The Role Of United Nations Peace Keeping Mission In Africa

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The Role Of United Nations Peace Keeping Mission In Africa


UN peacekeeping has had a long and controversial involvement in the affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The current operation there constitutes one of the UN’s most challenging missions to date. MONUC’s (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en Re´publique De´mocratique du Congo) mandate evolved over time and the force adopted an increasingly robust posture. MONUC needed the military capacity to take action to support the transitional process and to deter spoilers, while at the same time ensuring the protection of civilians who were at risk. As the situation deteriorated, the response of the UN was to modify the mission to meet what were seen as the main challenges to stability. In 2010 MONUC became United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO). This led to a reconfiguration and change in role to that of a stabilization mission. Subsequently in 2013, the Security Council approved the establishment of the Force Intervention Brigade. This reflected an acknowledgement of the scale of the crisis and that it was necessary to take the initiative militarily to neutralise spoilers. The combat nature of the Brigade mission distinguishes it from other UN operations under Chapter VII and has important implications for the status of the military personnel comprising the whole MONUSCO mission. MONUSCO continues to be subject to criticism for its failure to protect civilians. While the situation would almost certainly have been worse without UN involvement, MONUSCO cannot continue to try and manage the conflict indefinitely while failing to protect civilians at risk.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

For donkeys of days, the world has witnessed armed conflicts marked by systematic violence and mass atrocities against civilians, and has increasingly looked to the United Nations, and in particular to UN peacekeeping operations, to prevent and or to halt such crimes. The failures of missions to provide security in complex crises such as Somalia, and to protect civilians from mass atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia, tested the fundamental principles and capabilities of UN peacekeeping operations and demonstrated that reform was urgently required. Since then, notable efforts have worked to improve the overall effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations, including their capabilities to protect civilians.

For a decade, the UN Security Council has also expressed its resolve to support more effective missions, and to put a greater spotlight on the protection of civilians, as seen by its series of statements and resolutions, and the request that the Secretary-General issue regular reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. More tangibly, UN peacekeeping mandates have changed, as the Council has shifted peacekeeping well beyond its traditional role of monitoring the implementation of peace agreements over the last decade. Modern peacekeeping missions are multidimensional, addressing the full spectrum of peace building activities, from providing secure environments to monitoring human rights and rebuilding the capacity of the state. Increasingly, such mandates also instruct peacekeeping missions to put an emphasis on the physical protection of civilians. As part of this evolution, ten UN peacekeeping operations have been explicitly mandated to “protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.”3 The first mission provided with this explicit mandate language, the UN peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, was authorized in 1999 inter alia “to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.”4 By 2009, the majority of the nearly 100,000 uniformed UN peacekeepers deployed worldwide operate with such mandates.

The link between the protection of civilians and peacekeeping mandates is central. First, the safety and security of civilians is critical to the legitimacy and credibility of peacekeeping missions. Missions rely upon their legitimacy with the local civilian population and external observers alike to help build peace and maintain political momentum behind the peace process. Moreover, wherever peacekeepers deploy, they raise expectations among the local population and among those who view missions from afar that the reason for their presence is to support people at risk. As seen in Rwanda, the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Haiti, DRC and Darfur, among others, peacekeeping operations that are ill-prepared to address large-scale violence directed against civilians will falter and may even collapse. While missions work to manage high expectations, they also need to address the security of civilians to build and maintain the legitimacy and credibility needed to carry out their other mandated tasks to assist with the political and local reconsolidation efforts and peace building.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing unrest primarily in its eastern region due to various ethnic and political differences. Violence and instability have always been an issue in this former Belgian colony. The issue at hand today is to try to maintain peace in an area that has experienced two wars within the past decade with violence continuing to this day. According to the United Nations, 3.8 million lives were lost to wars and there approximately 1,000 deaths per day as a direct result from the interior conflict of the DRC. In addition, about 2.4 million people have been internally displaced and 388,000 people have been refugeed out of the country due to persisting violence in areas such as North and South Kivu, The Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing unrest primarily in its eastern region due to various ethnic and political differences. Violence and instability have always been an issue in this former Belgian colony.

