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United Nations Peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

RUSI News, 11 Nov 2009

Nelson Mandela Lecture 09 large

Delivering the 2009 Nelson Mandela Africa lecture at RUSI, Alan Doss, Head of the MONUC peacekeeping forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, discussed the challenges of ending conflict and building peace in a vast country that is vital to its region. 

About the Speaker
Alan Doss has worked for the United Nations throughout his career, and has served in peacekeeping, development and humanitarian assignments in Africa, Asia and Europe as well as at UN Headquarters in New York.

He is currently the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) with the rank of Under Secretary General.

Prior to his assignment to the DRC, Mr Doss was the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Liberia and head of the UN peace keeping mission (UNMIL) during that country’s transition to democracy in 2005. He also served as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Cote D’Ivoire, where he coordinated the work of the UN Peacekeeping Mission ONUCI in the areas of human right, rule of law, and civilian policing.

About the Nelson Mandela Africa Lecture
The Nelson Mandela Africa Lecture is an annual presentation on African security by key policymakers, held in partnership by the Brenthurst Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and the Royal United Services Institute.

Full text of the 2009 lecture

Members of the Royal United Services Institute, Board Members of the Brentwood Foundation, and Distinguished Guests and Friends -

Forty five years ago, almost to the day, I marched from the London School of Economics to Trafalgar Square and South Africa House together with hundreds of other young people protesting the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. It was one of life's formative experiences and I have since had the good fortune to spend much of my professional career in Africa, working for the United Nations, for peace, reconciliation, and the other human values that Nelson Mandela, by his example, has set for others to follow. I am deeply honored therefore to deliver this lecture in the name of the man who in so many ways symbolizes the fundamental ideals and aspirations of the United Nations.

Peace keeping in today's world

I have been asked to speak today about UN peacekeeping in Africa and more specifically about our work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where currently the UN has its largest peacekeeping force. It is perhaps an unintended irony but I deliver this lecture on peace keeping on Armistice Day, which reminds us of the terrible price that is paid when peace fails.

Keeping the peace is a grand enterprise and the UN is the largest multilateral actor. Almost 116,000 personnel serve in 17 peace operations on four continents today. That's an eight-fold increase in peacekeepers since 1999. Only the United States has more military personnel in the field than the United Nations.

One hundred and sixteen countries contribute uniformed personnel to UN operations and their presence affects the lives of millions of people.

Peace does not come cheaply. The UN peacekeeping budget this year is about 7.1 billion dollars. But compared with the lives, the infrastructure and the prospects for human development that are squandered in conflict, seven billion dollars is a bargain. Global peacekeeping operations represent just 0.5 per cent of the world's current military spending - which remains a massive wealth consuming activity in excess of 1.2 trillion dollars a year.

UN peace keeping operations are also cost effective. Ambassador Susan Rice, the US permanent representative to the United Nations, said recently that for every dollar the United States would have to spend to deploy peacekeepers today, the UN does the job for 12 cents.

Most of the world's peacekeepers come from developing nations with South Asia leading the way. In financial terms the two countries assessed the highest share of peace keeping costs are the United States, at almost 26 per cent of the total and Japan, at almost 20 per cent. The industrialized countries, although generous in many other ways, are largely absent from the sharp end of UN peace keeping - boots on the ground.

Peacekeeping has become a complex business: What began in 1948 as an experiment involving a few lightly armed men with jeeps, binoculars and a mission to monitor peace agreements, has evolved dramatically. Peacekeepers today are called upon to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate former combatants: To safeguard the return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their home communities: To train military and police security forces: To reform judicial systems. Peacekeeping missions today are deeply engaged in political processes aimed at building democratic institutions.

Peacekeeping is now everyone's business. We have women and men on the frontlines. In a mission like MONUC, which operates in areas where levels of sexual violence against women are appalling, the need for women peacekeepers is greater than ever. While women serve in frontline locations, they have a special advantage when it comes to interviewing victims of sexual violence, visiting prisons where women and sometimes children are held. They train and mentor female cadets at police academies and they assist female ex-combatants through the process of disarming and reintegrating in their communities. Three years ago India deployed the first female Police contingent to Liberia when I was the head of UNMIL and they continue to serve there with distinction.

The demand for peacekeeping continues to grow and there are almost never enough resources - or resources of the right kind for the operating environment - for the UN to succeed in the way that the international community expects us to succeed. Mandates are ambitious and expectations run high.

