By Charles Onyango-Obbo
The UN Security Council will renew the UN mission in the strife-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Council president Francois Delattre, France’s permanent representative to UN who holds the rotating council presidency for March, said on Tuesday.
However, Delattre said, the UN Secretariat has proposed “a drawdown of more than 2,000 troops” from the UN mission for DRC, MONUSCO’s current 20,000 personnel; the intention is to make the peacekeeping operation more mobile.
What Delattre didn’t add is that MONUSCO is also currently the most expensive UN mission, eating up an eye-watering $1.53 billion a year. And after nearly 15 years, its achievements in DRC have been modest at best.
There are those who argue MONUSCO has become a corrupt food fest. Others say it lacks the political will to put the hammer down, except for the one time it did so with the M23 rebels.
But there is a view that even with the best intentions, the mission was destined to fail. Commentators who are jaded by the conflicts in Central Africa and places like South Sudan, Uganda editor Andrew Mwenda being one of them, argue that these peacekeeping missions and negotiations to create power-sharing governments, many times only prolong a bad ending.
That these conflicts should be left to play out, until a clear winner whose claim to the crown is not disputed — like Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement in 1986, and Paul Kagame and the Rwanda Patriotic Front in 1994.
That wars that are stopped by a referee, like in South Sudan, DRC, and CAR, lead to too many claimants to the throne hanging around, and the leader without the authority to knock heads together and restore order, because he didn’t get to the top through his own sweat. It usually isn’t long before the war resumes.
However, that is something the world is not about to accept.
But there is something else it can begin to look at. MONUSCO's budget, as we already noted, is $1.53 billion a year. The DRC’s annual budget is nearly $8.3 billion. Failing to stabilise eastern DRC, therefore burns up the equivalent of nearly 19 per cent of the country’s budget.
There are many peaceful, reasonably governed countries in Africa that don’t even get 10 per cent of what is spent on MONUSCO in a year. So, we have a moral hazard. Countries basically get big money for bad behaviour, and the good ones are punished.
Why doesn’t the UN try two things: First, get the $1.53 billion and give it to Cape Verde or even Malawi and wait and see. They may well perform miracles with it. The idea is to get thugs in places like eastern Congo to envy nations that are flourishing, and change their ways.
The second would be to take the money and give it as cash handouts to the people of eastern DRC. The warlords may want to establish peace and steal the money indirectly through regular state taxes. Or the people may now have so much at stake, they will rise up against the militias and crooks in the east and take back their country.
We can’t be sure it will work, but we can be sure nothing will come out of continuing to sink the money into things like MONUSCO.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect The AFRican editorial policy.
Originally published on The East African. | Image credit: MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti