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United Nations peacekeeping is a global partnership with the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat and the host governments. They aim to maintain international peace and security and help navigate the path from conflict to peace. They have the ability to deploy troops and police from around the world to help countries torn by conflict, create conditions under which peace is sustainable. Kofi Annan argues that “sustainable domestic peace” becomes sustainable only when conflicts are resolved through the state apparatus meaning through institutions and through the exercise of State sovereignty to identify the core sources of hostility, instead of engaging in the battlefield where a peaceful settlement cannot be made (United Nations, 2001). According to the UN, peacekeeping has been one of the most effective tools in integrating with civilian peacekeepers to advance multidimensional mandates. UN peacekeeping is guided by the basic principles of impartiality, consent of the parties and non-use of force except in self-defence. However, the most difficult conflicts occur in countries where state institutions are corrupt and political issues cannot be resolved according to the rule of law (de Waal, 2009). Since the mid-1990s the UN has implemented many peacekeeping missions in Africa. However, in many African countries, these peace operations have proven to have unrealistic expectations and often do not lead to sustainable peace (UN Peacekeeping, 2018). This essay will examine the United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur, Sudan 2007 (UNIMAD) and the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), in response to the intrastate conflict in order to assess whether these peacekeeping missions were an open-ended commitment (de Waal, 2009).
The joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission were formally approved by the UN Security Council Resolution in 2007 to bring stability to the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. It was unique in that it was the first hybrid mission to be established by the United Nations and at the time was the second largest peacekeeping mission that worked on peace and security issues and the promotion of the rule of law. Initially, the mission was expected to last 12 months, however, this extended to mid-2010 (UN, 2009). From its establishment until June 2008 a total of $1,275.7 million was authorized by the General Assembly (UNSC, 2008). The mandate was set out for a force of up to 19,555 military personnel who were authorized to use force so long as it was to protect civilians and their own personnel (Resolution, 2007).
In the western region of Darfur, the African Union Mission in Sudan experienced severe financial difficulties, therefore, UNIMAD came at a significant time given the tense political climate in the region and provided hope for the people who wanted the destructive war to end. Whilst AMIS did alleviate widespread suffering, in a conflict where few actors were willing to intervene, there were many logistical difficulties. It is also important to consider that the Mission was created one year after the conclusion of the 2006 Abuja Agreement with the Government of Sudan and part of the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minnawi. This caused more tension in the region as the agreement was rejected by two major rebel movements, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army al-Nur faction. As a result, the National Redemption Front was established; an alliance of opposition groups which included the Justice and Equality Movement, part of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance who were all still at war with the Government of Sudan. Therefore, at the very least, the birth of UNIMAD could have been a step in the right direction of ending human rights violations since it was clear the opposing parties were not going to join the agreement and peace and stability was unlikely.
It is contested amongst analysts whether the UN is involved in peace-making rather than peacekeeping, as in Darfur it was evident that there was no peace to be kept. As the Doha Agreement was signed in 2011 between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation Justice Movement, many civilians criticized the fact that the government was more involved in selecting civil society representatives in peace talks (Sudan Tribune, 2011). Therefore, despite the Missions efforts to act as a mediator between the government and leaders of rebel groups, civil society actors believed they were complying with certain government restrictions and acting in the interests of pro-government organizations. This created a relationship of mistrust between the Mission and civil society organizations who wanted to participate in peace talks. In this context, the signing of the Doha Agreement acted as a pivotal step in potentially ending the war.
However, when analysing their performance on the ground it is clear that the failure of the Mission was their lack of success in achieving their mandates. For example, the Mission failed to protect civilians or restore security in the region enough to enable other local organizations to access internally displaces persons in need of humanitarian assistance. In addition, analysists argue that the most significant factor in the failure of the Mission was that troops were not adequately equipped. Other actors in the international community were also not willing to provide the necessary military assistance needed to increase the Missions role in effectively protecting civilians. Furthermore, the fact that the African Union was highly involved in administering the Mission may have made matters worse as they did not accept the idea of creating a pure UN force, whilst other Western nations wanted a full UN force. If the circumstances were better perhaps this involvement on a regional level would have been a strengthening factor instead of a weakening one.
