The United Nations’ peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has not significantly improved the situation in the DRC. The lack of progress and the recent escalation of violence raise questions about whether U.N. peacekeeping operations are the best means for addressing ongoing conflicts like those in eastern DRC.
The U.N. has maintained this force since 1999, renamed the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in 2010. MONUSCO is the largest solely U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world and has an annual budget of $1.35 billion.
Late last year, MONUSCO troops failed to fulfill their charge to prioritize the “protection of civilians” and instead retreated in the face of attacks by a rebel group known as M23. In response, the U.N. Security Council established a 3,000-plus-troop U.N. combat force—the “intervention brigade”— to neutralize and disarm rebel groups in the eastern DRC. The intervention brigade was instructed to carry out offensive operations unilaterally and in partnership with Congolese armed forces “in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner.”
The first intervention brigade troops began arriving in May and are now about 70 percent deployed. However, the conflict has intensified. The M23 rebel group, which captured Goma in late 2012, has clashed with the Congolese army in recent days. Another rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, also attacked a town in eastern DRC, leading 60,000 refugees to flee to Uganda.
The instability in the eastern DRC is an outgrowth of more fundamental problems, including poor governance, corruption in a region of vast resource wealth, and competing security and economic interests by regional governments. Even if the intervention brigade succeeds in tamping down violence in the short run, peace and development will not be achieved without addressing these more fundamental problems. A U.N. peacekeeping mission may be able assist this process, but there will be no peace to keep until regional actors commit to addressing these problems.