The Institute for Security Studies says it is surprised at the announcement, last week, by the Congolese Minister of Communications and Media, Lambert Mende Omalanga that the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), MONUC, will withdraw from that country by the year after next.
“Though the issue of withdrawal had been raised many times in the past, so definite a statement came as something of a surprise, said
“Not only was it left unclear as to whether this would be a total or merely the beginning of a phased reduction in strength, but the choice of 2011 was strange. Not only will 2011 mark the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence, it should also see the holding of the second set of national multiparty elections,” he says.
The minister mentioned the issue of instability in the eastern DRC and the status of the Forces Armées de la Republic Democratic du Congo (FARDC) and the National Congolese Police (PNC), the ISS expert added.
“This might imply that the Congolese government believes that by 2011 its own forces would be up to the task of providing nationwide security, a conclusion most informed observers would question, though a redeployment of MONUC forces to the east of the country suggests that the west is now relatively stable.”
Boshoff notes that the UN Security Council last year in terms of Resolution 1856 asked MONUC for its recommendations on the progressive handover of its tasks to a United Nations country team and bilateral and multilateral partners in the western part of the country to allow MONUC to concentrate in the east.
“The subsequent assessment advised that it would take between 6 to 24 months to hand over MONUC`s responsibility to a country team. MONUC also suggested having MONUC police and military response units available if needed.
“The technical assessment mission determined that, although both the eastern and the western parts of the DRC faced problems created by the absence of effective state institutions and authority, the challenges in the east were more acute given the prevailing armed conflict.
“In the west, however, provincial authorities generally lack effective capacity, and institutions are unstable and under resourced. The Security Council therefore advised that an overarching United Nations strategy should be developed for the DRC, bringing together the focus on peacekeeping tasks in the east and peace consolidation and peace-building in the west.
“The strategy would identify coordination mechanisms with authorities and partners and cooperation modalities for the United Nations country team and MONUC to support stabilisation and peace-building in the DRC and elaborate the details and modalities of a handover from MONUC to the country team and other partners to ensure a smooth transition,” Boshoff said.
“It is clear that the principal difficulty lies in assuring stability and governance in the east. The implementation or non-implementation of security sector reform (SSR), demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) of the FARDC and PNC as well as the DDR, resettlement and repatriation (DDRRR) of foreign armed groups are the biggest challenges here.”
He notes the Congolese government has predicated the withdrawal of MONUC in the east upon the successful implementation of the military master plan`s short-term vision, which included:
· the training and deployment of 12 battalions of a rapid reaction force drawn from elements yet to undergo “brassage“, as well as from the 18 existing integrated brigades
· the establishment of the legal framework necessary for army reform; and
· the completion of the transitional disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and army integration programmes.
“Unfortunately this short–term vision remains just that, and has been delayed because of the ongoing fighting in eastern DRC since late 2007, a lack of coordination between all role players to address the conflict, SSR, DDR, and DDRRR.
“For example the first rapid reaction battalion trained in 2008 by South Africa at an enormous cost has disappeared from view.
“The international community is very reluctant to undertake further such training until there is an overarching white paper on defence, a strategy and structure as well as political oversight.
“MONUC is again seeking to expand its working group on SSR to include bilateral partners in addition to the European Union Mission of Assistance for SSR and the European Union Police Mission in an effort to enhance information-sharing and move towards more strategic coordination on this critical issue.
“The Congolese government`s claims to possess a reliable military force are given the lie by the FARDC`s treatment of civilians during its eastern operations. Unless this and other issues are addressed very quickly there seems little possibility of a MONUC withdrawal by 2011.
“Given the slow rate of progress so far, a further five to 10 years deployment would not seem unrealistic,” Boshoff says.
SA has about 1000 troops in the DRC, mostly as part of MONUC.
Pic: SA troops on a UN peacekeeping mission
Pic: SA troops on a UN peacekeeping mission