Keeping the peace in Africa

Africa is the current centerpiece of UN peace keeping with eight of the UN's 17 peacekeeping missions, including some of the largest. It is also a significant contributor to global peacekeeping. Nine of the top 20 troop contributing countries are African.

Our track record in Africa has been marked by some notable successes but also some wrenching failures. The consensus is that the UN missions to Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Burundi were successes despite initial difficulties. Results for Angola were mixed. The missions to Somalia and Rwanda were disastrous. Efforts to settle the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea failed and peacekeepers were withdrawn. We have helped to prevent the wheels coming off in Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia is a promising work in progress. Ten years of peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have yielded some remarkable achievements as well as disappointments. It is too early to pronounce judgment on Darfur and southern Sudan.

We should be encouraged by the fact that Africa is picking up an increasing share of the peace keeping burden on the continent. In Darfur and Somalia, troops under UN - African Union partnerships or authorized by the UN Security Council are bearing the brunt of exceedingly difficult operations. Eight of the ten countries deploying to Darfur last year were African, in keeping with the concern of the Government of Sudan that the force be predominantly African. Some 5,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi are holding the fort for the international community in Somalia - a place where others prefer not to tread.

The UN works in peace keeping partnership with the AU, which is dependent on the same small pool of peacekeeping support. Like MONUC, the Darfur mission has a shortfall in troops and helicopters and is struggling with limited resources to provide protection for civilians over a vast area where peace has yet to take root. In Somalia, AMISOM's mandate is to support transitional governmental structures, implement a national security plan, train the Somali security forces, and safeguard the delivery of humanitarian assistance. This is a heavy assignment in a country where spoilers see peacekeepers as the enemy. Uganda and Burundi have paid a heavy price in lives lost to that cause.

On the drawing board, are plans for an African Standby Force that could further complement peace keeping on the continent under the AU umbrella. It is envisioned that a standby force of 15,000 would draw one brigade from each of Africa's five regions for deployment in times of crisis in Africa. Like UN Peacekeeping Missions, the Force would have military, civilian and police elements. While not a substitute for UN peace keeping, the buildup of effective regional forces in Africa is consistent with the provisions of the UN Charter, which clearly envisages a role for regional institutions as part of the architecture of collective security.

DRC: the sum of peace keeping challenges

Turning now to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN Mission that I lead there, MONUC, is currently the largest and arguably the most complex of the United Nations' peace keeping operations. In many ways it is emblematic of the array of challenges that face UN peace keeping - political, military and humanitarian.

MONUC has the longest list of mandated tasks - 41 all told - ever handed down to a Mission by the Security Council. And the world's expectations are very high indeed.

Our tasks range from civilian protection, the disarming of foreign armed groups and training for newly integrated brigades of the Congolese army, to support for democratic institutions and the rule of law, the promotion of national reconciliation, civil society, multi-party democracy, elections and the inspection of cargos at ports, airfields and border crossings so as to block illicit trafficking in arms and natural resources that can be sold abroad to fund illegal armed groups: all in all a pretty hefty agenda.

With a budget this year of $1.3 billion, some 20, 000 peacekeepers, and a population of millions to protect - MONUC has become the Jekyll and Hyde of UN peacekeeping; a poster child for its successes and a lightning rod for criticism.

Much has been achieved, however.

When members of the UN Security Council cast their votes in favour of MONUC 10 years ago, the country was descending into anarchy. Between 1998 and 1999 eight foreign armies were camped out on Congolese soil and in 2003, it was estimated that more than 3 million people had died from war-related causes - mostly from hunger and disease. Some have called it "Africa's first world war".

Since MONUC was established on 30 November, 1999, the mission's military and political presence has enabled a succession of peace agreements to end rebellions by more than 50 armed groups. The eight foreign armies withdrew. And MONUC provided massive support for national elections. That vote produced the country's first democratically elected government in four decades to accompany a Constitution that promises fundamental human rights and national unity.

Most of the areas that experienced violent conflict in Congo have been pacified, allowing millions of internally displaced persons to return to their homes. The country's main air and water transport routes have been reopened. Just last week MONUC and DFID inaugurated the Mambassa bridge in Ituri district , which will allow direct access for the first time in many years to Kisangani and the Congo river for traffic coming from the east Africa ports.

Above all, political agreements forged between the capitals in Kinshasa, Kigali and Kampala over the last year has signaled the possibility that the conflicts that have long blighted the eastern Congo can now be ended. Although the recent clashes in a remote part of Equateur province are a reminder that we cannot be complacent, there is peace in the rest of the country and that is a major accomplishment by any measure.

