The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), will be marking 23 years in its peacekeeping mission since it took over from the United Nations Mission for Congo (MONUC).
Monusco has been in the DRC since 2010, with a mandate to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel, and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.
However, more than a decade later, it is difficult to measure progress. Impunity has increased under Monusco’s watch, the theatre of conflict has become bigger and far more complex, and civilians continue to die from militia violence. The UN troops have been accused of sexual misconduct and of engaging in business with the enemy. The Congolese have lost faith in MONUSCO and retaliations against the movement have begun.
This past week, in the DRC’s eastern city of Goma, angry stone-throwing civilians attacked UN troops in confrontation for their failed peacekeeping efforts. While the attacks might have no tangible value beyond revealing wounded emotions, they speak to a big problem. Monusco has been on the ground for so long with so little to show for it that the DRC citizens confuse it for the enemy.
It was the culmination of pent-up anger and a drawn-out peace mission that has now entered both mission creep and fatigue. Mission creep because the blue helmets have been responding to a threat that has since changed shape and color beyond what was envisaged under UN Security Council Resolution 1925 that established it. Mission fatigue because the lack of tangible progress is taking a toll on the men.
Nonetheless, attacking the troops is not only wrong but also futile. Monusco faces challenges from limited manpower to poor infrastructure, aspects which limit their response to crises in the DRC. The anti-Monusco protests call for a change of tactics that might involve a need to commit to a larger resource outlay.
The rightfully angry Congolese need to rally around Monusco and demand more resources. Monusco would benefit from a troop surge which can be achieved by authorizing and supporting East African Community partner states to deploy in the DRC. Alongside the DRC national army, that would expand and assert the presence of the state over conflict hotspots.
Peace efforts by the EAC, the International Conference on the Great Lakes, and other international partners need to be fast-tracked and anchored by decisive force.