Should UN Peacekeeping in Congo Withdraw to “Save her Face”? The Paradox of “Liberal Peace”

For decades, the eastern Congo region, specifically the Kivu and Ituri has been going through recurrent violent conflicts. The territory of Beni, one of the Ebola affected zone has been confronted by an unprecedent massacres going on since October 2014. For roughly 5 years now, there have been targeted killing of civilians in North-Kivu Province. While being under a threat of jihadist-oriented group known as Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), thousands have been killed within the neighborhood of the city center of this territory. This unfolding tragedy raises multiple questions to why this tragedy has not been contained despite the presence of the national army, police, and the UN peacekeeping mission (Monusco) supported by the regional intervention brigade created in 2013 for that specific purpose.

  1. Beni’s Tragedy and the Role of Monusco

Recent statistics indicates that from early November 2019 to mid-December, more than 206 civilians were brutally killed by ADF militants in Beni. Besides “political assurances”, there are doubts over how the government is going to address the ADF issue. Three weeks ago, local population across DRC have desperately demonstrated and marched across cities. In Beni specifically, local people protested not only against the violence led by ADF militias but also against the presence of UNPK, whose presence is unable to protect them. Demonstrators protested mainly against the presence of the peacekeeping mission unable to protect civilians while operating under Chapter VII of their mandate. A recent incident of killing of a civilian among demonstrators which took place on 25th November ended up making civilians burning down of the MONUSCO compound, partially.

Amid these tensions, the UN Under-Secretary for Peace Operations paid a visit to Congo and held talks with the country representatives on the ongoing situation. During these talks it was pointed out by the UN Under Secretary that the attacks against the mission are motivated by some undisclosed or unverified outside forces with a hidden agenda. Although the mission seems to suggest the importance of their presence (which is understandable due to the fragile context), some political figures, due to scepticism. think otherwise and have requested the mission’s withdrawal, if not immediately and fully, least gradually. The ruling coalition in Kinshasa diverges too over this question; having the former president Joseph Kabila’s political regroupement (Front Commun pour le Congo) favouring more the withdrawal of UN mission.

Demonstrators in Beni “Lucha’s picture)

The author finds blaming the mission alone for this ongoing situation in Congo is part of the political plot to protect the innocence of the state, who is endowed with the ultimate responsibility of protecting and provide security to its citizens. Blaming the UN mission seems to be an attempt of searching for a scapegoat by the Congolese political elites. The author’s stance sees Monusco falling within the “paradox of liberal peace”; that is, a dilemma of working with a sovereign state that fails to fulfill its responsibility. Consequently, the mission seems focusing on State’s building processes while relying on feeble state’s institutions of the same state to be supported. Given the stark weaknesses of the state institutions which the UN relies on for fulfilling its mandate, the author is sceptical of the mission bringing any stability to the country, which it failed to demonstrate during the last 20 years of its presence, anyway. Given this scenario, author wonder why MONUSCO continues to stay in but not withdrawing least to save its face.

  1. If the State “Fails”: Challenges of the UN Mission in Congo?

Perhaps the following scenarios can help answering my earlier questions. One, the mission not being able to meet neither the criteria of “end date or end state” requires for withdrawal. The investment it has put in Congo clearly has not yielded in expected results. In addition to the overall contextual challenges, the dubious role plays by its main counterpart – the state armed forces seems an important consideration. While the mission and the state armed forces are supposed to work together and benefit from each other’s strengths, the national army operates at the instruction of a different command, often controversial and in a politicised manner. Among others, Beni’s experience shows that there have be encounters when it comes to cooperate and collaborate. Moreover, grounded reports indicate that some military commanders play a dubious role when it comes to eradicate armed groups and local militias. Therefore, these reports seem backing the necessity around the security sector reform debate. More controversially, the national army and police are cited among key provider of UN intelligence information (Kuele and Cepik 2017)[1]. Less equipped and slightly motivated, the national army seems having structural and dysfunctional loopholes; relying on it for security intelligence data is likely questionable. Thus, this is a dangerous situation to leave behind as the situation can get even worse if the mission completely withdraws from the security scene.

UN Mission in the jungle of North-Kivu Province.

Second point could be mission being far from realising its conflict prevention agenda which least requires it to address the issue of chronic poverty which could be a motivating factor for engaging in violence. Poverty is unlikely the main motivations to engage in violence. However, referring to Justino (2009)[2], vulnerability to violence as well as economic position, household’s composition, ethnicity, religion and the location of individuals can motivate them to engage in violence. The second level of vulnerability is more linked to how poverty stands as a pushing factor to engage in violence. Furthermore, in this specific context one can see a link between vulnerability to poverty and vulnerability to violence as poor may have limited options to secure their safety. Consequent to the State decay, current dynamics have moved from conventional armed combat towards blurred fighting styles where civilians―combatants remain indistinguishable Therefore, it is until the Congolese state fills security vacuum and provide public goods and services that the Eastern region will promisingly move towards a stability path.

Thus, so long as the Congolese state will hardly fulfil its primary missions as mentioned in the 2013 Addis-Abeba Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF)[3], the stability of the country may take longer than expected. For instance, the framework stresses on the security sector reform, consolidate state’s authority in remote zones of Eastern Congo, deepening reform within state’s institutions with an emphasis on financial sector as well as expanding public infrastructures with an aim of delivering primary social services. Based on these requirements that aim to stabilise the Eastern Congo, the primary responsibility is that of the Congolese State than the UN mission.


PhD Researcher in Conflict Economics

The Institute of Social Studies/

Erasmus University Rotterdam



[1] Kuele, G., & Cepik, M. (2017). Intelligence Support to MONUSCO : Challenges to Peacekeeping and Security. The International Journal of Intelligence, Security, and Public Affairs, 19(1), 44–68.

[2] Justino, Patricia (2009), “Poverty and Violent Conflict: A Micro-Level Perspective on the Causes and Duration of Warfare”, The Journal of Peace Research, Vol.46, no.3, pp. 315-333

[3] Details here:

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PhD fellow @ErasmusUnivRotterdam/ISS: Microeconomic Analysis of Conflict. Congolese, blogger advocating 4r Equitable Redistribution of Ressources & national wealth as well as & #Justice4All #DRC In the top of that, proud of being "villageois"

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