Congo

For decades now the DR Congo has been right at the epicentre of so much conflict in Central and Eastern Africa. Whilst over the past century conflict has raged around them in the likes of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. The country has long since been the victim of a bloody and violent struggle in Eastern Africa that first came to the forefront in the 1960’s following the Hutu rebellion in neighbouring Rwanda. Since the Rwandan genocide back in 1994 current and former members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the notorious M23 blacklisted terrorist outfit have vied not only for geographical control in key conflict zones in DRC but also for the precious mineral resources that the country has been so rich in producing for many centuries.

Today the DRC is currently embedded in a situation of continuous turnovers of conflict, disarray and a lack of political integrity. Whilst it is largely considered that the UN Peacekeeping mission in the country that has been active since 1999 has grown in both size and military force, many of their efforts remain largely futile due to the lack of a Congolese military force capable of restoring stability in key areas of the country.

The UN Peacekeeping operation “MONUSCO” is now a 20,000-strong force of UN forces that are looking to bring peace and authority to affected parts of the country. In the last few months the UN has become increasingly more assertive with their ambitions to strengthen the country and bring an end to the conflict.

Indeed in the last week the UN Security Council has had a new resolution granted sanctioning that all Congolese forces must halt all collaboration with the FDLR and any other known terrorist and rebel groups. This comes after the UN called upon members of the FDLR to disarm and disband. The FDLR’s leaders and primary members are believed to be some of the main offenders behind the Rwandan Genocide that saw the brutal deaths of almost 1 million people. The UN firmly believe that the FDLR continues to carry out public and private executions in Rwanda on religious grounds and that collaboration between them and Congolese forces will only leave room for these actions to continue.

In a recent statement the UN noted that there were: – “reports indicating FARDC collaboration with the FDLR at a local level, recalling that the FDLR is a group under UN sanctions whose leaders and members include perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda”.

Alongside this UN sanctions are now looking to target poachers and wildlife traffickers in DRC that are believed to be one of the main problems in the country that continues to finance and arm terrorist and rebel groups such as the M23 and FDLR.

Ivory in particular has become one of the most valuable commodities to armed groups in their efforts to fund further conflict and already actions are being taken by the UN. The UN has recently imposed a new arms embargo on several smaller militia groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Individuals that the UN find guilty of being involved in the likes of the Ivory trade have been warned that they will face their assets being frozen along with travel bans on and off the continent.
With regards then to the immediate future of the DRC I believe that the situation is unlikely to take any significant process any time soon despite the progress of UN forces. Because much of the work as had to be down to the UN’s co-operation and assertiveness this has highlighted the huge frailties within the Congolese efforts. That said however I think it would be rather unfair of me to expect the Congolese forces to have a concrete plan of their own whilst their own forces are not only scattered and in short supply but seemingly vulnerable given the amount of reports of desertion and changing allegiance in favour of the richer rebel forces.

My overall summation then will always come back to the issue that as long as national forces in all regions of the DRC remain dependent on UN forces there is very little hope for a large-scale resolution any time soon. What needs to be done therefore is to find some way of integrating the current Congolese forces into key operations being carried out under MONUSCO. The likelihood through that then could be that by giving the Congolese forces the chance to spearhead operations in their own country with the support of the UN in terms of military force, intelligence assets and tactical awareness will not only raise the morale of Congolese forces but in the people they are protecting and serving nationwide.

Whilst it is not right then to ask the Congolese to immediately take hold of a situation that has long been out of their reach, we can certainly ask that they begin to uphold a sense of patriarchy and look to take the lead in tackling the conflict. Whilst the situation is certainly going to exceed the next 12 months, it is up to the native forces to begin to take a new and more aggressive approach for the benefit of their people.

BY: ROBERT PRITCHARD