15 points MONUSCO can do better (if its principals allow…)

15 points on the forthcoming MONUSCO mandate renewal

In a few days, MONUSCO’s mandate (currently S/RES/2098) will be renewed by the UN Security Council under collaboration of the UN Secretariat, the DPKO, the DPA, the C34 committee (as a proxy for troop contributing countries), and other entities. MONUSCO has been successfully improving its record in the past six months but challenges continue burgeoning. The following 15 points underline areas in which MONUSCO could adapt and further improve. The UN Security Council carries responsibility of enabling the mission to do so, while MONUSCO itself can use the leverage of being on the ground if so accorded by the new mandate. While the responsibility to enhance its performance lies with the UN, the Congolese government bears considerable leverage in terms of facilitating or obstructing MONUSCO. While the country remains at distance of being overall stabilised, the question of an exit strategy should better sooner than later be of concern to the protagonists in Turtle Bay.

Summary (detailed recommendations on the following pages)

  • MONUSCO needs to underline the necessity of actually implementing the PSCF (11+4) while avoiding to measure progress on the basis of discourse instead of action.
  • MONUSCO needs to push for the credibility of the upcoming electoral cycle without falling into the trap of mainly supporting it logistically with meaningfully scrutinising its legitimacy.
  • MONUSCO needs to employ a careful approach in restructuring internally and should, despite the necessary shift eastwards, avoid a too strong focus on North Kivu, given challenges in South Kivu and Katanga.
  • MONUSCO needs to refocus QIPs on infrastructure and establish two road construction engineer battalions, one Kivu-based and one flexible, to join UNOPS’/UNDP’s work.
  • MONUSCO needs to respect humanitarian neutrality, impartiality, and independence by anchoring it in a renewed mandate, i.e. through clear separation of military and humanitarian action, while continuing to seek informal dialogue.
  • MONUSCO needs to reconsider its involvement in the last stages of Opération Sokola against ADF and concentrate on mitigating the adverse side effects of ADF being in a tight corner.
  • MONUSCO needs to take a more coherent public and internal approach in pressing FDLR to disarm and pool its capacities to effectively confront FDLR in both Kivus, with particular prudence as to the situation in Masisi territory.
  • MONUSCO needs to refine its approach of ‘neutralising armed groups’ and avoid any impression of taking sides or a politicised stand towards other conflict actors to the most possible extent.
  • MONUSCO needs to reframe its stabilisation agenda, most notably the so-called (temporary) ‘Islands of Stability’ approach in the frame of the ISSSS and aim at peace beyond mere strategic sites and axes.
  • MONUSCO needs to have the mandate of the FIB extended for another year, rethinking troop composition, command chains of its battalions, and weighing the FIB’s priorities against the local politico-military settings.
  • MONUSCO needs to scale up its capacity as an active peacekeeping force by strengthening the rules of engagement of its main force and assimilating it to the FIB’s, while visibly dissociating the force from civilian components.
  • MONUSCO needs to claim its role in SSR by more proactively engaging in FARDC and PNC training and jumping into the vacuum that may be left by EUSEC as well as streamlining the cacophony of bilateral initiatives.
  • MONUSCO needs to further claim its role in the new DDR III process and deploy mixed civilo-military units to engage alongside the UEPN-DDR and other involved institutions as well as lobby donors to engage.
  • MONUSCO needs to increase emphasis on root conflict causes such as competing legal arrangements, land issues, identity politics, and the negotiation of statehood and mothball erroneous understandings such as on ‘conflict minerals’.
  • MONUSCO needs to constructively, without succumbing to simplistic advocacy, engage in reforming the artisanal mining sector and kick-start the ‘Centres de Negoce’ under a consistent and constant implication of local actors.

Detailed Recommendations

  1. Roughly one year after the PSCF (Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework, the so-called Addis Ababa 11+4 agreement) has been adopted, progress remains slow. MONUSCO should, in this regard underline the necessity of such a framework to address challenges on international/regional as well as national levels. The addition of a local level component, through which sub-national dynamics can be more meaningfully addressed, would be desirable. Moreover, MONUSCO and its leadership, together with SEGL Feingold, SESG Robinson, SCEU Vervaeke, and SRAU Diarra, should invest their energy to avoid that the PSCF remains the mere hollow diplomatic exercise it has been in its first year.
