Peace in the DR Congo, A Bridge Too Far

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By Joseph Rwagatare

Is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) anywhere near achieving peace? Hardly, even with the massive deployment of troops, huge expenditure and frantic diplomatic efforts. And this is why.

Firstly, there is growing evidence that the various organs of the United Nations are pulling in different directions in the search for an end to the conflict in DRC.

On the one hand, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appears to favour a peaceful solution to the conflict. He put a lot of effort in formulating the Framework Agreement for Peace in the DRC and having it signed by the heads of state of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. He also seems to support regional initiatives. The appointment of Ms Mary Robinson as his special envoy to the Great Lakes Region would also indicate his intentions for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On the other hand, the UN peace-keeping department, under Frenchman Herve Ladsous, seems to pull in another direction. It supports military action and ignores, even undermines regional efforts to end the conflict. For instance MONUSCO issued an ultimatum to all armed rebels to disarm just as an ICGLR Summit was meeting in Nairobi, Kenya to seek a more workable solution within the Framework Agreement.

MONUSCO was set up precisely to disarm armed rebels in DRC, but there is very little to show in this regard. Instead, it has partnered with some of them.

MONUSCO’s partisanship and the ultimatum it issued a few weeks ago are eerily reminiscent of what happened in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994. The French supported a regime that was clearly planning and later committed genocide. When the regime was facing certain defeat, its leaders, armed forces and armed militia were shepherded to safety in DRC (then Zaire) by the French who continued to arm them.

Apparently Ladsous’s MONUSCO wants to shepherd them back into Rwanda – arms, genocide ideology and all.

Pulling in different directions at the UN obviously complicates matters and leads to the question. Who actually runs the United Nations? It seems the Secretary General does not. A cartel of powerful nations and interests does.

Ban Ki-moon will trot to the different trouble spots across the globe and try to persuade groups facing off against each to come to the negotiating table and talk peace. He will smile to emphasise his peaceful intentions.

Occasionally he will threaten and frown to signal the gravity of his mission. But that’s about all he can do because most of the time he will be ignored.

Herve Ladsous will sit in New York and bully his way to achieve what his masters want.

All the powerful nations and groupings such as the United States and the European Union also have special envoys in the DRC to further their own interests which more often than not do not correspond to those of the UN.

Not surprisingly, President Uhuru Kenyatta was prompted to point out at the ICGLR Summit in Nairobi on July 31st that the UN in eastern DRC should “strengthen rather than complicate and overlap” peace efforts already initiated in that country.

Secondly, the money and effort are spent on finding the wrong answer to the problem in the Congo. The military solution that is now the preferred option in dealing with an essentially political and governance issue will not work.

Insecurity in the east of the DRC and other parts of that huge, wealthy but ill-governed country is a consequence of bad governance, not inherent criminality. The proliferation of armed groups (as we have argued many times before) is a result of the absence of an effective state in the area.

No amount of money, no number of troops however well-supplied with sophisticated weapons, including drones, will fix the security and political problems in DRC.

The United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) set up in 1999 and its successor, the UN Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) and now the Intervention Brigade only add to the insecurity; they don’t end it.

Until all the money and effort are put to the right cause – to strengthen the state and address the denationalisation of some Congolese, which is the root cause of the conflict, all attempts at pacifying eastern DRC will remain futile.

Thirdly, the deep involvement of the United Nations is itself a problem. I do not know of any troubled place where the United Nations has actually brought peace. On the contrary, wherever the UN has been involved, it has only succeeded in exacerbating the existing situation, often making a temporary territorial split permanent or helping fragment a country.

Examples abound. Two years ago NATO, with UN backing, attacked Libya to remove Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. The country has since been fragmented.

Congo itself is a classic example of UN failure from the 1960s to the present.

The lowest point of the UN getting it wrong was in Rwanda and the Balkans. In the former, genocide was committed while its peacekeeping force, weakened by the very organisation that had set it up, looked on.

The genocide only ended when the Rwanda Patriotic Army resumed its offensive and drove the genocidal regime out of the country. In the latter, ethnic cleansing on a massive scale was systematically carried out as the UN watched. It took action by the United States and NATO to put an end to it.

Today, ethnic cleansing is happening in the DRC as the UN again watches, and, if not checked, it will turn into genocide. Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese and even Rwanda nationals doing legitimate business in the DRC have recently been arrested, taken to unknown places and tortured. The UN, whose mission is to protect civilians, has said or done nothing about it.

This time it even gets worse because the UN is complicit in the crime. Through MONUSCO, it has knowingly or through inexcusable negligence allowed the genocidal Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to fight in the Congolese army’s ranks which it backs or as part of its own Intervention Brigade. This is bound to destabilise not only DRC but the whole region, and for this reason, peace remains distant.

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