During his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last week, the United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that, “he was looking to the Security Council for the renewal of MONUSCO [UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo] mandate and the strategic review, to enable this UN Mission to serve the Congolese people further”. However, the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) has reservations on any effort to proceed with UN presence in the Congo. After twenty years, where are the results? As an advocacy and justice-seeking organization, AFJN made a case against the renewal of MONUSCO mandate in June.
In “Time to end the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo“, AFJN Policy Analyst Ntama Bahati argued that:
- The DR Congo is Now Politically Stable: The historic peaceful power transfer from President Joseph Kabila to President Felix Tshisekedi provides an opportunity for the UN to leave.
- Eliminating Armed Groups is DRC Government’s Responsibility: The UN cannot and will not restore and reestablish state authority in all the ungoverned spaces in the DRC. The solution to armed groups must be local and regional and political, economic and social in nature.
- UN Staff no longer seem to care about the mission, but rather keeping their jobs: Specifically expatriates have become used to the very generous wages and benefits by the UN and see no urgency in bringing a lasting solution to the security and governance challenges facing the DRC.
- Loss of relevance and credibility: UN staff are commonly referred to as tourists because they are seen enjoying a wonderful life in cities across the DRC, in the best restaurants, bars and with beautiful women.
- Conditions for MONUSCO to remain in DRC: It cannot be said enough that the mission has to focus on government capacity building with a very reduced number of expatriates and management posts have to be nationalized.
On May 7th, AFJN sent a letter to the director of the Investigations Division – Office of the International Oversight Services calling for an urgent audit and investigation over allegations of mismanagement, theft of funds, ghost hospitals, ghost employees or duplicate employment, overbilling and price misinvoicing, and mistreatment of Congolese staff and hiring of unqualified personnel.
AFJN Executive Director, Fr. Aniedi Okure, noted that, “The issue is that MONUSCO has been repeatedly accused of lacking transparency and of mismanagement. Based on trusted insider whistle blowers’ information given to us, we sent a letter to the UN asking for an investigation of what is going on there. However, we heard back in late July that nothing had happened as of that date. Then there was a proposal from the New Office to ask MONUSCO officials to investigate the allegations. At that time, I was less enthused by the process for several reasons. First, I am not sure if an investigation in July could have achieved the goal we advocated for two months earlier, which was to clean up the repeated allegations of corruption in MONUSCO, because by that time, the contracts of hundreds of local staff had ended as of June 30th, many field offices had been closed by July, and consequently a lot of evidence were destroyed. We learned too that at that time some witnesses had no more access to information including emails and other documents which could have aided the investigation. Also, I felt that self-investigating by MONUSCO was not the right process for this particular issue, especially given all that had transpired since our request.”
Fr. Aniedi feels baffled by people who want to continue MONUSCO’s intervention in DRC, given that for over twenty years of investment in MONUSCO’s mission, there is little improvement in the areas it was deployed. He also strongly feels that the mission is less about the people of the DRC, and more about MONUSCO personnel.
Consequently, the UN Secretary General acknowledges the consistent criticisms about the UN mission by mentioning that, “It appears obvious, when talking with the Congolese people, male and female who are critical of MONUSCO’s action that everyone would like MONUSCO to do more”…but what more can MONUSCO do after twenty years of presence?
Obviously, there is one option left, it is for MONUSCO to orderly leave and hand over the challenge to President Felix Tshisekedi who already has started to look at a regional solution to DRC’s insecurity. In the end, this is the best way forward for the Democratic Republic of Congo. By its geographic position in the heart of Africa and its natural, geological and human resources, Congo must forcefully get off the patronage system, in which MONUSCO wants to perpetuate. No nation has ever developed without developing and strengthening its internal capabilities. We call on the political class in the DRC to support the new governmental program for peace, justice, human rights, and fight against corruption. Order is needed to bring about a Congo that will have respect in the community of nations.