The issue at hand today is to try to maintain peace in an area that has experienced two wars within the past decade with violence continuing to this day. According to the United Nations, 3.8 million lives were lost to wars and there approximately 1,000 deaths per day as a direct result from the interior conflict of the DRC. In addition, about 2.4 million people have been internally displaced and 388,000 people have been refugee out of the country due to persisting violence in areas such as North and South Kivu, Katanga, and the Itori region. However, violence and unrest is not limited to these areas. Sexual violence is the worst and most prevalent problem in the DRC, with a reported 14,200 cases of rape registered from 2005 to 2007. Other problems include malnourishment, disease, and deaths by landmines. The DRC has the potential of being one of Africa’s richest countries, but is held back by its instability and constant conflict. Surrounded by nine other nations, the DRC is often central to regional conflict. Current violence involves influence from both Rwanda and Uganda, who have consistently tried to invade the region.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

According to Master Sun Tzu (1905) stated that ” for we to have peace we must first of all understand war” that is why the united nation UN forces have been using force since the late 1950’s in different contexts and constellations and there has been a general acceptance for the institute of peacekeeping in state practice, however the concept of peace itself is war. The dangers associated with peace keeping are numerous as the opposition will never give in without a fight, this fight has led to chaos, civilian casualties and loss of life and property, it is on this note that the researcher intends to investigate the role of united nation peace keeping mission in Africa.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of the study is to ascertain the role of United Nations peace keeping mission in Africa. But for the purpose of the study the researcher intends to achieve the following objective;

  1. To ascertain the role of united nation peace keeping mission in DR Congo
  2. To investigate the impact of peace keeping mission on the security of life and property of DR Congo
  3. To ascertain the relationship between the UN peace Keeping mission and restoration of peace and order
  4. To investigate the effect of UN peace keeping mission on the economic development of Africa

1.4 Research Question

For the purpose of the study, the following research questions are formulated by the researcher;

  1. What is the role of UN peace keeping mission in DR Congo?
  2. What is the impact of UN peace keeping mission on the security of life and property in DR Congo?
  3. Is there any relationship between UN peace keeping mission and restoration of peace and order in DR Congo?
  4. What is the effect of UN peace keeping mission on the economic growth of Africa?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

For the purpose of the study; the following research hypotheses were formulated;

  1. H0: UN peace keeping mission does not play any role in restoring peace in DR Congo
    H1: UN peace keeping mission plays a significant role in restoring peace and order in DR Congo
  2. H02: UN peace keeping mission does not have any impact on the protection of life and property in DR Congo?
    H2: UN peace keeping mission have a significant impact on the protection of life and property in DR Congo

1.6 Significance of the Study

It is believed that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of importance to the United Nation peace keeping envoy as the study will suggest ways of achieving more result in peace keeping mission in Africa. The study will also be of importance to researchers who wishes to embark on a study in similar topic as the findings will serve as a guide or reference point. The study will also be of importance to academia as the study will add to the pool of knowledge. Finally the study will be of importance to teachers, lecturers, students and the general public as the findings will expand the frontiers of knowledge.

1.7 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of the study covers the role of united nation peace keeping mission in Africa with emphasis on DR Congo. But in the cause of the study; the researcher encounters some constrain which limited the scope of the study. Some of these constrain are enumerated below.

Availability of research material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient thereby limiting the study.


The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.


The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover.

1.8 Definition of Terms

United Nation (UN)

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization to promote international co-operation. A replacement for the ineffective League of Nations, the organization was established on 24 October 1945 after World War 11 in order to prevent another such conflict. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states, there are now 193. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City and experiences extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna.

Peace keeping

Peacekeeping refers to activities intended to create conditions that favor lasting peace. Research generally finds that peacekeeping reduces civilian and battlefield deaths and reduces the risk of renewed warfare.

Within the United Nations (UN) group of nation-state governments and organizations, there is a general understanding that at the international level, peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas, and may assist ex-combatants in implementing peace agreement commitments that they have undertaken


Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.3 million km² (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth’s total surface area and 20.4 % of its total land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world’s human population.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendations

The emerging principle that a peacekeeping force should protect civilians has often been ignored in the DRC. A lack of capacity limited what the UN could achieve and the dire security situation rendered the consent-based non-interventionist approach largely ineffective. It seemed that the ‘conceptualization of the mission failed to take into consideration the complexity of the conflict, the size of the country as well as the needs on the ground’. Thus, MONUC lacked a coherent strategic framework setting out the political, security, humanitarian and other dimensions of protection (including the possible use of force). Contingents were initially unwilling to do what was required to implement the protection mandate. Sometimes national guidelines contradicted UN expectations.

