The UN Security Council’s decision to reduce the authorized troop for its Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) came as no surprise. Following strong pressure from the White House to downsize its regular budget on peacekeeping operations, the UN saw no other alternative but to meet the US demands. This fact however might display an opportunity for the UN to reconsider its current peacekeeping framework in the DRC towards a more protection-oriented force.
In an increasingly polarized country, where a number of different antagonistic forces struggle for power, MONUSCO has faced some challenges ever since its deployment. In many areas in the DRC, the population is deeply skeptical towards MONUSCO’s deliverables and this has to do with the mission’s limitations on the ground. To begin with, MONUSCO’s First Intervention Brigade (FIB) has failed to neutralize the four armed groups it was assign to counter in the eastern region of the DRC.
Secondly, as the FIB’s mandate targets only these four armed groups, any attacks against civilians perpetuated outside this scope is left with no response, which questions the Mission’s commitment to protect vulnerable displaced population. Finally, the FIB’s engagement and collaboration with the Congolese arming, who according to a UN’s report, was responsible for 65% of human rights violations in the country, renders the mission’s values controversial.
Overall, not only has MONUSCO’s most “robust” element failed to deliver its mandate in the way it was initially hoped, but has also left a gap when it comes to protecting civilians. This point to the need to restructure not only the mission’s resources allocation, but also share lessons learned and re-energize other areas.
• Reallocating more flexible troops in less-affected conflict areas in the DRC to areas that are currently being targeted by armed groups, such as Kasai and Tanganyika, are a key first step.
• As the FIB represents a great portion of MONUSCO’s budget and as cuts are becoming a reality within this framework, a high-level strategic approach is necessary in order to reallocate budget to local units capable of responding more quickly to violence.
• Working more systematically with local organizations on the ground to better understand the conflicts dynamics.
• The budget cut from FIB’s structures could be used to improve early warning systems to protect civilians and to holistically respond to threats. In this way, the UN will have the opportunity to regain trust from the locals and strengthen its mandate in the the DRC.