Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Thursday, December 10, 2009

MONUC pulls an 'Obama'

MONUC's latest report to the Security Council said it would like a shorter mandate - 6 months instead of a year - and will submit a plan for draw-down by 30 June 2010, Congolese independence day. This is a reaction to Kabila's request for such a plan.

It's a bit rich, given the high levels of violence in the Kivus and the problems with the integration process. But MONUC is there upon Kabila's invitation, so at least they have to make a show of doing as he requests. In reality, what the plan will include - so UN officials say, at least - is a set of benchmarks for withdrawal. I.e. "we will remove troops for the Kivus once the former armed groups have been fully integrated into the Congolese army, their command and control broken down and the FDLR dismantled." Of course, I am dreaming, but there will be some such guidelines for withdrawal. A bit like Obama saying we will "start withdrawing from Afghanistan after 18 months." Emphasis on "start."

But UN officials do indicate that they want to withdraw a symbolic chunk of troops next year and start relying more on technical advisers who would help reinforce state capacity. I'm all for it - we could have built a decent Congolese army with the $1,4 billion we spend each year on MONUC - but building state capacity is something that the international community has proven to be very poor at in the DRC. It requires hefty financial and political engagement that just isn't present at the moment.

Also in the cards is the replacement of current MONUC chief Alan Doss; the rumor mill in New York says that he may leave as early as March 2010.


Judith said...

“we could have built a decent Congolese army with the $1,4 billion we spend each year on MONUC”

I wonder what makes you think that this is the case-as far as I know there is no empirical evidence that pouring massive amounts of funding in one part of an overall malfunctioning state apparatus will make it work. In fact, I think there is precious little evidence that donor-induced state-building in general actually ‘works’, even when there is more financial and political commitment, like (recently) in Afghanistan.

May be it would be good to let go of the makeability idea that “we” (who are “we” anyway?) can “build” armies, democracies, even whole states. May be it is time to recognize that limited support to the internal forces in a society striving for positive change, while reducing the damage done by external ones (i.e.multinationals), is more in line with the idea of ‘do no harm’.

As regards the FARDC, I think it is time to manage expectations. There is a notable absence of motivation to works towards real military reform at all levels: international, as evidenced by the continuous lack of coherence and coordination among donors and the failure to exert real political pressure to move forward on certain difficult dossiers like the Garde Présidentielle and the presence of notorious human rights violators at command positions; national, as evidenced by for example the refusal to be more transparent in the field of arms procurement and stockpile management or the unwillingness to end impunity for higher level officers; and sub-national, as demonstrated by for example the ongoing support of the higher echelons of the regional military hierarchy for non-state armed groups or their protection of militarized mining, from which they reap substantial profits.

The current efforts at training, equipping and infrastructure building will not be sustainable as long as problems that are at heart political are not treated as such. I personally have the sense that SSR is increasingly becoming a cure-all, a magic bullet not only supposed to restore the state’s monopoly on violence and to remedy insecurity, but also to end the illicit exploitation of natural resources or to foster development. Above all, SSR has become the foremost exit strategy for peacekeeping operations, which have traditionally struggled with defining ‘success’.

While recognizing the importance of limiting the damage the FARDC is currently doing and the potential role that external forces can play in accomplishing this, I wonder at times if, by pinning all hopes on SSR, international donors are not betting on the wrong horse. After all, as it is currently practiced, this seems to be an enterprise with very little returns on investment, at least as regards improving the every-day security of the majority of DRC citizens. Furthermore, the attention to SSR seems to be distracting attention from other, often local, drivers of insecurity, like the issues of land access and ownership and the citizenship question.

In the absence of realistic prospects of having a well-oiled, well-disciplined, well-trained, professional military apparatus respecting civilians and their property within the next twenty years (if ever), why not invest more in addressing other causes of insecurity?

Jason Stearns said...

Point taken; I shouldn't have implied that rebuilding the Congolese army is easy or even feasible in the short term unless the political dynamic in Kinshasa changes considerably.

However, I do think building Congolese institutions, including the entire security sector (police, army, judicial system with all their component parts), needs to be the focus. The question is, of course, how to do this given the apparent reluctance by the government to accept the radical political reforms that would be necessary.

At the moment, despite all the talk, there is actually very little engagement by donors in SSR - a bit of training here and there does not constitute a serious effort.

As for other drivers of violence, especially grassroots issues like land conflict and citizenship - sure, by all means. But I don't think that we should believe that tackling land reform is (a) very easy in the middle of conflict and (b) that it will bring an end to violence in the short term. First, some of the main militia in the Kivus come from the Hutu and Tutsi communities in Masisi, who have quite a bit to lose if the Pandora's box of land tenure is opened. Secondly, if you look at the history of the CNDP, FRF and PARECO, they were launched largely by political & business & military elites who are trying to protect their interests. The foot soldiers who join do so in part out of ideology, but also because of unemployment and other social tensions.

In other words, tackling land tenure is important as part of a long term strategy but could stir up trouble in the short term and is unlikely to have a concrete impact on the current militia - it is almost never given much importance by the parties to the peace talks, for example (although it is consistently brought up by western academics, including myself).

As for citizenship - this is a theoretical problem, but most Tutsi/Hutu were felt nervous about their citizenship obtained electoral cards in 2005/6; the citizenship issue is therefore not mentioned nearly as much as making Minembwe a territory and making Masisi/Rutshuru/Walikale a separate province.

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