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On June 30, the United Nations will assess its second largest peacekeeping mission in the world. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or MONUSCO, is presently engulfed in one of the most intense periods of insecurity in recent years, as a peace deal that integrated one of the most powerful rebel groups into the army lies in tatters, and violence by the notorious FDLR is on the rise.
The recent violence has served to expose MONUSCO’s continuing shortfalls in implementing its civilian protection mandate —one of the central purposes of the mission. In light of the U.N. Security Council’s imminent review of MONUSCO’s record, the Enough Project today issued a set of recommendations for strengthening the ability of peacekeepers to respond in a timely way to outbreaks of violence, to save lives, and to prevent traumatizing abuses at the hands of militia fighters.
Specifically, MONUSCO’s next mandate must allow the mission to deploy an early warning human rights monitoring service to report incidents in real time as they happen, improve patrols by venturing out beyond main roads and into communities, and create rapid reaction Joint Protection Teams deployed at forward bases that can respond immediately to reports of attacks, according to the brief.
“Overall, the failure of the U.N. to deal with the FDLR rebellion, as a major factor in regional instability, allows for the eastern Congo crisis to fester,” said the Enough Project’s Goma-based researcher Fidel Bafilemba in a press release. “The optimal longer term change in MONUSCO's mandate would be to empower and support it, in coordination with the region, to end the FDLR threat along the lines of the Ituri ‘Artemis’ model,” he said, referencing a militarily robust European Union peacekeeping operation in June 2003 that was credited with protecting displaced people and civilians, securing key infrastructure, and helping draw to a relative close an intense ethnic conflict that ignited in 1999.
The Enough Project brief draws from field research on two massacres this year in which civilian protection fell short with devastating effect.
“The world’s second largest peacekeeping mission is failing to protect civilians and angering Congolese people on the ground,” said Enough Senior Policy Analyst Sasha Lezhnev. “Because MONUSCO takes days to deploy to villages that have been attacked, people are left vulnerable, and massacres like the May 13 killing of 37 people in Kamananga are the result.” He added that without significant changes to the way U.N. peacekeepers respond when civilians are at risk, ”taxpayers’ money is wasted on these efforts.”
Read the full brief: “MONUSCO—Protection of Civilians: Three Recommended Improvements”
Photo: MONUSCO peacekeepers from Ghana (UNDP)