Peacekeeping and Counterinsurgency: How U.S. Military Doctrine Can Improve Peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

AuthorAshley Leonczyk
PositionPostdoctoral Associate, Yale Law School
[Vol. 204
I. Introduction
By nearly all accounts, the largest United Nations (U.N.)
peacekeeping operation in the world is failing. The mission––known
until recently as MONUC1––is based in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo,2 where more than 18,000 U.N. troops3 are engaged in an effort to
quell violence in the world‘s deadliest conflict since World War II.4
Congo is Africa‘s third-largest countryit extends eastward from the
capital city of Kinshasa, near the continent‘s western coast, and
* Postdoctoral Associate, Yale Law School. J.D., Yale Law School; M.A., Yale
University; B.A., Yale University.
1 Effective 1 July 2010 MONUC‘s name has officially been changed to MONUSCO—the
―Organization S tabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.‖ S. C.
Res. 1925, UN Doc. S/RES/1925 (May 28, 2010) [h ereinafter S.C. Res. 1925]. Because
this name change is largely superficial, and because much of this article analyzes
MONUC‘s past practices, the name ―MONUC‖ will be used to avoid confusion. This
acronym is an abbreviation for ―Mission de l‘Organisation des Nations Unies en
République démocratique du Congo‖ (U.N. Organization Mission in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo).
2 The De mocratic Republic of the Congo was known as the Belgian Congo until its
independence in 1960. The country was then known as Zaire between 1971 and 1997,
under the rule of Mobutu Sese Seko. The country is now commonly referred to simply as
―Congo,‖ or as ―DRC‖ or ―DR Congo,‖ in order to distinguish it from the Republic of
Congo, a neighboring country. In this article, the nation will be referred to as ―Con go.‖
For historical b ackground on Congo‘s name change and conflicted past, see GÉRARD
3 As of 30 April 2010, MONUC‘s uniformed personnel strength in Congo includes
18,884 troops, 712 military observers, and 1,223 police. See MONUC: United States
Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUC Facts and Figures, available a t (last visited June 25,
4 The International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates that more th an five million people
have already died as a result o f the conflict. INTL RESCUE COMM., MORTALITY IN THE
mortalitysurvey.pdf. Also, in 2005, the United Nations stated that the conflict in eastern
Congo was the ―world‘s worst humanitarian crisis.‖ Editorial, UN Calls Eastern Congo
Worst Humanitarian Cr isis, VOICE OF AM., Mar. 16, 2005,
encompasses a massive swath of territory in central Africa. Endemic
conflict in Congo has been raging in the country for decades, and in
1998, it sparked a crisis known as Africa‘s World War, drawing eleven
other African nations into the struggle either as mediators or parties to
the conflict. Violence continues today in Congo‘s east. Despite a strong
U.N. military presence on the ground, a yearly budget of more than $1
billion,5 and a robust mandate authorizing peacekeepers to undertake ―all
necessary operations‖ to ―disrupt the military capability of armed groups
that continue to use violence in [the] area,‖6 the conflict‘s death toll
continues to rise, and sustainable peace and stability do not seem to be on
the horizon.
In fact, as MONUC has ramped up its stabilization efforts under
increasingly aggressive mandates, violence against civilians has actually
seen a marked incr ease in the region.7 In March 2009, MONUC began
backing a Congolese army offensiveknown as Kimia IIthat aimed to
forcibly disarm one of the region‘s rebel groups. As a result of this
operation and related reprisal violence, more than 1000 civilians were
killed, almost a million people have been forced to flee their homes, and
more than 7000 women and girls have been raped.8 The situation
became so untenable that, on 12 October 2009, eighty-four humanitarian
and human rights groups in Congo issued a joint statement asserting that
the offensive campaign had resulted in an ―unacceptable cost for the
civilian population.‖9 They called on U.N. peacekeepers to ―fulfill their
mandate to protect civilians, or else withdraw support for the
Just how MONUC might actually achieve its mandate to protect
civilians, however, is exactly the question that mission commanders, the
5 The MONUC‘s budget from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 was $1,405,912,000. U.N.
GAOR, 63d Sess., 5th Comm., Agenda Item 132, at 2, U.N. Doc. A/C.5/63/25.
