Conflict Minerals in the DRC: Why Western Legislation Isn’t the Only Answer

An article I wrote for the Canadian International Council

At a recent conference titled, “A Conflict of Interests: Canadian Mining in the Congo” organized by STAND McGill, the most debated topic of the day was the role and impact of U.S. and Canadian legislation in curbing violence caused by so-called conflict minerals in the Great Lakes Region of sub-Saharan Africa. These sentiments beg the questions of whether national legislation is actually having an effect on Congolese people or whether it is simply making companies and consumers feel better about their behaviour.

One common misconception about the cycle of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is that it is caused, in part at least, by conflict minerals. However, it is important to understand that the illegal exploitation minerals is an effect of the war. This misunderstanding about the roots of long-standing conflict threatens to lead to flawed responses as to whether action in the United States or Canada can affect the situation on the ground.

So let’s start with the basics.

What has been coined by French historian Gerard Prunier as “Africa’s World War” finds its roots in two successive wars—not to mention its colonial past as a particularly brutal example of heavy-handed Belgian colonialism. In 1996, Rwanda invaded the eastern DRC to oppose extremist Hutu militias responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide who had fled there. Aided by Rwanda, Congolese rebels led by Laurent Kabila took the opportunity to end the reign of Joseph Mobutu—who had been in power since 1965. The strategic alliance between Rwanda and Kabila was short-lived and the fall out led Rwanda and Uganda to back new rebel groups, this time against Kabila. Nine states ultimately got involved in the war. Widespread insecurity, sporadic violence, and the collapse of state authority in the country’s eastern provinces led to the formation of an array of local, foreign, and now internationally-mandated armed groups. Despite numerous peace deals, talks, and ceasefires between rival factions, peace remains elusive in the eastern DRC. Moreover, the conflict has killed more than 5 million people while there are over 19,000 UN peacekeepers in the country based in Kinshasa with little prospect of them leaving any time soon. At last count, there were at least 30 armed groups and armies that after 20 years of conflict do not seem to know what they are fighting over.

So what role do minerals play in this situation? Although the DRC is one of the poorest places on earth, paradoxically, its soil contains some of the largest deposits of natural mineral resources anywhere—including tungsten, tantalum, tin, gold, uranium, and coltan. But as the UN recognizes, the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources is “one of the factors fuelling and exacerbating conflicts.” Armed groups and national armies make an estimated total of USD$185 million from the aforementioned minerals and this lucrative business allows them to maintain their murderous activities. To maintain control of the mines, rebel groups commit widespread human rights abuses, including killings, rape, and torture.


In response to these atrocities, governments, international, and regional bodies as well as corporations have attempted to take steps to prevent the presence of conflict minerals in their supply chains. In 2010, the United States passed Dodd-Frank, which, among other things, requires companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals. MP Paul Dewar in Canada also introduced the pro-active Bill 486-4, the Conflict Minerals Act, which would incorporate the guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development into national law and require Canadian companies to trace the source of minerals and exercise due diligence and transparency during the course of their operations.

This demand-side transparency through national and regional policies is certainly to be encouraged. It is unacceptable for us to use devices that cause oppression and death. However, when drafting this type of legislation, it crucial two consider two things about the DRC.

First, as noted, conflict minerals are an effect of the war and collapse of the state rather than acause. While de-linking the connection between armed groups and mining is crucial to creating a hurting stalemate in the hope that this brings all sides of the conflict to the table, it is by no means guaranteed. Indeed, armed groups are just as likely to find other non-mineral resources to sustain their murderous activities, be it through illegal taxation or the lucrative timber trade in the region. Beyond foreign-designed policies to legislate the local mining industry, the DRC truly requires internal solutions and mechanisms. This requires that the international community engage an increasing amount of capital and technical assistance to rebuild the dysfunctional Congolese state and put pressure on Kigali to respect the sovereignty of the eastern provinces of the DRC.

The second—and often hidden—consideration with regard to the recent legislation is its effect upon the local population that are the very constituents that laws like Dodd-Frank and the Conflict Minerals Act are attempting to help. Indeed, when the most recent conflagration began, many Congolese turned to artisanal mining as a means of survival as underemployment reaches as high as 81 percent. It is therefore crucial to make sure that legislation to limit the use of minerals from the region does not backfire and hurt the very stakeholders that they are trying to help. Where the Canadian bill seems to get it right is where Paul Dewar emphasises the needto collaborate with governments, Congolese officials, companies, and most importantly perhaps, Congolese civil society groups. A viable solution can only come from a collaboration of several foreign and local actors.