MONUC faced an unprecedented position in UN peacekeeping with a mandate that simultaneously called on it to protect civilians in a situation where the national armed forces were among the groups violating human rights. At its height, MONUC had around 20000 troops spread out over a large area the size of Western Europe. This is in stark contrast to the 60000 well-equipped and trained forces under NATO command deployed in the relatively small geographic area of Kosovo in 1999. MONUC was accused of merely observing the on-going slaughter instead of intervening to end the conflict and violations. A priority from the start should have been the demilitarization of all factions involved. The recurring issue throughout was the reluctance to provide adequate resources to complete essential tasks of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The initial failure to ensure demobilization meant that peacekeepers failed to compel the factions into a political dialogue.

Demilitarisation is critical to the provision of stability and should precede the transitional period required to rebuild state institutions.

Many of the problems that beset the mission are common to most UN operations, ie the interests of the permanent members of the Security Council need to be aligned to ensure the full backing of the Council. Regional powers need to work together to support the peace operation. It also needed a confluence of interests and aims among regional actors and the members of the Security Council.

As the situation in the DRC evolved and deteriorated, the response of the UN was to modify the mission to meet what were seen as the main challenges to stability. A holistic strategy involving the people who are supposed to be protected should be central to any plan for civilian protection. Decisions must be based on criteria that are apparent to those in need of protection.

The High-level Independent Panel highlighted the need for ‘no tolerance for national constraints and the failure to follow orders. When civilians are at risk, delay and inaction may mean the difference between life and death. The UN must not stand by as civilians are threatened or killed’. National guidelines

UN, ‘Report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations’ (n 8) para 90.

and doctrine on POC are also vital components for ensuring enhanced civilian protection.184 National guidance is crucial as soldiers are more likely to follow these and for this reason they must be consistent with UN principles.

A robust response has many pitfalls. However, it does reflect lessons learned from the past. Relying on Congolese forces to consolidate control of territory and preventing reprisals proved problematic. Armed groups tend to regroup and return to commit attacks against civilians. Thus, apparent military success may be illusory as groups can disappear into the bush only to reappear again when the UN forces have moved on.

Impartiality was linked to the minimum use of force in the past, but this must be reconciled with the present-day requirements of multi-dimensional peacekeeping in often hostile environments. Weiss called for a robust form of impartiality that would redefine the role of UN peace operations to include forcible action. This would then create a new freedom of action that could salvage the UN’s legitimacy and tarnished reputation, but only if it produces results.188 These sentiments were consistent with that advocated by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, when criticising UN failures, stated that ‘impartiality does not – and must not- mean neutrality in the face of evil’. A consequence of these developments is a more liberal interpretation of the circumstances under which force may be resorted to:

The UN peacekeeper is now authorized to use force to protect civilians, but he or she is left with no specific guidelines. In previous decades, guidelines regarding the use of force were also ambiguous. However, the situations in which force was allowed in that period were so much more limited, that the ‘fog’ was less thick and had less impact.

Another weakness identified by Brahimi and relevant to the DRC was the adoption of best case planning assumptions. To mitigate the adverse consequence of such assumptions, the need for precise rules of engagement within mandates that cover a range of possible scenarios on the ground was advocated.

It is reasonable to ask if an organisation such as the UN can ever be truly impartial or neutral as it demands respect for certain basic values and norms. Unfortunately, MONUSCO and the FIB have maintained the pro-government stance adopted by MONUC. This has contributed to the erosion of its legitimacy as an impartial and honest broker. Furthermore, the composition of the FIB troops may not necessarily be perceived as neutral either. In an attempt to address some of these issues, the FIB is clear in its mission and concept of operations. However, the bedrock of peacekeeping must remain impartiality, consent and the minimum use of force. There is nothing new in this statement except that current practice appears to disregard these notions. Where there is a deviation from this, it should be the exception and not the rule.

While the FIB did enjoy initial success against the M23, it is difficult to envisage how it could meet all the expectations set out. Many other threats remained and protection incidents were not responded to. Other armed groups that adopt guerrilla tactics and do not hold territory are more difficult to defeat. The commitment and training of the personnel is crucial, as are the military assets available and the rules of engagement governing their use. But even these do not guarantee success. The absence of a credible political process led by the UN and engaging the parties remains a serious weakness.

