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. A massacre of Congolese refugees just across the border in Burundi has focused most attention on the Kivus but the situation in the Ituri district is closely related and presents many of the same symptoms and challenges. The Security Council needs to give the UN Mission (MONUC) that is common to Ituri and the Kivus a clearer mandate and more resources to go proactively after armed groups, and encourage it to devise a diplomatic and political strategy that can support the efforts of the fragile Transitional Government in Kinshasa to assert control before it is too late. MONUC has already failed once, in dramatic circumstances. It was unable -- some observers say unwilling -- to react strongly to an explosion of inter-ethnic violence in Ituri in mid-2003. France led a European Union (EU) force for three months to re-establish order in the district capital, Bunia, where much of the violence was centred, and buy time for the UN to return MONUC with a Chapter VII mandate and more troops.