The U.N. Pursues Gun Control in Congo
One of the first substantive moves by the U.N.’s intervention brigade in eastern Congo has been to create a weapons-free zone around the region’s leading city. As the BBC reports: A statement by the UN mission in the DR Congo, Monusco, has given everyone in Goma and surrounding areas until 1400 GMT on Thursday to ...
One of the first substantive moves by the U.N.'s intervention brigade in eastern Congo has been to create a weapons-free zone around the region's leading city. As the BBC reports:
One of the first substantive moves by the U.N.’s intervention brigade in eastern Congo has been to create a weapons-free zone around the region’s leading city. As the BBC reports:
A statement by the UN mission in the DR Congo, Monusco, has given everyone in Goma and surrounding areas until 1400 GMT on Thursday to hand in their weapons to the city’s UN base, warning that anyone caught after this would be considered a rebel.
"They will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and [UN mission in DR Congo] Monusco will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement," the statement read.
Only soldiers will be allowed to carry weapons, it adds.
While several news accounts are presenting the exclusion zone as an ultimatum to the M23 rebels, it’s not at all clear that it is. As the BBC account acknowledges, the M23 rebels who have attacked Goma before do not have the bulk of their forces within the declared zone. This Reuters report suggests that only a few pockets of the M23 are within the exclusion zone, and the U.N. denies that the policy is aimed at any one group:
MONUSCO said on Wednesday the security zone operation would not amount to an offensive targeting a specific armed group.
"This zone is to protect civilians," said Lieutenant Colonel Prosper Basse, MONUSCO’s military spokesman.
Another U.N. source told Reuters the operation would try to clear up small pockets of M23 fighters who remained near Goma after the rebels were pushed several kilometers further north during recent clashes.
An M23 spokesperson insists the exclusion zone doesn’t apply to it:
Amani Kabasha, a civilian spokesman for M23, said he didn’t believe the new policy would apply to the rebel group. He said that because M23 had agreed to peace talks with Congo’s government, rebel leaders considered themselves to be partners of the government and welcomed the disarmament plan "with joy."
"MONUSCO can attack armed groups that spread terror here, indeed it is long overdue," Kabasha said, using the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s acronym. "I do not think we are affected by this measure because we are the partners of the Congolese government in making peace."
So, in effect, the U.N. may be asking residents of Goma to turn over any weapons they possess even as a key threat to their safety remains at large. As this Guardian account explains, the U.N. faces a steep climb to credibility with civilians in the area. Absent concrete evidence of the U.N.’s ability to confront armed groups and defend civilians in danger, this initiative runs the risk of exacerbating that cynicism.
More: Via Twitter, Laura Seay has some thoughts on the strategy.
David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist
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