Ban Ki-Moon announced yesterday that US diplomat Roger Meece would replace Alan Doss as the head of MONUC (soon to be MONUSCO). Meece was the US ambassador in Kinshasa between 2004-2007 and the Deputy Chief of Mission 1995-1998 (I if remember correctly he was the acting ambassador during the beginning of the 1998 war, when he organized the evacuation of embassy staff in Kinshasa). He was also US ambassador to Malawi from 2000-2003.
Meece is a graduate of Michigan State University and worked for many years in the peace corps (he did his own peace corps stint in Sierra Leone in the 1970s).
Meece has a different background than his three predecessors. Cameroonian Amos Namanga Ngongi was a top UN official who had a long career in World Food Program and other UN agencies before leading MONUC. William Swing was a US ambassador in South Africa, Liberia, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria, Haiti and Kinshasa before leading the UN Mission in Western Sahara and then MONUC. Doss was a top UNDP official before helping to lead the UN missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast.
Ngongi was criticized for not being a savvy diplomat and manager, and for allowing the Kisangani massacre in 2002, but was lauded for helping to seal the peace deal in Sun City in 2002/3. Swing was hailed for shepherding through the transition and holding elections, but attacked for not being forceful enough with Kabila on security sector reform and human rights abuses, as well as backing down on the protection of civilians in Bukavu in 2004. Doss had the misfortune of being named just as MONUC lost a of its clout, and he was criticized for not forging a more coherent and aggressive vision for how MONUC could stabilize the Kivus and protect civilians.
Meece does not have the UN experience of any of his predecessors – this will be his first job for the organization – and has never been in charge of such a large organization. He was generally liked as ambassador in Kinshasa, but he is bound to be reminded that it was under his watch that the Phelps Dodge (now Freeport McMoran) contract for the huge Tenke Fungurume mine was signed, a deal that the US government allegedly helped to facilitate (he denied this).
His nomination came as a bit of a surprise to some – former French UN ambassador Jean Maurice Ripert had been cited several times, and the nomination of a senior US official straight from the US Foreign Service will without doubt raise some eyebrows.
We wish him good luck.