
members must allow MONUC to be more balanced, to use its force
to deter and contain armed groups while facilitating disarmament and
demobilization. In just one example, forward deployment of
peacekeepers to FDLR positions would help those who wish to stop
fighting to escape their brutal commanders; strong coordination with
Rwanda could then help MONUC find durable solutions for these troops
through repatriation or resettlement.
Resolving the conflict with the
armed groups in the east will be MONUC’s biggest challenge under its
new mandate. Resolution will not be possible, however, as long as
arms continue to flow into the DRC across its borders with Rwanda and
Uganda. The Security Council has authorized an embargo on the
import of weapons to the DRC and the export of the natural resources
that pay for them, and has authorized MONUC to enforce that
embargo. MONUC and the countries that contribute its troops have
never moved to execute that mandate, citing lack of capacity. In
renewing MONUC’s mandate, the Security Council must call on Rwanda and
Uganda to stop the flow of weapons, request assistance in gathering
intelligence on arms flows, and give MONUC the means to enforce the
Neal visited the D.R. Congo three times in 2006 to assess displacement,
returns, and humanitarian response.