The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been undergoing recurrent crises; specifically, its Eastern part. Consequently, since decades and in recent weeks, Congolese civilians have been and are being killed by armed groups and undetermined groups. These crises have moved from conventional wars to likely a type of non-conventional criminality or bandits. Hundreds of armed groups are soaring the Eastern Congo though their grievances lie largely outside of military responses. At local level, some of these grievances fall within tribal and hatred animosity that can be revealed by the way victims have or being killed.
Congo Today, a Non-Profit Organization aiming to achieve peace and stability through youth reconciliation, employment and entrepreneurship. The Non-Profit Organization seeks to attract investment to achieve economic development as path towards stability. Therefore, Congo Today believes that the ultimate solution to these problems cannot be achieved through military presence but through re-education, co-existence, reconciliation and poverty alleviation programs. In our view, forceful means to impose peace have thoroughly outdated.
Hence, Congo Today suggest blazing a trial by emphasizing on bottom-up approach of building peace and stability and calls the United Nations to strongly support this initiative. With around twenty thousand military personnel, the United Nations have supporting DRC. The United Nations peacekeeping mission has been initiated from 1999 while DRC was yet under occupation or foreign forces and rebel groups. Its core missions include to protect Congolese civilians and neutralize armed fighter groups in the east of the country. Nevertheless, the UN peacekeeping mandate has revealed some shortfalls involving language’s limitations up to unfamiliarity of local settings.
From MONUC to MONUSCO, the stabilization mission has seen its mandate revised to include civilian protection by using Chapter VII. MONUSCO is one of the UN largest mission worldwide. Though its force has slightly been reduced, MONUSCO force is current estimated to 16,215 with an annual budget of $ 1.135 Billion. Yet today, armed groups remain deeply entrenched in the eastern DRC, and their activity has increased in recent months. The number of deaths and displaced persons in this part of the country continues to rise than ever before.
In 2013, the United Nations adopted a resolution to establish an Intervention Brigade as the formal peacekeeping mission had seemingly failed to contain rebel groups. Even though MONUSCO had unlikely managed to stabilize the Eastern Congo, its currently facing budget cut and reduction of its force. It had failed in several settings to protect civilians. For instance, Monusco has failed to intervene and protect local population in Kiwanja/Rutshuru (North-Kivu). Monusco has been struggling to protect civilian in Beni, Masisi, Uvira and Fizi to name the few where civilians are being targeted by local armed groups.
Besides these shortcomings, the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo is facing criticisms of failing to respond to population expectations. Due to budget cut and reduction of the military force, Monusco has adopted a flexible and mobile deployment. The mobile and flexible will certainly affect Monusco functioning and outcomes. The U.N force, with its heavy weaponry and modern equipment, well-trained troops and the overweight budget, has obviously failed to protect local citizens.
One can suggest that what the UN force has not achieved its goal in 20 years will unlikely be achieved in a near future. This can be considered as unending and everlasting mission. The question is, has the UN peacekeeping mission been considered violent conflict dynamics? Conflict dynamics in Eastern requires paying attention to local issues that comprises ethnic grievances, poverty and lack employment opportunities. Most of young people who have been enrolling into armed groups have been motivated by different reasons. These include a search for economic space due to difficulties of living conditions in rural areas. Some young people due resort to guns as criminal activity that provides them livelihood.
DRC government facing different challenges including imposed wars in Eastern Congo, had not been able to respond timely to local needs. Thus, solving conflict crises in Eastern Congo requires to allocate resources from use of UN military force to undertaking projects that can provide alternative livelihood. These projects will involve reconciliation schemes in which youth, local community leaders in which dialogues will lead to common understanding of sustainable solutions of peace stability.
Running projects that have shared interests among local communities, we expect to have harmony on local cohabitation among ethnic groups. By establishing local socio-economic infrastructures, we hope to raise hope for the future of young people whose fate was at stake. In his recent speech to the United Nations, President Joseph Kabila of the DRC pointed out that the UN peacekeeping force had not done much in the last 20 years and said his government has “reiterate[d] its requirement of the effective and substantial beginning of the withdrawal of this multilateral force”.
Congo Today supports this initiative by suggesting an approach that constitutes an alternative for a safer exit. If the UN has failed for the last 20 years, it is perhaps because UN peacekeeping approach has disregarded the dynamics around conflict. Hence, there is something missing to what they are addressing. The situation in the east of the DRC has a social and economic dimension to it. Unless this feature is addressed, military force and foreign intervention cannot yield anything. Rather, they have Arguably fueled violence.
Congo Today is working with the DRC government and our international partners to approach peace from a bottom-up perspective. This means that we have to undertake reconciliation projects and setting up economic development large scale projects among warring ethnic and local communities. We appeal to the United Nations to help Congo by trying to reallocate part of its peacekeeping funds to build peace by implementing reconciliation projects, economic development initiatives, large scale projects such transport infrastructures that can provide employment to rural youth. Rather than dealing consequences of violence, we expect that these projects will stand as opportunities address root causes of DRC local problems. We need to deemphasize the use heavy and military weapons to impose peace and look at peace in a contextual angle. Congo Today is committed to push this approach forward by involving local communities for sustainable peace.