Maintaining Momentum in the Congo: The Ituri Problem
Maintaining Momentum in the Congo: The Ituri Problem
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
DR Congo: A Full Plate of Challenges after a Turbulent Vote
DR Congo: A Full Plate of Challenges after a Turbulent Vote
Report / Africa 3 minutes

Maintaining Momentum in the Congo: The Ituri Problem

The international community is slowly awakening to the grim realisation that collapse of the Congo peace process and return to war are real prospects in that giant country, several millions of whose citizens died in the conflicts of the past decade.

Executive Summary

The district of Ituri, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), came to international attention in mid-2003 as inter-ethnic conflict, long suppressed under former President Mobutu Sese Seko but inflamed in the anarchy that accompanied his ousting, exploded. Thousands of civilians were killed and many more displaced , and the prestige of the UN Mission (MONUC), which had failed to protect them, suffered. The UN Security Council authorised Operation Artemis, a French-led EU Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF),[fn]Authorised under UNSCR 1484 (30 May 2003).Hide Footnote  which undertook a limited intervention to restore order and prevent further massacres by warring Hema and Lendu ethnic militias. It was able to stabilise the capital, Bunia, and win time and space for the UN to return a substantially reinforced MONUC, including the some 3,500-strong Ituri Brigade. Authorised under Chapter VII, meaning it is entitled to take a range of strong measures including the use of force, MONUC now seeks to secure control over the entire district and allow a more durable pacification process to resume.

Since MONUC resumed control on 1 September 2003, there has been some progress, but momentum has stalled. MONUC has nearly reached its limits to influence conditions, especially security, in Ituri. Programs to reconstruct communities and infrastructure, such as the Disarmament and Community Reinsertion (DCR) program for former combatants,[fn]In Ituri the program for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) is referred to as the Disarmament and Community Reinsertion (DCR) program, the logic being that the members of the armed groups have never been mobilised.Hide Footnote  have yet to begin, and the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes is almost at a standstill. The interim political institutions are moribund and have failed to deliver on either of their key tasks: political pacification and social services. The Transitional Government in Kinshasa is not in a position to assume these responsibilities, leaving a political vacuum that MONUC cannot fully fill. Finally, although the ethnic war appears to be largely over and while their nature and actions have changed, the armed groups remain the main obstacle to peace.

Recent events in South Kivu[fn]See ICG Africa Briefing, Pulling Back from the Brink in the Congo, 7 July 2004.Hide Footnote  and the reactions to them domestically and internationally, as well as an outbreak of fighting in northern Ituri between two of the armed groups, underscore the fragility of the peace process in the entire country. Ituri is a vital test of the Transitional Government's capacity to assert its control in the East and of the likelihood that a stable peace can be established in the DRC and the region.

While Ituri has many problems, they are surmountable, especially compared with the challenges elsewhere in the DRC. Its "separateness" and international efforts to date have created opportunities for substantial progress. But MONUC, complemented by the Transitional Government, needs to realign its priorities. Success in Ituri is critical not only to its people, but also to the entire UN mission in the DRC and the credibility of UN peacemaking efforts throughout Africa.

This report updates earlier ICG papers[fn]See especially ICG Africa Report N°64, Congo Crisis: Military Intervention in Ituri, 13 June 2003.Hide Footnote  and focuses on the role of MONUC and the armed groups, political and regional factors, and the development of the Transitional Government's influence. ICG’s views on the wider issues involved in strengthening the political transition and peace process in the DRC were the subject of letters on 24 August 2004 to key members of the international community.[fn]See ICG Media Release, "Prevent the Return to Full-scale War in the Congo", 24 August 2004, and the accompanying letter from Gareth Evans to the Foreign Ministers of Belgium, France, South Africa, the UK and the U.S., and the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations of Security Council member states, at Footnote

Nairobi/Brussels, 26 August 2004

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.