MONUC does not of course claim exclusive credit for these achievements; far from it. We have been part of a wider process that has engaged national and regional actors and the international community in political and diplomatic initiatives that led to the Lusaka, Sun City and other agreements.  

Against these successes MONUC has experienced its share of setbacks.

Our peacekeepers rescued and relocated hundreds of civilians from violence in Bukavu in 2004 but then failed to respond militarily when renegade commanders took control of the city from pro-government forces.

Nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers were murdered in Ituri Province in February 2005 by the Lendu Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) and Union of Congolese Patriots militias. By April 2006 less than half of the 15,000 militia members had disarmed by the UN deadline. The threat of more aggressive action that month resulted in the death of a Nepalese peacekeeper. Seven other Nepalese peacekeepers were taken hostage near Bunia and held until May 2006. Earlier that year, nine Guatemalan troops lost their lives in operations against the LRA.

More recently we were not able to prevent a resumption of hostilities between the Government forces and the CNDP last year despite the hopes created by the Goma peace conference held earlier in the year. The fighting exacerbated a very serious humanitarian situation and stirred up fears of a return to generalized warfare in the Kivus. In some ways the November 2008 crisis illustrates the limits of peace keeping: we were able to contain the crisis in a geographical sense - the hostilities were largely confined to areas of Masisi and Rutshuru territories - but it took a political meeting of the minds between Presidents Kabila and Kagame to defuse the crisis.

Sadly, peacekeepers in the DRC have not always respected the UN's zero tolerance for any form of sexual exploitation and abuse. When we learn of transgressions, we investigate immediately and take appropriate action to remove the offenders from the mission and blacklist them from future UN service. I am glad to say that under strict guidelines, the number of reported cases of sexual abuse in the DRC has fallen. But even one case is one too many and the reputation of UN peacekeeping has been tainted by the irresponsible actions of a small number of peacekeepers.

It is not always possible to foresee events/crises. But we do learn from our failings and we have innovated when textbook options have fallen short of the challenges we face. The Security Council has also learned from these experiences and our mandate has tended to evolve on the back of crises.

Ending conflict in the East

So where do we go from here?

While we have made significant progress in the DRC our job is not yet completed. Our greatest, immediate challenge is concentrated in the East where the violence continues, although on a reduced scale compared to a few years ago.

Right now we have 95 per cent of our troops in the east, providing support to a national army as it tries to neutralize armed groups that have brutalized the population for more than 15 years. These groups - national as well foreign in origin - survive on plunder and extreme acts of violence, which have drawn overdue attention in the past year to an epidemic of rape as a weapon of war. They will continue to operate until such time as national security forces - the army and police - can fully shoulder the responsibilities of civilian protection.

Expectations for MONUC are high and few Missions are scrutinized and 'second guessed' as much as ours. Scrutiny is essential and International advocacy for the protection of civilians - job one on our list - is welcome. But we face the unprecedented challenge of protecting civilians while at the same time assisting Government-led military operations against armed groups that threaten the population.

The Security Council has identified protection of civilians as MONUC's top priority but has also mandated it to support operations by the FARDC to disarm and repatriate the FDLR and other groups such as the LRA. 

MONUC has initiated action to help the legitimate authorities of the DRC gradually improve the performance of an army composed of tens of thousands of former militia members - most of whom lack any military training or even the most basic materiel, communications or logistical support. This army is in fact an amalgam of former militia - many of whom have committed human rights violations.  Since 1998, the army has absorbed more than fifty different militia groups without any vetting - this was the heavy price of peace.

Only last month, an investigation by our Joint Human Rights Office (which reports also to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) concluded that at least 62 civilians, including women and children, had been killed by FARDC personnel in an area around Lukweti in North Kivu.  As a result, and pending further investigation, we suspended our support for the unit involved

The assertion by some organizations that MONUC supports human rights violations or is complicit in war crimes unfortunately misrepresents the Mission's intentions and actions and risks undermining its efforts to help the Congolese Government bring an end to the suffering of the population. 

MONUC's support to the FARDC is not without conditions.  MONUC has made clear to the DRC authorities that where there is credible evidence that FARDC elements commit human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, MONUC support will be withdrawn.

President Kabila recently declared a policy of zero tolerance for abuses committed by the security forces. That is a very welcome step towards dealing with impunity and we are working with the FARDC to put that policy into practice.