UN policy was to rely on an interface with aid actors to improve protection capacity and restoration of state authority.195 Non-governmental organizations indicated from an early stage that they were concerned about a blurring of the distinction between the UN’s humanitarian and military work.196 Unfortunately, any intensification of the military campaign by the UN will likely cause the humanitarian situation to worsen in the short term. The adverse impact on the civilian population and misperception of humanitarian actors should not be underestimated.

UN peacekeeping operations are not suitable for war fighting or protracted insurgencies, in spite of the fact that POC may well take the peacekeepers in that direction.197 A primary function of peacekeeping is to facilitate the creation of a peaceful environment. Such operations run the risk of eroding what support there may be for the overall mission among members of the Security Council and troop-contributing countries. This creates a serious risk that the UN will become a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Progress on national SSR remains imperative, otherwise MONUSCO will be confronted with an impossible situation of having no effective Congolese forces to hand over to on withdrawal. Unfortunately, there is evidence that the ‘joint military operations did not build national protection capacities; nor did they promote much-needed Security Sector Reform or rebuild the trust of the Congolese people in their security forces’. Despite this, and the deficiencies evident in governance and security forces of the DRC, studies indicate that ‘many people feel frustrated at their perceived abandonment by the state, but still see a functioning state and army as their best chance of protection’.

The success or otherwise of the UN’s peacekeeping efforts are often contingent on the domestic and extra-regional dynamics. Regional actors often enjoy a degree of legitimacy among local actors, though there are obvious dangers of being dominated by a regional hegemon. Many issues were also sub-national in origin involving disputes between villages, ethnic leaders and traditional and community chiefs. These included exploitation of natural resources, local taxes, land and social status. A substantial obstacle to the UN mission was the lack of recognition these matters received. To undertake the local peace-building needed would have required greater resources and a more comprehensive mandate. The other major factor to consider when assessing conflict management efforts in the region was the emphasis placed on elections, rather than local conflict resolution, as a prelude to state and peace-building. Autesserre makes a strong case that most of the violence was micro-level conflict, involving factions and armed groups, and neither the UN nor the Security Council addressed local causes of the conflict, in particular during the fragile transition period from 2003 to 2006.

The High-level Independent Panel Report recommended ad hoc coalitions for deployment into situations of sustained armed conflict.207 The FIB is something of a cross between a UN mission and an UN authorised coalition of the willing.

UN, ‘Report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations’ (n 8) para 115.

It is premature to pass judgment on the Brigade and its implications for the future. In a time of apparent chaos, the UN must adopt strategies and tactics based on the threats posed by each particular situation. Targeted operations are always risky, but more may be lost by failure to respond to the humanitarian crisis created by widespread attacks against the civilian population. The FIB is only one cog in the UN machine intended to create the conditions for lasting peace. Success continues to depend upon a comprehensive mission approach involving government and other partners to restoring the legitimate authority of the state.

The government also needs a vision for peacebuilding into the future. Ironically, the defeat of the M23 rebellion in 2013 was a rare success, but it also meant that pressure was taken off the government to carry out meaningful reform. M23 and others still pose a threat, heightened by the failure of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme. The challenge is now to implement the decision to establish the FIB in a way that brings a speedy resolution to the conflict. In the past, UN and national forces have been blamed for abuses. Support for the current strategy will most likely evaporate if this occurs again or if there are military setbacks.

The DRC is not the only conflict zone where the UN is engaging in stabilisation missions. Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Mali are also examples. The latter two operate in high-threat-level environments and, like MONUSCO, may find themselves drawn into the hostilities by insurgents and other armed groups. Several states have expressed reservations about the implications. Russia expressed concern regarding the use of force in peacekeeping ‘what was once the exception now threatens to become unacknowledged standard practice, with unpredictable and unclear consequences’.

