By Emmanuel Nibishaka
Although the DR Congo conflict has now become intractable, it has attracted many international and regional peace process efforts. For instance, currently, the country hosts one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces in the world. The International Conference on Great Lakes has been at the forefront of facilitating peace negotiations and signing of agreements. Furthermore, the Sun City agreement of 2002 set out the main conditions for peace: democracy, territorial sovereignty, political checks and balances on power and the control of all armed groups. This international undertaking has contributed to a certain level of political stability and ensured the functioning of several transitional institutions; it also facilitated the preparation of the 2006 and 2011 national elections and aided, in part, the implementation of a comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration and Security Sector Reform programme.
Nevertheless, all these efforts have not provided security in the eastern party of the country but rather, since the signing of the peace accord, conflict conditions in eastern DRC have deteriorated even further. This section discusses major peace efforts; their levels of success and why they failed to bring about sustainable peace in eastern DRC.
1. The International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)
For many decades, the Great Lakes Region (GLR) has been affected by endemic, cyclic and endless armed conflicts. Causes of these conflicts include: Absence of Governance structures; alleged violation of human rights, policies of exclusion and marginalization; unfair distribution of national wealthy among the population, injustice, the desire to remain on power indefinitely, lack of good governance and democracy, etc.
These conflicts are sources of aggravated economic stagnation, war crimes and crimes against humanity, displacements of populations, destruction of infrastructure and property , increased illicit circulation and trafficking in small arms and drugs, proliferation of armed groups fuelling the illegal exploitation of natural resources, etc (MINAFFET, 2012)
Since the outbreak of war in DRC, more than twelve major peace agreements have been concluded. Negotiations, and reconciliation initiatives, often brokered with help from the international community, have been the primary means to resolve conflict in the DRC Most of these accords neglected the principal conflict drivers, namely militias opposed to the government in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, all based in the Kivus, and whose home countries are members of ICGLR.
The majority of these peace agreements were facilitated though ICGLR, convened by United Nations Resolution 1291 of 2000 and held under the auspices of the African Union and the UN supported by international donors. The ICGR consists of 18 countries, 11 of which were directly involved in the DRC conflict by supporting at least one party to the conflict.
After six years of political negotiations on the DRC crisis, the outcome was a Pact on Security, Stability, and Development in the Great Lakes Region, signed in December 2006 by heads of state from Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the DRC, Kenya, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia following another successful peace effort, the 2006 presidential elections (Fleshman, 2007:18). The Pact was in force from June 2008 after being ratified by eight signatories. An ICGLR Secretariat was established in Bujumbura to implement the ten specified protocols which included regional non-aggression and mutual defence, good governance, and reconstruction and development (Minani, 2012:4). Parties to the agreement were requested to renounce force in regional relations, abstain from supporting or tolerating the presence of armed dissidents of other states, cooperate in disarming and dismantling existing rebel movements, control regional arms transfers, eliminate and prevent hate speech and ethnic discrimination, and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly sexual violence and abuse of women and girls (Fleshman, 2007:18). However, between 2004 and 2012, various reports on DRC showed continual FDRL operations within the DRC territory.
Furthermore, parties to the agreement were required to cease or prevent the illegal exploitation of natural resources, respect national sovereignty over natural resources, establish the Great Lakes as a “specific reconstruction and development zone,” harmonise national and regional economic policies, cooperate in projects relating to regional energy, transport and communications, and enhance commerce and development among border populations to promote regional integration (Fleshman, 2007:18). The ICGLR took this issue further, given the economic dimensions and motivations of the conflict in the eastern DRC, by launching a Regional Initiative on Natural Resources to certify, formalise, and track the mineral trade to eliminate trafficking and the role of armed groups (Blore, 2011:22).