  2. The electoral cycle in the DRC is approaching. The independent national electoral commission, CENI, will have the huge task of organising national and sub-national elections, with presidential elections scheduled for 2016. So far it is unclear whether they will take place in due time or not, or, under which form. MONUSCO, after having provided strong support in 2011 and (as MONUC) in 2006 needs to carefully review its type of support to elections in DRC. While it is vital for the latter to benefit from logistic support, past elections (in particular in 2011) have shown a lack of political engagement on MONUSCO’s side as compared to massive other activities. It is desirable for MONUSCO to clarify that electoral support must be based on the condition of meaningful political and military reforms and depending on the nature of possibly upcoming changes in the electoral system.
  3. With major reshufflings and the restructuring of MONUSCO ahead, the mission should avoid creating sudden imbalances. While is it a right step to shift core personnel to eastern DRC, a sole focus on North Kivu (not taking into account the situation in South Kivu, Northern Katanga, and Southern Orientale provinces) can distort the overall peacekeeping and peacebuilding process. In addition, regions considered as more peaceful (especially in Western DRC) should not be left to abruptly in order to permit other UN actors (UNCT) as well as government institution to subtly retake their assignment carried out by MONUSCO for a long period. Radio Okapi, as a key component of civic education and information must, if possible, strengthened in this process to allow for a better performance and be assigned an individual exit strategy to maintain its existence beyond DPKO’s presence in DRC.
  4. The Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) of MONUSCO should be reshaped. Instead of blurring the lines between humanitarian action and peacekeeping (i.e. by blue helmets providing mobile clinics), the mission needs to re-focus on what it is capable to do and on what would be really needed. A new mandate must therefore include at least two battalions only to build roads across the DRC. This is an opportunity to play out its logistic strengths and capacities without sabotaging the work of others. In a situation whereby parts of the Force are rightly seen as idle in responding to their protection responsibilities (the areas of Masisi and Kalehe have repeatedly shown examples between 2008 and 2013), the replacement of some military units by specialised road engineer units (in order not to enlarge personnel or budget) is the way forward. Transport and movement infrastructure is instrumental in offering indirect protection while largely avoiding negative interference into humanitarian activities. Doing this, MONUSCO would need to mitigate risks attached to taking over ‘state functions’ and closely collaborate with the Office des Routes and other concerned government actors.
  5. Humanitarian neutrality, impartiality, and independence must be respected. The establishment of the FIB has further blurred the yet fluid lines between military, political, and humanitarian action. MONUSCO should avoid further blurring by using separate colours for its offensive action. White must be reserved for humanitarian (and if necessary, other civilian actors). International Humanitarian Law asks belligerents to visibly separate themselves from non-belligerents, and if not yet before the FIB’s establishment has cemented MONUSCO’s position in this category. Further on, under current doctrines such as ISSSS (with STAREC) or ‘Islands of Stability’ and through practises such as armed escorts or the involuntary linkage of humanitarian organisations to MONUSCO by the fact that some depend on the UN-led Pooled Fund, humanitarian principles are generally endangered. MONUSCO, as well as its UN partners, should take this question serious and allow all humanitarian actors to develop the biggest possible operational independence instead of pressing on (liberal interventionist) agendas to link stabilisation with humanitarian action. To do so, MONUSCO must refine its understanding of humanitarian action (short-term, life-saving activity) and development aid (long-term assistance and empowerment) as separate issues. This includes recognising that many NGOs and UN agencies also blend these two. Nevertheless, MONUSCO must, in a period where it engages as an obvious conflict party, ensure not to jeopardise humanitarian principles. This does not exclude, however, that MONUSCO should – preferably through informal, non-public mechanisms – seek a close exchange of mutual concerns with humanitarian actors. Within MONUSCO, the repartition of tasks among senior leadership should also reflect the separation of political and humanitarian tasks. The triple-hatted DSRSG/HC/RC position should either be disintegrated (as in a two-feet-out approach) or not assigned any politico-military tasks (i.e. SSR or similar) anymore. In the frame of restructuring the mission, a possibility would be to have a system in which one DSRSG supervises (closely liaising with the Force Commander) the Eastern part while the second one leads the Kinshasa HQ, relieved from HC/RC duties with the latter to be fulfilled by another person plus granting OCHA higher operational independence (on this paragraph, see also http://sites.tufts.edu/jha/archives/2032).