Put simply, the situation in the DRC and other states where minerals are used to fund conflict are incredibly complicated and the solutions will need to be just as sophisticated. As we broach this topic in the media and elsewhere, it is important to realize that Canadian and U.S. legislation on the matter does not represent a panacea and does not replace the need for fairly aggressive politicking and technical assistance programs in the region.



Links round-up

Reporting on African conflicts

In “In defence of western journalists in Africa” Michela Wrong defends journalists against those (usually academics) who are quick to criticize the way they report on a conflict, especially in Africa. I think it is pretty well argued. Journalists are not academics and do not pretend to be. They write for a very different, in a different environment, under different restrictions, and for much larger audience.

“More fundamentally, the writers seem to have lost sight of the definition of news, which aims to convey distant events to a non-specialist audience as succinctly as possible. That’s a lot easier to say than do.”

To academics who complain that journalists aren’t more “like them”, presenting the complexity of conflicts in 20 page articles, she answers “We don’t have time, we don’t have space, and anyway, that’s why you guys exist, remember?”

On the same topic: “South Sudan: are western journalists getting it wrong?”, Sterling Carter, The Guardian


Clinton Documents reveal more on US response to Rwandan genocide

The Clinton Presidential Library released new documents shedding light on the Administration’s response to the Rwandan genocide. The memo offers various responses to potential criticism of the US’ lack of response to the Rwandan genocide. The Guardian explains the background story behind the memos.


 America’s most dubious allies

Politico Magazine has an interesting long piece up its website “America’s 25 Most Awkward Allies” which stems from a phrase uttered by Susan Rice ““Let’s be honest,” she said, “at times … we do business with governments that do not respect the rights we hold most dear.” The Obama Administration made it clear from the beginning that it would privilege quite diplomacy to silence or confrontation. The magazine has therefor put together a list of America’s most dubious allies with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia making it on the top of the list. Of course there is also Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar but also on the list are lesser-known relationships with Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Obama was also the first president to visit countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia.

One of the interesting analysis is the relationship between the US and Rwandan president Paul Kagame. He has been a donor darling ever since he came to power, who commanded the RPF rebel forces during the 1994 genocide. The West, who certainly has reasons to feel guilty about not intervening during massacres, has responded by hailing Kagame as a visionary leader and commending him for allowing Rwanda to start recovering from the genocide in quite a remarkable way. Compared to its neighbours, Rwanda has taken quite an impressive economic and political turn. At the same time, Kagame’s fans are quick to forget that the Rwandan military killed civilians in the DRC and is still providing help to rebel groups, making the Congo one of most dramatic humanitarian crisis today. Kagame will also not hesitate to get rid of his opponents and dissidents in the most brutal ways. He is even very open about it: “betraying Rwanda brings consequences”, he says. He is a dictator but the West keeps portraying him as a progressive leader. As Condoleezza Rice (Former United States Secretary of State) apparently once said “The only thing we have to do is look the other way.” I wonder how long it will last but Kagame is certainly not leaving anytime soon.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo from the perspective of an Ambassador

The United States Institute for Peace hosted Ambassador Roger Meece who shared his perspectives on the DRC, a country that has experienced violent conflict and humanitarian crisis for two decades. As the former head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) Meece is in a good position to comment. In this presentation and Q&A, he shares his view on the conflict, the challenges, the regional implications, the UN’s engagement, and what lies ahead for the country.



 Where to with the Responsibility to Protect?

In “R2P: A Norm of the Past or Future?”, Simon Adams, the director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect reflects on the normative acceptance of R2P and the future of the doctrine. Adams acknowledges that the norm remains controversial and sometimes misunderstood. Some see it as an excuse to change a regime or “colonize” a territory, others regard the intervention in Libya and lack of intervention in Syria as a failure of R2P, and yet another group believes that the doctrine is “the fastest developing international norm in history” (emphasis on developing). What it is clear that “the circumstances that gave rise to the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect at the 2005 UN World Summit” have not ceased to exist. Contrary to what many might believe, there is growing acceptance for R2P: four UN Security Council Presidential Statements, more invocations in resolutions since 2011, and 30 countries have now adopted R2P Focal Points. Adams is good at reminding us that it takes time for norms such as R2P to be accepted, for sovereignty not to be seen not only as a right but as a responsibility. He reminds us that it took time to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and there are still challenges 60 years later. “The Responsibility to Protect, like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is still only as strong as the determination of the international community to uphold its principles. We cannot let future normative progress be a prisoner of the past.”


