Over at Reuters, Frank Nyakairu talks with 3 Congo experts on what MONUC’s departure from the DRC means for the country. Nyakairu asks the fundamental question:
Can DR Congo do without MONUC?
Guillaume Lacaille: The government wants to demonstrate, one year after the 2011 elections, that they can do this by themselves. But without MONUC, this election period we are now getting in to will be very chaotic. MONUC helped carry out those elections in 2006. Without MONUC, credible elections will be impossible to hold.
Alex Vines: This is politics and President Kabila Junior is feeling more assertive and is making these sorts of statements. The situation in DR Congo is not yet contained. It would be premature to see a full pull-out of MONUC. This is a kind of posturing position by the Kabila administration ahead of the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence from Belgium.
Andrew Phillips: I think it’s a very reckless request to be made by the government and I am worried that the U.N. is not going to be robust enough to say no. They have already agreed to a phased withdrawal and this could have very grave risks for the civilian population. You just need to know who the civilian population turns to when they are attacked – it’s the U.N.
The overwhelming consensus is that while it may be easy to dislike MONUC, the country will be worse off without it. Everybody agrees that the DRC needs to rebuild political institutions, outfit a proper military, hold credible elections, and do all of those other non-failed-state things. But MONUC can’t do this, which means extending the force’s tour is a temporary response to a long-term problem. However, extending MONUC’s tour might be the least worse option until policymakers and scholars can come up with a better than befuddled response:
How can peace be achieved while retaining DR Congo’s sovereignty?
Guillaume Lacaille: Just like the head of DPKO (UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations) suggested to the Congo government, there should be benchmarks before MONUC leaves. The DPKO is trying to engage the government and the presidency in this kind of discussion but it’s not easy. They need to bridge that discrepancy because if they don’t there will be more trouble along the way.
Alex Vines: In the long-term, Congo won’t need U.N. operations. MONUC had its problems but there is a vacuum and a lack of alternatives. There are things MONUC can still contribute to. Progress in security sector reform and stabilisation of eastern Congo remain problematic areas that may still warrant the expertise of MONUC. But I also understand that Congo cannot have MONUC there indefinitely.
Andrew Phillips: The government has resented the degree of political influence held by MONUC and the international community. I think we need to get the African Union more involved in Congo. It is inconceivable to contemplate the withdrawal of MONUC, when there are a sizeable number of armed groups in northeastern Congo. People need to address the protection challenges that remain, to make sure that there are reforms in the security sector. The Congolese army and the police must be capable of ensuring security and ensuring maximum respect for human rights. Part of this role is currently being played by MONUC.