  6. The so-called Opération Sokola has pit FARDC against Ugandan ADF in the frame of the former’s continued campaign against non-state armed groups. MONUSCO is, through the Tanzanian battalion of its FIB and general logistic support, involved in these operations. While dislodging ADF from their main bases on the axes Beni-Eringeti and Mbau-Kamango, the operations have contributed to unprecedented violence in the urban areas of Beni. It should be a primary concern for MONUSCO to address the discrepancy between the apparent success of these operations on the frontlines and the roving insecurity in Beni – partly targeting UN staff and premises – and to adapt operation concepts accordingly to increase the protection of civilians.
  7. Around 9 March 2014, first bits of joint FIB/FARDC operations against the Northern Brigade of FDLR have begun around Tongo in western Rutshuru, military action is in preparation in other zones too. Given its longevity and problematic history, the FDLR is a main obstacle to regional peace, even if they have not massively engaging in military activity recently. It is therefore a priority for MONUSCO to disarm FDLR avoiding a whole series of potential pitfalls are linked to such an endeavour, as observable in preceding anti-FDLR operations Umoja Wetu, Kimia II, and Amani Leo. The FDLR is nowadays deeply rooted in local civilian structures, in both of their current strongholds (mainly Lubero territory for the North and the Reserve Brigades and Mwenga territory for the South Brigade). This has two main implications: First, MONUSCO’s efforts vis-à-vis FDLR disarmament need to take into account the complete group (not only the northern part) for strategic reasons. Second, MONUSCO, for political reasons, need to manage expectations and avoid (as happened in December 2013) creating hoaxes while strongly signalling to both the Rwandan and the DRC government their determination. This is a contentious issue, given both governments have huge, partly vested, interests: Due to previous alliances, the Congolese government and army still maintain, to some degree, cordial relations with FDLR and since the Kampala Talks with M23, some stakeholders want Rwanda to negotiate with FDLR the same way. Rwanda in turn, needs the FDLR to disappear while having some interest in keeping up a weak FDLR to maintain a reason for defending its security within DRC territory. At the same time, they refuse any negotiation given the genocide history of senior FDLR leaders. MONUSCO needs to balance these tensions, both in its diplomatic and military efforts and should not succumb to one-sided attitudes.
  8. Tackling armed groups other than ADF and FDLR, MONUSCO runs a set of risks as well. Beginning with M23 – the only defeated armed group since UNSC resolution 2098 has been adopted (others have surrendered without being militarily defeated) – the threefold paperwork accord reached between ICGLR, DRC, and M23 remains a potential danger for insecurity linked to militia activity based on Rutshuru’s population and the M23-CNDP-RCD legacy. MONUSCO’s aim to act as impartial as possible should be reflected in prioritising a settlement of questions relating to political reform, refugee return and other issues poorly addressed in the existing accord. Turning to the other, roughly 40-50 identifiable, armed groups remaining between Northern Katanga and Southern Orientale across both Kivus MONUSCO must watch at its actions not helping to create further imbalances in fragile security contexts. The recent offensive against APCLS, for instance, while understandable after repeatedly ignored calls for disarmament has been captured by a set of particularist interests (i.e. the involvement of Nyatura militia). Cognisant of each militia usually representing a constituency – even if these laudable grounds are often distorted by power politics – MONUSCO needs to balance out between the prospects and risks of military operations and avoid partiality. In the case of APCLS, the recent developments could spark further tensions between the communities residing in Masisi territory. For other armed groups to be tackled in future, the same concerns are to be noted, as well as the question of differentiating combatants from non-combatants. A prime example for the latter is that of Raia Mutomboki, which due to its decentralised and community-based nature incarnates a major risk for collateral damage if attacked.