The FARDC command and MONUC have agreed that allegations of human rights violations by Congolese forces will be investigated by joint MONUC-FARDC teams to help determine responsibility. In addition, MONUC has been working with other partners to reinforce military justice to enable the prosecution of FARDC offenders. MONUC is creating special teams (Prosecution Support Cells) to provide the resources required for FARDC criminal investigators and prosecutors to gather evidence for prosecution. There have been more than 30 prosecutions of FARDC personnel for crimes against civilians this year and more are in preparation.

MONUC has adopted a number of other measures that are helping to protect civilians.

We have established more than 90 operating bases spread throughout the eastern DRC, mostly in the Kivus, putting into practice the principle that "presence helps protection". A Rapid Response and Early Warning Cell guides the deployment of joint protection teams that deploy in high risk zones working with communities to make recommendations for improved protection in those areas. These protection teams are made up of staff from human rights, child protection, civil affairs, UN police and other units so that we can get a better fit between our civilian and military people.

Peacekeepers patrol key road axes to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance. They provide armed escorts on market days to ensure that women can travel in safety to and from their marketplaces.

Every month, our North Kivu Brigade alone conducts about 1800 day and night patrols, on foot or in vehicles, with the objective of controlling their areas of responsibility. Their presence reassures civilians and dissuades armed groups from threatening communities. North Kivu Brigade also conducts on average, 50 market patrols and 120 escort patrols a month for humanitarian operations.

MONUC's South Kivu Brigade sends out 246 patrols and 50 escort missions a week. The Brigade in South Kivu also mounts an average of 12 aerial reconnaissance missions and 6- 8 Aerial 'show of force' Missions a month.

We are very conscious of our protection responsibilities and we know that we cannot protect everyone, everywhere, all of the time. This is why we are constantly reviewing our protection approaches to find smarter ways to meet the protection challenge. And this is why we have put together an overall protection strategy with UN and NGO partners in the Protection Cluster.

I travel a lot in the DRC and I give priority to places that are hard-to-reach and difficult to protect: places called Ntoto, Otobora, Pinga, Luofuo, Sange, Dungu, and Marabo. MONUC has made a difference to those communities and I have yet to visit one which has asked for a reduced MONUC presence.

Protecting the State and protecting the individual

MONUC is mandated to support the Congolese army in its efforts to dismantle the armed groups on the condition that human rights and international humanitarian and refugee law are respected. The operational context in which this policy has to be applied does however create moral and practical dilemmas.

Unless the armed groups are put out of business it will be impossible to end impunity and establish the rule of law. But the principal instrument for doing that is the FARDC, which is frequently accused of grave human rights violations. By extension any MONUC support for the FARDC is criticized as condoning such abuse. And yet I believe that the women and the children of the eastern Congo would probably suffer much more should we give up and walk away from the FARDC.

There is no easy answer to these questions. The authority of the Congolese state is constantly challenged by the presence of armed groups. Even during the heyday of the Mobutu regime there were multiple security crises, which provoked foreign intervention of one kind or another. But building state forces to deal with the threat of armed aggression from within or outside of the country is a complex, time-consuming and expensive enterprise fraught with risk. So some observers question the rationale of support for the DRC: why bother they ask?

It is evident that the DRC is struggling to fulfill the sovereign responsibilities that we associate with nationhood: the ability to protect one's people; to secure national borders; to safeguard natural resources and exploit them for the public good; to deliver essential services that we all want for the population - a nation of some 66 million, most of whom are desperately poor and whose needs are woefully neglected. Average life expectancy in the DRC is just 46 years.

On the other hand, progress in the DRC offers more to Africa as a whole, than success in just about any other conflict zone on the Continent.

Not only is the DRC five times larger than Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire combined, with twice their collective populations, but it has common borders with nine different neighbors. The DRC is the natural center of political gravity for Central Africa. There can be no stability in Central Africa without a stable DRC, and conversely.

The DRC is of vital strategic importance. It covers 2.5 million sq km in the heart of Africa. It is endowed with 50 per cent of Africa's forests and is home to one of the world's mightiest river systems. The DRC's rivers could generate sufficient hydro-electric power to light up the entire continent;

The DRC is one of Africa's potential economic powerhouses. Lest we forget that the Central African copper belt - which runs through the DRC - contains one third of the world's reserves of cobalt and one tenth of its copper reserves. The DRC has 80 per cent of world reserves of coltan that is likely to be in your cell phone. It ranks among the world's largest producers of industrial diamonds. It has substantial gold deposits in the east.

The country's future is not only in extractive industries. Although 35 per cent of Congolese soil - some 80 million hectares - are considered ripe for agriculture, only ten million hectares are farmed today.

