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Answers and Analysis: MONUC withdrawal from Congo?

Last week’s trivia and discussion concerned the possible MONUC withdrawal from Congo and consequences as a result.

Trivia: possible repercussions of MONUC leaving Congo

  1. MONUC has spent the last about three years trying to train DRC’s army FARDC in both field tactics and cohesive action. If MONUC leaves next year, there is a chance that FARDC may decline back into preying on civilians, as they have recently been accused of doing.
  2. There is a chance that since President Joseph Kabila himself asked MONUC to leave, he has a plan in mind. He might be feeling that his military is ready to take care of its country, and has drawn an operation schedule.
  3. However, before this plan comes to fruition, rebels and FARDC members alike might jump to use the opportunity of a power vacuum to assault civilians. Or worse, there might be no such plan


      While the rebels are killing us, MONUC takes notes and makes reports. What good is that?” Congolese citizen, Kisangani. November 2002, Refugees International

      Started in 1999 and initially called the Joint Military Commission, MONUC was formed to monitor compliance with the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. Like many UN operations, this one’s mandate has never been and will never be to forcibly bring peace to DRC. It is an operation meant to enforce peace and use military force only in self protection and very limited civilian protection. This would explain the constant complaints that MONUC is not doing enough to help the civilians. For a conflict where people are being murdered and raped by the thousands, of what use is a force that simply observes and takes notes?

In 2002 thousands of Congolese civilians in Kisangani were murdered by the Rwanda backed RCD-Goma, under the nose of a 1200 men strong MONUC force; protection of civilians from this military attack was apparently not only outside MONUC’s mandate but also beyond their capabilities. When it comes to civilians, MONUC’s biggest disappointment so far has been the false hope that they would protect innocent Congolese from military attacks. Most recently, they embarked on Kimia II (January 2009) in which they partnered with FARDC to assault the FDLR, an operation that turned counterproductive when the FDLR renewed violence and the FARDC continued to prey on the very civilians it is supposed to be protecting. By September 2009, 800,000 more people had fled.

If MONUC leaves, there is possibility of escalated violence not because they used to protect the people but because of a restraint vacuum:; the attackers who might have feared MONUC counter attacks will now feel free to attack. Secondly, MONUC’s leaving will be a huge disappointment to not only local people but the global citizens who look to UN missions to protect civilians and resolve conflict, as opposed to occupying conflict zones, making minimal progress, taking risky steps like Kimia II and then suddenly withdrawing and leaving civilians uncertain about their future. Many East Congolese civilians are in danger, no doubt. The way things are going, their lives and security will be at the mercy of the rebels or in the hands of the government, which we hope will step up to the task. Should MONUC actually stay or attempt a future return, it is advisable that they give more weight to civilian protection in their mandate, support only pacifist operations of FARDC and partner more with civilians.

-Sharon Muhwezi, National Congo Education Coordinator


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