“Many people tell me, ‘never again,’ but still, again and again”: the case of Sudan and the Central African Republic

These words were uttered by a survivor in Darfur, a region where populations are still prey to human rights abuses committed by the Janjaweed militias backed by the government of Sudan. The genocide of 2003, which claimed the lives of 400,000 people, already constitutes a textbook case of the international community’s failure to intervene but the violence also continues to be largely overlooked. The UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) fails to fulfill its mandate but this is largely ignored by the Security Council. Not only do violence and human rights violations persist in Darfur, Abyei and South Kordofan but those displaced by conflicts also still lack food, water and shelter.

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On Wednesday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused the UN Security Council of prolonging the conflict in Sudan by failing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is under an arrest warrant since 2009. Rightfully so, Fatou Bensouda criticized the Security Council for turning its back on Sudan, thereby allowing Al-Bashir and other alleged perpetrators of human rights violations to remain at large and commit more crimes. Since 2005, Al-Bashir has been allowed to travel to several countries without being arrested. Bensouda sees the inaction of the Security Council on Sudan as “a serious indictment on this council” and as an “insult to the plight of Darfur’s victims.”

U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current Security Council president, argued that the “the council is blocked, by some countries.” Particularly under the radar is China, which continues to block any council action. China has repeatedly said that pressing war crimes charges against the Sudanese president would have disastrous effects in Sudan and invited Al-Bashir to China in 2011. China has also long been Sudan’s biggest arms supplier (25% in 2010) and has major economic investments and interests in the country. China purchases more than half of Sudanese oil output!

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Further south west on the African continent is the Central African Republic, another country where the UN’s inaction attracted biting criticism this week.

Looking at the gravity of the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), it is clear that most of the world remains indifferent to the plight of CAR’s population. In the past week alone, sectarian violence has killed 600 people and since the beginning of the crisis, tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes, according to Unicef. Not only has the UN Security Council failed to take preventive actions against foreseeable violence, but the UN humanitarian aid system has failed as well. On Friday, international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) addressed an open letter to the UN Under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs denouncing “the unacceptable performance of the United Nations humanitarian system” in CAR.  This scathing critique is largely justified. Since July NGOs such as MSF have repeatedly urged the UN to provide adequate humanitarian action and resources but food, water, shelter and hygiene technologies still fail to meet minimum standards.

The failure of the UN system to fulfill its responsibilities towards civilians appears even graver in the case of CAR. Although challenging, humanitarian assistance is supposed to be impartial and neutral. Thus, the general expectation is that humanitarian agencies will deliver aid solely based on the needs of populations, whatever the circumstances. With few exceptions, this has not been the case of UN agencies in CAR. If MSF and other NGOs have been able to deliver, why not UN agencies?

The UN Security Council’s inaction in Sudan and Syria already discredited and delegitimized the international community. Now humanitarian inaction of the UN is having the same result.

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News Round-Up

Liberia

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a UN-backed court, has upheld the guilty verdict against former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In April 2012, the court’s trial chamber found Taylor guilty on eleven counts war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by rebel forces in during the civil war in Sierra Leone, including murder, rape, terrorism and use of child soldiers. The civil war claimed more than 1991-2002.

This is a landmark ruling: Charles Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since the Nuremberg Trials. The UN Security Council welcomed the decision as  “an important step in bringing to justice those individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, regardless of their official status.” Victims welcomed the decision as well but several Liberians, including the current opposition party, expressed sadness and sympathy for their former president. Some, like Taylor, may think that Taylor also called his trial a political conspiracy by western countries and by the current government of Liberia, to keep him out of the country.

The verdict finally brings an end to judicial proceedings in the case.

Sudan

Protests have been raging in Khartoum and across the country since the government lifted popular fuel subsidies, which doubled the price of fuel and other commodities. Protesters want the fall of the regime and attacked public buildings and fuel stations.

The army and the police fired tear gas and shot into the crowds of protesters in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman, apparently aiming at the chest or head. The latest death toll figures vary between 21 and 140, depending on sources. Many protesters have also been arrested and access to the internet has also been cut, probably to prevent demonstrators to get organized. Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal and government spokesperson described those who took the streets as outlaws, not peaceful protesters.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the African Center for Peace Studies called for an end to the violent repression: “Repression is not the answer to Sudan’s political and economic problems,” said Human Rights Watch.

Sudan’s fuel crisis began in 2011 and protests, when they happen, are getting bigger and fiercer each time.

