MONUSCO – Background of Conflict

Last update on: 13 September 2020

from MONUSCO​​​​​​​ website

Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the establishment of a new government there, some 1.2 million Rwandese Hutus — including elements who had taken part in the genocide — fled to the neighboring Kivu regions of eastern DRC, formerly Zaïre, an area inhabited by ethnic Tutsis and others. A rebellion began there in 1996, pitting the forces led by Laurent Désiré Kabila against the army of President Mobutu Sese Seko. Kabila’s forces, aided by Rwanda and Uganda, took the capital city of Kinshasa in 1997 and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In 1998, a rebellion against the Kabila government started in the Kivu regions. Within weeks, the rebels had seized large areas of the country. Angola, Chad, Namibia, and Zimbabwe promised President Kabila military support, but the rebels maintained their grip on the eastern regions. Rwanda and Uganda supported the rebel move­ment, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD). The Security Council called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of foreign forces and urged states not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.


Following the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in July 1999 between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and five regional States (Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe) in July 1999, the Security Council established the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) by its resolution 1279  of 30 November 1999, initially to plan for the observation of the ceasefire and disengagement of forces and maintain liaison with all parties to the Ceasefire Agreement. Later in a series of resolutions, the Council expanded the mandate of MONUC to the supervision of the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement and assigned multiple related additional tasks.

The country’s first free and fair elections in 46 years were held on 30 July 2006, with voters electing a 500-seat National Assembly. Following a run-off election for the presidency on 29 October, and resolution of a subsequent legal challenge, President Joseph Kabila (son of late Laurent Désiré Kabila assassinated in 2001) was declared the winner. The entire electoral process represented one of the most complex votes the United Nations had ever helped organize.

Following the elections, MONUC remained on the ground and continued to implement multiple political, military, rule of law and capacity-building tasks as mandated by the Security Council resolutions, including trying to resolve ongoing conflicts in a number of the DRC provinces.

MONUSCO established

On 1 July 2010, the Security Council, by its resolution 1925, renamed MONUC the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to reflect the new phase reached in the country.

The new mission was authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate relating, among other things, to the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.

The Council decided that MONUSCO would comprise, in addition to the appropriate civilian, judiciary and correction components, a maximum of 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers, 391 police personnel and 1,050 members of formed police units. Future reconfigurations of MONUSCO would be determined as the situation evolved on the ground, including the completion of ongoing military operations in North and South Kivu as well as the Orientale provinces; improved government capacity to protect the population effectively; and the consolidation of state authority throughout the territory.

Intervention Brigade approved 

Although significant progress has been achieved in the DRC since the establishment of UN peacekeeping operation there and the situation in many regions of the country has generally stabilized, the eastern part continued to be plagued by recurrent waves of conflict, chronic humanitarian crises and serious human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence. Contributing to the cycles of violence have been the continued presence of Congolese and foreign armed groups taking advantage of power and security vacuums in the eastern part of the country; the illegal exploitation of resources; interference by neighboring countries; pervasive impunity; inter-communal feuds; and the weak capacity of the national army and police to effectively protect civilians and the national territory and ensure law and order.

The recurrence of such cycles of violence, as exemplified by the major crisis in North Kivu which started in April 2012, continued to be an obstacle to peace in the DRC and threatened the overall stability and development of the Great Lakes region. In order to address the underlying causes of conflict and ensure that sustainable peace takes hold in the country and the wider region, the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region was signed by representatives of 11 countries in the region, the Chairs of the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the Southern African Development Community and the United Nations Secretary-General on 24 February 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On 28 March 2013, acting in support of the objectives of the Framework Agreement for Peace, Security, and cooperation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, and answering the call of Governments in Africa’s Great Lakes region, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2098, by which it extended until 31 March 2014, the mandate of MONUSCO and created a specialized “intervention brigade” to strengthen the peacekeeping operation.

Acting on the recommendations contained in the 27 February special report, the Council decided that such a brigade would be set up for an initial period of one year and within the authorized troop ceiling of 19,815, on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping. It would consist of three infantry battalions, one artillery, and one special force and reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma, and operate under the direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander, with the responsibility of neutralizing armed groups and the objective of contributing to reducing the threat posed by armed groups to state authority and civilian security in eastern DRC and to make space for stabilization activities. It was also decided that the intervention brigade would have a clear exit strategy and that the Council would consider extending its mandate beyond one year on the basis of its performance, and of whether the DRC had made sufficient progress in implementing the Peace and Security Framework for the region.

The resolution strongly condemned the 23 March Movement (M23), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) “and all other armed groups and their continuing violence and abuses of human rights”.  It tasked the new brigade with carrying out offensive operations, either unilaterally or jointly with the Congolese armed forces, “in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner” to disrupt the activities of those groups.

With regard to the Peace and Security Framework for the region, brokered by the Secretary-General, the Council demanded that all signatory States implement their commitments in good faith, and encouraged the establishment of an oversight mechanism involving regional leaders, as well as a national mechanism to oversee implementation of reform measures agreed by the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

On 28 March 2014, the Security Council, by its resolution 2147, extended the mandate of MONUSCO until 31 March 2015 and decided that the renewed mandate would also include MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade — “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice” — within the authorized troop ceiling of 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel and 1,050 formed police units.

At the same time, the Council noted the need for a clear exit strategy and decided that the Mission’s further reconfigurations and mandates should be based on the evolving situation and progress towards several objectives set out in accordance with its three priorities — protecting civilians, stabilizing the country, and supporting the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.

On 30 March 2016, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for another year (Resolution 2277), warning that the humanitarian situation remains of great concern, as well as the delays in preparing for the November presidential elections.

The Resolution 2348unanimously adopted on 31st March 2017, the 15-member body decided to keep the UN Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) until 31 March 2018 but approved 16,215 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel, and 1,050 personnel of formed police units.

On March 27, 2018, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2409 extending until March 31, 2019, the mandate of MONUSCO in the DRC, including its intervention brigade. The Council also authorized a troop ceiling comprising 16,215 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, 391 police officers, and 1,050 members of formed police units. MONUSCO’s strategic priorities are to contribute to the following objectives: a) Protection of civilians; b) Support for the implementation of December 31, 2016, Agreement and the electoral process.

MONUSCO’s current mandate can be found in Resolution 2502 adopted by the Security Council on December 19, 2019, by which the Security Council decides to extend until December 20, 2020, the mandate of MONUSCO in the DRC, including its Intervention Brigade. The authorized MONUSCO troop ceiling includes 14,000 soldiers, 660 military observers and staff officers, 591 police officers, and 1,050 members of formed police units. The Council also approved the temporary deployment of 360 other formed police units provided that they are deployed to replace military personnel. MONUSCO’s strategic priorities are to contribute to the following objectives: (a) Protection of civilians, (b) Support for the stabilization and strengthening of State institutions in the DRC and for the main governance and security reforms.

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