Tag Archives conflict studies

“Whose responsibility is it anyway”? Questioning the role of UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO in stabilizing the eastern DRC by Delphin Ntanyoma

In the highly volatile eastern DRC, where over the past decades violent conflict and political instability have claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO has intervened to help security services including the national army and the police regain control of the region. After twenty years of intervention, MONUSCO is blamed for what should be the DRC government’s responsibility—the failure to de-escalate the situation and find long-term solutions that will bring peace. What role can and should it play in eastern DRC, then? As Delphin Ntanyoma explains, the power and responsibility to enact real and long-lasting change lies with the DRC government.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in Beni[1] in the eastern DRC since 2014, when a jihadist-oriented group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) first occupied the region. Recent statistics indicate that between early November 2019 and mid-February 2020, approximately 350 civilians have been brutally killed in Beni by ADF militants[2]. Countless attacks have been carried out by ADF in different villages, where local populations have been slaughtered with guns and machetes. Since 2014, military operations have been executed in an attempt to halt these attacks, but it is not known when the situation will stabilise.

Despite ‘assurances’ from the Congolese government, the national army and UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, doubts remain about how the ongoing tragedy created by the ADF will be addressed. A few weeks ago, local populations across DRC and in Beni in particular demonstrated against the killing of civilians, desperately marching across cities with the hope that their plea to end the ongoing conflict and violence against civilians would be heard. More specifically, demonstrators protested against MONUSCO’s inability to protect civilians, as Chapter VII of the UN Charter compels it to do. Whilst avoiding pointing a finger directly at the national army, demonstrators have largely blamed MONUSCO for its failure to protect civilians.

Amid these tensions, the UN Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations Jean Pierre Lacroix visited the DRC between 30 November and 2 December last year to assess the situation. During his visit to Beni, Goma and Kinshasa to show support for the UN peacekeeping mission and discuss the situation with officials, Lacroix claimed that demonstrations against MONUSCO were likely manipulated and funded from ‘somewhere’[3]. This statement is hardly verifiable, but an independent observer would unlikely rule out this possibility due to ongoing debates on the UN’s role in creating stability in eastern DRC; some Congolese political figures have openly called for the UN to end its peacekeeping mission or to provide a plan for its gradual withdrawal.

The question thus arises from this debate: why is MONUSCO in a ‘hot seat’ for something that is essentially the responsibility of the state? Why is MONUSCO being held responsible by Congolese civilians for the killings taking place in Beni instead of the army and police, who are particularly responsible for preventing this? Therefore, the essentiality of MONUSCO’s presence in the region should be better examined: is the UN peacekeeping mission technically constrained in executing its mandate to protect civilians, or are there other reasons for its perceived inaction? And at what point will the mission be considered successful and finally withdraw from the DRC?

Besides some challenges related to its internal functioning (heavy bureaucracies, unlikely familiar with complexities and diversities of local contexts, culturally limited for some military forces, missions operating in the mostly inaccessible eastern Congo), MONUSCO has been only slightly involved during the preparation of military operations in Beni. Hence, its success seems to be challenged by institutions such as the security sector that are unwilling to tackle structural challenges. Meanwhile, MONUSCO is obliged to work with them while having limited power to influence their decisions.

In Beni, for instance, MONUSCO has expressed concerns over the national army launching unilateral military operations without sufficiently engaging the UN peacekeeping. The reasons for the army’s decision to operate unilaterally remain unclear. Under the name of sovereignty or the national army’s unwillingness to co-operate, military operations against ADF were carried out with limited support of the UN peacekeeping mission. Hence, these military operations were largely ineffective due to lacking strong coordination among main stakeholders. Moreover, grounded reports indicate that some military commanders have directly or remotely been supporting local armed groups and foreign militias[4]. In addition, one of the main sources of misery in Congo is the level of embezzlement and corruption within the public arena (including the army and police), which in turn affects the delivery of public services and goods. Consequently, state’s authority is largely absent in remote regions of the eastern Congo, creating a security vacuum exploited by armed groups to perpetuate violence.