Bashir Bashing – The Economist

Good blog post: Uprising in Sudan: What we know now

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Al Bashir is Persona Non Grata:

Last Sunday, Sudanese President Al-Bashir announced that he had applied for a visa to travel to the US in order to attend the UN General Assembly meeting last week. He even boasted that he secured his flights and hotel. Bashir is sought by the ICC for war crimes and genocide. Human rights agencies, civil society groups and the ICC were appalled by Bashir’s demand and urged the US to refuse him entry or to arrest him on arrival. A coalition of human rights groups even wrote a letter to the hotel association of New York asking its members to deny Bashir requests for accommodation.

Under international law, the U.S. would not have been able to refuse him a visa. According to the UN headquarters agreement act of 1947, the US is obligated to allow heads of states and representatives to attend meetings at the UN. This is unlike other organizations such as the African Union and the European Union do not allow the participation of government leaders and representatives that are considered illegitimate.

However, Sudan’s President cancelled the demand at the last minute. The U.S. and the U.N. avoided a major embarrassment and disgrace, especially since the US has no obligation to arrest Bashir since it is not party to the ICC Rome Statute. Perhaps the UN should review this treaty…

Bashir’s travel plans dilemmas have been in the media a lot in lately. Most recently, he travelled to Nigeria to attend African Union conference but public condemnation of his visit and demands by the ICC to arrest him led him to depart Nigeria abruptly.

South Sudan

Security forces have been accused of committing crimes against civilians in Pibor. The New York Times featured a set of pictures of the volatile region and the consequences of clashes between the Murle and the Lou Nuer ethnic group allegedly assistant by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (government troops).

Syria

The 15 members of the UN Security Council managed to agree on a resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons. 1) Syria has to abandon its chemical arsenal 2) weapons inspectors must be given free access to Syria’s military facilities. The members also agreed to endorse a plan for political transition. A peace conference is planned for mid-November.

However, the document does not mention who is to blame for the 21st sarin-gas attack and does not also mention what will happen if the Assad’s regime fails to get rid of its chemical arsenal? Many questions are left unanswered. The resolution continues to expose one of the problems with coercive diplomacy: how to negotiate with the Assad and his regime, knowing that he will stay in power. In terms of diplomacy, the Syrian crisis is certainly an extremely interesting case to follow: the outcome is unpredictable.

A few recent reads:

How to Dismantle a Chemical Bomb: Lessons for the United Nations in Syria – Amy Smithson

On Assad and chemical weapons “For the time being, the world must hope that this increasingly desperate man will not do even worse things than he already has.”

How to Safe Syrian – Michael Ignatieff

“The prize—successful control or confiscation of chemical weapons and an eventual cease-fire—is not merely an incalculable good for global security and for the lives of untold Syrians. It is the success we need in order to reinvigorate democratic faith in the capacity of the international community to protect civilians from tyrannical brutality.”

In the meantime, let’s not forget that people can be killed with conventional weapons as well. It happened on September 29.

United Nations General Assembly Meeting

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In his speech to the UN General Assembly, French President François Hollande underlined that the UN has a responsibility to: “Our credibility depends on our ability to intervene swiftly and effectively to enforce international law (…).” Hollande proposed the adoption of a code of conduct in the event of mass crimes through which the permanent members of the Security Council would collectively renounce their veto powers. The idea is not new but the context is different as the permanent members are debating military intervention and the problem of the legality of intervention. The Syrian civil war clearly exposed the weaknesses of the Security Council and the need for reform. How to find a balance between a country’s veto power and the need for the Security Council take urgent measures when faced with mass atrocity crimes. Since the veto power is here to stay, could Hollande’s proposition be a reform to consider? Perhaps. But a state would still only renounce its veto power if its interests are at stake.

If you want to know what heads of states and representatives have said, see here for the transcripts.

Remarks at Ministerial side event on “Prevention of Genocide: Divided Societies and Election-Related Violence” during the Opening of the UN General Assembly. Delivered by Simons Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Nigeria

In Nigeria, Boko Haram killed at least 40 students in their dorms last night. This is not the first school attack – another deadly one took place in July in Mamudo. Why schools? The name Boko Haram means “western education is forbidden” and their goal is to establish an Islamic state in Borno state, Northern Nigeria. Attacks against civilians and vigilante groups have increased ever since the government launched a military offensive against the rebel sect in mid-May. More than 3,600 people have been killed since the insurgency started and 30,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Although the government says the army has made progress against the rebels, this new attack is another sign of the threat posed by Islamist groups in countries such as Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya and Mali. They have also been targeting security forces, churches and mosques, politicians and a UN building. Some students have stopped attending school out of fear of being killed: “We no longer care about anything else except to live and see the next day” said one student. It seems like Boko Haram’s terror is having effects.

Despite Nigeria’s crackdown, Boko Haram continues its killing ways by Peter Tinti,

Is Nigeria’s get-tough approach working?