African Solutions to African Problems

In Long road to an African rapid reaction force, IRIN looks at the African Union’s idea to create creation of a military capable of rapidly deploying to African countries experiencing crisis. “African solutions to African problems,” as one would say. The idea of an African Capacity for Immediate Responses to Crises (ACIRC) came a response to lack of progress made on the creation of the African Standby Force (ASF), which should have been set up by 2010 but was pushed back to 2015. It also came as a response to the fact that France has had to intervene in Mali and in the African Republic to support African troops already on the ground. African states see this as a humiliation. Yet the creation of the ACIRC is very challenging. South Africa and Algeria are all for it but Nigeria, another big power on the continent, isn’t exactly an active supporter. Then there is also the problem of meddling and partisanship (Chad supporting Seleka in CAR? Uganda and Rwanda in the DRC? Uganda’s involved in South Sudan). However, there is hope. In 2013, 75,000 African peacekeepers took part in UN and African missions. What is needed is leadership, organization, coordination and cooperation among the members of the AU.

For another article on the subject: “Africa can solve its own problems with proper planning and full implementation of the African Standby Force” – Institute for Security Studies


Pinboard: News round-up

Central African Republic

Religious violence between Christians and Muslim is worsening in the Central African Republic. NGOs, aid workers, policymakers (such as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius) and UN representatives have issue warning of the violence spiralling into genocide. Amnesty International said war crimes and possible crimes against humanity may have been committed – people have been killed, raped and kidnapped. A clear sign that the conflict is escalating is the increasing number of child soldiers, now estimated at 6,000.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon first urged the Security Council to authorise the deployment of 6,000 blue berets but now says that another 3,000 should be on standby in case things get worse. “This cycle, if not addressed now, threatens to degenerate into a country-wide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation, including atrocity crimes, with serious national and regional implications,” he said. According to the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, Christians and Muslim will end up killing each other if nothing is done now. He did not exclude the possibility of genocide occurring. In an extensive article titled “Unspeakable horrors in a country on the verge of genocide” David Smith asks “What needs to happen before the world intervenes?” This question is certainly legitimate once again.

The problem is that UN peacekeeping forces are slow to deploy. I have also seen very little political will, at least in the West, to prevent an escalation of the conflict in a decisive manner. The only country that has stepped forward is France, who backed a UN resolution in October. The Central African Republic may be a big country but in terms of international attention, it gets very little from world leaders, policymakers or the general public.

Evan P. Cinq-Mars, who works at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, wrote a good op-ed in The Ottawa Citizen in which he argues that while warnings have been issued the situation resonates with what happened in Rwanda and Darfur. Words and lots of tip toeing but no action. There is no genocide yet but if nothing is done, that we may be heading in that direction. 

Thierry Vircoulon, Africa expert at the International Crisis Group, wrote this piece in which he underlines (as many think tanks and activists often do) that “prevention of a crisis is much better than a cure — and much cheaper.” While CAR has a long history of conflict, the current escalation of violence could have been avoided if regional bodies such as ECCAS and the AU had agreed on a political solution to the crisis, put more pressure on the transitional “government” to protect civilians, and if the AU’s peacekeeping force had more resources and support. Now refugees are fleeing to neighbouring countries and there is a real risk of spill-over. CAR could also become a safe haven for terrorists groups such as Boko Haram. Consequently, it would be wise for the international community to act.



Myanmar: no citizenship for the Rohingya

On Tuesday, the UN asked the government of Myanmar to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, a stateless minority group that I have previously written about. A government spokesperson replied that “”We cannot give citizenship rights to those who are not in accord with the law, whatever the pressure. That is our sovereign right.”

Considered as illegal immigrants and “Bengalis” (a pejorative term) by Burmese authorities as well as the Burmese citizen, the Rohingya have long been persecuted and violence, including pogrom-like attacks, against them has increased since Myanmar embarked on a reform drive.

The authorities’ refusal to recognize the Rohingya is a clear sign that they are being discriminated against.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, agreed with the government’s position and added that “the Rohingya do not exist under Myanmar’s law.”