The FIB cannot be depicted as an unequivocal success, but nor may it be deemed a failure. Early setbacks have rendered the UN desperate to be seen to be taking action. The temptation will be to portray short-term success as a longterm achievement. In military terms, neutralise usually means to kill the enemy. There is no nice way to say this and it is reasonable to ask if this is appropriate for any so-called peacekeeping mission. A broad interpretation of the term

‘neutralise’ may include the power to capture, to detain members of the rebel groups, but also to target them with lethal force. A similar question may be asked with regard to the identification of ‘enemies’. While the UN’s use of force has been described as more a ‘marriage of convenience’ rather than a ‘marriage against nature’, the use of force should be limited to critical situations when civilians are in grave danger. When resorted to, force must satisfy the requirements of necessity and proportionality and be used only for such periods as absolutely necessary to protect civilians in immediate danger.

Peace enforcement has had a number of advocates, especially since the slaughter of civilians in Bosnia and Rwanda during the 1990s. These include Member States, NGO’s and others with a particular interest in empowering the UN. The DRC has been described as a key laboratory for ‘conceptual and operational refinement of the PoC guidelines, feeding into all parts of the mission’. Furthermore, lessons from stabilisation operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere have had an impact on the doctrinal thinking of those engaged in such fighting. This in turn has influenced the nature of the engagement of permanent members of the Security Council and their approach to conflicts in other international arenas. On the Council, the USA, UK and France, often play a central role in the drafting of resolutions advocating robust mandates. The traditional contributors to peacekeeping, primarily from the global South, perceive that these states are pursuing an agenda that put other troops on the frontline while western states stay on the sidelines.

A number of current operations indicate a pattern of reliance by conventional forces on a range of instruments involving a combination of local community networks and mobile phones, as well as general intelligence gathered by drones and support from special forces. These adaptations to contemporary situations reflect the experience and lessons learned by some Member States during counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The use of modern tools such as drones is to be welcomed, but whether combat roles under the blue mantle of UN peacekeeping can be sustained or be successful is uncertain. Such operations bring significant risks to all components of the mission and to humanitarian agencies working alongside these.

A clear lesson from the past experience is that UN peace operations alone cannot end a war, nor will the robust interpretation of a mandate provide the solution to intra-state conflict. Military credibility is critical to the success of the mission. It needs adequate numbers, equipment and commitment, and the ability to project its military strength to enforce respect and deter potential challengers. A robust military posture is also a precondition for a mission to fulfil its enforcement mandate.

There is a fine line between what is happening in the DRC and the counter-terrorism campaign rejected by the High-level Independent Panel. In many ways it is seen as a singular experiment to deal with a unique situation that so far has passed off without serious repercussions for the UN. It is nonetheless difficult not to conclude that the overall mission would have been better served by the FIB being separate and under independent command and control from that of MONUSCO, with close liaison between the two. That being said, the UN also needs to be mindful to reduce the opportunities for individual states or groups of states from using it for their own purposes.

A recent report from the Security Council appointed Group of Experts is damming in its criticism of MONUSCO and the Congolese national armed forces. Tensions between MONUSCO and the government remain. While military cooperation continues on some fronts, an on-going issue is the working relationship between MONUSCO and the government, in particular, the breakdown in cooperation against the FDLR.  A ‘transformation plan’, which is designed ‘to achieve a more robust, agile and mobile Force, matching military capability to operational requirements’ is currently underway. This involves new capabilities to help the mission to more effectively implement its mandate, including enablers and rapidly deployable battalions. There is little confidence that this will work.

Despite the presence of nearly 20000 peacekeepers and a multi-billion dollar budget, the force has been unable to stabilise the country. Although there were many failures along the way, the UN has not abandoned the people of the DRC to their fate. Mandates were expanded and resources increased, even if they were still not sufficient. Strategic direction was refined and policies put in place to address the weaknesses and failures outlined. Having been accused of co-habiting rather than confronting the rebels, the FIB may still offer the best opportunity to challenge them and provide some degree of protection to civilians. Ideally, the FIB’s greatest asset is its deterrent value. The price of failure to enter the political dialogue must be made evident to potential spoilers. This was reflected in the categorisation of the Brigade by the UN Secretary-General as an effective tool in supporting a broader political strategy, while recognising that its deployment and use is only one of many elements needed to address the recurring violence.

While the situation would almost certainly have been worse without UN involvement, MONUSCO cannot continue to manage the conflict indefinitely while failing to protect civilians at risk. Nor can the UN afford another failure in the DRC. It still has an important role to play there. The damage done to its reputation since the ONUC operation must be finally put to rest and confidence in the UN’s ability to restore peace and protect civilians demonstrated.

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