Boko Haram insurgency: The conflict in northern Nigeria crying out for more attention – and less violence – Ian Birell

“What is clear is that for the past four years Boko Haram has been talking the language of jihad and waging a vicious form of civil war against the Nigerian state.”

Kenya

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Of course there is a lot of news on Kenya. The massacre committed by Al-Shabaab at the Westgate commercial center, seen by many as a symbol of prosperity, signifies Kenya’s official entry in the club of countries currently fighting a war without borders. Kenya intervened in Somalia two years ago as part of the African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM. While Kenya and its allies control Kismayo, Al-Shabaab is still strong in the interior of the country and use nationalism to turn the population against “foreign invaders.”

Observers this week were debating whether Al-Shabaab has grown weaker, as many thought before the attack in Nairobi. Based in Somalia, the group has established a links with armed groups in other African countries and the Arabic Peninsula, thereby extending their presence beyond Somalia, including in Kenya. Observers also question the goal of the attack. Since it attracted worldwide attention, the repercussions certainly go beyond Kenya.

A Wounded Leopard: Why al-Shabaab Attacked Kenya, R. Rotberg

“The attack on Nairobi shows how weak, how desperate, al-Shabaab has become. However the crisis in the mall is resolved, al-Shabaab has marked itself for destruction under the laws of war, intensifying its own vulnerability. Ahmed Abdi Godane, its unquestioned leader, may have needed the raid to improve his standing within al-Shabab and al-Qaeda. He recently purged competitors. But now he has made himself a target, along with others in the top ranks of his movement.”

Al-Shabaab and Twitter: When terror attack go digital  Terror 2.0: Kenya’s #Westgate and a New Face of Terrorism by Joshua Ramisch

“Other gunmen and bombers around the world have used the web to post their rants and suicide videos, but this explicit use of online terror is a worrying innovation.”

Burma

Finally a few updates on the situation in Burma, which is not improving.

Burma’s Rakhine clashes kill five as Thein Sein visits

For background on the situation, read this Q&A and this timeline. There’s not been a lot of international response but the U.S. embassy in Ragoon condemned the new sectarian violence against the Rohingya. President Thein Sein continues to remain silent and security services simply stand by.

Here’s a description of what is happening

“In Thabyuchaing, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Thandwe, more than 700 rioters, some swinging swords, took to the streets, police officer Kyaw Naing said. A 94-year-old Muslim woman died from stab wounds in the clashes that followed, the officer said, adding that between 70 and 80 houses were set on fire. Another officer, however, said only 19 homes were burned

Chemical Weapon Agreement…then what?

Just a couple of weeks, the prospect of a military intervention in Syria was high. A week later, things have changed. Most states were opposed to the idea, citing risks, international law and efficiency. Then all eyes suddenly turned to Russia who proposed to put Syria’s chemical stock under international control (ultimately for destruction). Intense negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats ensued, finally leading to a breakthrough on Saturday: an ambitious chemical arms-control agreement which involves the inventory and seizing of Syria’s chemical weapons. According to the framework, the Assad regime has week to provide an inventory of its arsenal and international inspectors will be in Syria by November to assess the situation.

But where will this really lead? An end to the civil war? Let me be skeptical here. First, the war continues, with or without chemical weapons. Considering the war has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Syrians, the Assad regime has showed that it kill a lot of people with guns and bombs….Guns don’t kill people, PEOPLE do.

“Things are improving…These here were not killed by chemical weapons” – Côté

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Second, what will happen in case of non-compliance? Anything can be expected from Assad. Russia and the U.S. have agreed that violations would be referred to the Security Council but the nature of potential measures against Syria remain undecided and will be decided at the UN. Since nothing is said about penalties, Russia could very well once again use its veto to prevent sanctions and certainly intervention. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, warned that the use of force remains a threat if the deal is not respect. In this case, we would be back to two weeks ago.

Third, the rebellion is completely fragmented and growing more sectarian every week. Two western hostages freed last week described the situation as chaotic and the rebel groups as “midway between banditry and fanaticism.” Detained by the rebels for 152 days, Italian journalist Dominico Quirico said a new movement within Syria: the emergence of gangs of thugs with no code of conduct, who take advantage of the revolution to “take over territory, hold the population to ransom, kidnap people and fill their pockets.” Treated like an animal, he said he found in Syria “a country of evil.”

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If the Russian initiative truly works, only the issue of chemical weapons will be solved. Countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia will continue to arm rebels, especially radical Islamists. As Quirico explained, some of these rebel groups only care about money and weapons. At this point, arming the rebels is likely to lead to more conflict, more sectarianism and more human rights violations, especially against minorities such as Alawites and Christians.

