UN Peace Keeping Mission in Congo

By Kokab Rahim Khan

As it is well known, the UN was formed after the Second World War primarily among other reasons to maintain international peace and security. UN peace keeping operations began in 1948. The UN has played dynamic role in mediating peace agreements and assisting in their implementation, helping to reduce the level of conflict in several regions especially in Africa. However some of those accords failed to prevent the conflicts such as in Angola in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994. Additionally the current situations in Sudan, Congo (DRC) and Somalia unfortunately have not changed too positively. This has resulted in severe IDPs and refugee’s problems further compounding the security situation in and around such conflict areas. UN peace keeping mission in Congo (DRC) is being considered as a never ending mission.

When we talk about UN peace keeping mission in Congo we cannot ignore the history of UN mission in Congo. The mission of UN in Congo is considered most expensive operation of UN history. UN peace keepers used large amount of force in the Congo in the early 1960s. The crisis of Congo demonstrate how a combination of rapid (Belgium) decolonization, state vulnerability, weakness of state central government authority, and ethnic and regional fragmentation drew the UN to use force against secessionist movement and foreign mercenaries and covertly supporting the overthrow of the elected prime minister Patrice Lumumba. On 30 June 1960 Congo gained its independence from Belgium but the Belgium again deployed its troops in Congo without consent of government to protect own citizens which were being killed by Congolese rebellions force. The situation of Congo became more complicated when local politician Moise Tshombe declared Katanga, Congo’s most rich-minerals province to be independent and it soon became apparent that he was supported by Belgium government and European companies. In response to Belgium intervention Government of Congo asked UN for providing troops and demanded withdrawal of Belgium troops.

United Nations Operation in Congo (ONUC) was established in 1960 to ensure the withdrawal of Belgium forces and to assist the Congolese government and they were not supposed to get involved in with Congolese government general and the Katanga secession in particular. Although Belgium troops quickly withdrew from the majority of Congolese territory, they did not withdraw from Katanga. This prompted the Security Council to call for their immediate withdraw from Katanga. In retrospect, it is clear that the UN took sides of Congolese politics in two senses. Covertly the Secretary- General and United States made strategies designed to weaken Lumumba’s position after august 1960 when he requested and received military assistance from Soviet Union to suppress regional rebellions from Katanga and South Kasai. It was period of cold war between US and USSR. Important goal of US was to keep the Russia out from the African region. It was important for the US to bring stability in Congo because instability in Congo opening way for USSR intervention in region. Lumumba was dismissed from power and later assassinated in 1961. The UN also authorized to ONUC use force to prevent civil war in Congo. UN peace keepers used force against Tshombe and foreign elements in Katanga to re-unite with Congo. Finally the Katanga was reunited with Congo and the last ONUC troops were withdrawn by 30 June 1964, although the country continued to receive civil aid. The mission was widely perceived as a tool of US foreign policy.

After the Mobutu downfall Congo fell into civil war. Since 1998 five million people killed, making it deadliest war since World War II. Mobutu was supported by US politically and economically throughout the cold war because he served for the interest of US and allowed US to use Congo as base against USSR. When US interest had ended then US had stopped supporting Mobutu government in Congo after the end of cold war which fueled his removal of power. After the Mobutu downfall Congo fell into civil war. Different rebellion groups claim to lead the Congo. To prevent the civil war in Congo force the UN to intervene in Congo again. In 1999, the UN launched an observer mission in the Congo that expanded over time into a peacekeeping force of over 21,000 UN soldiers called the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). However, it has gone through dramatic crisis with enormous humanitarian fall-out including the killing of hundreds of civilians in Kisangani in 2002, the Bunia crisis in 2003, the Bakavu crisis in 2004 and current situation of North kivu. Significant progress has been made since MONUC’s establishment almost ten years ago. It formed transitional government and it supported government in organizing the first democratic elections in over thirty year. But despite this MONUC’s is not successful in achieving main goal to maintain peace in Congo. Violence is still continuing in Congo and we are all familiar with dramatic results. In the region peace keepers have often been referred to as ‘tourists in helicopters’ and doing nothing much to protect the civilians. UN peacekeepers have credibility problem.

There will be no peace in the DRC without security sector reforms. Progress in this area has been slow. MONUC should enhance its efforts to this end and the international community should better coordinate its initiatives in order to support government in implementing security sector reform. Strengthen the accountability and integrity of the security system. The formulation of a peace building strategy seems to be another priority. Improve the pre-deployment training of UN troops in particular with regard to the use of force\protect civilians under immediate threat. The willingness of UN leaders to act and react remains one of the major means for the UN to be effective. A mission can have the strongest mandate, well trained troops and equipment if its commanders do not have the will or determination to take action, nothing much will happen. UN have need to not intervene in countries just for own interests. UN should work without biasness. It is primary goal of UN to maintain international peace and security.
“My own experience from a decade ago taught me I cannot trust on US. But it is a world body we have to live with it and tolerate it. But I cannot hide my feeling about its inefficiency and it’s not being productive.” (Paul Kagame)

Kokab Rahim Khan is a Student of International Relations in Islamic International University Islamabad, she can be reached Kokab552@gmail.com

About Arif Qureshi

Check Also

Environmental crimes of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan

By: Dr. Fuad Humbatov The issue of environmental protection has been on the agenda of the …