ICGRL Response to the recent DRC crisis
The ICGLR Existing Frameworks for conflict prevention and resolution
In its Article 19 of the Dar – es – Salaam Declaration of ICGLR Heads of State and Government on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lake Region (GLR) of 20 Nov. 2004, ICGLR Member States commit themselves to “ establish an effective regional security framework for the prevention, management and peaceful settlement of conflicts…”;
Art. 17 on the Programme of Action for Peace and Security of the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region (Nairobi, 15 December,2006), stipulates :
“The ICGLR Member States undertake to ensure sustainable peace and security in the whole Region of the GLR, in the framework of the Programme of Action for Peace and Security, which is aimed at :
“(b) , promoting, maintaining and enhancing cooperation in the fields of peace, conflict prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes”
EAC Treaty: partner States agree to : “ … foster and maintain an atmosphere that is conducive to peace and security through cooperation and consultations on issues pertaining to peace and security of the partner States with a view to prevention, better management and resolution of disputes and conflicts between them”
Article 11 of the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation related to “Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution states that :
- (b) “ States Parties shall manage and seek to resolve any dispute between two or more of them by peaceful means;
- (c) “ The Organ shall manage and resolve inter- and intra- States conflicts by peaceful means”
Furthermore, In regard to COMESA, the 4th Summit of the COMESA Authority held in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 1999 took the following decisions:
(i) “COMESA Ministers of Foreign Affairs should meet at least once a year to consider modalities of promoting peace and security in the region”.
(ii) to consider modalities of promoting peace, security and stability within the framework of the Organization of the African Union (OAU) Mechanism for Conflict Prevention , Management and Resolution and report to the Authority
Considering all above, from June to October, 2012, 4 Extraordinary Summits of Heads of State and Government on the Security Situation in the Eastern DR Congo were held on the following dates:
(i) Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 15th June, 2012;
(ii) Kampala, Uganda, 7-8 August, 2012;
(iii) Kampala, Uganda, 8th September, 2012; and
(iii) Kampala, Uganda, 7-8 October, 2012.
(iv) Kampala, Uganda, November, 2012
Among other things, the following major decisions were taken:
- Establishment of the Neutral International Force (NIF) to fight all Negative Forces operating in the Eastern DR Congo;
- Cessation of hostilities between the M23 and DR Congo armed forces and initiation of a political dialogue;
- Expansion of the Joint Verification Mechanism ( JVM);
- Establishment of the Military Assessment Team ( MAT); and
- Establishment of the Humanitarian Trust Fund
One can highlight that among the progress made, the Joint Verification Mechanism was launched and operational; the Military Assessment Team launched and operational; the Humanitarian Trust Fund was established.
There is a continued engagement of current belligerents (DRC government and M23) to find a political solution in the current Kampala talks; and the Operational Plan for the International Neutral Force currently under study; while it is worth noting that Cessation of hostilities has been temporarily observed;
It is therefore worth noting that, the ICGRL is equipped with most elaborate peace and security instruments that are however undermined by international spoilers;
- persistent and devastating conflicts is a clear sign of their limitation;
- States must take charge of their socio- political needs and work together as a region when conflicts emerge, to resolve these.
2. The Tripartite Plus Commission and the Nairobi Communiqué
The USA launched its own initiative in 2004, referred to as” The Tripartite Plus Commission” to promote peace in Eastern DRC (McCormack, 2007:1). The Tripartite Plus process led to a number of agreements over the past five years, including the creation of a Joint Verification Mechanism (JVM) to address cross-border issues. Commission members include the Foreign Ministers of Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. It is facilitated by the US with the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and MONUC acting as observers (WIJEYARATNE, 2008:8).
The main objective of this initiative was primarily to deal with the issue of negative forces, especially the FDLR. Initiated on 9 November 2007, at the same time the DRC and Rwanda signed a joint Nairobi communiqué in which the two governments agreed to launch a joint military offensive against the National Congress for the Defense of the Congolese People (CNDP) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) (Minani, 2012:4).
The partnership resulted in two joint operations known as Umoja Wetu and Kimia II. The objectives of these operations were to dislodge the FDLR and CNDP although resulting in many civilian casualties as a result of FDLR reprisal. In the months following the joint operations, FDLR conducted attacks, mass killings and raping of Congolese civilians (Human Rights Watch, 2009:2).
The US Congressional research Services (CRS) suggests that the operations dislodged and seriously weakened the CNDP forces. For instance in January, the leader of the CNDP, General Laurent Nkunda, was arrested inside Rwanda, after he fled eastern Congo. The FDLR forces were also dislodged from their stronghold in North Kivu and forced to retreat. More than 2 000 Rwandan refugees returned home in January and February, as well as some FDLR militia members (CRS, 2009:12).
After the withdrawal of Rwandan forces and the completion of Operation Umoja Wetu, the government of Congo, with the support of MONUC forces, launched Operation Kimia II. In eastern Congo, government forces targeted FDLR militia, especially in mining areas (CRS, 2009:12). However, Government forces reportedly engaged in serious abuse of civilians, while FDLR forces retaliated by attacking civilians as well. According to Human Rights Watch, “the attacks against civilians by FDLR have been vicious and widespread (Human Rights Watch, 2009:10).
