Attacking peacekeepers leads to intensified peace enforcement

28Dec 2017
The Guardian
Attacking peacekeepers leads to intensified peace enforcement

TOP authorities at the United Nations Mission to the Congo (MONUSCO - by its French rendering) are seeking to find a way out of increasing attacks on peacekeepers, which have lately caused Tanzania the loss of 15 officers.

Going through some evaluations of what is happening on the ground, it appears that the groups seeking to destabilise and dismember the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into ungovernable provinces or warlord entities where natural resources are privately operated, are in for the long haul. It appears that such attacks aren't conducted by small bands of rebels but the main groups to ward off the UN.

Situations of that sort being about brainstorming among participating countries as to what follows next, whether to play the rebel groups' game inviting peacekeeping member states to cut and run, for a start. But they also stake out that the peacekeeping countries take the battle to them; they believe that peacekeepers are on the whole not inclined to do more than see to it that the roads are properly patrolled, and that any such attacks are just unfortunate and isolated. As a matter of fact, the rebel groups have a vested interest in ensuring that attacks on peacekeepers are isolated, rowdy incidents; rebels pay hard if they scale them up.

There is something of that sort happening at the moment, and curiously, this is taking place at the same time that President Joseph Kabila has been meeting with regional governors in the north eastern city of Goma to iron out a number of issues, logistics in particular, of organising legislative and presidential elections. On the basis of rebel practices, where there are numerous groups that seek attention of not just national authorities but ignite a chorus of concern in regional and international media, attacking peacekeepers is a handy tool to attain that goal. It draws attention to their need for being included in what is being discussed, or expected.

With DRC rebel groups complex and interconnected with rebellions elsewhere in he region, the precise goal of attacks on peacekeepers might not be easy to figure out, especially if the main group ADF being credited with those attacks is Ugandan in its origins. Its supposed links with radical Islamist groups could make its wider design less intricate in relation to the Congolese peace and reform process, and may as well reflect rising activism of jihadist groups after the fall of Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq. Yet the way the groups seem to operate unmolested in that part of DRC is a challenge that has to be met head on, presently.

No one has a monopoly of answers in that regard as the Congo is a vast country like the whole of East Africa put together and one isn't dealing with a Kibiti sort of situation but such cells and mobile guerrilla groups with heavy weapons all over the place. While the UN mission is in the process of cutting down its presence from over 19,000 to just over 16,000 it is possible a case exists for enhanced mobility, intelligence on the presence of groups and even their plans, and more precision strikes against budding cells. It implies putting aside schisms on the Jerusalem vote to see what EA forward positions of AFRICOM can do to help.