DR Congo

DR Congo: W. Swing - "War, Peace and Beyond"

MONUC Chief William Swing held a meeting at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington DC, on May 3 2007. "War, Peace and Beyond" is the title of his exposition where he explains MONUC achievements and the challenges laying ahead not only for this mission but for the whole UN peacekeeping operations.



A. A New Era for Peace-keeping

At the end of the Cold War, it was common in diplomatic circles to ponder what might most likely fill the ensuing vacuum. It didn't take long, however, to find the answer. Between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and today, less than two decades, there have been at least 111 armed conflicts. The vast majority of these were internally driven by clashes over control of a State's government or territory. In central Africa alone, there have been 11 UN peacekeeping operations in 7 countries since independence, 10 of these since 1990. These conflicts together have cost between 1994 and 2004 in Angola, Burundi, Congo and Rwanda an estimated six million deaths (four million of these in the Congo and one million in Rwanda); countless wounded and HIV infected; more than 5.3 million IDPs; and more than 3.8 million refugees.

These figures do not reflect the incalculable economic and infrastructural destruction of these wars. Since the demise of the Cold War, war or the prospect of war on a global scale or between world powers, thus, has given way to a period of smaller, regional, intra-state conflicts. These conflicts have nonetheless been deadly, partly because of the proliferation of small arms as the downsizing of many armies in the post cold war era resulted in small arms surpluses which headed to the markets, in many cases with loose or no control.

That's the bad news. There is some good news, however. First, the total number of wars has declined by about 50 percent since the 1990s. Second, whereas from 1946 to 1990, twice as many conflicts ended through victory rather than through negotiation, in contrast, between 1995 and today, negotiated settlements were 3 times as likely to end war as military victory. A recent International Peace Academy study found that "more wars have ended than started since the mid-1980s, reducing the numbers.....of armed conflicts in the world by roughly half ." It notes that 70 percent of these were concluded through negotiation rather than outright victory or defeat. The United Nations has been associated to the resolution of many of the major conflicts.

B. New Skills and New Partners for a New Era

If there is a lesson to be learned from all of this, perhaps the most obvious is that peacekeeping and nation-building skills must urgently be added to traditional war-fighting skills. Certainly, in Haiti, where 21,000 US troops invaded in 1994 in "Operation Restore Democracy" to restore the legitimately-elected President, the US force suddenly had to undertake a range of non-traditional military tasks, including reconstruction, public health and rule of law, in addition to helping maintain public order. In the recently-concluded national and provincial elections in the Congo - the largest elections that the UN has ever assisted - MONUC troops, besides helping provide electoral security, helped distribute electoral materials and undertake many other "extra-curricular" activities in support of the electoral process.

It is essential that UN multi-lateral peace operations be undertaken in close collaboration with regional and sub-regional organizations. This worked well in Haiti, for example, whereby the UN furnished the peace-keeping force and the Organization of American States (OAS) provided the human rights mission with substantial UN financing. In the same vein, in the Congo, despite the heavy UN investment in personnel, aircraft and financing, the process has remained a quintessentially African process. Our two main regional partners, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and, of course, South African President Mbeki, are major players in the process, a process which is unthinkable without them.

In addition, on two occasions, at the United Nations' request, the European Union came to MONUC's aid in emergencies: from June to September 2003 in Ituri with "Operation Artemis", a multi-lateral military force led by France to stabilize the capital Bunia and give the Secretary-General the three months he needed to assemble an Ituri brigade. Again, from July to December 2006, "EUFOR", a multi-lateral force led by Germany and France, helped MONUC to maintain stability in Kinshasa, especially during the elections. This paradigm could be replicated to give other current and future United Nations missions a temporary surge capacity in emergencies.

As a general policy, the United Nations strongly favours more engagement by regional organizations and actors, as the overall peacekeeping demand outstrips the supply available from any single organization. While doing so, it is important to keep in mind that there can be and often is significant difference from one regional organization to another in terms of mandate, regional coverage, finances, capacity and political acceptance by the parties to a conflict. The United Nations, however, still remains the single organization capable of mounting a multi-disciplinary response under the leadership of a single "commander in theatre" - the SRSG - bringing together political, military, electoral, human rights , humanitarian and other skills under a single strategy in any part of the world.