Lord’s Resistance Army: Little hope to catch Kony despite rumors of talks

Last week a spokesperson for the President of the Central African Republic, Michael Djotodia, claimed that the president is currently in talks with world-known LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony, and that the latter may surrender. President Djotodia reportedly said: “Joseph Kony wants to come out of the bush. We are negotiating with him.”

What to make of these claims and the possibility of  surrender? Very little. While the LRA has been weakened in recent years and probably feels under pressure, many remain sceptical, including Ugandans. We’ve heard to story before. The US State Department, which has backed efforts to hunt down the LRA, does not give much weigh to the claims either, arguing that Kony and his top men use this tactic “to rest, regroup, and rearm (…).” Similarly the AU’s special envoy on the LRA said that Kony may be trying “his time-tested tricks of buying time by duping the CAR authorities into negotiations”.

We also have to consider where this is coming from. Michel Djotodia became president after ousting President Bozizé with the help Seleka, a rebel coalition that is committing widespread abuses in CAR. By now the country has pretty much become a “failed state.”

Nonetheless, Joseph Kony has been weakened. In the end perhaps, continued military pressure may “bring him out of the bush” but since we are aware of his bluffing tactics, that kind of pressure should continue in order to prevent his men from reorganizing.


Conflict Diamonds and the efficiency of the Kimberley Process

A new map of the eastern DRC reveals that artisanal mine sites controlled by armed groups (200) or by the Congolese army (265). It shows the location of 800 mining site, cases of illegal taxation by armed groups or the army Researchers at the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) found that gold is the number one conflict mineral in the region. The rise as the first conflict mineral is both the result of the high value of gold and stricter anti-conflict minerals legislation, gold being easier to smuggle than tin, tungsten and tantalum.


Although there have been significant efforts to guarantee conflict-free mineral, there are loopholes in the supply chain, a clear lack of monitoring and due diligence. Governments in the region are clearly not imposing sanctions on those who buy minerals from armed groups.

There has been quite a lot of debate on the need to reform the Kimberley Process (KPSC), a mineral certification process founded in 2003. Delegates from 81 KPCS member countries called for stricter sanctions. One of the biggest criticisms made by NGOs is the weak definition of conflict diamonds. Described as “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”, they do not include state entities (ex: Zimbabwe in 2008). Times Live looks at the double-standards of the diamond industry.


The Justice vs. Peace Conundrum

“What place should the international community give to justice and accountability in its response to conflicts involving mass atrocities? Under what circumstances does the effort to pursue justice help or alternatively complicate the effort to bring atrocities to an end? Is it better to set a benchmark for justice by referring active conflicts to the International Criminal Court, or should efforts to seek justice be deferred until a peace deal is being discussed?” These are the questions raised by the European Council on Foreign Relations project on International Justice and mass atrocities. The goal? Examine the effects of international justice mechanisms on conflict resolution, the relationship between bringing violence to an end and holding perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes accountable: “How far are those two objectives mutually reinforcing, and how far are they in tension?” The debate over “peace vs. justice” is not new but the project takes a refreshing look at the debate thanks to the variety of case studies it examines as well as the impressive quality of scholars/experts Anthony Dworkin and the ECFR managed to gather. The ECFR commissioned 12 case studies in order to look at the variety of approaches and their consequences: Afghanistan, Bosnia, the DRC, Israel and Palestine, Kosovo, Liberia Libya, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Uganda and Yemen. The case studies are short and concise.

On the same, subject Al Jazeera presenter Mike Hanna sat down with the former President of South Africa to discuss the problem of peace and conflict, especially at time when many African leaders are rising against the ICC. Should justice trump peace?


DRC: one down but many others left

I have seen some optimism in Congolese and international media about the situation in the DRC. However, while the M23 may been militarily defeated there are other armed groups the DRC must still deal with. As this article by Ida Sawyer rightly argues, “it is by no means the end of Congo’s brutal story.” The M23 leaders and many of the rebels have found refuge in Uganda and Rwanda, who refuse to hand them over. No political solution has been found either so the cycle of conflict may continue. Foreign (the FDLR for example) and Congolese militia groups (self-defense groups such as the Mai Mai Sheka and Raia Mutomboki who are fighting the FDLR) are still very much present, especially in the eastern DRC, and continue to commit abuses against civilians. Similarly, in “An elusive peace” on The Economist’s Baobab blogger emphasizes the importance of a political deal with the M23 – the absence of a deal, considering the presence of M23 rebels in Rwanda and Uganda, is an “accident waiting to happen.” But the blogger also emphasizes on the need to track down the FDLR since Rwanda is unlikely to stop interfering in the DRC as long as these rebels are present in the Congo.

