10 December 2009

The Perils of Peacekeeping in the DRC

The New York Times has unearthed documents that demonstrate that MONUC, the UN "peacekeeping" force in the DRC (and the largest such force in the world) went ahead with joint a operation with the DRC's military (FARDC)--dubbed Kimia II--despite warnings by UN legal advisors that FARDC was likely to engage in significant abuses during the operation. MONUC provided crucial logistical support to the operation and, sure enough, the joint operation resulted in major abuses by the FARDC against civilians in Eastern DRC including civilian killings, gang rape, and beheadings.

The purpose of the operation was to crack down on the activities of various predatory militias operating in the east, including the FLDR--remnants of the Rwandan Hutu genocidaires. However, it became clear that, for a variety of reasons, the FARDC was just as predatory as the militias.

One of the major problems with FARDC is that recent attempts to integrate former rebels, including Laurent Nkunda's Tutsi CNDP, into the regular armed forces has not gone smoothly. Many of these former rebels basically continue to act the way they did before only under official military auspices. One of the former rebels leading Kimia II, Jean Bosco Ntaganda (known as "The Terminator"), was wanted by the ICC for war crimes.

It seems self-evident that MONUC should have reconsidered mounting the operation given the warnings from legal advisors, not to mention the fact that undertaking a peacekeeping operation with someone called The Terminator is probably not a good idea. However, it also seems clear that MONUC was motivated by a desire to protect civilians in the east from militias, and that the militias would continue to prey upon civilians absent outside interference.

This demonstrates how difficult such "peacekeeping" operations are in the absence of real peace, and with limited mandates. MONUC was really in a no-win situation in this case. They would be (rightly) criticized for not reigning in the militias if they did nothing, and they are now being (rightly) criticized for working with FARDC after actually deciding to do something.

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