The Art of the Possible: MONUSCO’s New Mandate
The current mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) expires on March 31, 2018. In a report released today, the Congo Research Group (CRG) argues that the United Nations Security Council should take bold steps to tackle the political crisis at the heart of the current conflict when it renews MONUSCO’s mandate.
The situation in the Congo is marked by political turmoil and armed conflict. President Joseph Kabila, barred from seeking a third term in office, has repeatedly delayed the holding of elections and has skewed the playing field heavily in favor of the ruling coalition. This has prompted an upsurge in popular protests, which have been violently repressed by security services. At the same time, the country currently hosts 4,5 million displaced people, more than ever before, and almost twice as many as just two years ago. Daily attacks against civilians have created one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world.
It is critical for the Council and MONUSCO to treat these two challenges––violent conflict and the electoral impasse––as tightly linked. The weakness of state institutions, the lack of accountability within the government and its security services, and an absence of investment in conflict resolution are central to the persistence of violence.
“It is difficult to imagine a fundamental transformation of the conflict if the democratic transition is botched,” says Jason Stearns, director of the Congo Research Group. “The United Nations helped establish the democratic institutions that are now being threatened. Only bold diplomacy will help avert further escalation.”
In order to achieve this objective, the Council should make the holding of credible elections MONUSCO’s main priority over the next year. This includes articulating clear conditions for MONUSCO support to the electoral process, namely allowing opposition protests, freeing political prisoners, and ending the controversial “doubling” of political parties. If these conditions are not met, MONUSCO should suspend its support. Likewise, MONUSCO should only engage in military operations with the Congolese army under stringent conditions, including joint planning and a common civilian harm reduction strategy.
“The Secretary-General has made prevention, a more political approach, and collaboration with regional organizations the bedrock of his approach to peacekeeping. It is time to put this to the test––MONUSCO will need all three to succeed,” Jason Stearns concludes.