  9. Regarding the general stabilisation agenda, the concept of so-called ‘Islands of Stability’ remains highly problematic. While this approach is promising in terms of partially restoring state authority, it bears the danger of emerging security voids in the sense of ‘Swamps of Insecurity’. Areas outside the ‘Islands of Stability’ must be taken into account for the sake overall security. Otherwise, zero-sum games in terms of protection might be the undesirable outcome for both MONUSCO and the DRC. Moreover, the stabilisation doctrine beclouds the question of government legitimacy. Considering itself an impartial actor, MONUSCO should not necessarily distance itself from the DRC authorities but avoid a too politicised stand in areas of contested sovereignty, focusing more on the mere protection of civilians and balancing out the need to tackle non-state armed groups with increasing pressure concerning the vetting of FARDC (on this paragraph, see also http://www.egmontinstitute.be/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/APB9.pdf).
  10. The mandate of the FIB, as decided in UNSC resolution 2098, needs to be extended for another year by the Security Council. The late deployment of the FIB (finalised roughly half a year after the mandate began) and the remaining tasks assigned to this part of the Force demand a prolonged engagement. However, the chains of command and the composition of FIB need to be critically reconsidered. While on the ground, the deployed forces have performed comparatively well up to this point, the political interests and entanglement of troop-contributing countries remain a risk for MONUSCO. If the composition remains unchanged, MONUSCO should develop a contingency plan for the case the FIB becomes paralysed for political reasons. In particular in the FIB context, humanitarian principles remain a concern of high range.
  11. Beyond the FIB and in order to better fulfil its task of protecting civilian populations MONUSCO needs to scale up its capacity as an active peacekeeping force. 3069 FIB soldiers are not enough to carry out an offensive mandate, nor suffice their logistics to ensure rapid deployment everywhere. Following a meaningful interpretation of chapter VII (even if it never happened before either), other MONUSCO segments must take up similar roles and become proactive in protecting civilians, such as laid out as a central task in numerous subsequent mandates. The financial contributors of MONUSCO – especially the P5, Japan, and Germany should be urged to reconsider a stronger involvement in personnel and assets. The troop-contributing countries need to be incentivised to grant better room for manoeuvre to the Force Commander and the SRSG. In order to build up instruments of pressure across the Kivus (and not only Rutshuru, Beni, Masisi, and Lubero) it is necessary to have a MONUSCO Force whose Rules of Engagement approximate those of the FIB. Instead of enlarging the FIB, existing MONUSCO resources should be better used to protect civilians. The Rules of Engagement and the Concept of Operations of the Force should be adapted insofar as they do not yet reflect the UN Charter and the UNSC resolutions.
  12. On security sector reform (SSR), MONUSCO needs to claim its role. A neuralgic aspect, national SSR witnessed a certain  powerlessness of MONUSCO lately. However, the expertise prevailing through a functioning SSR unit within the mission must be displayed more forcefully, without prejudice to the DRC governments prerogative in this question, especially on a technical level but also politically on the supranational scene. The fuzzy landscape of bilateral support to the Congolese security sector can strongly be exacerbated if EUSEC’s mandate expires without being adequately replaced.  MONUSCO, as in previous efforts that have not been that successful for unfortunate reasons, retains a pivotal role in streamlining all external SSR efforts. Beyond the questions whether the political willingness of the Congolese government is strong enough, the capability question is key. Whenever international cooperation is uncoordinated, the recipient government needs more resources to incorporate assistance into its proper governing. The DRC can only be helped meaningfully in its SSR if the assistance is as multilateral and coherent as possible – a task so far carried out by EUSEC.
  13. Disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) remain vital. MONUSCO needs to keep up its string dedication to that process. To do so, the mission should help making the currently endangered DDR III plan work by helping – under conditions of proper vetting and monitoring – the Congolese government as well as advocating for engaged and sustainable donor commitment (one of the main reasons for past DDR failures, together with mismanagement on the Congolese level, was total disinterest on the donor side despite disbursing millions of dollars). To this end, MONUSCO needs to reinforce its support to the inter-ministerial commission, the technical services in charge of DDR, and keep up the ambassadorial coordination mechanism launched. In addition, until donor commitment is broad enough to smoothly run DDR III, MONUSCO should maintain its logistic support, e.g. food provision to cantoned combatants and their dependents but also other services provided, i.e. in the Bweremana camp. Moreover, MONUSCO could increase monitoring efforts in the political components of the process, since the relocation of combatants remains highly controversial and a possible spoiler effect for the beginning DDR III programme. Also in relation to DDR, MONUSCO should secure/redirect at least two battalions (without increasing the gross personnel) to directly support the practical DDR process. These could be experienced peacekeepers or military observers that replace soldiers (on this paragraph, see also http://christophvogel.net/2013/12/27/many-hitches-ahead-for-congos-new-ddr/).
