Thursday, December 18, 2014

Congo: Ending the Status Quo

Source: International Crisis Group
Congo: Ending the Status Quo

A new consensus and strategy are urgently needed to tackle the numerous, brutal armed groups in eastern Congo and to save the February 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) in the Great Lakes region.

The M23 defeat by the UN’s Intervention Brigade (FIB) in November 2013 raised hopes that it would mark the beginning of the end for armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But the M23’s demobilisation remains unfinished and the civilian population continues to be terrorised by armed groups, as recent October attacks, which left 200 people dead in the Beni area, have shown. As the 2 January 2015 deadline for the demobilisation of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) nears, distrust and discord are high among the regional stakeholders, including those who are supposed to contribute to a solution under a UN mandate. The neutralisation of the armed groups is now the main stumbling block in the way of implementing the PSCF. In its latest briefing, Congo: Ending the Status Quo, the International Crisis Group examines the reasons behind the present stalemate and outlines possibilities to end it.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • The UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), the UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes and the UN Security Council should urgently build consensus around a comprehensive strategy to deal with armed groups, based on lessons learned from earlier operations. This should include effective military pressure built on intelligence-led operations and deployment of troops to disrupt the capacity of armed groups to collect revenue, along with contingency plans to avoid civilian casualties; disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR); an agreement about the judicial treatment of group leaders; police action against local and international support networks; and third-country settlement options.
  • The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) should make a thorough and fair assessment of the progress in the voluntary disarmament process of the FDLR in January and abstain from further extension.
  • If no action is taken against the FDLR in January, the UN Security Council should convene a special high-level meeting bringing together the representatives of the DRC, other key regional players (Angola, Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda) and international actors (the World Bank, SADC, ICGLR, EU, U.S., UK, Belgium and France). This meeting should focus on the causes of the present stalemate and outline the humanitarian, political and economic cost of the status quo.
  • If the Congolese government and the FIB troop contributors remain unwilling to take action alongside the measures outlined above to help demobilise armed groups, particularly the FDLR, the UN Security Council should consider ending the mandate of the FIB.
“The UN presence should not be allowed to continue to serve mainly as a safety net for the Congolese government while Kinshasa calls for MONUSCO’s drawdown and troop contributing countries remain reluctant to implement key elements of the mission’s mandate”, says Hans Hoebeke, Congo Senior Analyst. “Some regional as well as international actors seem to favour the deadlocked status quo”.

“With the 2 January deadline, the moment of truth is coming”, says Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa Project Director. “The UN Security Council should attempt to build consensus around a clear and comprehensive strategy to deal with armed groups, but if this proves impossible, it may be time to turn the page and put an end to the UN’s Intervention Brigade”.