These are some of the challenges linked to the extended conflict that MONUSCO cannot address. These and other internal and external challenges facing MONUSCO call for the redefinition of its mandate in relation to local contexts. Failing to do so, it may spend another decade trying, but failing to contribute to long-lasting peace and a corresponding shift of attention toward the development in the region.

[1] From Ituri to Maniema via North-Kivu and South-Kivu provinces, extreme violence has re-emerged. Although similar contexts characterize Djugu (Ituri), Masisi-Rutshuru (North-Kivu), Minembwe-Itombwe (South-Kivu) and Kabambale (Maniema), the blog post takes Beni’s tragedy as an illustration.

[2] See for instance one of the Radio Télévision Belge Francophone : https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_rdc-huit-morts-et-plusieurs-disparu-apres-un-nouveau-massacre-a-beni?id=10427684

[3] For details on Jean Pierre Lacroix’s declarations, see: https://monusco.unmissions.org/en/jean-pierre-lacroix-everyone-should-learn-lessons-what-has-happened; and Kivu Security Tracker: https://blog.kivusecurity.org/fr/. Jean-Pierre Lacroix points a finger to those undermining MONUSCO efforts to support local population.

[4] Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (2019) “Assessing the Effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in the DRC – MONUSCO” https://www.ssrc.org/publications/view/assessing-the-effectiveness-of-the-united-nations-mission-in-the-drc-monusco/

About the author:


Delphin Ntanyoma is a PhD candidate at the ISS. His research falls within Conflict Economics and is part of the Economics of Development & Emerging Markets (EDEM) Program. With a background of Economics and Masters’ of Art in Economics of Development from ISS, the researcher runs an online blog that shares personal views on socio-economic and political landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo but also that of the African Great Lakes Region. The Eastern Congo Tribune Blog can be found on the following link: www.easterncongotribune.com.


Image Credit: MONUSCO Photos on Flickr.



Complexity of Micro-level Violent Conflict: An ‘Urban Bias’ lenses of a Native Researcher? by Delphin Ntanyoma

Micro-level violent conflict is complex, and the triggers of violence are unpredictable. Building on long-seated unresolved grievances coupled with the presence of foreign armed groups in Eastern Congo, the South-Kivu province is facing a barely noticed humanitarian crisis whose understanding can even puzzle a native researcher. In such a context, can a ‘native researcher’ with lenses affected with ‘urban bias’ understand complex contours of micro-level violent conflict? 

This blog post tries to raise awareness on complexity of micro-level layers of recurring violent conflict. It builds on Kalyvas’s (2006) understanding of ‘urban bias’[1].  He states that urban bias refers to lack of information on countryside violence but also the tendency to paint gunmen involved in violence as primitive and criminals. Though Kalyvas stresses on reporting and accounting on civil-war violence, this blog post considers that ‘urban bias’ is widely embedded in understanding the local context while little attention is paid to those painted as ‘criminals’.

In March 2019, I visited Minembwe in the South-Kivu province, the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was amid tense violent confrontation between opposing local armed groups largely affiliated to ethnic communities in the region. The MaiMai groups are affiliated to Babembe, Banyindu and Bafuliro communities against Gumino, while Twirwaneho are linked to Banyamulenge community. However, local armed groups are currently being supported by foreign groups from Rwanda and Burundi, the two DRC’s neighboring countries. The reasons for my visit to this region were twofold. One, I had to use this opportunity to teach two courses at undergraduate level within Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe. Two, this is a region I had to visit as part of my fieldwork. Although I am a native of this region, however, this time, I came back as a researcher in conflict economics studies.

The background of Eastern Congo violent conflict is complex with different layers. The region I visited has been under regular clashes between communities – due to mutual contestation, confrontation around ‘autochthony’ versus ‘immigrants’, misunderstanding between farmers and cattle herders as well as other dynamic motives. Community clashes have been going on for decades. Recently, Burundian and Rwandan rebels have been involved in clashes that are supported by local groups. Burundian and Rwandan groups are respectively supported by Kigali and Bujumbura with aims of overthrowing regimes in their countries. They are meddling into local problems with an intent of creating an unoccupied space for further military plans.