While the government and the UN may have won the fight against the M23, as Sawyer concludes “the road toward peace will remain as long as ever.” And this is without taking into consideration all other challenges, such as good governance and corruption, justice, reconciliation, and security sector reform. Amani Itakuya – Peace will come has published a list of articles written by journalists, academics, activists, and practitioners on the challenges and opportunities of peace building in the Congo and the Great Lakes region. This collection of articles allows us to get different views and arguments on a variety of subject linked to challenges in the region: conflict minerals, justice, the FDLR and the M23, the role of regional tensions and international intervention, security sector reform, ethnic conflict, and reconciliation.


Technology: Twiplomacy study

 Since the rise of social media, world leaders, policymakers, and international and regional organizations have embraced these new digital media to communicate and increase their impact. A new Burson-Marsteller Twiplomacy study looks at the way international organizations use Twitter and what we can learn from it. While some people may think of Twitter as something obsolete, they must realize that it has opened new communication channels. A lot of diplomacy occurs in the Twittersphere. These days important news, events or statements are tweeted before they appear on websites and certainly in traditional media. Statements, and judgments are made, debates and protests occur, and individual leaders also use Twitter to chat with their followers, thereby opening new communication channels. Imagine, combined, all organizations studied here have sent 770,547 tweets!

The Twiplomacy study focuses on 223 accounts from 101 international organizations, 51 personal accounts of these organizations’ leaders and 75 accounts in other languages. The research analyses each organization’s Twitter profiles and their recent tweet history based on 50 variables, including followers, retweets, replies and hashtags.

UNICEF is the most followed international organization. To measure an organization’s effectiveness, the research took into account the number of retweets (RT). The European Organization for Nuclear  (CERN) comes first, followed by UNICEF and the UN. To measure popularity, the study also looked at the number of times an account appears on Twitter lists. Here the UN comes first, followed by CERN, UNICEF, Greenpeace and WHO. You can also have a look at the most followed and the most conversational leaders


Framework Agreement and Intervention Brigade: an illusion or a road to peace?

I have been studying conflicts in the Great Lakes Region for several years and even visited the region but I would not consider myself a specialist of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the reasons is that this one of the most, if not the most complex, conflict in the world today. We are talking about a long-existing war, nearly twenty years, involving a multitude of countries, armies, armed groups (20 and 30 armed rebel groups), and a large UN peacekeeping force. I am not even talking about the number of NGOs and UN agencies also present on the ground. The UN mission in the Congo, known as Monusco, is the largest existing UN mission in the world today. It has been on the ground for more than a decade but despite the presence of this 20,000 strong force, peace in the eastern DRC remains illusive. In November, a rebel group known as the M23 successfully invaded Goma despite the presence of the national army, the FARDC, and Monusco. Intense international forced the rebels to withdraw to northern areas but considering their success, it would be legitimate to believe that the population has stopped expecting anything from the FARDC or Monusco. Having been to Goma myself, though only for a day, the sense of insecurity is always present.


The outbreak of the new rebellion in May 2012 prompted the signing of the Framework Agreement (Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework – PSCF) on 24 February 2013. This UN-led agreement was signed by the President of the DRC and ten other African heads of state, under the eye of the UN and three African regional bodies. The objective is to tackle underlying problems and core drivers of violence in the region: armed groups, weak Congolese institutions and governance, poor development, and foreign interference in the DRC’s internal affairs. The agreement highlights the need for concrete reforms in the DRC as well as increased regional cooperation, particularly between the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda (the latter two have both been accused of supporting rebellions in the eastern DRC).



(Ban Ki-moon with President Joseph Kabila and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim – Junior D.Kannah. AFP)
Political strategies and political will

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Jim Kim (World Bank), and UN envoy Mary Robinson visited Kinshasa, Goma, and Kigali last week in an attempt to show their support for the new agreement. “We are determined to do more for crisis-stricken countries,” Ban said in Kinshasa and described the agreement as “best chance for peace in years.” Whether the Framework Agreement will actually contribute to peace depends on many factors, most importantly, I think, on 1) genuine commitment to Agreement 2) additional political strategies (national and regional), c) and political will to implement reforms and strategies once and for all.

