In December 2021, in the context of mounting political tensions and growing insecurity in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will decide whether to renew the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The state of siege declared by President Tshisekedi in May 2021 has yet to stabilize the provinces in which it has been implemented. The political coalition in power remains fragile, and social and iden- tity-based conflicts are on the increase. Everyone expresses the need for stability, but effective strategies and decisive actions are still lacking. The joint transition plan developed by the United Nations team with participants from agencies, funds and programmes, and the DRC govern- ment recognizes the complexity of stabilization and provides a holistic plan for long-term sta- bility and peace recovery. This plan goes beyond traditional peace processes and expands its reach to social and economic issues. Although very ambitious, it offers a necessary bold step toward a responsible transition with clear benchmarks and a timeframe.
This transition plan speaks to Congolese expectations toward MONUSCO, with priority accorded to the security situation in eastern DRC and the eradication of armed groups, based on three focus areas: the need for institutional reforms, an emphasis on holistic peacebuilding, and a people-centred approach to stabilization. The Security Council will have to decide how to strengthen and support these multiple reform processes by ensuring they are depoliticized and objective.
Security sector reforms, administrative reforms, and fair redistribution of the dividends from natural resource exploitation will be central to the effectiveness of institutional reforms. The upcoming mandate should also look at how instability is caused/driven by not only violence and armed conflict, but also by socio-economic factors (inequalities, competition) and the weak social contract. For instance, despite the estimated labour participation of 64.07 per cent, the persistent high poverty rate (80 per cent, according to the 2019 UN Human Development Index Report) constitutes one element with the potential for social instability. One example of the weak social contract is the government’s struggle to provide essential services such as free education. Since the beginning of the 2021/2022 school year, in October 2021, many primary and secondary school children, and their teachers, have been protesting the lack of governmen- tal support to provide funding to public schools. These protests come in addition to others in sectors such as healthcare and public transport.
All these elements fuel social and institutional instabilities, in turn affecting the prospects for a sustainable peace. It is important that the terms and framework of the mandate and logistical support to the DRC be expanded to include these areas as key determinants of stability. There is a need for a people-centred approach in defining stabilization, which must be locally owned and driven. While the UN mission supports the DRC in re-establishing peace, MONUSCO remains an outsider in this setting: it is up to Congolese and the DRC government to lead the process: local voices and adaptation to local contexts and strategies must be taken into consider- ation and included. MONUSCO can achieve its goals only if it focuses on ensuring local own- ership of the peace process. The Security Council can empower the mission to this end, through a more reflective and context-sensitive mandate.