C. Process becomes the Substance

There is perhaps a further lesson to be learned from the past 20 years, in which negotiations have played a more dominant role; and that is that the process is all-important. If the DRC is taken as an example, it can be argued that the "process becomes the substance". A credible, effective process is key to meeting most, if not all, peace-keeping challenges. At least three or four elements are essential to a successful process:

  • an International Legal Framework (In the case of the Congo, this consists, among others, in 5 major peace agreements and several other regional accords; more than 35 UN Security Council Resolutions; and the International Great Lakes Pact on Security, Stability, Peace and Development.);

  • Implementing Mechanisms (MONUC, the International Committee to Accompany the Transition - CIAT; the Tripartite Commission Plus; Joint Verification Commission and Joint Verification Teams; the Eminent Persons Group; the Contact Group, et al.); and

  • Financial Resources Commensurate with the Mandate (with some $5 billion invested in the Congolese Peace Process, MONUC is funded at $1 billion per year.)

  • Regional support: albeit intra-state, modern conflicts can and often do have regional ramifications. Unsupportive neighbors can play a significant spoiling role. Their commitment to the success of the peace process, on the other hand, can be critical for its success, not least by denying re-supply routes and safe-havens to warring factions, thus pushing them to abandon the military option and sit on the negotiation table.

Yet, there's also a final element - the most essential of all - the will of a people to be free and to elect freely their leaders. It was true in South Africa in the nineties. It is true today in the Congo.

D. Having a strategy and the required means to implement it

The successes and failures of peacekeeping operations have also taught us several additional lessons: (1) do not go in unless you have the right strategy (mandate), (2) do not go in unless you have the resources to implement this strategy; and (3) one size does not fit all. In Somalia in 1991, the international community moved with appropriate resources to keep the peace, including the presence of well-equipped, trained and supported US-Army troops. The mandate was ill-defined, however, leading to a failure which is known by the public at large as "Black Hawk down". This, together with the international community's failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda in 1994 seriously eroded confidence in peacekeeping. In short, when moving in, it is critical to have both the adequate strategy to "win the peace" and the means to implement it. Finally, there is no "one-size fits all" strategy: each peacekeeping intervention should be conceived in a way that takes into account the specificities of the conflict, the nature and interest of the key national and international players, and the state of regional relations.


A. Peace-keeping: the United Nations' Cardinal Role

The United Nations was founded in the aftermath of World War II "to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war" (United Nations Charter Preamble). Established against a background of the deadliest war in modern times, the United Nations has no more urgent or enduring mandate than that of peacekeeping. And while, as we shall see in the latter part of my presentation, peace is more than the absence of war, a stable peace is the foundation of progress and development.

The study quoted and other recent analyses highlight "of the wars ended since 1988, the United Nations has exercised some peace-building role in half of these, including several in Southern Africa and West Africa". Further, international "peace operations can help reduce a country's risk of reversion to war."

As others have noted, peacekeeping is the most cost-effective means of addressing chaos or reversion to chaos, and "the rise of international peace-keeping deserves significant credit for the decline in civilian deaths since the end of the Cold War." Recent studies on peace-keeping in Haiti by Rand and the GAO reach a similar conclusion independently.

In one of his first remarks on UN peace-keeping, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon observed that "no other multi-national actor deploys the same number of military and civilian personnel. No bilateral partner engages in multiple field operations of such scope and contingency." Taking the Secretary-General's remarks further, I believe that it is statistically correct to say that (a) the United Nations today is the world's largest single repository of peace-keeping experience and skill; (b) that the United Nations does peace-keeping more economically than most. It is not surprising, therefore, that the United Nations is currently managing 19 peacekeeping operations on four continents, comprising more than 100,000 personnel drawn from more than 100 countries. More than 70,000 of these are uniformed personnel. Other than the United States, no single State or organization has as many uniformed personnel deployed oversees on the ground under its flag.

The number of such peace operations, some nineteen, is at an all-time high, with more than 100,000 personnel in the field. In 2006 alone, the UN negotiated memoranda of understanding with more than 100 troop contributing countries; MONUC's military force itself is composed of 52 nationalities and MONUC as a whole has 116 nationalities; the UN transported 800,000 passengers, and 160,000 metric tons of cargo by air; and operated more than 200 hospitals and clinics.

There are other reasons that the United Nations has become the organization of choice for peace-keeping. For example, some governments and organizations have the requisite resources yet may not be perceived as impartial; while others with an image of impartiality may lack the resources. As a Security Council institution, a United Nations peacekeeping mission has both - resources, and an image, reputation and record of impartiality.

