06 December, 2013

Six Steps Towards Sustainable Peace in the Eastern DRC

by Hussein Solomon

The current rebellion in the eastern Democratic Republic is over. Rwandan supported M-23 rebels have been routed as a result of the combined and coordinated action of the special United Nations Intervention Brigade - consisting of South African, Tanzanian and Malawian forces – and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, better known by its French acronym – FARDC.

The UN-force together with those of FARDC demonstrated several truisms. First, in situations like the eastern DRC, robust peace enforcement is better than peacekeeping – pity that lesson was not learned previously as in Darfur. Second, the existing African Union peace and security structure is all but dead, despite the rhetoric. In reality – Islamists in Mali could only be ousted with robust French intervention; the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) would cease to be functional without support from Washington and Brussels. The M-23 rebels would have continued to rape and pillage if the United Nations and Washington did not throw its weight being FARDC. In each of these cases, the much-vaunted regional security response mechanisms failed to materialize.

Civilians fleeing fighting, late 2012. Photo: Oxfam International.

From the perspective of sustainable peace, the military routing is, in the Galtung-ian sense, merely the creation of negative peace. For positive, and therefore, sustainable peace to arise much more needs to be done. Firstly, Congolese or Banyamulenge Tutsis from whom the M-23 rebels have sprung must be politically accommodated and socially integrated into the eastern DRC. Second, despite the tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali, a variety of confidence-building measures needs to occur on the common Congolese-Rwandan border. Ultimately, a regional security complex exists throughout the Great Lakes Region – where sources of national insecurity intrude into neighbouring states. Third, pressure needs to be placed on the Kinshasa government of Joseph Kabila to adhere to proper civil-military relations. It was, after all, not only M-23 rebels who were guilty of abusing hapless Congolese civilians but also FARDC troops who engaged in rape, theft and physical violence directed against the civilian population of the eastern DRC. Fourth, greater emphasis and more resources need to be placed on the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) of former combatants. It ought to be remembered that the M-23 movement was borne out of the failed reintegration of former rebels of the National Congress of the Defence of the People into the army. This emphasis on DDR programmes must not merely focus on greater resources but the effective monitoring of these resources on account of pervasive corruption. Demobilised soldiers were promised US $150 per month but this often would not reach them, prompting these to take up arms once more. Fifth, other international agencies like the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the private sector needs to get involved in the socio-economic development of the eastern DRC. This is, after all, a region rich with natural resources and abundant fertile land. These resources need to be developed rapidly if conflict is not to return. Sixth, the United Nations Intervention Brigade needs to continue the excellent work in the eastern DRC – focusing on neutralising the twenty remaining armed groups in this region.

It is only by adopting such a comprehensive approach that peace can be sustained in this turbulent region. Traumatised Congolese civilians residing here deserve peace. It is now time for Kinshasa, SADC, the AU and the broader international community to deliver.

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