Standing so close to the elephant.

DRC map

United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) it appears that some of those involved in trying to make peace and security for the country are standing so close to the elephant all they can see is grey! To really help the DRC it’s time to stand back and change perspective, if you look at the figures below it is clear that a lot of finance is being spent on military efforts as the DRC hold elections but the core cause of the problem is being overlooked and under resourced.

Background and mandate.

A new UN Peacekeeping mission in DRC was initiated in July 2010[i] and authorized to run until 30 June 2012 with an approved budget of $1,419,890,400 (1 July 2011 – 30 June 2012)[ii].

The current strength of the mission and its 54 contributing countries as of the 31 October 2011 are:

  • 18,916 total uniformed personnel
    • 16,823 military personnel
    • 731 military observers
    • 1,362 police (including formed units)
  • 974 international civilian personnel*
  • 2,767 local civilian staff*
  • 595 United Nations Volunteers

*Note: Statistics for international and local civilians are as of 31 August 2011 from [iii].

The mission’s mandate is to ‘to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate relating, among other things, to the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.’ (MONUSCO, 2011).

But what does this mean?

“If you come only to help me, you can go back home. But if you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival, then maybe we can work together.” — An Aboriginal Woman

When looking at peace and conflict in the DRC one has to ponder on the historical context of the violence and fighting. In May 2007 the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) set in motion a mapping exercise to catalogue the devastation of civil war in DRC[iv], and document the crimes ‘of the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003’ (OHCHR 1996-2011). Evidently, as you read this report Human Security features as a remit due to the acts of human rights violations being carried out by the Congolese security forces as well as neighboring Rwanda. This leads one to assume that there is a negative peace with both direct and indirect violence (Gultang) happening in the country today. For further reading see The Human Development Report[v] and the Agenda for Peace[vi].

The OHCHR report cites violations of economic and social rights and the illegal exploitation of natural resources are some the major contributors to the reason the UN Peacekeeping force are still trying to broker positive peace. This brings us back to the core cause of the problems and the catalytic reasons for violence in the DRC.

You may wish to watch the UNEP film below on the natural recourses of DRC before you read on:

Conservation from Chaos – Documentary on the Democratic Republic of Congo

Exploitation of natural resources.

Taking this and appraising it from a human security viewpoint it is easy to see that illegal natural resource exploitation has been a catalyst in driving the country’s civil war.  This has been carefully measured and categorized and several reports have been written to document this, for example the violence linked to environmental degradation[vii], citing the illegal exploitation as ‘the perpetration of massive human rights abuses’

But why has this not abated and why are the military still involved in human rights violations and natural resource crimes?

It appears that those running the DRC under President Mobutu’s kleptocratic management, as well as successive governments (President Kabila) completely failed to include any type of human or environmental security. Militarizing the management of resources (e.g. forestry, mining) and taking this away from civilians destabilized the country to such a massive extent that recovery from this to date has been difficult and in all probability why the UN are still intervening. Freedom from fear and want and the destruction of habitat and infrastructure made a lasting and stable peace hard to achieve. ‘Bad habits’ and corruption it seems are imbued in the mindset of its armed forces and leadership, as this is where most crimes are perpetrated. Civil society is still reeling from the conflicts making civil meta governance a challenge.

Transforming the current situation of illicit exploitation of natural resources, the UN are encouraging the DRC government to comply with the the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and invest the money back into society for health, education and housing. This transformation is being challenged however as there are still ‘customers’ who want under the table resources from diamonds to minerals[viii]. So next time you buy some jewellery or electronics think about where it was sourced.

Concepts of 3rd and 4th generation peace building.

Is the negative peace mainly due to a combination of conflict management and conflict resolution approaches (Richmond, O 2008) driven by a top-down elitism of prescribed official processes as in a 3rd generation methodology?

Looking in on the DRC from the outside it does indeed appear that there is a multiplicity of issues and attitudes that need to be represented at a local, state and regional level to broker a settled peace thus benefiting all people and the environment, however can this 3rd generation style be brought about by NGOs, agencies and actors or should this be achieved by a vibrant civil society (Richmond, O 2008) meeting their own objectives and needs and emancipated from hegemony?

In utopian terms it would be nice to think that governance from the Congolese people themselves could resolve and transform the fragile peace into a civilized, fair and sustainable society. Therefore peace building as an approach has to be employed with sensitivity to civil society’s expectations and needs but mainly it has to encapsulate the political, social and economical development of the DRC. Policy makers encouraging top-down system thinking as well as governance usually drive this. In the DRC however the security forces are undermining peace and committing crimes against different groups causing human rights violations. This is generally due to resource exploitation and continued fighting with neighbouring countries e.g. Rwanda. . 60-80 percent of global reserves of coltan (see reference for further reading/film), used in the manufacture of mobile phones, computers and other electronic equipment are found in the DRC[ix].

Therefore in this instance 3rd generation peace building using coercive conditional relationships may not be the best approach.

A 4th generation way of transforming peace or peace-as-governance (Richmond, O 2008) may be the answer. In short due to the unique nature of a resource rich yet poor nation, reflecting on the past and getting to the root cause of the conflict in this case corruption over the resource riches of the DRC, would allow for post-structural reverse engineering of the complex issues faced. Without putting into the mix matters such as Sovereignty and focusing on the ontological elements of peace instead of just the generic methods deployed as a catch-all by the UN, a stable and democratic liberal peace could be established by creating governance structures and asking why has the current peace failed and what can be done.

Answers on a post card please!

‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’.

H McAlindon

Maybe it is time to hand the reins to UNEP ( and utilize their post-conflict greening peace building and environmental diplomacy toolbox as well as ecosystem management and environmental governance to help the DRC build a green economy for all[x]. Another initiative found in Afghanistan is called No Women No Peace. This campaign’s mantra is ‘peace can only be durable when the voices of women are heard.’[xi] It has enjoyed media and government attention. Maybe this could be rolled out to DRC as the UN mission has only 6 months left (June 2012) to find a peace settlement that can be enduring and inclusive. So instead of sticking a plaster over a deep wound, is it finally time to hand operations over to women and environmentalists?


Richmond, O (2008)  “The Contribution of Peace and Conflict Studies” in Peace in International Relations” p104-114

Johan Gultang
(Accessed on 05/12/11)

(Accessed 11/12/11)

Human Development Report
(Accessed on 27/11/11)

Agenda for Peace
(Accessed on 27/11/11)

MONACO United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(Accessed on 05/12/11)

UN General Assembly Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012
(Accessed on 06/12/11)

UN Peacekeeping Operations MONUSCO Facts and Figures
(Accessed on 05/12/11)

United Nations Human Rights DRC: Mapping human rights violations 1993-2003
(Accessed on 23/11/11)

Human Development Report
(Accessed 23/11/11)

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner – Info Note 5  Violence linked to natural resource exploitation
(Accessed 24/11/11)

United Nations Environment Programme – Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding
(Accessed 20/11/11)

No Women No Peace
(Accessed 08/12/11)

44 thoughts on “Standing so close to the elephant.

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