top of page
  • Writer's pictureWhat is Happening in Congo?

MONUSCO and the Peace They Failed to Keep.

In recent years the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been asking for the withdrawal of MONUSCO which began its operation in the region in July 2010 and was formerly an operation that was known as MONUC which began its operations in 1999. Congolese nationals have taken to the streets to ensure their voices have been heard. They want the UN's peacekeeping mission gone. However, the UN is hesitant to allow this peacekeeping mission to come to an end. The UN state they are concerned by the current instability in the country. They have raised the fact that an estimated 27 million Congolese nationals are still in need of assistance. The UN reaffirms that they cannot leave the region because there are also approximately 5.7 million internally displaced Congolese nationals in addition to 523,000 refugees from neighbouring countries and their mission is instrumental in ensuring security but are they truly?

MONUSCO is the acronym of The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It derives from its French name Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en Republique Democratique du Congo. The United Nations who have nominated and pride themselves as being the "guardians of our galaxy" established this mission in the DRC to monitor and maintain peace in the eastern region of Congo.

In 1998, the Great War of Africa, more commonly known as the Second Congo War began and it went on to last three years. This was a result of the deterioration of the relationship between the assassinated former president of the DRC, Laurent Desiree Kabila, and the current president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. It was with Kagame's assistance that Kabila was able to oust Mobutu in a coup and attain the presidency of the then Zaire in 1997. Though the history begins a little earlier than that. In 1994, Rwanda suffered a genocide that resulted in the killing of an estimated 1 million Tutsis at the hands of Hutu extremists. This had repercussions in the neighbouring Zaire as well. Around this time approximately 2 million Hutus sought refuge in Congo setting up refugee camps in North and South Kivu. Amongst those refugees a subset of Hutu extremists called Interhamwe found themselves within the borders of the DRC.

With their victory over Hutu extremists in Rwanda, a Paul Kagame-led RPF ushered in an era of invasions and wars in the DRC. There was a sudden rise of Congo-based Rwanda government-backed Tutsi militias. These militia groups assisted Rwandan Troops in their invasion of Zaire. They justified their attacks by claiming that Zaire was harbouring Interhamwe. Uganda, Angola, and Burundi took this opportunity to join Rwanda and assist them in their war efforts. Zaire was backed into a corner because the newly established president had reneged on his agreement with Kagame. As Kabila moved to weaken Rwandan influences in the Congolese military, Rwanda and its allies became more agitated. Kabila unfortunately assumed course correction would be allowing Hutu armed groups to organize at the border; an extremely fatal error. Angola who had once fought alongside Rwanda switched sides as their initial point of contention, Mobutu was no longer a viable threat. It was that Congo also gained allies in the SADC. The war did not relent and culminated in at least 3 million lives in Congo by 2004. It was in 2001, after various ceasefire agreements failed that the UN decided to step in.

It was with the sudden emergence of M23 - the March 23 Movement- the Rwandan-backed- armed group and ethnic conflicts in southern Kasai that MONUSCO ensured and insisted that their mission remained in the DRC. M23 began its operations and moved mercilessly between 2012-2013 and re-emerged in November 2022 violently pillaging, raping, beheading, and burning in the eastern region of the DRC. In southern Kasai, the ethnic conflicts came when a tribal chief (Kamuina Nsapu) was murdered after his face off with the central government.

Some reports state that in cooperation with the government FARDC, FIB, and MONUSCO in 2016 were responsible for an estimated 64% of human rights abuses.

Its initial implementation as the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) began with the UN Security Council Resolution 1279 in 1999. This was to monitor the implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement that was meant to extinguish the violence between the rebel group and military following the Second Congo War. It began with 500 military observers being sent, and very quickly that number increased to 5000 to "monitor and implement" the Lusaka agreement and "protect civilians". Although there had yet to be tangible results to the MONUC's mission, the number of troops deployed continued to increase. In 2004 an additional 5900 military personnel and 341 police were deployed to assist the fairly new Joseph Kabila-led government in its new transition and provide additional security. Violence in the region spurred on and MONUC's interests were questioned, there was a call for their withdrawal. However, instead of removal, there was a rebrand. They no longer went by MONUC but were unveiled as MONUSCO. With the renewal came a reduction in the number of peacekeepers on the ground. This did not change, MONUSCO continued to wield the power to use "all means necessary" to carry out its responsibilities of protecting locals.

The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) was established by the MONUSCO as a response to M23 in 2013. In comparison to the larger MONUSCO, it was made up of African personnel from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi. They were to "neutralize and disarm" Congolese rebels and foreign armed groups active in the East. This led to the momentary defeat of the M23 in 2013 as they assisted the government in halting their movement. Experts assumed FIB were Since 2014 the FIB have been active in North Kivu to combat the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and are failing. Many aren't happy with FIB's mandate and state that their movement in the region intensifies the threat to civilians monopolizes key resources and still fails to consolidate the peace they ensured.