On 31 December 2009, the government of Congo ended Operation Kimia II and launched another operation Amani Leo in February 2010. The objectives of Amani Leo according to MONUSCO were to protect civilians, remove negative forces from population centers, re-establish authority in liberated areas and restore state authority. MONUC now MONUSCO announced that the operation concentrated on controlling strategic areas in order to ensure that armed groups, notably FDLR elements, would be unable to recapture territory and conduct reprisal attacks (MONUC, 2010). Within a few months however, FDRL were able to regroup and direct systematic attacks against civilians which currently continues.
Although the US sponsored initiative did not effectively resolve the issue of negative forces in the eastern DRC, one cannot ignore that the Tripartite Plus’s main achievement drew two major antagonists – the Rwandan and Congolese leadership to the negotiation table. Improving relations between Rwanda and the DRC is critical to consolidating peace throughout the entire region and this approach showed that constructive communication is possible. Although the recent insurgency by M23 had, coupled with subsequent reports by biased team of the panel of experts that impacted seriously on the progress, DRC-Rwanda cooperation is much needed more than anything else in approaching the DRC crisis.
3. The Goma Conference of January 2008 and the AMANI Program
In January 2008, two months after the signing of the Nairobi Communiqué, a conference on Peace, Security and Development was held in Goma, North Kivu. The Conference focused exclusively on the conflicts raging in North and South Kivu Provinces, in eastern DRC. The Goma conference brought together more than 1 500 representatives from civil society, government and armed groups, and resulted in the Act of Engagement signed on January 23, 2008, by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and 22 armed factions operating in the eastern DRC, excluding FDLR (WIJEYARATNE, 2008:9).
On September 25, Kabila’s Minister of Interior succinctly described the essence of the Amani peace process: “désengage, on sépare, on regroupe et on démobilise ou on réintègre!”
Notwithstanding a few difficulties, he added, results are globally positive. Even as he spoke, however, it had become painfully evident that Amani was on the ropes
Amani – “peace” in Swahili – refers to the machinery put in place to implement the commitments made by the participants to the Goma conference (January 6-26, 2008) , officially known as the Conference on Peace, Security and Development in the Provinces of North and South Kivu. Through this so-called acte d’engagement, they agreed towards (a) a cease-fire through the whole of North Kivu, (b) the disengagement of the combatants and the creation demilitarized zones as a first step towards the disarmament and reintegration of the troops, (c) the return of the ID and refugees, (d) an amnesty law for acts of violence other than genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Agreement called for a cease-fire, withdrawal of troops from key areas in the east and the creation of a UN “buffer zone”. Rebels were granted amnesty for acts of insurgency or war. War crimes and crimes against humanity, however, were not included under the amnesty provisions
By giving all communities and most armed groups a voice, the Goma Conference represented a significant step forward in understanding the conflict from a local perspective. After the conference, the involvement of traditional village chiefs and other community leaders facilitated the disarmament or integration of 22 armed groups into the national army, indicating a strong desire at local level to end the fighting. Unfortunately, the cease-fire agreement failed in August 2008, when heavy fighting broke out between the CNDP and FARDC.
The causes of the Goma conference failures are multiple. For instance the conference began with 600 but as the word got around that each participant would receive a $ 135.00 per diem attendance rose to 1,500, including delegates from some 30-odd “grassroots communities” and as many armed groups.
The listing of such groups in the opening sentence of the acte d’engagementlends a touch of the surreal to the proceedings: “We, FRF, Groupe Yakutumba, Groupe Zabuloni, Mai-Mai Kirichiko, Pareco SK, Raia Mutomboki, Mai-Mai Nyikiriba, Mai-Mai Kapopo, Mai-Mai Mahoro, Mai-Mai Shikito, Mudundu 40, Simba Mai-Mai, Mai-Mai Shabunda,… make the following commitments…”. One wonders what to make of the commitments of such ephemeral groupings, many of which appear to have materialized out of thin air in order to cash in the per diems. In any event, in view of its size it is easy to see why procedural matters consumed much of the agenda, and why in the end the really important issues were handled through a small group of movers and shakers, among whom Nkunda, Vital Kamerhe, then President of the National Assembly, Malu-Malu, then Head of the Electoral Commission, Alan Doss, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Tim Shortly, representing the US, and Roland Van Der Geer, on behalf of the European Union.
