UN peacekeeping reforms open door for DR Congo funding

Monday October 02 2023

Soldiers protect their faces from projections when a helicopter lands in South Kivu Province, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on October 10, 2020. PHOTO | AFP


The Democratic Republic of Congo’s regional peace bid could begin tapping into a UN peacekeeping fund as early as January next year if the UN Security Council gives the nod, boosting chances of an alternative conflict resolution for the troubled country.

The move, lobbied by the East African Community, is part of reform discussions for a new format UN Peacekeeping management across the world, and targets to support more locally led inititatives. It is based on lessons learnt from the departing UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco).

It will require a UN Security Council endorsement by end of December but has already been backed by the African Union Peace and Security Council, which also argues for a redirection of UN funding to needy urgent cases of conflict in Africa.

Read: UN cautious over DRC peacekeeper pullout

Though deployed in 2010 to replace an older UN peacekeeping mission known as Monuc, which had been deployed in 1999, critics of Monusco charge that it has been largely ineffective, as atrocities mounted in the eastern DRC. And Kinshasa has led citizens in protests, sometimes violent, against Monusco, seeking its early departure.

“The acceleration of the withdrawal of the Monusco becomes an imperative necessity to ease tensions between the latter and our fellow citizens,” Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi told the UN General Assembly in New York. “The peacekeeping missions deployed, in one form or another for 25 years, have failed to tackle the rebellions and armed conflicts which are tearing the country apart.”


Learning from past

The departure of Monusco, however, will create a void that the EAC wants to fill, by learning from Monusco’ s mistakes, according to EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki.

The EACRF currently has 4,229 troops in Eastern DRC and has its mandate until December, too. And whether it continues its stay in DRC will depend on two things: Permission from Kinshasa and funding from the UN.

Read: Reality check on DRC with EACRF extension amid protests

“When we met the UN Security Council (last week in New York), we discussed a number of issues. One, we have proposed funding the EACRF, and the Security Council said they are meeting in December to determine how much they can draw down from Monusco (budget) and how much they will be able to get to fund the EACRF,” Dr Mathuki told The EastAfrican.

“The budget for Monusco is huge. And if the EACRF can get a fifth of that… We are spending close to almost $4 million or more per month on troops. We need our troops to be sustainable and given the financial support.”

The EAC requested more than $250 million annually to help support the few troops and expand or double the number should the UN heed to their call.

“Based on our discussion, we see a possibility of increasing the number, possibly to double or three times because the place that the EACRF is supporting is limited and we are seeing a situation that if Monusco leaves without a proper cover then it means the EACRF number has also to increase and that in essence is a huge budget,” Dr Mathuki said.

Certainty for the DRC’s peace mission, however, will rely on how the world responds to the work of the UN-AU Joint Task Force on Peace and Security. It met for its 22nd Consultative Meeting held on September 18 to 21 in New York.

Guaranteed support

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde told the UN Security Council that only a guaranteed financial support can help end conflicts on the continent.

Read: Why military interventions fail to end DRC wars

“It is also essential that the issue of predictable and sustainable financing for AU peace operations authorised by the Security Council is – on a case-by-case basis – framed within the context of a mutually agreed political strategy, and informed by joint analysis,” she said.

Since 2016, Security Council members have debated the idea of using UN assessed contributions to fund African-led operations on a case-by-case basis. In fact, the UN Commission itself was formed in 2005, the presumptive date when calls for reforms gathered pace. But now officials say they have gained ground, with the US, one of the initial opponents of the idea, loosening up for it.

The Security Council’s three African non-permanent members (Ghana, Gabon and Mozambique) pushed hard for the Council to agree on a framework for future UN-AU funding arrangements by the end of 2023.

Last week, the AUPSC met on ‘Financing AU Peace Support Operations (PSOs)’ on the sidelines of the UNGA. And AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the UN should consider funding mechanisms as proposed by December 2023.

He revealed that the AU had already approved the funding of Atmis and the EACRF.

“As a demonstration of the AU’s commitment to burden-sharing, I approved $2 million each from the Peace Fund’s Crisis Reserve Facility, to bridge the Atmis funding gap and support operations of the East African Community Regional Force in the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively,” said Faki.

Read: Atmis funds deficit signals slow Somalia transition

“$1 million is also availed for support to the Ethiopia and Sudan peace processes, with approval by the Executive Council for the increase of the 2023 allocation from $5 million to $7 million, with $10 million already approved for 2024.”

At the 78th UN General Assembly last week, leaders lay into the UN Peacekeeping, arguing it had gobbled up lots of money without bringing lasting solutions.

“It is high time to renew multilateral institutions based on 21st century economic and political realities – rooted in equity, solidarity and universality and anchored in the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, while presenting his annual report on the work of the UN.

“That means reforming the Security Council in line with the world of today. I have no illusions. Reforms are a question of power. I know there are many competing interests and agendas. But the alternative to reform is not the status quo. The alternative to reform is further fragmentation. It is reform or rupture.”

Guterres has led what is known as the New Agenda for Peace, which initially seeks to tackle intricate challenges facing the World especially in Africa, by leveraging multilateralism and respect for the UN Charter. It will cost money, and political will, he admitted.

“It means redesigning the international financial architecture so that it becomes truly universal and serves as a global safety net for developing countries in trouble,” he said.

At a gathering of countries participating in the UN Peacebuilding Commission, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo said the Agenda “addresses the concerns and priorities of different constituencies” by ensuring everyone works to silence the guns under “nationally-owned” solutions.