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Monograph 66: Peacekeeping in the DRC. MONUC and the Road to Peace, Jakkie Cilliers and Mark Malan
1 October 2001

The peacemaking process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) began virtually at the outset of the war, long before many of the interlocutors understood the dynamics of the conflict. It took merely a year from the firing of the first shots of the DRC war in August 1998 to reach an extremely complex ceasefire agreement, and for the UN to authorise a peace operation in its support.

The Lusaka Peace Agreement included provisions on the normalisation of the situation along the DRC border; the control of illicit trafficking of arms and the infiltration of armed groups; the holding of a national dialogue on the future government of the DRC; the need to address security concerns; and the establishment of a mechanism for disarming militias and armed groups.

The Mission de l`organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (MONUC) was mandated, among others, to develop an action plan for the overall implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement by all concerned with particular emphasis on the following key objectives:

  • the collection and verification of military information on the parties forces;

  • the maintenance of the cessation of hostilities and the disengagement and redeployment of the parties` forces;

  • the comprehensive disarmament, demobilisation, resettlement and reintegration of all members of all armed groups; and

  • the orderly withdrawal of all foreign forces.

The aim of this monograph is to enhance understanding of the complex array of actors and actions that underpin the current Congolese ‘peace process` — from the key protagonists and their interests in the DRC, to the deployment of MONUC, and attempts to initiate the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

To a large degree, the key to the conflict in the DRC, as well as that in the Great Lakes region, can be found in the eastern Kivu provinces. Since 1959, the various crises in Rwanda and Burundi have generated four major refugee flows that have affected security in the Great Lakes region, and the Kivu provinces in particular. The involvement of foreign forces in the present DRC conflict, on the side of both government and opposition armed forces, has been in pursuit of a variety of powerful interests — ranging from ‘legitimate` security concerns to ethnic solidarity and financial gain. Thus the engineering of the very complicated Lusaka ceasefire agreement proved to be much easier than actually getting the foreigners out of the DRC.

The ceasefire was due to come into effect within 24 hours of the signing of the agreement (commonly interpreted as 31 August 1999, when the RCD signed). The Joint Military Commission (JMC), representing all the signatories, was established under the ceasefire agreement to regulate and monitor the cessation of hostilities until the UN deployed a peacekeeping mission.

In his report of 15 July 1999, the UN Secretary-General recommended to the Security Council that the UN`s responsibility for the implementation of the ceasefire agreement should be approached in three phases:

  • firstly, the deployment of unarmed military liaison officers to the capitals of the signatories and, if the security situation permits, to the rear headquarters of the rebel groups;

  • secondly, the deployment of up to 500 military observers inside the DRC; and

  • thirdly, the deployment of a peacekeeping force.

These have remained the basis of discussion and planning for the incremental deployment of UN military and civilian personnel and assets during what has come to be known as phases one, two and three of MONUC.

MONUC is now well into its second phase of operations, with a maximum authorised strength of 5 537 military observers and peacekeepers. The satisfactory disengagement of the parties` armed forces has been verified by MONUC, and the emphasis is now on monitoring their adherence to agreed points of deployment and the eventual withdrawal of all foreign forces. However, the security situation in the Kivu provinces remains volatile, and presents a significant obstacle to the transition to phase III operations, which sees the main effort shifting to the Kivu provinces and the primary task to disarm, demobilise, repatriate, resettle and reintegrate all armed groups in the DRC.

Underlying the seemingly insurmountable challenges of effective disarmament and reintegration of combatants, there are far broader and deeper social, political and economic challenges to be met. If peace is to involve more than those armed élite presently masquerading as liberators and purporting to act in the interests of a hapless population, it will require a massive process of social engagement and mobilisation of peoples and communities whose only experience of governance has been a brutal, corrupt and exploitive one.

It has been two years since the signing of the Lusaka agreement, and the much delayed Inter-Congolese Dialogue on the political future of the country is due to start in Addis Ababa on 15 October 2001. However, untangling the web of conflict and creating relative stability and order in the DRC will require a very substantial commitment from the international community over an extended period. Sustainable peace will require an extensive peacebuilding programme and ongoing development assistance lasting decades rather than years. What is at stake in the DRC is not really ‘peace`, but the (re)creation of a state often described by foreigners as ‘Europe without roads`. In this sense, MONUC is merely the start of a process — the first piece in a very large puzzle.

It is hoped that this relatively brief reflection on the progress, problems and prospects for the peace process will help make some sense of what is arguably the most complicated and ambitious post-Cold War experiment in the creation of peace from chaos with fairly modest resources. Indeed, it needs to make sense in a security climate that threatens to push Africa even lower on the global agenda.