As of February 2023, MONUSCO consists of 17, 753 deployed personnel and 16, 316 total uniformed personnel. 14,000 of said personnel are military.

Top Ten Military Personnel Contributors as of February 2023:

1. India

2. Pakistan

3. Bangladesh

4. Nepal

5. South-Africa

6. Indonesia

7. Morocco

8. United Republic of Tanzania

9. Uruguay

10. Malawi

Top Ten Police Contributors as of February 2023

1. Senegal

2. Egypt

3. Bangladesh

4. Jordan

5. India

6. Burkina Faso

7. Togo

8. Canada

9. Guinea

10. Mali

The peacekeeping mission has an annual budget of $1.1 billion. The mission's headquarters is in Kinshasa. However, most of the personnel are found in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri provinces. After 2018 the UN has begun withdrawing personnel and has since closed down nine field offices. With reduced violence in Kasai, MONUSCO decided to withdraw troops from that specific region.

MONUSCO's presence is heavily felt in the east and their vehicles are very visible in the capital, Kinshasa and yet insecurity persists and the death toll of civilians continues to increase. As of November 2023, M23 has emerged stronger than ever with entire villages being captured. Some reports state that in cooperation with the government FARDC, FIB, and MONUSCO in 2016 were responsible for an estimated 64% of human rights abuses.

Women and girls in the DRC are subject to their bodies being used as warfare in the conflict in the East. They have fallen prey to conflict-related sexual violence. Men and boys are also subjected to this type of violence. In 2020, MONUSCO documented 1,053 disclosed cases of conflict-related sexual violence at the hands of foreign armed groups. These numbers, due to the lack of resources, follow-through, and shaming of victims are but a sliver of the actual number of offenses. Amongst the perpetrators of sexual violence against Congolese girls and women are MONUSCO personnel. At least thirty-one instances of sexual assault and abuse have been reported to the UN since 2015, most perpetrated by military personnel.

March 1, 2023, Christopher Smith stated that human rights organizations and internal reviews conducted by the United Nations have uncovered over 150 allegations against mission personnel. These are allegations of sexual misconduct against Congolese girls and women at the hands of peacekeepers in exchange for food and small sums of money. These acts were usually perpetrated against girls younger than 18 and some as young as 11. Additional allegations are reports of rape, forced prostitution, and demands of sex for jobs by UN civilian personnel. There has yet to be a successful prosecution of UN civilian or military personnel.

"We have interviewed girls, some as young as 13 years old who had been raped by MONUC soldiers"- Anneke Van Woudenberg

Anneke Van Woudenberg states in her findings "We have interviewed girls, some as young as 13 years old who had been raped by MONUC soldiers. We also spoke to girls aged between 12 and 15 who engaged in what is commonly called 'survival sex', sexual relations they entered to get some food, money, protection...". She noted that an estimated 40,000 women and girls have been raped or abused by other armed groups in the DRC. MONUC was supposed to protect civilians from this sort of abuse but instead are supposed to protect civilians from this sort of abuse but instead are also participants in sexual violence against Congolese women of the east who are victims of conflict, displaced, and or facing starvation.

Some MONUSCO personnel have been accused of trafficking conflict minerals. For the case of Julien Mukala in North Kivu was caught trying to cross into Rwanda with 1,200 kilograms of tin oxide mineral cassiterite hidden in a U.N. Jeep and he's not the only person to be caught under these sorts of circumstances. In other cases, some mineral traffickers provided certification documents, allegedly from MONUSCO to be able to export gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although MONUSCO has denied that this documentation could have been received from them.

Another perceived failure of MONUSCO is its inability to denounce Rwanda's involvement and presence in the eastern region of the DRC, especially after a U.N. report was leaked indicating that M23 was backed by the Rwandan government. The locals believe they have no reason to trust MONUSCO and rightfully so. Congolese nationals just do not believe that this UN mission has been defending Congolese interests. U.N. personnel are often seen patronizing the best facilities in Kinshasa, Goma, Bukavu, etc., and driving around in their white trucks whilst locals continue to be displaced and subjected to inhumane rights abuses. Locals don't shy away from stating that they believe that the U.N. personnel are there for self-serving purposes.

On a fundamental level, the mission has generally failed to invest in the long-term political change necessary to build and sustain peace in the light of its potential withdrawal. MONUSCO generally fails to protect civilians and respond quickly to alerts. However, you look at the UN, its mission as MONUC, and its eventual rebranding as MONUSCO has seemingly failed and Congolese people have said it's enough. Their homes have been taken, their rights have not been honoured and their lives have been reduced to mere numbers to garner the sympathy of the international community to feel as though their lives matter. What they still have are their voices. In this instance, they are demanding that MONUSCO withdraw.

As Congolese people we demand respect, autonomy, and the right to resolve our conflicts the way we see fit because the U.N. way has continued to result in mass graves and displacement. Let us cry for the lives we've lost and fight for the lives still with us on our terms.

88 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page