Subsequent to recent clashes, roughly 150 villages (including my parents’ village) were burnt down between 2018-2019. It has led to approximately 200,000 internally displaced people. Most of these have been concentrated in Minembwe facing high risks of hunger and diseases. Hundreds are estimated to have died during this period. Existing schools and health facilities have been destroyed. Moreover, due to limited access to transport infrastructures and media, the tragedy happening in this region remains unnoticed to a large extent.

Despite efforts deployed by the local opinion leaders, the neighborhood of my village named Kidasi, part of Minembwe region, was attacked on 13th June 2019 due to a shooting of one person; and a revenge that killed tens. Local population have fled towards Minembwe due to an incident that could have been prevented, if there have been a presence of committed security services. Such incidents build on collective sense of victimization and popular prejudice. Nevertheless, a ‘mundane incident’ can spread widely to hundreds of kilometers. Guns are used to settle family issues as was done in my village’s neighborhood wherein driven by hatred and jealousy, one sibling killed another.

However, when visiting my own village during the fieldwork, I appreciated regular dialogue between ethnic communities. For example, the local opinion leaders managed to save the life of a local chief who was arrested by a group of gunmen. The local chief was released following their interventions. During this visit, I managed to learn also from some members of a committee in charge of reconciliation and dialogue. It was impressive to hear testimonies and efforts of ethnic communities regarding their cohabitation.  One could hope that this would be a local model of trust among communities.

My impression was that these local initiatives aiming to sustain peace needed some support. I thought my intervention could be oriented in exchanging ideas with primary and secondary school teachers. We discussed possibilities of re-constructing my primary school made up of woods and straws. Due to poverty and inaccessibility in terms of transport infrastructure, the local population cannot afford costs of a decent building. Moreover, parents are also burdened by remunerating schools’ teachers. Children from these schools drop out due to their inability to pay school fees. My discussion with teachers focused mainly on these features of having a school reconstructed and possibilities to support vulnerable parents.

We had a fruitful exchange and looked forward to support the education of the vulnerable. Together, we introduced a request within a local NGO to see their possibility to help building a school. We shared information about channels through which we can involve state authorities. Beyond that, we discussed negative effects of violent confrontation. We had many old and recent references about how violence can hardly spare any of these ethnic communities. Their role as members of the ‘literate’ class was touched.

Though these were likely minor efforts on my side, I was more oriented on normative ideas to find urgent solutions to the challenges presented in these schools. I seem to have concentrated on ‘literate’ class alone and missed to talk to someone who could just shoot (un) intentionally in the air; and will kill all efforts. As a matter of fact, the shooting by unknown assailants of a member of Babembe ethnic community, has drawn wide retaliation by (counter) attacking and ‘revenge’ on Banyamulenge ethnic community. After leaving my village, I was told that I should have met Mutamba[2]. Why? Was the view I had of the local context be interpreted as an ‘urban bias’?

Regardless of Mutamba’s literacy level, his influence relies on manipulating young people to express themselves by ‘shooting bullets in the air’. I am not yet sure if meeting Mutamba (whom I called later on phone) could have prevented my neighborhood to fall into clashes. However, I argue that in such volatile context coupled with collective victimization guns have more power than anything else. As I question Kalyvas (2006), I felt that, meeting teachers was sufficient. However, I certainly had no clue and clear information on Mutamba. I wish that I could have met many of such people if this would have spared this region.

[1] This is a given name of the guy whom I was indicated he could, by shooting in the air or target someone for his own interests, pull the neighborhood into intractable clashes.
[2] See Kalyvas, Stathis N. (2006:38-48) in “The Logic of Violence in Civil War”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

About the author:


Delphin Ntanyoma is a PhD candidate at the ISS. His research falls within Conflict Economics and is part of the Economics of Development & Emerging Markets (EDEM) Program. With a background of Economics and Masters’ of Art in Economics of Development from ISS, the researcher runs an online blog that shares personal views on socio-economic and political landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo but also that of the African Great Lakes Region. The Eastern Congo Tribune Blog can be found on the following link: www.easterncongotribune.com.






European Peace Science Conference | NEPS and the ISS Celebrate Jan Tinbergen with a Home Run by S. Mansoob Murshed

In less than two weeks from today, the ISS will host the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference, which will witness the presentation of nearly a hundred papers in quantitative conflict studies. But who was Jan Tinbergen, and why was a whole conference named after him? In the first article of our series, Mansoob Murshed sheds light on these questions.