Responsibility for implementing these noble objectives in what was called AMANI Program was entrusted to an extraordinarily complicated committees and sub-committes, which together formed the mainstay of the Amani program. Thus, to assist the key decision-making body (Commission Technique Mixte Paix et Securité), two sub-committees were set up in each of the two provinces (Sous-Commission Militaire Mixte, and the Sous-Commission Humanitaire et Sociale). Each gave birth to two comittees (Comité Provincial Militaire, and Comité Provincial Humanitaire et Social) which in turn spawned a number of smaller bodies, known as cells (cellules) : Cellule de Désengagement et Cessation des Hostilités, Cellule de Désarmement, Démobilisation et Résinsertion (DDR), Cellule Restoration de l’Autorité de l’Etat, for the first of these committees, and Cellule des Déplacés Internes, Cellule des Réfugiés, Cellule d’Appui Politique, Cellule Administrative et Juridiquefor the second.
Overseeing the work of this top-heavy bureaucracy was the Comité de Pilotage, consisting of representatives of all the relevant government ministries, assisted by the Facilitation Internationale, serving in an advisory capacity and made up of US and EU delegates. Hundreds of participants were involved, drawn in part from the provincial and central bureaucracies and the international community as well as from civil society organizations (communautés de base) and representatives of armed groups. Both received monthly salaries of approximately $ 2,000 as well as free meals. The total cost of the whole process, and who picked up the tab, is anybody’s guess. Even in the best of circumstances it is hard to imagine that anything constructive could have emerged out of this extraordinarily ponderous machinery. Cynics would argue that such was not the prime objective of Amani; the aim, rather, was to make sure that the pursuit of peace would hold tangible benefits for the participants so as to insure their continued participation. This was undoubtedly true of the groupes armés, whose involvement in the peace process was crucial to its success. Nonetheless, to view Amani as a mere trough does little to illuminate the wider landscape.
A major shortcoming of both the Goma conference and the Amani program is that in the resolutions and discussions it left out the issue of disarming and repatriating the FDLR specifically. There can be no doubt that the hard-core leaders are génocidaires or ex-Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR), and that many continue to commit atrocities against civilians, especially Tustis population in the Kivus. Ignoring their presence and lack of concrete action by Congolese in such dialogue discredited the whole process.
4. The role of the UN
The United Nations has been actively engaged in mediation and peacekeeping efforts, although its peacekeeping Mission in Congo MONUSCO has come under criticism for failing to implement its mandate to protect civilians. Following the signing of the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement in July 1999, between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and five regional State actors to the conflict, the Security Council established the United Nations Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) through resolution 1279 of 30 November 1999 (CRS, 2010:9).
The operation is authorised under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which allows peacekeepers to use force, if necessary, to carry out its mandate (UN, 2012:1). Over the past decade, the Security Council passed a number of resolutions to strengthen MONUC’s force and its mandate. Resolution 1291, passed in 2000, authorised MONUC to carry out a number of vital tasks, including implementation of the cease-fire agreement, verification of disengagement and redeployment of forces, and support for humanitarian work and human rights monitoring (Security Council Report, 2010:2). The resolution provided MONUC the mandate, under Chapter VII, to protect its personnel, facilities, and civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and increased MONUC’s troop level to 5 537 military personnel (Ibid).
Resolution 1565, adopted in 2004, also increased MONUC personnel, with the primary objective of MONUC deployment to eastern Congo to ensure civilian protection and seize or collect arms, as called for in U.N. resolution 1493. The resolution also authorized MONUC to temporarily provide protection to the National Unity Government institutions and government officials. Resolution 1493 authorized MONUC to assist the DRC government to disarm foreign combatants and repatriate them to their home countries. The resolution, under Chapter VII, authorized MONUC to use “all means necessary” to carry out its mandate (MONUC, 2010:1).
In December 2009, Security Council resolution 1906 reaffirmed MONUC’s mandate until the end of May 2010. The Kabila government subsequently asked for the withdrawal of MONUC forces by 2011. On May 28, 2010, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1925 that converted the name and mission of the current peacekeeping force from the U.N. Organisation Mission in DRC (MONUC) to the United Nations Organisation Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), effective July 1, 2010. The resolution also authorised MONUSCO’s mandate until June 30, 2011 and ordered the withdrawal of up to 2000 peacekeeping troops by June 30, 2010.
