Congo: Glacial Progress In The Tropics


December 29, 2014: Since the Great Congo War erupted in the mid-1990s, every Congolese province has experienced anarchic violence. In impoverished, corrupt Congo, all too often anarchic violence quickly expands into a small but deadly war. When anarchic violence erupts, unprotected civilians are uprooted or robbed, sometimes raped, often killed.  If the violence persists, relief agencies evacuate their personnel. In these terrible circumstances, Congolese civilians, aid groups and human rights organizations have legitimate cause to demand protection. In Congo --with the possible exception of the Kinshasha-based Presidential Guard-- the best available armed defense is provided by UN peacekeepers.

UN peacekeepers serving with the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC) first deployed to Congo in 1960 when Belgium left and Katangan separatists rebelled.  The current UN deployment, initially designated the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), was authorized in 2000. In 2001 MONUC deployed around 3,000 troops. Year by year the troop commitment increased. In 2005 MONUC deployed around 15,000 uniformed personnel (soldiers, observers and police). Since 2010 the UN has kept at least 20,000 uniformed personnel in Congo, the number occasionally approaching 22,000. In November 2014, the UN had 19,461 soldiers in Congo, 481 military observers and 1,091 uniformed police. Add another 4,000 UN civilians and volunteers. Cost estimates vary. For Congo peacekeeping and stabilization operations mid-2014 to mid-2015 the UN has budgeted $1.4 billion. From 2001 to 2014, Congo peacekeeping operations cost UN members over $8 billion. By some estimates, the figure exceeds $10 billion. That is a major, sustained effort over an extended period of time.

In 2010 MONUC became MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo). The name changed because the UN Security Council’s policy emphasis had shifted from peacekeeping to political stabilization. MONUSCO was to shift from focusing on peacekeeping to nation building.

Cynics claimed the name change meant UN was declaring victory so it could leave. UN peacekeeping officials replied, no, changing from “Operation” to “Stabilization” signaled the UN would withdraw troops as Congo’s security forces became strong enough to defend Congolese civilians.

Every diplomat, military officer and development expert knew to achieve that goal Congo needed more than a few good infantry brigades; it needed reliable, honest and strong government institutions.  MONUSCO, working with other international donors and agencies, would focus on strengthening and in some cases creating Congolese government institutions. Anti-corruption efforts would receive special emphasis. Security, of course, was essential. Peacekeeping troops would provide a reassuring security presence but increasingly focus on improving Congolese Army units and police units.

Five years after MONUC became MONUSCO, several Congolese provinces (especially the Kivus and Katanga) experience bouts of low-level war. However, the UN can make a case that the severity of internal warfare has decreased; concurrently, regional tensions related to internal Congolese warfare have been reduced. Anarchic violence, however, continues, and the fundamental problem seeding anarchy, weak and crooked government institutions, has not been resolved. Despite MONUSCO’s efforts, poor, untrustworthy, self-interested, morally-corrupt leadership undermines respect for governmental authority.  President Kabila wants to change election laws and amend the constitution so he can continue as president beyond 2016. Graft and cronyism (usually with a tribal dimension) render incapable already weak government institutions. MONUSCO wants to improve the country’s tax collecting but some provinces thoroughly distrust the central government. Deep distrust spurs thoughts of separatism.

As 2014 ends, Congo is definitely not stabilized. Critics are declaring MONUSCO a failure. However, in 2004 critics had declared MONUC an abject disaster. But when compared to Congo 2004, Congo 2014 is more stable. Perhaps Congo 2016-2017 is the next appropriate measure. A successful 2016 national, election, with Kabila respecting the constitution and peacefully transferring power to his elected successor, would be a major step toward more stability, less anarchy and measuring MONUSCO’s success. (Austin Bay)

December 28, 2014: Another 150 FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) fighters surrendered. UN officials had earlier hinted that the IBDE’s next target might be the FDLR Hutu extremist group. This threat from the UN’s peacekeeping office sounded more like an announcement. Before that only 200 FDLR fighters had surrendered and another 1,300 remained in the bush in eastern Congo. Now that is closer to 1,100.

December 21, 2014:  Anti-Balaka militiamen fought with UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) town of Berberati.  One anti-Balaka fighter and one civilian were killed in the incident. UN peacekeepers recovered several weapons (types not identified). UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) officials also reported a clash occurred on December 20 near the town of Bambari. Anti-Balaka militiamen fought with fighters loyal to a former Seleka commander, General Ali Darass. Seven people died in the incident.

December 19, 2014:  Whether criminal slaughter, tribal war or political terrorism, the result is mass murder. UN investigators announced that they have evidence that since October an armed group (or several armed groups) in the Beni area (North Kivu province) have murdered at least 256 people (many of them children).  The weapons of choice were machetes and axes. UN officials said they have not been able to determine what group is responsible. Residents of Beni and some Congolese officials have accused the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) of committing the massacres.

December 16, 2014: A spokesman for the M23 rebel movement claimed that between 1,500 and 1,600 former M23 fighters have left their internment camp in Uganda. The fighters were afraid that if they were forced to return to Congo they would jailed or executed.  According to a diplomatic deal negotiated between Uganda and Congo, M23 fighters are to return to the Congo to be demobilized. The M23 fighters retreated into Uganda in November 2013 after losing a series of battles to UN peacekeepers and the Congolese Army. The Ugandan military, however, said that the M23 fighters were in the hills near the internment camp and were not missing.

December 15, 2014: Congolese president Joseph Kabila declared that foreign nations were violating Congo’s sovereignty by telling him to observe constitutional limits on presidential re-election. Congo’s president is limited to two five-year terms. Kabila’s second term ends in 2016.

December 14, 2014: Operations against the ADF-NALU continue in eastern Congo near the Uganda-Congo border.  Elements of nineteen Congolese Army battalions are participating. The UN’s IBDE is involved. MONUSCO estimates that the ADF has about 150 fighters inside Congo.

December 12, 2014: In a speech delivered in Kenya at a Kenya independence celebration, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni declared that African nations need to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty. Museveni claimed that the ICC is now used as a tool for oppressing Africans. The African Union recently asked the ICC to refrain from prosecuting an African head of state or deputy head of state while the accused remains in power. The ICC recently decided to drop crimes against humanity charges against Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta. However, the ICC refused to drop charges against Kenyan vice-president William Ruto. Museveni’s declaration is ironic. Museveni sought help from the ICC in dealing with the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA). The ICC (backed by ample evidence) charged LRA senior commander Kony with crimes against humanity.

December 9, 2014: Observers in the Central African Republic (CAR) warned that tensions are once again rising. A report from the UN’s peacekeeping office said that MINUSCA’s current operational objective is to stop violence between anti-Balaka militias and Seleka rebels in and around the CAR’s capital, Bangui. The anti-Balaka fighters come from predominantly Christian tribes. The Seleka movement (or Seleka alliance) comes from Moslem tribes.

December 8, 2014: Congo president Joseph Kabila announced that he has formed a new “unity” national government. In the new government a senior member of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo opposition political party will serve as vice-prime minister. Critics said that Kabila is attempting to divide his political opponents and accused him of preparing to change the constitution so he can remain in power after 2016.





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