  14. In a period described as a critical juncture, MONUSCO has the opportunity to develop a better sentiment for the real root causes of the numerous connected conflicts across the DRC, notably the Kivus. This includes shifting the focus from simplistic, orthodox explanations such as ‘state failure’ or ‘conflict minerals’ to more nuanced approaches of understanding the complexity of competing legal arrangements (state-centred vs. community-centred), land issues, politics of identity, ‘bigmen struggles’, and the everyday negotiation of authority and power on the backs of the everyday struggle to survive. ‘dominant narratives’ have for too long haunted the performance of international assistance and involvement – also the DPKO’s – in DRC. The enlargement of JMAC and similar units can be a step forward, as well as the establishment of a mixed academic-practitioner office staffed by anthropologists and sociologists with extensive regional experience.
  15. The challenges linked to helping DRC help itself (and its populations in particular) to generate a more sustainable artisanal mining sector are huge. Therefore, they need to be tackled constructively and without succumbing to simplistic advocacy. Some of the root causes mentioned in the preceding recommendation are part of the solution when it comes to tame the negative impact of natural resources: Unsolved land issues and power struggles on the local level often reflect in conflicts over mineral resources, with the latter becoming a symptom, rather than a root cause for conflict. MONUSCO can, even if it is not part of its core business, engage in the reform of the Congolese artisanal mining sector by kick-start the ‘Centres de Negoce’, a project that has been associated with non-implementation and failure so far. However, a series of risks are attached to any involvement in this complex politico-economic terrain. That is why MONUSCO should frame its ‘Centres de Negoce’ as a structural measure in the first place. The implication of a wide array of local actors – especially those most impacted – is a basic condition to do this in a successful way. Bearing in mind the problematic narrative of so-called ‘conflict minerals’, MONUSCO could best maintain an impartiality if it refrains from openly endorsing traceability initiatives that exclude the majority of economic operators from the markets. While changes are underway in the frame of revalidating mining sites by ICGLR, the situation in early 2014 remains dire for both the few certified sites and the big bulk of non-certified ones. This is one of the reasons no ‘Centre de Negoce’ works at this point. MONUSCO’s interest therefore, in addition to excluding armed actors from the supply chain, is to support any initiative that helps meaningfully increasing the economic opportunities of the Congolese population and the revenue base of the Congolese state. In addition, its interest should also be to lobby existing, little successful programmes of traceability to focus more on improving the economic livelihoods of local producers than on ‘green-washing’ corporate images vis-à-vis international consumers. Only then, sustainable and peaceful development is significantly promoted.
One Response to “15 points MONUSCO can do better (if its principals allow…)”
  1. Romuald says:

    Merci Christophe pour cette analyse combien profonde. Bien que vous en avez parlé dans certains des points, je pense que la Monusco devrait beaucoup travailler dans le cadre de la bonne gouvernance. Presser un peu le gouvernement congolais à s’organiser, à instaurer la démocratie et la justice. Car trop souvent le gouvernement congolais semble plus se préoccuper par la conservation du pouvoir, des postes que la résolution des problèmes de sa population. Ainsi donc, le travail de la Monusco (ou des forces vives), si elle ne tient pas compte de ce paramètre, aura un effet inattendu de renforcer un système qui assujetti son peuple. Nous savons par exemple quel discours « récupérateur » le gouvernement a habillé la victoire des FARDC (soutenues par la Monusco). Aujourd’hui, la perception du peuple congolais est que le grand problème est celui de la mauvaise gouvernance, celle-ci qui se traduit en ‘’state failure’’ voire en naissance des groupes armés. Il y a donc du travail à faire sur terrain à l’Est mais aussi et surtout au niveau de l’intelligentsia congolais pour instaurer la démocratie et la bonne gouvernance. (Il n’y a pas seulement des forces négatives dans la forêt, il y a un autre type aussi dans des villes, dans des bureaux de l’Etat et du gouvernement, etc.)

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