Congo's tragedy is that these riches are illegally harvested and shipped abroad for the benefit of a few - including those who sustain the militias that rape, rob and pillage. One would be hard pressed to cite another nation with such an abundance of wealth shrouded in conflict and poverty.

There will be no end to this tragedy until the authority of the state is fully restored and exercised in accountable manner to protect the individual as well as the State itself. 

The international community cannot afford to give up on the DRC, which is the key to the stabilization of the whole of central Africa. Give up on the DRC and we could see a new regional war and devastation on an even greater scale than the conflict of the last 10 years.

We should also recall that the DRC was at one time considered more stable than most of the countries in the sub-region several of which were labeled as failed states with massive refugee and IDP problems. Today they are seen as centres of stability and economic progress. We should remember too that each of those states collapsed or slid into civil war with direct consequences for the DRC; let us not forget that the origins of many of the armed groups that have plagued the country lie outside the Congo.

Yes, governance in the DRC is a huge issue. Corruption is a curse and has been compounded by the economic crisis triggered by the global recession. The public service is plethoric and ineffectual. Decentralization is stalled and provincial governments are not functioning effectively with a few exceptions. Above all, the reform of the Security Sector, largely defined to include the administration of justice, is an absolute priority. Without disciplined and accountable security forces backed up by a credible judicial system, the DRC will always be faced with defiance of its authority. The question is: who is prepared to assist the Congo with this immense and political risky undertaking, which will require deep pockets and a commitment that stretches some distance into the future? 

I would also argue that we need to "do development differently" in post conflict Congo. Development has not worked because it has been based on a model that cannot be applied in the DRC of today. That model requires a highly organized state structure that can ensure the centralized collection of revenues and subsequent redistribution through the provision of services to the population. We forget however that most modern states did not start out that way. The drive for development came not from the centre but from a multitude of initiatives generated by communities, the churches and individuals. I can assure you that if we can find ways to increase the purchasing power of poor rural women they will find ways to improve the health and well being of their families.

So it is important to continue engaging key Congolese interlocutors in partnerships in which the respective responsibilities and contributions of each are clearly stated and agreed on. The international community must stay the course despite the frustrations and disappointments. The most expensive peace in Congo is a better deal than the cheapest war.

The possibilities and limits of UN peace keeping

MONUC's experience in the DRC over the last decade has served to illustrate and underline the possibilities and limitations of UN peace keeping.

Some obvious lessons learnt come to mind:

First and most importantly, peace agreements do not necessarily make peace. The intentions that lie behind the agreements are what counts. Too often those intentions are purely tactical designed to stave off real negotiations. Peace keeping operations cannot substitute for that fundamental prerequisite for enduring peace: the willingness to dialogue and to compromise.

Second, the constructive engagement of neighbouring states is vital. In all of the peace keeping missions I have served the attitude and involvement of the neighbours has been a determining factor in either bringing the conflict to an end or prolonging it. Regional actors must be brought into peace process from the outset.

Third, peace keeping and peace building must go together from the beginning. Security is provided temporarily by peacekeepers, creating the time and space for political negotiations to go forward but also to create an enabling environment that can stabilize the situation, But peace building should not wait for all of the parts of the puzzle to be in place; peace builders must get in early to help develop the institutions and environment that sustain security and enable peacekeepers to return home. This is what we are now doing in the East with the Security and Stabilization programme - STAREC. 

My fourth point is that mandates and means must be aligned. When protection of civilians is a strong feature of the mandate we must ensure that we have the mobility and flexibility to be present wherever needed. Mandate "stretch" is a perennial hazard of all peace keeping missions. As a result there is a danger of over promising and under achieving.

Finally the military concept of operations and the rules of engagement must allow for robust operations to deal with armed elements when needed. Troop contributing countries must be on board with these rules. But the use of force must be employed in support of a political strategy and not substitute for one; nevertheless, as Kofi Annan once remarked, the credible threat of military force must be a part of the peace makers' tool kit.

Earlier this year the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations circulated a paper designed to engage the international community in new thinking about the future of peacekeeping and how it can be done better. After 60 years, peacekeeping is seriously overstretched and under-resourced, and the international partnership that underpins it needs to agree on shared and achievable goals that match today's political and economic realities.

There has been a five-fold growth in operations over the past decade and personnel, logistics, finance and administrative systems are struggling to support them. Military capabilities to match the demand for peacekeeping interventions are scarce and require large numbers of police and civilian specialists.

