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Between MONUC and MONUSCO: What's in a name?

Posted by Jacob Jacob on July 30, 2010 at 9:44 PM

 

The UN Mission in the DRC has entered the stabilisation phase. MONUC's mandate came to an end on June 30th. But so far, the only visible element of the transition is the change of name to MONUSCO (UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Congo) and the withdrawal of 2000 troops.

 

DRC President Joseph Kabila has been keen to get the UN out of his country, not necessarily because he's convinced the job's done, but because he thinks he can do with less international scrutiny especially as next year's presidential election approaches. Doubtless, 10 years of the UN's presence in the DRC has not brought a total end to the bloodshed and impunity in the country but the mere presence of the UN there has resulted in extensive political reforms.

 

When I think of the UN's interventions I'm reminded of Jeremy Bentham's (1748-1832) Panopticon - a prison architecture where power and control is achieved through observation. In Bentham’s Panopticon or Inspection House the prison guard sees everything, not literally but through a relay of hierarchically ordered observers. The intention is to achieve conformed behaviour by introducing a mental state of being observed on the inmate. Micheal Foucault has associated Panopticonism with the ideal architectural model of modern disciplinary power. The consciousness of being watched disciplines the inmates to subject themselves to their own internal control.

 

The presence of the UN and the attendant international observation of the DRC may not completely bring an end to violence in the country but it has helped set up several regulatory frames across political and economic spheres. Notably the 2006 constitution for the first time resolved the issue of citizenship/nationality which has been at the root of the country’s crises over the years and used by successive regimes to achieve political ends. Dating automatic citizenship to independence in 1960 instead of 1895 as was the case in previous laws was one of the major constitutional changes the UN forced down the throat of the Congolese political establishment. This once and for all resolved citizenship questions particularly regarding the Banyamulenges and Banyarwandas of South and North Kivu respectively.

 

The stabilisation phase connotes greater support to the DRC’s institutions of government and this has to be long term to prevent the situation from relapsing. Knowledge of being closely monitored will prevent rigging and other political misdeeds by political elites come next year's elections. At the moment there is still violence and impunity particularly in the Kivus. The FDLR has endured and most of their commanders and fighters are integrating with local Mai Mai militias to resist the Congolese security forces which they believe are CNDP look-alikes. If anything, the UN needs to be more engaged in the DRC. Drawing down its presence will almost certainly lead to crises in the country and a waste of the billions of dollars the Congo mission has cost the international community so far.

 

Rightly, some commentators and agencies are not very enthusiastic about MONUC's new name. 


Categories: United Nations, Peacekeeping, Conflicts, Africa

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