Wednesday, March 15, 2006

UN interim administration...

I was listening to the weekly MONUC (UN Mission in the DRC) press briefing today, and there is something that was said that gave me some pause. One of the MONUC people said, in response to a journalist's complain that the International Community was not doing enough, that "sometimes people forget that the DRC is a sovereign country, and that the decisions of the institutions apply to us (MONUC) like it applies to everybody else, and we (MONUC) must also comply". Yes, ideally, that is the idea.

But let us look at this realistically. Is Congo really a sovereign country, right now? The political class has so mastered the art of intentionally aimless and self-serving politicking, that they are not always perorming the tasks assigned to them, at the helm of the country. It is almost as though - well actually it is so - it is in their selfish interest to maintain the country in the current hopeless mess, so they can continue to build/buy villas, cars, and women's favors, and maintain a hand on the very lucrative gold mine that is the DRC. In the process, they create unnecessary conflicts among themselves, sometimes artificial ones, sometimes punitive ones, to slow the transitional process down.

Add to this the fact that the role of such countries as Belgium in the process, and their apparent support for certain parties, is far from clear, thus perpetuating the negative effects of neo-colonialism in the country. Out of all this network of interlocking and conflicting interests, there is only one institution that is somewhat consistant in delivering on its promises: MONUC.

With the largest deployment of UN soldiers ever, MONUC is omnipresent accross the country. Their offices are generally the cleanest buildings in town, and the most visible and recognizable, due to the Blue and White paint, and the flying UN flag. In many smaller towns, MONUC cars are make up 80% of the cars. Despite some very reprehensible behavior by some UN observers, MONUC has overall delivered on most of its promises. And it has become the indispensable enabler of any government action.

Since it was given "Chapter VII" powers by the Security council, it has actually been somewhat effective in assisting the Congolese Armed Forces, to root out illegal militias, particularly in Ituri. Much of the election material produced by the Electoral Commission, was delivered inside the country, using MONUC transportation equipments (planes, trucks, SUVs). The UN system in general seems to be heavily assisting the state - with the help of many NGOs - in the performance of many of its regalian duties. And the levels of political hackery, and political backstabbing that , at times, prevails within the country's coalition-leadership, make it so that even the average Congolese looks to MONUC and the International Community for a solution to such things as... repairing the water systems!!

In light of this, I ask again: is the DRC still a sovereign nation, or do we have to face the fact that we are (at least de facto) - like Namibia, Kosovo and East Timor before us - under UN administration? And if the answer to this is "yes", I must then inquire as to why even MONUC, and its leader, the American William Swing, do not take a more active role in pressuring the country's leaders to at least partially clean-up their act; and if the answer is "yes", then there is really no reason to fear an institutional vacuum after June 30th, 2006 (the current deadline for the installation of the new institutions), because there will be an institution to perform the state's duties during the interregnum : MONUC. Now, if the answer is "no", then our politicians need to stop claiming that they are not doing "this", or "that", because of some International Community imposition that they can do nothing about. If these politicians want the country's sovereignty to be recognized as such, they need to start acting like a responsible political class, design sensible rules, and accept and respect the rules of the game. They also need to be genuinely open to dialogue. Otherwise I would be the first - and even God knows how I hate the idea - to advocate for a takeover of the state by the UN. Considering what we said above, it should not be that hard to do. So watch out!

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1 comment:

kim said...

Having arrived in Congo when MONUC was 3000 staff, and today, a few months before the election, I can only state that MONUC has been indispensable. Unfortunately, MONUC has done too much. In the short term it has been positive, but in the longterm the Congolese government has become so dependant on foreign powers.

The incompetency and the bickering has turned Congo's politicians as "petits". Where MONUC and the other multi laterals agencies succedeed, they failed in dealing properly with corruption, turning a costly blind eye. They should have reinforced internal capacities to audit, as the Lutundula proved so important, yet essential and purely Congolese (apparently the English helped a bit).

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