The year 2019 marks fifty years since the Nobel Prize for Economics was instituted. The first award went to the two founding fathers of econometrics (techniques applied to empirical data to test theoretical hypotheses) namely the Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen and the Norwegian economist Ragnar Frisch. This year also happens to be a quarter of a century since the passing of Jan Tinbergen. Between 24th and 26th June, the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR) will host the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference, also known as the Network of European Peace Science (NEPS) conference.

It is fitting that the Institute does so for a number of reasons. Jan Tinbergen was a founding member of the Economists for Peace and Security, and perhaps the society’s most distinguished doyen on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Although it is well known that Professor Tinbergen enjoyed a long tenure at the Erasmus School of Economics, what is less known is that the ISS awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1962. Jan Tinbergen was a founding member of the Economists for Peace and Security. He was, incidentally, also one of the founding members of the Econometric Society back in the 1930s. Unsurprising, as he was one of the progenitors of this particular art.

Underpinning all of Tinbergen’s contributions to Economics is his desire for the usefulness of research. The extent of inequality in society during his youth in the 1920s (as is once again the case with a vengeance), as well as his first-hand experience of poverty in Leiden caused him to abandon a potentially brilliant career as a Physicist to become an Economist; Physics’ loss was Economics’ gain. He, however, brought over extensive intellectual arbitrage from Physics (and Mathematics) into Economics. Many others shared his passion for measurement, but he went to systematize it by inventing econometrics, a statistical tool that enables the testing of economic theories, and he preferred theory to be mathematical.

As such, he devised the first empirical macroeconomic model for an economy, even though the operation of the model was hampered in the case of the Netherlands by the paucity of data (unlike in the UK or USA). The 1930s was an era plagued by the scourge of mass unemployment in the industrialized world, just as nowadays the immiserisation of many at work afflicts most societies (a phenomenon otherwise known as precarious employment). Tinbergen was invited by the League of Nations to work on business cycles, because these cyclical swings were the major cause of unemployment.

At one time, Tinbergen was also the leading advisor to the League’s successor, the United Nations, on development policies, which most famously resulted in the benchmark for the quantum of development assistance to be donated by rich nations. (0.7% of national income), although Tinbergen really would have wanted more to go to poorer nations. Even more presciently, Tinbergen favoured world government, as he feared governance at the level of the nation state risked becoming myopic.[1]

Tinbergen managed to connect the inseparable concepts of welfare and security[2], as well as to formulate the notion of global security[3]. Underpinning the notion of world security is yet another inseparability between military (or security) expenditure and development assistance for poorer countries. A degree of convergence in average incomes across nations was required, and to bring that about, military expenditure needed to be curtailed so as to free up more money for aid.

It is worth reiterating Tinbergen’s commitment to the societal relevance of Economics, the need to engage in advisory work, and the overwhelming salience of finding solutions to economic problems, especially poverty and inequality between nations. His style of communication was refreshingly free of our current obsession with memes and soundbites. For all of these reasons, and more besides, it is fitting that this year’s NEPS conference, which will witness the presentation of nearly a hundred papers in quantitative conflict studies, will be held at the ISS, in the Hague, the home town of one of the pioneers of the economics of conflict, who was also one of the most ardent and distinguished champions of disarmament and development assistance.

[1] See Kol, J and P De Wolff (1993), Tinbergen’s Work: Change and Continuity, De Economist, 141.
[2] Tinbergen, J and D Fischer (1987) Warfare and Welfare, New York; St. Martin’s Press.
[3] Tinbergen, J (1990) World Security and Equity, Aldershot: Edward Elgar.

This is the first article in a series related to the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference that will be hosted by the ISS from June 24th to 26th June 2019. 

Image Credit: Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO) under a CC license. The image was cropped.

best photoAbout the author:

S. Mansoob Murshed is Professor of the Economics of Peace and Conflict at the ISS. His research interests are in the economics of conflict, resource abundance, aid conditionality, political economy, macroeconomics and international economics.