“The people are fed up with the United Nations (UN) peace missions in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are determined to do whatever it takes to end the war and they want the UN peacekeepers to leave DRC if they do not carry out their mandate. Mr. Kambala Omar Kavota and Ms. Nziavake Eudoxie, Vice president/Spokesperson and Advisor within the Coalition of the Civil Society of North Kivu Province respectively, delivered this message to the White House, the US State Department, the office of Senator Coons and members of different civil society groups in Washington DC. They arrived in the capital for a week of advocacy on August 17, 2013. Their delegation included three top advisors to the Minister of Media and New Citizenry, Mr. Lambert Mende.
Although their position on the UN peace mission is not shared by the government of the DRC, both parties agree that what has been happening is of national concern. While each party maintains its independence, there is however room to partner in mobilizing the international community to pay attention and help end the crisis.
The beheadings, forced recruitment into armed groups, rape of woman and girls, torture, kidnapping for ransom, displacement, imposed tax of all kinds, harvesting people’s crops and constant fear for one’s life are realities for the people of eastern DRC. This area has been fought over by both local militia and foreign groups from Rwanda and Uganda for close to two decades.
The UN have had several DRC missions since 1999. The first is the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo established by UN resolution 1279, known as MONUC. It essentially was an observer mission. In 2010 it became the UN Organization Stabilization Mission known as MONUSCO, established by UN Resolution 1925. Its stabilization mission included protecting civilians and providing technical support to the DRC government. Despite this mission, civilians have been attacked under their watch. In February, UN resolution 2098 created the Intervention Brigade as part of MONUSCO; the brigade had the mandate to dismantle local and foreign rebel groups. So far, even though the majority of the troops pledged by participating nations are already in DRC, MONUSCO has nearly all talk. They have patrolled to slim effect, and in August created a “secure zone” in the opposite direction from the rebel stronghold.
In reaction to M23 rebel group’s launch of five rockets within the security zone, the UN military spokesperson, Colonel Prosper Félix Basse, said that the intervention brigade was put on high alert and has been helping the Congolese army using armed helicopters to fire on M23 positions and patrolling the area (Radio Okapi, August 23, 2013). Reactions to this interview posted on Radio Okapi’s web site reflect the disbelief of Congolese: “If you do not want to intervene and put pressure on the M23, then go home. Your presence is increasingly becoming worrisome. … We are tired of your speeches which you only understand. Enough is enough.”
On August 24, people marched across the city of Goma carrying the body on one of the victims of the bombing and demanding protection. “I am announcing that we will respond firmly and vigorously to silence this bombing” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the DRC, Martin Kobler.
On July 30th MONUSCO issued an order for all non-national security forces in the Goma-Sake area to disarm within 48 hours. This ultimatum raised the already high expectations of the Congolese people that the UN peace keepers’ intervention brigade would neutralize and disarm armed groups. However, the ultimatum expired and MONUSCO continues its policing as usual. After that people started attacking UN convoys and equipment. The ultimatum only succeeded in further souring the attitude of many Congolese toward UN peace keepers.
North Kivu civil society told those they met in Washington DC about the trend they have observed that makes people mistrust the UN mission in DRC. Every time the UN mandate is set to expire, violence intensifies and the UN mission is urgently renewed. This is how a large, well-paid and well-equipped UN peace keeping force has spent 14 years observing the killing in DRC.
The UN peace keepers in DRC are the only armed forces that share the same streets with armed rebel groups in many localities and can witness and report what is happening to the world. National and international NGOs have been doing the same thing, but even faster.
Unfortunately, the UN has twice attempted to prevent the publication of reports by its experts on DRC, but public pressure and leakers have made it possible. This is the case of the UN Mapping Report in 2010 and the Addendum to the interim report of the Group of Experts on the DRC (S/2012/348) in 2012. These reports confirmed what was already reported with the only difference being that it was from the UN.
North Kivu civil society wants the US to stop spending money on a mission that has not delivered good results. Instead, fund local and provincial elections, which have been delayed since 2006, that will empower the people and help build a well-organized, democratic nation. They warned that once the population starts attacking UN peace keepers no one will have an easy time calming them down.