B. Exponential Expansion of Peace-keeping

United Nations peace-keeping has entered a period of the greatest expansion since it began formally in 1948. In addition to the nineteen peace-keeping operations already operating globally, new missions are currently under active consideration, including Somalia, Chad, and the Central African Republic. As a result, the global budget for peace-keeping, which operates on assessed-funding, has more than doubled in five years:

2001 -- $2.8 billion;
2007 -- $5.5 billion; and
2008 -- $7 to $8 billion.

To keep this in perspective, however, the total cost of UN peacekeeping since 1948 is still less than $60 billion. What price peace? Costly, by any standard. The most expensive peace, however, is still a better bargain than the cheapest war.

C. Chapter VII -- Aggressive Peace-keeping

By definition, to do peace-keeping, there has to be a peace to keep. Yet, even where there is peace, that is, an end to the fighting, as one person put it so well recently, "in the new international reality, peace is actively made, not passively kept". So today, there is a trend emerging toward more aggressive peace-keeping whereby the Blue Helmets are authorized under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter "to use all necessary means" to fulfill some aspects of their mandate. Blue Helmets are more likely to use lethal force today in keeping the peace than in earlier decades when Missions were more passive, the classical Chapter VI cease fire observation peacekeeping operations. Being combat-trained, many peace-keepers may find peace-keeping rather frustrating, at least initially. The new pro-active military operations in peace-keeping may help dissipate some of their tension with regard to more traditional peace-keeping.

The outer edges of peacekeeping under Chapter VII mandates can entail considerable risks and require troops with combat experience and capabilities. At the same time, Chapter VII peacekeeping is different from war fighting and requires doctrine, training, tools and techniques uniquely tailored accordingly.

The move from Chapter VI passive, towards Chapter VII robust and aggressive peacekeeping is also a by-product of the end of the Cold War. Indeed, robust international intervention in resolving a conflict is no longer as likely to be vetoed in the Security Council by its permanent members. The resolution of intra-state conflicts is no longer tributary to the preservation of a global equilibrium - or a status quo - between two antagonistic superpowers.

Based on my own modest experience, the move towards robust and more aggressive peacekeeping is a welcome development. Having served as Special Representative in Western Sahara with a Chapter VI mandate and in the Congo, first with a Chapter VI mandate and for the past three years with a Chapter VII mandate, I have a decided preference for Chapter VII as a better means of achieving one's mandate. A more active, aggressive form of peace-keeping is achieving results in the Congo where it has been partly driven by the very size of our force.

Although our 17,000 strong force is popularly touted as the largest UN peace-keeping force, it is small relative to the size of the country and the challenge - it constitutes the same size force as the UN had in Sierra Leone, which is one twenty-fourth the size of the Congo. MONUC now has attack helicopters and Special Forces; and regularly undertakes joint military operations with the Congolese army (FARDC) against foreign armed elements such as the ex-FAR and the Interahamwe. We at MONUC have pushed the Chapter VII envelope further than perhaps any other mission but, in doing so, have always striven to be prudent in order to avoid disproportionate use of force; collateral death or damage; and to avoid increasing the number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs).

Perhaps this current trend toward aggressive peace-keeping has contributed to the phenomenon of an apparent division of labor between the Third World that supplies the lion's share of UN troops; and Western countries that supply the bulk of the financing. The latter tend to send troops to places such as Kosovo but not to Africa, except for the French to their former colonies. Contrary to popular misperceptions, however, some UN missions are conducting combat operations, with extremely capable forces from countries such as India and Pakistan (which, unfortunately, have had considerable battle experience and certainly more so recently than most western countries), amongst others, equipped with heavy fire-power, and robust mandates and rules of engagement in such places as the DRC and Haiti.


A. While peace is peace-keeping's proximate objective, peace-keeping is important for other reasons as well. Peace for what, we may ask? One of our most important tasks is to assist with elections. The Secretary-General's Electoral Assistance Division is arguably the world's largest repository of cumulative electoral experience, management and hands-on expertise.

The Congo is one of the most recent countries to hold democratic elections. It did so against all odds. The Congolese elections are the largest elections that the UN has supported: The largest country (the size of Western Europe); the largest electorate (25 million); and the largest challenge (no roads; no I.D. cards; no recent census; no multi-party elections in 40 years). In fact, the United Nations has never undertaken anything quite on the scale of the Congolese elections.

As democracy is a process and not merely an event, however, elections in themselves will not insure democracy. Without elections, however, which are events that punctuate the democratic process, a country is unlikely to become a democracy.

