Elections and Peace Consolidation: Prospects and Challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ambassador Roger Meece, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Steve McDonald, Director, Africa Program and the Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity
“Stabilization, or peace consolidation, if you prefer, is an integral part of peacekeeping – I think it has to be an essential part of how we approach peacekeeping,” stated Ambassador Roger Meece at a Woodrow Wilson Center Director’s Forum on January 27, 2011, co-sponsored by the Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity, and the Africa Program. Ambassador Meece asserted that the protection of civilians is the highest priority of his office, but to be successful it is necessary to create security that is long-term and self-sustaining. For this presentation, Ambassador Meece focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but mentioned that these themes regarding stabilization could be used in many cases around the world.
How Do We End Active Conflict?
Ambassador Meece began his discussion by explaining that the United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) was established in 1999 to monitor the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and initially considered stabilization to be a very short-term goal that was based more on urgent crisis response rather than long-term relief. As the political transition in the DRC began, following the Sun City Accord of 2002, the focus of MONUC’s mandate shifted to long-term stabilization, and included three interrelated components—security, governance (including elections), and economic opportunity. The first major benchmark of this new focus was the 2006 election cycle. After its completion, Ambassador Meece stated, “Not only, in my opinion, did [the elections] create a successful end to the somewhat dysfunctional transition period, but it radically changed the way that politics and governance is practiced in the Congo.”
However, Ambassador Meece was quick to note that he did not see the elections as an endgame to stability in itself and continued to evaluate what the next steps would be to achieving sustainable peace. One of those steps was the adoption of UN Resolution 1925, which extended MONUC’s mandate to June 30, 2011 and altered its name to United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
Upon reflection, Ambassador Meece said he sees significant lasting effects from the 2006 elections, such as increased political competition and accountability to electors, as well as a significant impact on the way many people approach domestic politics. Yet, with the second round of elections drawing near, Ambassador Meece cautioned that their success is critical to the maintenance of the legitimacy of state institutions. “I cannot overemphasize the importance, in my view, of having these elections [in November]. I think a failure to do a credible and valid election exercise would be disastrous, relative to the whole long term program and stabilization in the interest of peace in the Congo.”
November 2011 National Elections
Even though significant planning has already gone into the upcoming November elections, enormous organizational and time management challenges are still present. Ambassador Meece described MONUSCO’s role in the process as providing logistical support, at the request of the government of the DRC. He explained that approximately 25 million people voted in 2006, which is significant, but there were still vast stretches of the Congo that were difficult to access and inhibited many from voting. Progress is being made on this front for the upcoming national election and there has been a considerable movement to involve all elements of the population.
Ambassador Meece was not dismissive of the ongoing security issues, but he indicated that the security situation in the country may not be exacerbated by the coming elections. Human rights discussion is a serious matter, including the relative weakness of civilian justice systems, and Ambassador Meece continues to inform the UN Security Council that more resources need to be diverted to the issue of justice in Congo.
Ambassador Meece noted that local elections were supposed to be held shortly after the 2006 elections, but were canceled because the Congolese political class was too overwhelmed. They are projected to take place in 2013.
Future Stabilization in the DRC
Ambassador Meece stated that the UN’s goal in the DRC is to have an integrated, tailored approach to stabilization. However, coordination among various international and local actors involved in any stabilization effort is extremely challenging. In the DRC context, it has proven exceptionally difficult because of the vast differences found within the multiple regions across the country. Ambassador Meece has observed these obstacles to working on security, governance and economic growth, and has made an effort to incorporate differing regional issues where appropriate. For example, his MONUSCO office developed a new position, Area Coordinator, for three western provinces of the DRC that will serve the traditional MONUSCO office, but will come from a different UN-specialized agency in order to maximize the UN’s ability to implement their programs and activities in a more effective way.
In concluding his remarks on UN stabilization efforts in the DRC, Ambassador Meece stated, “I have said to the Security Council, and I will say again: it needs a continuing and sustained engagement from the international partners, as well as from the Congolese themselves.”