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MONUSCO’s new mandate––some thoughts

The UN Security Council just voted in MONUSCO’s new mandate yesterday. The most remarkable part of the text concerns the deployment of an intervention brigade. While the press has focused on this, there are other important parts to the text, which makes for an ambitious vision for the UN mission:

1. The Intervention Brigade: The Security Council calls for the creation of a special force of three infantry battalions, in addition to artillery, special forces and reconnaissance companies to be based in Goma. They are supposed to carry out offensive operations against all armed groups to neutralize and disarm them. This is heady language for the United Nations––it is a radical new way of interpreting the protection of civilians, from a purely reactive to an aggressive, preventative stance.

It remains to be seen whether the countries contributing to this force––probably South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe––will take on these risky operations, and which groups are given priority. My guess is that the M23 and FDLR will be in the line of fire, but the UN has to decide on whether it will allow the stagnant peace talks in Kampala to run their course before launching operations.

2. The Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework (PSC): The Framework Agreement signed on 24 February 2013 creates the blueprint for a new peace process with a national and regional dimension––an end to cross-border meddling, and a new push to reform Congolese institutions.

This Security Council resolution creates a bifurcated structure, with the new UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson taking the lead on the regional process, and the head of MONUSCO (Roger Meece is due to step down in June) piloting the national side. This has raised some eyebrows. While the SRSG and the UNSE are supposed to collaborate, each reports to a different hierarchy: the SRSG to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the UNSE to the Department of Political Affairs. In other words, there are two different chains of command dealing with separate parts of the Framework Agreement.

A first test for the UN Special Envoy will be coming up with concrete benchmarks and follow-up measures to make the Framework Agreement a reality and to give it teeth.

3. The Council is pushing for greater involvement for MONUSCO in Congolese state reform. Wary of concerns over sovereignty, the formulation adopted by the Council is: « Provide good offices, advice and support to the Government of the DRC »for a variety of issues, including:

  • a comprehensive demobilization program for Congolese and foreign armed groups;
  • reform of the army, with a priority on creating a Rapid Reaction Force that should eventually take over from the UN Intervention Brigade;
  • reform of the police and (with UNDP) of the justice sector;
  • build on the STAREC and ISSS policies to stabilize the eastern Congo.

This is ambitious, to say the least. Let’s see how the SRSG engages with the Congolese government on these different issues.

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