While a Syrian resolution on chemical weapons would be significant, it would not end the crisis and world leaders should not feel relieved. This is not a long-term solutions since it does not deal with the root causes of the conflict and the many problems that have arisen since the revolution started. Syrians are still dying.

Commemorating the International Day of UN peacekeepers: beyond the pessimism

May 29th, the United Nations celebrated the International Day of UN peacekeepers under the theme of “Peacekeeping: Adapting to New Challenges.” The theme was well chosen. Peacekeeping missions have evolved dramatically since they first came into operations, especially with the end of the Cold War and the proliferation of intra-state conflicts. In its early days, peacekeeping was limited to maintaining ceasefires, implementing peace agreements, bringing stability, and contributing to political efforts to resolve conflict. But peacekeeping operations now vary in type and include a very wide range of activities that will prevent, mitigate or manage violent conflict. Prevention, for example, is designed to resolve or contain disputes before they become violent while conflict management means the containment of conflict. Because the role of peacekeepers has grown dramatically over the years, the Blue Berets’ tasks now include military and humanitarian action, diplomacy, and civil administration (assisting transition by organizing elections, building institutions, etc). In today’s conflicts a multilateral approach to prevention and peacekeeping is an imperative that still needs to be worked on.

Many books and articles have been written on the UN’s peacekeeping record. In general, there is a lot of cynicism and negativism. You rarely hear about successful missions (Namibia, Timor-Leste, Mozambique, El Salvador can be considered as successes). True, the 1990s was a decade of blunders in terms of conflict prevention. Think about Somalia, Rwanda and Yugoslavia. These major failures have greatly affected the credibility of the UN. In Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan, the UN failed to prevent genocide from taking place even though there were plenty of warning signs. Those at the top ignored or mishandled the information. Again we have a proof that on of the main difficulties is for a third party to take action before tensions erupt into large-scale violence. As we know the UN system is daft, frustrating and highly bureaucratic. Many people also question the effectiveness of several missions as well. This is the case of Monusco in the DRC. As the largest peacekeeping mission in the world, how come it is unable to protect civilians from violence? How come Monusco does not have a mandate to respond to attacks (though this is now set to change with the Intervention Brigade)? The UN says it is learning lessons from missed opportunities and failed missions. To tell you the truth, often I am still waiting to see these lessons and policy recommendations being applied.

Nevertheless, does this mean that we should be pessimistic about the state and future of peacekeeping? Last week Lt-General Dallaire wrote an interesting piece in which he commemorates those “who have served the most vulnerable persons around the globe during their time of greatest need.” As the former head of UNMIR he is very much aware of the failures of the UN: “We have stumbled and, indeed, we have fallen; but when the objective is great—and there can be no greater objective than to secure peace for this and future generations—we must pick ourselves back up and continue forward.” Similarly, Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in South Sudan, wrote that “following the inspiring example of the people that it serves, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, has also remained resilient in the face of adversity.” Despite existing problems and setbacks, both Dallaire and Johnson praise the Blue Berets’ efforts to protect civilians and to consolidate fragile peace or institutions.

Like Lt-General Dallaire and Hilde Johnson, I still believe in peacekeeping missions. Conflicts are complex and forever changing, and in many at-risk or post-conflict countries, peacekeepers are making a difference. But as Johnson states “There is no single recipe to achieve these milestones.” This perhaps one of the biggest lessons we should learn from each mission: there is not one-size-fits-all solution.

However, I remain sceptical about those who are supposed to take the decisions about whether or not to intervene or about the terms of a mission’s mandate. Sometimes I think that those at the top have given up or forgotten the UN’s values. Western nations such as US, China and Canada finance missions in a significant way but no longer commit a lot of peacekeepers (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Nigeria are now the main contributors). In terms of military personnel, Canada now ranks 53, most likely because the Harper government does not see peacekeeping as enhancing Canada’s importance on the world stage. Peacekeeping used to be part of Canada’s identity. Bringing the much-needed resources and financing operations is crucial, but without the necessary expertise, it will be a waste of money. Johnson adds something that must be remembered: all actors should be transparent and accountable, including international organizations such as the UN and its missions. For example, peacekeepers must be held accountable for committing crimes and thereby affecting the credibility of the UN. Meanwhile, those at the top must to be accountable for ignoring warning or their inaction. All of them must be aware of their responsibility to “think beyond their purse.” I therefore support Dallaire’s call for renewed Canadian leadership “both in terms of values and expertise.” There is a need to believe in peacekeepers. Doing otherwise is detrimental to them and especially to those they are supposed to protect.

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.

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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).

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(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.

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(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.”