Democratic Republic of the Congo

Archive Profile

2014 Country Profile

The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains fragile, despite the myriad of initiatives, agreements and processes that have been established since the M23 armed group captured the city of Goma in November 2012.

The rebel takeover of North Kivu’s provincial capital caught the international community by surprise and triggered a widespread demand to put an end to armed groups operating in eastern DRC. This rude awakening also led to a refocusing of the international community’s engagement with the DRC and the Great Lakes region, heeding the calls for renewed political engagement with the region and the need for a comprehensive political process. This led to the signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF), and the creation of the UN Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (SESG) for the Great Lakes Region.

There was also recognition in many capitals that a new assertive approach was needed to target the numerous armed groups in the east of the country. The UN initiated a strategic review of its operations to reconsider the so-called root causes of the conflict and assess some of the proposals emerging from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and South African Development Community (SADC). The most notable was the July 2012 proposition to create “a neutral International Force to eradicate M23, FDLR and all other negative forces in Eastern DRC.”

After much debate on the composition and configuration of this force, the renamed Intervention Brigade (IB) was created within the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to carry out targeted offensive operations “either unilaterally or jointly with the FARDC” (the Congolese Army), neutralize armed groups and provide the space for stabilization activities.

Initially, this dual approach sparked hope that finally there was a structure to hold all parties to account and extract commitments from the region of non-interference and stability. It was further hoped the DRC would commit to move forward on various reform initiatives stalling its political development. But there was also apprehension: while the international community finally had its credible threat to go after armed groups, the IB raised decades-old questions about the UN and the use of force.

Unsurprisingly, implementation of this two-pronged strategy has had mixed results. Today, while one can point to the dissolution of the M23 as a success story, other threats are now reasserting themselves including a series of attacks in and around Beni since mid-October 2014. Furthermore, a polarizing electoral process and stalled demobilization initiatives now threaten DRC’s fragile gains. There has also been little progress on implementing regional or national commitments made under the PSC Framework, and the relationship between MONUSCO and the Congolese Government has become increasingly tense. As 2015 began, President Kabila once again requested a reduction of the number of UN peacekeepers and a reduction in MONUSCO’s political profile.

Background

This current context builds upon a fifteen-year history of United Nations peacekeeping in the DRC, from the UN Security Council’s authorization of MONUC in 1999 to the transition to MONUSCO in 2010. Succeeding mandates have aimed to tackle a litany of tasks, from implementing ceasefire agreements, assisting political transitions, stabilizing the east through joint operations against armed groups, and helping to build credible institutions. Despite MONUSCO’s creation in 2010 to focus more on Read More...

Key developments

Engaging with Armed Groups in Eastern DRC After the M23 withdrew from Goma in a regional-brokered deal in December 2012, a further year of negotiations, missed deadlines and the resumption of hostilities frustrated many Congolese about the merits of the M23 talks, especially since they were held in Kampala with a Ugandan facilitator. The endless Kampala dialogue distracted the international community and its Special Envoys from the other pressing concerns of the PSCF, largely stalling that proce Read More...

Conclusion

The arrival of the new SESG has provided the PSCF with fresh momentum, which will be needed to invigorate the stalled demobilization initiatives of the M23 and FDLR and repair the regional divides that are limiting the framework’s effectiveness. But by entering an already crowded field of Special Envoys and inheriting a number of entrenched positions, SESG Djinnit has had to clearly define his role and work with the other members of the E-team to capitalize on each other’s comparative advant Read More...

The year 2012 closed with an escalating crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The fragile political environment in the wake of the November 2011 presidential and legislative elections and the subsequent outbreak of violence in eastern DRC stemming from the mutiny of the March 23 movement in April 2012 are only the most recent manifestation of chronic problems in the region, including the authoritarian drift of the state and a mix of domestic and regional conflict drivers unresolved since the Second Congo War formally ended in 1999. While the international community suffers from a severe case of “Congo fatigue” and is frustrated at the slow pace of political reform, donors continue to support programs in the face of recurrent setbacks to stability and development in the country rather than risk a total breakdown. The UN Security Council has struggled to map out the position of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Dem ocratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), which was unable to stop rebel groups from capturing the strategic city of Goma in eastern Congo in late November.

Background

The UN Security Council first authorized the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), in 1999 in response to a regional request following two wars in the DRC that engulfed much of the region, and the subsequent signing of the Lusaka cease-fire agreement. While the agreement formally ended hostilities, it left unresolved many of the underlying causes of the conflict. MONUC was eventually authorized at a strength of 22,016 un Read More...

Key developments

Escalating Violence and Calls for a Regional Force The political crisis spurred by the 2011 elections coincided with a dramatic deterioration of security in eastern DRC in early 2012 as former members of the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) defected from the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and began launching coordinated attacks on national forces. Since 2009, CNDP rebels, formerly supported by the government of Rwanda, who were integrated into Read More...

Conclusion

On 28 December 2012, two MONUSCO utility helicopters came under fire by M23 elements, the second time that month that the mission’s helicopters had been targeted. These events underscore calls for the UN to regain the initiative on the political front in the DRC, as there is growing awareness that the UN and MONUSCO cannot play a purely technical support role and that there is a need for a political process to streamline and focus efforts to resolve both the short-term crisis in the east a Read More...