Some gossip from within the UN system:
1. Discussions have begun around MONUC’s mandate renewal, led by the French (they are always given the lead on Congo matters in the Security Council). There will be a 5-6 month mandate renewal, as requested by Kabila, and preparations for a drawdown based on concrete benchmarks. The good news is that the Security Council seems to be considering to take on Human Rights Watch’s recommendation of creating a “civilian protection expert group” (CPEG?) that would make sure MONUC implements strict conditionalities on their support of the Congolese army. In other words, the $1 million MONUC provides to the Congolese army (rations, transport, fuel) every month would only come if they comply with some conditions. Foremost amongst these is the removal of the major known human rights offenders (I hear that Bosco, Zimurinda, India Queen, B. Byamungu are top on this list).
2. Diplomats are seriously talking about Kimia II, part II (great name, guys). This is nothing terribly new, but it is important – the army would drastically downsize its offensive against the FDLR to around 10,000 of their best troops (currently, there are up to 60,000 deployed) and put the rest in barracks. This could potentially do wonders for the population. MONUC has ironically gained some leverage for this by helping Kabila out with transport for soldiers he sent to out down the “insurgency” in Equateur province (what exactly is going on there, no one seems to know).
3. The infamous “mapping exercise” that chronicled the largest war crimes and crimes against humanity in the DRC from 1993-2003 is still meandering around in the corridors of power. It was finally vetted by a bunch of different divisions at the High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva and is currently making its way through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York. It will then be sent to the Secretary-General, who will show it to the Congolese government before it is finally published. Word on the street is that is MIGHT be out as early as March 2010, although I fear it could take quite a bit longer. Above all, I hope they are not cutting too much of it out – there are some explosive and fascinating conclusions in the report.
4. And yes, strike up the dirge. The rumors seem to be turning into real information: Alan Doss may well be stepping down as the head of MONUC, as early as March 2010. I have heard several names floated for his replacement (not an enviable post): Aldo Ajello (former EU envoy to the region, very experienced Italian diplomat); Jean Maurice Ripert (former French ambassador to the UN and current the UN envoy to Pakistan); and Jean-Marie Guehenno (former French head of UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations). I think especially the first and the last possibilities would be promising. But as I said, these are rumors (this is why I have a blog and not a press agency, I can dabble in hearsay).