The resolution additionally called for the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers; support for the DRC government on a wide range of issues and support for international efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. Although civilian protection is stated to be the highest priority of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in all above mentioned resolutions, MONUSCO continually struggles to fulfill this mandate. Congolese and foreign observers have reported that MONUSCO forces did not provide sufficient protection to civilians, who have been the primary target of government forces and militia groups (CRS, 2010:10; Salomon, 2012:2). United Nations officials argue that MONUSCO has done what it could under difficult circumstances and that Congo is a large territory to effectively manage. These officials contend that it is the primary responsibility of the Congolese to protect its citizens. However, the recent defections and subsequent attack by M23 suggest that the poorly trained, poorly led, lowly paid Congolese armed forces are not able to meet this challenge, leaving the United Nations (UN) peacekeepers with the responsibility to protect citizens.
All eight interviewees from the UN Peacekeeping forces in DRC indicated that since the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2003, there was no conclusive governmental strategic framework for stability the eastern DRC and protect its people. All attempts to formulate with a comprehensive road map to peace were spoiled midway. The Inter- Congolese Dialogue that ended in Sun City, South Africa; the July 2002 agreement between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, the Amani initiative discussed earlier and current efforts under the Tripalitite Plus commission, all ended inconclusively. One official went as far as to say that “…there was no such thing as a Government strategy to bring about peace in eastern DRC and, despite these agreements and the engagement of the United Nations through a monitoring mission (Mission de l’organisation des Nations Unies au Congo, or MONUSCO), no concrete peace yet… and the government strategy alone cannot bring peace… all actors to the conflict must be party to that strategy, the government is one in so many actors.” (Interviewee 1)
At the height of the war, the conflict developed an international character, introducing many regional actors, defying regional and international mediation discussed above. The interviewee stated that the security cluster is in chaos because the above initiatives were premature and not properly planned. In his view the security must be reformed first, reenergized in terms of capacity building so that they establish control in the areas under government control. The plan for peace will emerge from there.
“ Since the signing of Pretoria agreement, the government has not been stable enough to plan properly for a lasting peace in Kivus… it is challenged everywhere… there have been a lot of unconventional clashes between the regular army and various armed groups that affected the government plan… my view is that the DRC government needs assistance in capacity-building of its armed forces, to assist in the training of DRC armed forces such that they are able to establish control and authority in areas under conflict in the country…. then they will be able to plan properly for such lasting peace…”(interviewee 2)
It is worth noting further that, since the outbreak of war, more than twelve major peace agreements have been concluded. Negotiation, mediations and peace building initiatives, often brokered with help from the international community, have been the primary means to resolve conflict in DRC (Kalele, 2008:2). Most of these accords, however, neglected the principal conflict drivers, namely the issue of militias of FDRL, minerals that supply them and the security sector reform that should form the core of the government strategy as advocated by participants to this study. The Pact on Security, Stability, and Development in the Great Lakes Region, signed in December 2006 by heads of state from ICGLR and entered into force in June 2008, also did not emphasise the importance of the security sector reform as well, nor did the AMANI initiative or the Tripalitite Plus commission. However, interviewees are of the view that as long as the issue of minerals in the eastern DRC is not seriously approached, the SSR process will not be institutionalised.
“…Various armed groups that spoil the peace process come and go for many reasons….however, if there was no means to sustain their activities they will not proliferate; and I am sure if there were no minerals in this region, we won’t be having this situation as it stands today” (interviewee 2)
Interviewees from the UN Peacekeeping force in DRC were of the view that the role of the UN should fall within the mandate given to the mission as outlined in chapter VII of the UN Charter that describes its role and requisite action with respect to the threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression. This section of the UN Charter authorises the UN peacekeeping force to use force where necessary to carry out its mandate.
“As a UN mandated mission, we have been assigned a defined role that is in line with our mandate as spelt out in Chapter 6 and 7 of the UN charter….local arrangements with local actors including the government of DRC are made upon recommendations to the UN Security Council that authorised the mission...” (Interviewee 3).
From the time of its deployment as the Joint Military Commission (JMC) in 1999, MONUSCO has been heavily criticized for not doing enough. United Nations officials point out, however, that MONUC was created to observe compliance with the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement of 1999; and its mandate has never been, to forcibly bring peace to the DRC. That is why, as cited by one interviewee above, MONUSCO is a UN Chapter VI operation with one UN Chapter VII component that allows self-protection and protection of the civilian population.