On the other hand, UNAMID played a leading role in exposing the heavily polarized region to new principles and information regarding the rule of law, training and workshops on human rights and peace-building for internally displaced persons. For example, the Mission celebrates International Women’s Day every year in IDP camps alongside other nongovernmental organizations who partake in a solidarity march; an issue the Darfuri have long struggled with to get their legitimate rights in and something that wasn’t considered a major issue before the war (UNAMID, 2018). In addition, UNAMID collaborated with the State Ministry of Health and the UN World Health Organization to rehabilitate the women’s section of Nyala Central Prison and provide it with access to essential healthcare services and training regarding sexually transmitted diseases, education for students in the prison and a delivery room, saving the lives of many women.
Another example of a peacekeeping mission failing to protect civilians occurred during the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the First Congo war, in 1996-7 the massacre of refugees demonstrated the lack of accountability and international law related to refugees as approximately 232,000 refugees were killed (Emizet, 2000). Following this, the Mission was mandated to monitor the peace process of the Second Congo War, however, there were still reports of peacekeepers neglecting refugees, selling weapons to militants and sexual exploitation scandals involving MONUC military staff, which decreased the UN mission’s popularity. This affected the Missions ability to pursue further peacebuilding programs even with other international organizations as there was a widespread consensus amongst the Congolese that the peacebuilders were ineffective, wasting a lot of money whilst failing to fulfil their duties in protecting the population since the violence continued. A possible reason for the failure of the MONUC troops to respond sufficiently could have been due to their lack of devotion to the UN, instead their loyalties lying with their nation-state which exacerbated conflicts such as the one in Bukavu in 2004 (Autesserre, 2004).
There have been many other reported failures with MONUSCO since the 1990s; the origins of the United Nations military presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The original mandate was to deploy a force to monitor the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in 1999 under ‘Resolution 1291.’ However, the ceasefire was unsuccessful as it collapsed shortly after and subsequently, the war continued. It is evident here that sustainable peacekeeping was not in the foreseeable future. Much later, to reflect a new phase reached in the country, MONUC, labelled under the Security Council Resolution 1279, was renamed MONUSCO in 2010.
In Darfur’s case, the existence of the Mission indirectly increased insecurity in the region. For example, in order to prevent a threat on the ground, the Mission was required to get the approval of the Sudanese security forces which exacerbated certain incidents such as the mass rape in Tabit village in North Darfur. Sudanese security forces prevented the Mission from entering the village right away, therefore, the Mission was not able to carry out their mandate of protecting civilians (Human Rights Watch, 2014). The Mission should have continued to operate until the situation in the region fully stabilized, as despite its flaws, the existence of the Mission was better than its departure. For example, the Mission increased employment levels and improved small businesses in the region thus improving Sudan’s economic situation in the towns where the Mission was based such as the capital of South Darfur, Nyala. However, the departure of the Mission without a proper exit strategy by part of the Government of Sudan to make alternative employment opportunities created serious unemployment problems.
Conclusively, some peacekeeping missions became defined by their failures to prevent conflict recurrence whilst other operations were successful in ceasing ongoing conflict and avoiding recidivism; so not all peacekeeping operations create peace. In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the majority of missions disappointed the populations they were meant to protect. These variations can be better understood when looking at where the UN deploys their missions, as they tend to do so in challenging environments where success in peacekeeping is hard to achieve. It is evident that peacekeeping is indeed effective in ensuring security and peace to a certain extent when operations are sufficiently equipped and there are well-trained, and a larger number of troops deployed to contain conflict. The deployment of UN peacekeeping forces alone can be problematic as first unanimity of the Security Council must be obtained. The United States, France, Russia, China and Britain must all agree, which has slowed down responses to crisis in the past and the pace of peacekeeping growth. Another reason why peacekeeping operations in Africa may have failed in achieving their goals could be because the solutions imposed were often military solutions, without addressing the underlying issues of Africa’s conflicts. The United Nations and other international players such as the European Union, and the African Union have seemingly paid a lot of attention to peacekeeping, whilst little attention has been paid to the origins of the conflict in different parts of Africa such as land and water disputes involving pastoral communities. Further, in order to maintain peace, reconstruction of infrastructure is necessary after these conflicts as disruptions of roads and other means of transport impede any prospects of growth and distribution. It is also important to consider that the dichotomies of society also made it more difficult for peacekeeping missions to succeed as with the ethnically and politically divided society in Darfur which may have complicated the task of UNAMID. In the case of the DRC, perhaps part of the problem was this top-down “one-size-fits-all approach to peacebuilding” (Autasserre, 2010). Overall, the UN must play a better role in achieving the objectives of stability and prosperity in countries where human rights and justice are being ignored (Emizet, 2000).