It is here that capacity building support for the African Union becomes so important for the future. UN peacekeeping balances on an inverted pyramid with too few significant contributors. As the report notes, we need an expanded base of troop and police contributing countries to share the burden for future requirements.

Most troubling is the fact that in Darfur and in the DRC, the scale of operations, political complexities and 'mission creep' have multiplied the demands. Peacekeepers are required to be all things to all men and women. They are asked to protect the civilian population and provide stability and, in the Congo, to take or support armed action against spoilers sometimes without the tools and capabilities at hand.

In the peace and development business we like to say that the goal is to work our way out of a job. It's easier said than done. Look at UNTSO, the UN Truce Supervision Organization.  In 1948, UNTSO was the first peacekeeping operation established by the United Nations. Its assignment in the Middle East was to monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, and prevent isolated incidents from escalating.  It later assisted other UN peacekeeping operations in the region. UNTSO and its military observers are still there. In at least three countries - Haiti, Liberia and the DRC - we have had to return.

MONUC is now a decade old and the Security Council has recognized that the Mission can't stay forever. It has directed us to plan for a gradual handover of our responsibilities to the Government and to UN and other international agency partners in a phased manner that does not put at risk what has been so painfully achieved. With a determined and well-focused effort the armed groups that cause havoc and commit grave violations against the population in the East can finally be dismantled provided that the FARDC for its part can ensure discipline in its ranks and professional performance in the field. This must be accompanied by parallel efforts to complete the integration of the formed armed groups and to promote community reconciliation, which has to tackle the age old problem of land rights. MONUC can begin a troop drawdown, as security on the ground improves. Ideally this would be accompanied by a shift of focus and resources towards the development of the security sector and the rule of law as I have mentioned above. This would be the best exit strategy for MONUC. 

Squaring the circle - ending an endless conflict

In a world harnessed to the 24/7 news cycle, where crises demand urgent attention and solutions, the long view is not popular. News coverage has whipsawed from progress in Congo's political relations with neighbouring states to condemnation of violence against women and the failings of the Congolese army and MONUC itself. NGO advocates and the media perform an invaluable service in delivering messages that influence and cajole political and social change - although the changes never come fast enough, no matter how gruesome the sound bites.

Inevitably MONUC has been drawn into these controversies. MONUC has been on the firing line for much of the past year. Some argue we are doing too little to end the cycle of conflict, others that we do too much.  Some argue that we must remain neutral, others that we are too passive in the face of acts of brutality.  

Dag Hammarskjöld, the second UN Secretary General, was a man of action and a believer in the long view. As the Secretary General, Hammarskjöld carried peacekeeping and what he called "preventive diplomacy" in his tool box for a better world. He invested his reputation as a diplomat and ultimately his life, in the Congo during the conflicts that erupted at the time of independence. Between December of 1959 and February 1960, Hammarskjold visited 21 countries and territories in Africa, developing his vision for international cooperation as he went. He championed the idea of channeling economic aid to Africa and was honest in his evaluation that some of that support would be misdirected or would go astray.

But he didn't falter even though at the height of the Cold War the Congo became an existential crisis for the UN. On the occasion of UN Day last month one of our guests at the ceremony was Senator Cardoso Losembwe who was the Congo's first Ambassador to the UN. He had a front row seat on these events and he reminded the audience that without the UN and the courage of Hammarskjöld, together with the backing of John Kennedy, the Congo would not have survived as a state.

Before he died in a plane crash on a mission to bring peace to the Congo, Hammarskjöld reflected on the choice facing Member States - that the UN could remain a conference machinery or be an operational agent for positive change.  Peacekeeping, which was invented by Ralph Bunche and Hammarskjöld, with the able assistance of Brian Urquhart, is a response to that choice. The success or failure of peacekeeping rests on the commitment of States to generate not just the funding but the political support needed to make it work. 

Nelson Mandela has also advocated action while retaining his deep understanding of the long view. How else could he have reconciled and brought his countrymen and women to reconciliation and accommodation after prolonged suffering and humiliations under the regimes that developed and sustained apartheid?

I would like to close therefore with a well known passage from Madiba's book, 'Long Walk to Freedom':

He wrote: "I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."

Since 1960 the Congo and the UN have been - for better or worse - companions and more on that long walk to freedom. The journey is not over yet. There are still hills to climb. But UN peace keepers and the international community, however well-meaning, cannot take the place of the Congo and its people on their march towards the future. Let us remember that the Congo will be what the Congolese want it to be - and that is how it should be.



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