A plethora of tasks lie before the Congo -- and before the UN and the international community. A number of the tasks are left over from the transition: establishing a capable, responsible army and civilian police force; justice reform, including courts and prisons and generally helping establish the rule of law; local elections; an end to impunity and corruption; and many, many more issues to be tackled.

B. A "Sustainment Strategy"

A major global challenge to us all in the world community is to remain engaged following successful elections in countries emerging from conflict. Our record as international community in assisting "post-conflict" societies is better than our performance in responding to the immediate requirements of "post-electoral" societies. Ironically, the exponential increase in popular post-electoral expectations too often confronts a countervailing donor tendency to reduce support after successful elections. Since elections constitute the all-vital bridge between peace-keeping and peace-building, continuity of support is vital.

The Congo is a case in point. The rather remarkable international alliance that was built and maintained over the past eight years needs to continue, more than ever. The Congo is a vast, potentially rich country that has no "lead nation" as partner; and daunting challenges await the Congo -- a country in which everything is broken but the human spirit. A country in which everything is a legitimate priority, including SSR; humanitarian crisis; good governance; rule of law; army, police, judicial reform, etc.

Looking back on my time as a diplomat, perhaps my greatest frustration is that as diplomats, we are given issues to resolve that have only a long-term solution, yet we are given short-term commitment and a one-year budget, often as not un-renewable. For Government commitment to peace-keeping to be credible, it would have to be more clearly reflected in budget requests for peace-keeping. And to help our respective governments, we as diplomats would need to make a more compelling case to our parliaments, governments and peoples as to why precisely a certain policy or course of action is in their interest.

In most post-election situations, a "sustainment strategy" - not an exit strategy - is required. For this to happen, a change in our own thinking must occur. The UK's 10-year commitment, e.g., to help Sierra Leone build a new army reflects a realistic appreciation of the importance of remaining engaged if peace is to become enduring. To insure that Member States' original investments in "post-conflict" societies achieve permanent positive results, further investment will be needed.

During my four years as ambassador to Liberia, for example, the US provided Liberia half billion dollars in aid; very shortly thereafter, however, this commitment was scaled back. Similarly, as ambassador to Haiti, our aid program to Haiti immediately following the return of President Aristide was $235 million along with a heavy commitment in terms of US troops and political support; gradually, however, within the next year or so, this engagement was drastically reduced, and the results are now well known. In both cases, as well as more recently in East Timor, the international community abandoned the terrain prematurely; and, in each of these instances, peace-keepers had to return not long thereafter, but each time with greater difficulty and at greater expense.

By contrast, the world community remained committed in Sierra Leone, as in Liberia today, well after elections, and the positive results are quite evident. The time has perhaps come to recognize that peace-keeping as a concept and a practical matter is likely to be a permanent fixture in world affairs for some considerable period of time; therefore, support for peace-keeping will require a more sustaining quality than in recent years.

The postulate remains valid that there is no security without development just as there is no development without security. The withdrawal of peacekeepers should be calibrated with the acceleration of development assistance in order to provide "peace dividends" and consolidate the peace. This requires, again, longer-term commitments of the international community to a given process.

C. The Era of the "Big Mission"

None of this will be easy. Besides the global expansion of peace-keeping operations, Member States will be confronted with the new phenomenon of the "big mission". And now, there are two: the Congo and the Sudan - either of which is larger than all the other countries together in which the UN currently has peace-keeping missions. These are continent-size countries with major populations - the Congo with 60 million, and the Sudan with more than 40 million. The issue then becomes one of cost and sustainability. Member States will increasingly be asked to support peace-keeping missions that have annual budgets of $1 billion or more, that is, $3 million a day. It won't be easy, but it will increasingly be in our individual and corporate interest to find the means to sustain peace operations in the interest of us all.


The Cold War's demise has ushered in a new era of international activism in which negotiations and peace-keeping are undergoing unprecedented expansion, offering, for perhaps the first time on a global scale, an alternative to force in the settlement of disputes.

To be successful, these peacekeeping operations require new skills, regional partners, and more aggressive Chapter VII operations to protect civilian life. A new approach by Governments is also currently required, one that recognizes peace-keeping as a permanent global concern, both in budgetary and other terms. Admittedly, at a time of exponential expansion of peacekeeping operations, the budgetary implications of these requirements are significant, but not if measured against the considerably greater loss on investment of abandoning "post-electoral" societies prematurely.