UnitedNations (UN) peacekeeping was not primarily designed to intervene in conflictsand significant battle violence. Instead, it was developed as a tool to bolsterongoing conflict resolution efforts, primarily between countries. TheDemocratic Republic of Congo (DRC) located in Central Asia, has one of the mostsignificant records in its internal conflicts and UN resolutions.
The DRC’s two wars(1996–97 and 1998–2003) were a concoction of intertwined conflicts. At theregional level, the DRC was the battleground for conflicts spilling out fromRwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Angola (Tull, 2009), which killed more than five millionpeople, the deadliest war since World War II (Ishizuka, 2016). Due to theseevents, peacekeepingmissions in DRC started. These are UnitedNations Organization in the Congo or Opération des Nations Unies au Congo(ONUC) from 1960 to 1964; United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic ofCongo or Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (MONUC) from 1999to 2010; and United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in theDemocratic Republic of the Congo or Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Uniespour la Stabilisation au Congo (MONUSCO) from 2010 up to present.
Hultmanet al. (2014) asserts that over 18,000 military troops serving with MONUSCOwhich seeks to restore peace and stability to the region byworking to protect civilians from violence, facilitate access for humanitarianagencies to civilians in need of aid, and support efforts to disarm,demobilize, and reintegrate former combatants into society. Nevertheless,MONUSCO has faced a number of significant challenges throughout itsdeployment. The difficult terrain onwhich the mission operates, its rules of engagement and the ability of theCongolese military to actively confront the region’s multitude of armed groupscontinue to complicate the issue. In November 2012, onewitnessed the brutal occupation of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province inthe eastern DRC, by the March 23 Movement (M23) wherein the Tutsi-led anti-governmentarmed group. MONUSCO was seriously criticized for its ineffective response inpreventing the attack. Today’s UN operation inDRC constitutes one of the most challenging missions to date. The shift fromtraditional peacekeeping to so-called robust operations has implications forall peacekeeping operations.
The concept of ‘robustness’ in UN peacekeeping isa political and operational strategy to signal the intention of a UN mission toimplement its mandate and to deter threats from spoilers. A robust approach isguided by the mission objectives established by the Security Council and shouldbe driven by a clear political strategy (Murphy, 2016). It could be argued thatthe description perfectly captures the kind of operation undertaken in the DRC,but the exact limits of the use of force and where the line crosses from robustto enforcement is difficult to outline in practice as well as theory and itshares many of the characteristics of NATO peace support operations doctrine. Thereafter, UN SecurityCouncil established a resolution 2098 of March 2013 to have FIB. The UNSecurity Council mandated MONUSCO and the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) totake all necessary measures to neutralize and disarm groups that were posing athreat to state authority and civilian security (United Nations Resolution2098, 7–8). Its mandate was a peace enforcement operation which includes theuse of all necessary means to neutralize armed groups which permits it to usedeadly force which reflects UN forces in moving towards a more war-fightingrather than traditional peacekeeping posture. FIB was a product of collectivesecurity following the collaborative discussions in International Conferencefor the Great Lakes Region (ICGCR) on how to bring lasting peace to the DRC (Karlsrud,2015). However, it had beenreported recently that UN peacekeepers from MONUSCO had been repeatedlyattacked by the rebels.
One of the recent and worst attacks in the history ofMONUSCO happened December 2017 in North Kivu base wherein 14 UN peacekeepersand 5 Congolese air force members died and 53 members were injured. Not longafter 2 UN peacekeepers were killed at the same site in October 2017, andanother UN peacekeeper from Tanzania died from another prior attack inSeptember 2017 (“UN Peacekeepers, Congolese soldiers die in DRC attack”, 2017). This peace enforcement operation implemented by UN throughFIB under MONUSCO’s mission could affect the ability to negotiate peace dealswith the militias and risks deepening conflicts. This concern is also sharedwith NGOs and humanitarian aid workers that create a series of more conflictedissues including human rights of Congolese people. There are also reportedissues in sexual harassment arising due to the extensive power of FIBpeacekeepers that gave them the capability to abuse it. Thus, traditional peacekeeping operation was mandated tosupport on a voluntary basis, the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration,resettlement, and repatriation of foreign armed groups. Furthermore, its missionwas geared towards supporting the transition and the government of nationalunity in DRC (Tull, 2009). Apotential strength of traditional peacekeeping is having less conflict orissues between two parties, and its principles to have been balanced by theneed to protect civilians and by giving the UN a key role in the extension ofstate authority (Karlsrud, 2015).
However, the possibleweakness is when it comes down to collective security and peacekeeping as it wasnot supposed to interfere in the internal affairs of member states. In addition, the shift into peaceful enforcement operation and thedesire to use it as a combat tool is a less fortunate development and needscareful scrutiny. If DRC will shift to peaceful enforcement operation, theyshould carefully consider how their tools and troops are used with due concernfor the long-term consequences.
Peacekeepers areincreasingly tasked with reducing active civil war hostilities, as the UN hasshifted from traditional peacekeeping operations to peace enforcement missionsin DRC but then, in assessing the issues happening in this country peaceenforcement operation of UN is giving more conflict (human rights issue, sexualharassment and increasing number of killed civilians) than it has before. Moreover, peaceenforcement violates one of the main principles of UN peacekeeping which isnon-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate. A peaceenforcement operation has three features: it is neither neutral nor consensual,and it is authorized to wage war to accomplish its political goals.
It is morelikely for humanitarian abuse of civilians to increase because of theaggressiveness of the nature of their power. It is a coercive invasions ofcountries by an UN-authorized force, intent on destroying or changing a threatto international peace and security (Hurd, 2011). From this point of view,UN must stick with traditional peacekeeping in resolving the crises in DRC. Inits status quo, the question is not whether the mission mandate had totallyeliminated conflicts but to whether human suffering and violence has beenreduced. As Tull (2009) argued that the total diminution of ongoing conflictsin DRC will not happen anytime soon, it relates to the reduction of large-scaleviolence which is the overall goal of every peacekeeping mission.
Even ifpeacekeepers encounter difficulties in managing complex security situations,the UN can improve hostile environments and reduce the killings when suppliedwith sufficient troop capacity. Hence, it is assumed that as the UN reverts toits peacekeeping missions and deploys a greater number of peacekeepers thenfewer people will die in civil conflicts and violence (Hultman et. al., 2014). The UN improved securityin the DRC in several ways, especially when it increased its troop commitmentsin areas of violence and when that personnel engaged in active separationefforts.
Analytically, proactive traditional peacekeeping operation has asignificant advantage for a long-term protection of civilians over the peaceenforcement. This intervention can reduce mobility and territorial control ofarmed groups or rebels in DRC. Whereas, peace enforcement which use militaryforce gives tendency in increasing risk of deadly attacks on UN troops andCongolese people. Karlsrud (2015) asserts that it might affect the cooperationof troop contributors that provides for such operations.
Undeniably, the DRC ismore peaceful today than it was several years ago due to MONUC’s traditionalpeacekeeping. The most evident sign of this is the relative ease with whichtrade, commerce, and traffic now flow across the country. Furthermore, theinternational community still expresses the ambition to reduce the hostilityand instability of ongoing conflict, while there is uncertainty about the mosteffective means for achieving such goals.
It concluded that UN indeed has theability to reduce the severity of civil conflict through traditionalpeacekeeping rather than peaceful enforcement operations.