However, as evidence in a literature review, the Lusaka signatories in 2002 (also referred to as “parties”), were expecting a military force that would observe and verify the compliance to the elements of the peace agreement and further:
- Provide and maintain humanitarian assistance to and protect displaced persons, refugees and other affected persons;
- Track down and disarm armed groups;
- Screen mass killers, perpetrators of crimes against humanity and other war criminals;
- Hand over “genocidaires” to the International Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda;
- Repatriate former combatants to their home countries;
- Work out such measures (persuasive or coercive) as are appropriate for the attainment of the objectives of disarming, assembling, repatriating and reintegrating into society members of the armed groups (Edgerton & Bernath, 2003:6)
Interviewees were of the opinion that they did their best to meet the above- mentioned expectations despite numerous challenges and the rise of new armed groups that undermined their efforts.
Overall, the failure of the UN to decisively deal with the FDLR, as the major contributor to regional instability, allows the eastern Congo crisis to fester (Lezhnev & Wimmer, 2012:1). Recognising this challenge, MONUC made critical decision in January 2009 to work closely with anti-FDLR military offensives launched by both the DRC and Rwanda, under the Triplalitite Plus arrangements. There were three main motives behind this decision: Firstly, the UN Security Council previously mandated MONUC to support the implementation of the November 2007 Nairobi communiqué, a Rwandan-DRC agreement that allows for the use of force to disarm the FDLR. Powerful members of the Security Council had long demanded that MONUC participate in decisive military action against rebel groups. Yet those members were not ready to commit their own troops for the job.
Secondly, the former head of mission, Alan Doss, did not want MONUC to be accused of undermining the historic November 2007 rapprochement between the DRC and Rwanda, in which he believed, anti-FDLR military campaigns played an important role.
Thirdly, he argued that since military offensives were inevitable, MONUC’s participation in FARDC operations would at least reduce their negative impact on the population. He expected that in exchange for UN logistical support, the Congolese authorities would make significant efforts to improve the behaviour of soldiers. Also, MONUC involvement would, in theory, provide peacekeepers with access to the planning stage of operations, therefore allowing them to anticipate associated risks for the population (Vircoulon, 2010:1).
However, while the FDLR might have lost 40 per cent of its combatants during that period, they demonstrated resilience in the face of the subsequent FARDC offensives using dispersion tactics and forging new alliances with Congolese armed groups, after the withdrawal of the Rwandan troops. Today, the FDLR pose as great a strategic threat to regional security as ever. There is nothing to suggest that, on their own, the FARDC will be able to contain the FDLR and improve the security of the population. Even if the number of FDLR combatants continues to decrease, the rebel group will remain a major strategic obstacle to peace and security in the Kivu.
As of April 2012, MONUSCO had 19 815 military personnel, 760 military observers, 391 police personnel and 1 050 members of former police units, 2 690 local civilian staff and 629 United Nations volunteers (UN, 2012:1), making it the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation in the world. Whilst leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes region plan to send an international stabilisation force to the DRC in response to M23 mutiny, it is difficult to see how such a force could possibly be successful when 20 000 UN peacekeepers currently on the ground have been unable to contain the situation.
Though well intentioned, MONUSCO’s single minded focus on peace and stability in the Kivus has been myopic in its attempts to ensure the region’s security. Upbraided for perpetuating ineffective intervention tactics, it has become increasingly difficult to justify the extension of the operation in the DRC. The mission’s tactics, in practice, have had little meaningful leverage and continue to be hampered by divisions over strategies of operation.
Regarding the issue of illegal exploitation of minerals, the some UN official interviewed admit that the transaction is facilitated by the vacuum of the central authority, with several mines in North and South Kivu controlled by individual armed groups and that unlike other countries in the region, Rwanda has taken necessary measures to deal with illegal transit of mineral through its territory:
“Some minerals-rich territories in the areas are outside the control of the central government, with poor communications and roads are in bad conditions. Armed rebels and criminal groups continue to exploit deposits under their control …, where a number of mining companies have reported unexplained increases in production, prompting suspicions that they are siphoning minerals…. though not necessarily conflict ones.. from the DRC into the supply chain…, the transportation of minerals without tags has been made illegal for example in Rwanda and perhaps there is still room for improvement in the processes for issuing tags and recording the data of shipments. Logbooks get incorrectly filled in, lost, or damaged by bad weather. Some companies conspire with tagging officials to circumvent the process…” (Interviewee 6)
Interviewees also said that efforts are being made to comply with the OECD Guidelines both by the corporate sector of the mineral supply chain and by the institutions and state services of the DRC and Rwanda.
