Assessing United Nations Peace Operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo: ONUC and MONUC in Comparative Perspective

By Koko, Sadiki | Strategic Review for Southern Africa, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Assessing United Nations Peace Operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo: ONUC and MONUC in Comparative Perspective


Koko, Sadiki, Strategic Review for Southern Africa


ABSTRACT

In its first fifty years of independence (1960-2010), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) played host to two 'major' United Nations (UN) peace operations. Deployed between July 1960 and June 1964, the Operation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) was tasked with ending what came to be known as 'the Congo crisis'. Nearly forty years later, the Mission de I'Organisation des Nations Unies en Republique Democratique du Congo (MONUC) was deployed in the DRC to end the 'second Congo war' that involved national armies of at least eight African countries and an array of Congolese and foreign non-state armed groups. In spite of being very robust missions and very instrumental in preserving the territorial integrity of the DRC, ONUC and MONUC have not been able to bring about sustainable peace to the DRC in their respective periods of operation; nor have they succeeded in enabling the emergence of strong state institutions in the country upon their completion. Factors inherent to geo political calculations of major powers, the endemic weakness of the Congolese state as well as the inadequacy of the mandate of the missions--inconsistent with the complexity of the conflicts--help explain the shortcomings experienced by ONUC and MONUC in their performance in the DRC in their respective periods of deployment.

1. INTRODUCTION

No organisation in the world embodies as many dreams, yet delivers as many frustrations, as the United Nations. (Gareth Evans in Thakur, 2006: xi)

A peace operation can be defined as an international deployment of an organised team or teams of civilian, police and military personnel into a conflict situation with the aim of performing two coordinated functions, namely peacekeeping and peace-building. The former entails "the provision of temporary [post-settlement or post-agreement] security by internationally mandated forces, normally consensually and impartially unless the peace requires restoration or civilians need protection" (White, 2009: 213). The latter involves efforts undertaken by a wide array of actors (local, national, regional and international as well as governmental, non-governmental and inter-governmental) aimed at addressing the root causes of violent conflict and building sustainable peace, critical processes in preventing the re-occurrence of violence. Its core activities span from the provision of humanitarian assistance and institutional building to the protection of human rights and the promotion of the rule of law and good governance as well as long-term political and socio-economic development.

In its 50 years of independence (1960-2010), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has played host to two 'major' United Nations (UN) peace operations. Deployed between July 1960 and June 1964, the Operation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) was tasked with ending what came to be known as 'the Congo crisis'. In the literature, 'Congo crisis' refers to the crisis of decolonisation Congo experienced in the aftermath of its independence. Triggered by army mutinies, the crisis initially expressed itself through the Katanga and Kasai secession attempts before turning into a civil war waged against the national government by followers of sidelined and assassinated Prime Minister Patrice-Emery Lumumba. The Congo crisis lasted for nearly eight years (1960-1968), "caused the explosion of the 'tensions' among the independent African States" (Legum, 1961: 10-11) at the very moment of the birth of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and "could easily have provoked armed conflicts in other parts of Africa, even led to a world war" (Melber, 2011: 8) as African and world powers disagreed on the most consensual strategy for the international community to deal with the crisis. Lastly, the Congo crisis posed a major challenge to the UN, compelling the international body to deploy its first ever major peacekeeping mission amidst a serious lack of precedence and experience. …

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