With its large number of natural resources, the DRC could be a thriving, prosperous nation. But the corrupt government combined with hungry rebels and neighboring countries (Rwanda and Uganda long waged proxy wars in the DRC, and may still do so today according to several reports) make this impossible. Since the PSCF was signed, the government has set up a plan for national reforms, which includes dealing with impunity, reconciliation, decentralization, the justice system, and, most importantly, Security Sector Reform. But the government has a history of being slow to implement reforms. Enough pressure must therefore be put on the regime Kinshasa to genuinely execute these reforms and to engage in political dialog with various political and non-political actors. This pressure could come from the opposition (although it is currently divided), Congolese civil society, donors and NGOs, and from the international community.  

Another major challenge remains the commitment of key countries in the Great Lakes region to actually work together. The Framework agreement pushed for regional cooperation on the extraction and export of minerals, and on security issues. There has been increasing international pressure on neighboring countries, especially Rwanda, to commit to this. Recently, several donor countries, including Great Britain, froze then unfroze or reduced their aid to Rwanda when Kigali was suspected of backing the rebels. Rwanda has always been a donor darling but the relationship is changing. However, I have always found it hard to believe in the will of the DRC and its neighbors to cooperate in a transparent and legitimate way instead of illegally interfering in each others’ affairs. Perhaps international and regional pressure can force them to do so but these country had better understand that cooperation on political, security and economic issues is more beneficial for development in the long term.



(M23 rebels in Bunagana, near the Ugandan border)

Special Intervention Brigade: can a more robust mandate work?

The Framework Agreement also cleared the way for a new UN intervention force. With Resolution 2098 (2013), the UN has embarked on an unprecedented military approach to deal with armed groups by setting up an Intervention Brigade with an offensive mandate. The 3.069 soldiers from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi will reinforce troops already on the ground but will also be responsible for neutralizing and reducing the threat posed by armed groups. The new brigade is therefore authorized to engage in offensive military action.

The reaction of the M23 was immediate. After months of truce, fighting with the FARDC erupted again around Goma last week. The rebels have also been trying to dissuade Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa from providing peacekeepers by appealing to their parliaments. In areas under their control, the M23 is holding rallies, and conducting propaganda campaigns against the Intervention brigade in order to turn the population against the force. Furthermore, the leader of the rebels stated that the M23 would fight back if attacked. Whether the rebels will actually fight back is difficult to say. They could eventually disarm or at least negotiate. The M23 has been in talks with the Congolese government since December 2012 but talks have stalled since the DRC agreed to the deployment of the brigade. The rebels clearly see the new force as an aggressor, not as a peaceful mediator.

Will the Intervention Brigade be able to carry out its mandate? At the end of April, a Mai Mai self-defense group attacked the town of Pinga despite the presence of Monusco peacekeepers responsible for protecting civilians. This is not the first time Monusco has failed to intervene. Just think about what happened in Goma last November. The passivity of Monusco seems in part due to a minimalistic reading of its mandate, which emphasizes that it is the “primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for ensuring security in its territory and protecting its civilians (…).” As a result, Monusco often appears to hide behind the inefficiency of the FARDC. Second, the mission seems more inclined to protect their own staff first rather than civilians. This kind of pasivity leads me to question the efficiency of the future brigade.  Is it actually ready to fight or will it stand by again?

This leads to another problem. The brigade should not simply focus on the M23 and the FDLR. This would be too restrictive. But let’s also not forget that there are about twenty to thirty very armed groups in the DRC who use different tactics and have different interests. How can one Brigade composed of 3000 men possibly neutralize them all? Finally, what will become of those rebels who decide to lay down arms? Will they be reintegrated into the FARDC again? This plan has proven widely detrimental to peace and is part been part of the problem. I think the new mandate is too large for the small brigade and only constitutes a short-term solution. The objective should not be to simply manage the problem of armed group but to actually solve it – thus my emphasis on the need for a genuine political strategy.

All previous national and regional peace-building efforts have more or less failed and lasting peace can only be reached through a multi-faceted and holistic approach (political, economic and security) to peace building. This strategy needs to tackle the political and structural nature of the long-lasting conflicts in the region. But it also mean involving multiple actors with diverse and agendas and approaches. The Framework Agreement may be a step in the right direction but the DRC still has a long way to go. As Ban stated “I think this framework agreement could be a landmark one, but it’s the minimum which we are doing. I think we should do more.”