Four years after holding its first successful elections in four decades, the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to be plagued by instability, rampant sexual violence and armed rebel groups, according to a recent brief by the International Crisis Group.
The report highlights the deep challenges that continue to face the DRC, many of them stemming from poor governance under President Joseph Kabila’s administration, including a politically-biased anti-corruption campaign, a failure to integrate rebel fighters, and a focus on consolidating power at the expense of broader goals. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, has been deployed since late 1999.
MONUC is the largest UN peacekeeping operation currently in existence, composed of 20,000 soldiers hailing from countries including Cameroon, Jordan, and Mongolia, with India providing the most substantial contingent. MONUC conducts a wide range of activities, much of it focused on SSR, including police reform, rule of law capacity building, disarming and repatriation of foreign fighters, and the building of a professional military. Its presence has been marred, however, by incidences of human rights violations, including pedophilia and rape, and accusations that it has not been effective in protecting the civilian population against rebel violence.
President Kabila is seeking to have MONUC end its decade-long presence in the DRC by 2011, in time for the next election and the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence. However, the idea has been met with resistance by the international community, with many arguing that the Congolese army is not ready to provide national security. The army has been implicated in significant human rights violations, and the integration of former rebel fighters has been troublesome with continuing reports of weapons sales and collusion.
The Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, has suggested that 2,000 peacekeepers be withdrawn by June from the relatively secure central and western province, but has argued for the continuing presence of MONUC in the rest of the country. The UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, recently expressed her fear that the meagre gains made in women’s rights will be difficult to maintain if MONUC withdraws. The peacekeeping force’s current mandate expires on May 31 of this year, but Ban has argued that it be renewed for at least another year.