“…Not only that the DRC neighbour, Rwanda has initiated positive measures to comply with OECD guidelines, it has started acting decisively….in March 2012, the Rwandan Geology and Mines Department (GMD) blacklisted four Rwandan companies for illegally tagging minerals…this is clearly an improvement…” (Interviewee 2)
These developments follow Rwanda’s announcement in October 2011 that it was returning 70 tons of untagged minerals to the DRC that had been smuggled across its borders.
Irrespective of the facts that other countries in the region are not complying with the OECD guidelines, the UN undertook another initiative within DRC, however given the complexity of the DRC situation, it is unlikely that it will prove fruitful.
“….The UNSC voted Resolution 1806 of 2008, 1856 of 2009, 1925 of 2010 and 1991 of 2011 mandating the Joint Mission Analysis Cell (JMAC) MONUSCO to fight against the illegal exploitation and commercialisation of minerals in the East of DRC..”
However, the JMAC mandate is very limited in that it sought to establish five known trading centers, where minerals will be sold. Given the size of eastern DRC, the five trading centres will not be enough to curb the illegal trafficking of minerals
“JMAC in collaboration with International Organisation for Migrations (IOM) initiated the Centres the Négoce Project which consisted of building five Trading Centers or Centres de Négoce (3 in North Kivu and 2 in South) where gold, cassiterite, coltan and wolframite will be sold to traders by the artisan miners themselves. It is an exchange market center where artisan miners (creuseurs) and traders (Negociants) meet to sell and buy minerals” (Interviewee 1).
“As for now, there is no way to control minerals because the tracing process has not begun given that the Dodd-Franck law of April 2011 and the UN and the OECD Due Diligence exigencies, coupled with the government ban on exportation of minerals, which are not coming from GREEN mine sites has put a stop to artisanal mining activities. Nevertheless, artisan miners are still exploiting minerals which are trafficked across the border” (Interviewee 1).
Joint teams involving Congolese administration, civil society, MONUSCO and BGR (Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources; based in Hannover, Germany), will map, regularly visit and validate transportation routes and mine sites due to supply the centres and drive the above-mentioned trading centres or ‘centres de negoce’ initiative. These teams will assign a black, orange or green designation to mining sites. Black mines according to interviewees, are those under the direct control of armed groups such as FDLR, orange mines are those under indirect control of armed groups; for example, owned by locals who pay taxes to armed groups or those mines that employ under-age children, while green mines are those judged clean with no armed group involvement or child labour.
“..The Minister of Mines signed a ministerial arête on 29 February 2012 …he just enacted into law the ToR that was drafted by the Mines Thematic Group in Kinshasa on criteria to be considered when classifying mines; giving the composition of the members of the Qualification and Validation of mines as follows:
- Representative of JMAC/MONUSCO
- Representative of BGR (Federal Office for Geosciences and Natural Resources)
- Ministry of Mines
- Division of Mines
- SAESSCAM (Service Administratif et d’Encadrement de Small Scale Mining)
- Police des Mines
- Federation des Entreprise de Congo (Chamber of Commerce)
- Civil Society
- Cadastre Minier (CAMI or Mining Cadastral Survey)” (Interviewee 1)
This 10 member team will visit each mine and gather information that will ultimately lead to the qualification/classification of mines in red, orange (yellow) and green as detailed above.
“Mines which are under the direct or indirect control of armed groups are classified RED…Mines which are directly or indirectly under control of the regular army, which has minors working in, which has pregnant women working in, which pays illegal taxes to army or administrative authorities are classified YELLO until the irregularities are rid of…Mines which do not fulfill the conditions on A and B above are classified GREEN…” (Interviewee 1)
While this validation exercise within DRC seems promising, certification alone will not cut the link between armed groups and mineral resources. Indeed some mines will be labeled green, orange (yellow) or blacks, but as long as the black mines exist, under the full and total control of armed groups such as FDLR, with full access to trading routes and external trading companies and often with the assistance of FARDC, armed groups will not disappear. It is worth mentioning that some experts have already accused some UN personnel in dealing with minerals in eastern DRC as well.