6 S.C. Res. 1906, at 5, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1906 (Dec. 23, 2009).
7 See, e.g., Editorial, DR Congo: Massive Increase in Attacks on Civilians: Government
and UN Peacekeepers Fail to Address Human Rights Catastr ophe, HUM. RTS. WATCH,
July 2, 2009,
attacks-civilians (―Since January 2009, nine Human Rights Watch fact-finding missions
to frontline areas found a dramatic increase in attacks on civilians and other human rights
abuses . . . .‖).
8 Editorial, DR Congo: Civilian Cost of Military Oper ation Is Unaccepta ble, HUM. RTS.
WATCH, Oct. 13, 2009,
9 Id.
10 Id.
[Vol. 204
Security Council, and the U.N. Secretariat have been struggling to
answer for more than a decade. The war in Congo is a seemingly
intractable, complex, and multidimensional conflict that has confounded
observers and peacemaking strategists for years. It is related to an
intricate web of political, territorial, and ethnic disputes, many of which
can be traced back for decades, ranging from international political
rivalries to highly localized mining and land quarrels.11 The
conventional wisdom behind MONUC‘s i ncreasingly offensive posture,
expressed in Security Council Resolutions 1565, 1592, 1756, 1794, and
1856, was that a higher degree of operational force would help neutralize
violent rebel groups and therefore prevent attacks on civilians.12
Conventional wisdom, however, has been inadequate to solve Congo‘s
complex security challenges.13 Congo‘s conflict is not a conventional
Nevertheless, the facts surrounding the war in Congo are not entirely
without precedent. In some ways, they are uncannily similar to those of
Iraq, circa 2002: Once governed by a brutal dictatorship, the diverse
nation is now plagued by violence based largely on entrenched cultural
divisions and the scapegoating of a previously elite minority group.
State security forces are in disarray, rival militia groups massacre and
abuse civilians, and a continuous cycle of violence and instability
prevents the formation of any broad-based governing coalition.
Residents align with ethnic gangs out of necessity, since police
protection is nonexistent and militia patronage offers the only credible
11 See, e.g., Séverine Autesserre, D. R. Congo: Explaining Peace Building Failur es,
2003-2006, 113 REV. AFR. POL. ECON. 423, 429 (2007).
12 See S.C. Res. 1565, U.N. Doc S/RES/1565 (Oct. 1, 2004) (requesting ―rapid
deployment of additional military capabilities for MONUC‖); S.C. Res. 1592, U.N. Doc.
S/RES/1592 (Mar. 30, 2005) (encouraging MONUC ―to make full use of its mandate‖
and stressing that it ―may use cordon and search tactics . . . to disrupt the military
capability of illegal armed groups‖); S.C. Res. 1756, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1756 (May 15,
2007); (authorizing MONUC to ―support‖ offensive operations undertaken by the
Congolese army); S.C. Res. 1794, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1794 (Dec. 21, 2007) (encouraging
MONUC to ―use all necessary means‖ to support the Congolese army in disarming
―recalcitrant‖ armed groups); S.C. Res. 1856, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1856 (Dec. 22, 2008)
(expressing ―extreme concern at the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights
situation‖ in Congo and authorizing MONUC to coordinate offensive operations that
will be ―led by and jointly planned with‖ the Congolese army).
13 See P eter Uvin et al., Regional Solutions to Regional P roblems: The Elusive Sear ch
for Security in the African Great Lakes, 29 FLETCHER F. WORLD AFF. 67, 68 (2005)
(arguing that ―conventional wisdom has been insufficient to address key security
challenges‖ in Congo).

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