Citing increased fighting between rebel and government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Council on Foreign Relations today called for the United States to press the UN to expand the mandate of peacekeepers in country.
In a special report, the council calls for efforts to end, "the rampant violence and insecurity in eastern Congo."
Report author Anthony Gambino credits the UN with providing the only stability in the war-torn nation.
Gambino, former USAID mission director for the DRC, writes that "the Congolese army does more to compound insecurity than to bring peace. The Congolese police force...is violent and incompetent. The Congolese police also are part of the problem in eastern Congo today, regularly mistreating civilians."
The report blames insecurity in eastern Congo for the failure of the peace agreements signed by the Congolese and Rwandan governments in 2007 and by 22 Congolese armed groups this year.
Although it acknowledges successful national elections two years ago, the report finds that rural North and South Kivu, "remain humanitarian disasters, with 1.2 million displaced people and rampant ceasefire violations, other violence, and persistence insecurity in rural areas." Recent estimates suggest than an additional 200,000 people have been displaced in North Kivu as a result of the recent fighting.
Gambino says, if the United States doesn't press for an expanded UN role for altruistic reasons it should as a matter of self-interest. He writes that Congo is "endowed with vast lodes of important minerals, the second-most important forest in the world, and enormous hydroelectric potential."
The United States, Gambino says, should use its diplomatic power at the UN Security Council to ensure that UN peacekeepers have the necessary personnel and mandate to effectively reduce insecurity and provide training to create a reformed Congolese army and police force that can perform basic functions while respecting human rights and the rule of law. The current UN peacekeeping force's mandate is up for renewal at year's end. But, given that the situation is so quickly deteriorating, Gambino says the Security Council can ill afford to wait until then to act.