As for the UN protection of civilians and its aptitude in the DRC, it is worth considering major elements contained in its Mandate as of 1999 stated above. In 2011, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to protect (ICRtoP), reported that during the period between July 30 and August 4, 2010 mass rapes were carried out by FDLR, and the Congolese Mai-Mai Cheka rebels in the region of eastern Congo. At least 303 civilians were raped during the plunder of multiple villages. Homes and shops were also ransacked and people were abducted to provide slave labor. The crimes occurred within miles of the UN peacekeepers’ base; however the UN force was unable to protect Congolese civilians (ICRtoP, 2011:1). Such horrific incidents still occurred despite additional efforts by the bolstered MONUSCO peacekeeping force.
Atul Khare, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping acknowledged the failure of the UN by stating: “our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalization of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better.” The Security Council has urged “swift and fair prosecution of the perpetrators” and called for further expansion of the UN Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (MONUSCO) “interaction with the civilian population.”
Incidents such as these raise questions about whether the UN Mission is able to fulfill its mandate and if its actions can lead to stability and security in the region. Recalling the original mandate of the UN mission in Congo, a “Chapter 6” peacekeeping operation is normally implemented to help keep peace and peacekeepers are not permitted the use of force other than for self-protection (Edgerton & Bernath, 2003:5), while Chapter VII peacekeeping operations, also referred to as “Peace Enforcing”, sanctions UN peacekeepers to use military force if necessary to restore peace and security. MONUSCO is a Chapter 6 operation with one Chapter 7 component that allows self-protection and protection for the civilian population.
The most contentious element of the mandate is its last sentence pertaining to protection under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Chapter VII entitled “Action With respect To Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression,” states “Should the Security Council consider that (non-military) measures would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
The vast majority of UN peacekeeping operations fall under Chapter VI of the UN Charter – “Pacific Settlement of Disputes.” Other than for self-protection, Chapter VI mandates generally prohibit the use of force. However, most operations also have a Chapter VII provision for self-protection and varying degrees of protection of the civilian population.
Many of the people and parties who disagree on the success or failure of MONUSCO do so based on how they interpret this particular element of the mandate. A close study of the Chapter VII element of the mandate shows how vaguely it is written: “Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, decides that MONUC may take the necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its infantry battalions and as it deems it within its capabilities, to protect United Nations and collocated JMC personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, and protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.”
Thus, when MONUSCO troops failed to protect civilians in various rebel attacks, it is easy to see how they were able to justify their inaction. The protection aspect of MONUCO’s work is in question, and clearly it is understood that MONUSCO does not have the will to enable it to ensure full protection of the civilian population in the entire area of eastern DRC. But clearly MONUSCO has the responsibility and the mandate to be able to protect those whose lives are in imminent danger, especially in the areas in which MONUSCO is fully deployed.
With the heavily armed personnel currently on the ground in the eastern DRC, it is dubious whether MONUSCO troops are not yet equipped, trained or configured to intervene rapidly and assist a population in need as outlined in its mandate, whether the mandate is still too ambiguous, or if MONUSCO’s leadership is able to correctly interpret the mandate. What is blatantly obvious is that the protection mandate has not been met, and it is a shame to the whole UN system in eastern DRC.
5. General Conclusion
From the discussion in section one and two, it has been revealed that the ongoing situation in eastern DRC cannot be interpreted as simply put forward by Congolese officials that its problems are rooted in external interventions, but associated with broader governance failures in the DRC, including the inability of the Congolese state to maintain security on its territory. The FDRL and Mai Mai Groupings, among other identified armed groups, are the major actors and causes of instability in eastern DRC, as opposed to the current international opinion that focused only on former CNDP turned M23; as if M23 was to be wiped away, DRC will enjoy peace. Indeed, without a functioning army under state civilian control, armed groups will continue to proliferate in the region and be able to operate at will; and minerals will only serve as their means of survival.
It is further important to note that even if mining activity around high-value commodities, including diamonds and gold, exists throughout many regions of DRC; violence does not develop around every mine. Only North and South Kivus are experiencing security problems at least for now, suggesting that specific, local dynamics, accelerated by politicization of ethnic configuration, especially the discrimination and exclusion of Rwandophone population, especially Tutsis, contributes to the conflict intractability.
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