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How MONUSCO Contributed to Developing the DRC because the ‘Darkish Coronary heart’ of Africa


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Africa’s geographical and metaphorical ‘coronary heart’, has change into notorious for its violent resource-driven and ethnic conflicts (Kabamba, 2010). Concurrently, the DRC gained consideration by the United Nations Group Stabilization Mission (UN, MONUSCO): the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation, which regardless of over 20 years of involvement has not achieved sustainable peace (Lopor, 2016). This has led to in depth criticism of MONUSCO’s on-the-ground practices, nevertheless, the very method the UN speaks in regards to the DRC might also have unintended penalties for its effectiveness (Martinez & Eng, 2016). By problematizing the discourses of MONUSCO resolutions and practices this essay goals to reply the query “How has the development of the Democratic Republic of Congo because the ‘Coronary heart’ of the ‘Darkish Continent’ formed MONUSCO peacekeeping?” After giving background info on the DRC and establishing a constructivist postcolonial theoretical framework, this essay will argue that primarily based on historic perceptions of Africa because the ‘Darkish Continent’, MONUSCO adhered to constructions of the DRC as trapped in ‘immutable’ cycles of violence which restricted the deal with root causes of battle and inhibited the visibility of complicated native actors. This evaluation makes a related contribution to debates on the perverse penalties of well-meaning worldwide interventions (Autesserre, 2012) as in 2019 the UN Safety Council (UNSC) prolonged MONUSCO’s mandate for 2020, creating alternative for change. 


The varied conflicts within the DRC could be attributed to pre-colonial tensions and Belgian management from 1885-1960 (Kabamba, 2010). Nonetheless, most up-to-date instability stems from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and ensuing inflow of Hutu refugees within the DRC’s jap provinces (Ndangam, 2002, p. 5). Since independence, the DRC struggled to keep up financial progress whereas battling secessionist and ethnic disputes (p. 4). As volatility rose in refugee camps in 1996, the DRC military (FARDC) turned thinly unfold, accommodating the emergence of armed teams to fill the safety deficit. Most notably, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) led by Laurent Kabila took benefit of then President Mobutu’s absence, resulting from a most cancers therapy in Switzerland, to start out a Tutsi marketing campaign towards Hutu extremists. Quickly different states, particularly Rwandan, Burundi, Ugandan, Angolan, and Eritrean nationwide forces joined, initiating the First Congo Struggle (1996-1997) which culminated in a army coup and collapse of Mobutu’s DRC (p.6). But, the warfare’s numerous civil and transnational armed teams triggered new conflicts, sparking the Second Congo Struggle (1998-2003), which claimed the most important civilian death-toll since WWII. To average combating, the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Settlement was signed between the warring states, prompting the UN Secretary Common to suggest {that a} peacekeeping mission be deployed (Barrera, 2015, p. 3). This established MONUSCO’s presence within the DRC, mandated by UNSC Decision 1258 (1999). After lower than a yr, the necessity for extra on-the-ground personnel turned obvious, thus with each new UNSC decision the mission grew bigger and purchased extra duties: “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, safety of civilians, strengthening of State Authority and group of the primary democratic elections” (p. 5). For the reason that warfare’s finish, MONUSCO had successes, together with the suppression of the rebel Nationwide Congress for the Defence of the Individuals (CNDP) in 2012 (Luthuli, 2016, p. 36), formation of a Transitional Authorities, and elections in 2006. But, MONUSCO is broadly criticized for failing at its core mandates (Karlsrud, 2015), although particular criticism of the UN’s discourse stays broadly absent. This essay argues that language formed MONUSCO by creating restricted data constructions which affected its efficacy. 

Theoretical Framework: Constructivism and Postcolonialism 

In constructivist ontology, social actuality is constantly created and recreated by discourses: interrelated ‘speech acts’ which set up data frames about given facets of society (Salter, 2010, p. 120). The data stemming from discourses is essentially associated to energy, as the flexibility to form or limit them impacts what social actors understand as acceptable in given contexts (Autesserre, 2012, p. 207). This energy is most seen by norms: social expectations which set up intersubjective contexts the place behaviour is both condoned or condemned (Carpenter, 2003, p. 670). Networks of norms create logics of appropriateness that dictate behaviour, as norms change into leverage in favor of particular energy relations (p. 679). When norms are institutionalized, they’re perceived as unproblematic, making it troublesome to acknowledge how they additional form social actuality in somebody’s favor (Jacobsen & Engell, 2018, p. 368). 

When analyzing the actions of worldwide actors, just like the UN, it’s essential to acknowledge energy relations inherent of their norms. UN peacekeeping goals to impartially and consensually stabilize a given battle by minimal drive and facilitate a transition to ceasefire, bringing situations again to ‘regular’ (Luthuli, 2016, p. 5). In the meantime, strong peacekeeping connotes a transition to using drive at a strategic stage to implement stability, not essentially with the host state’s consent (Karlsrud, 2015, p. 43). The UN’s capability to simplify narratives and derive ‘truths’ from social contexts is seen as essential to pragmatically make sense of and orient motion in complicated environments (Autesserre, 2012, p. 202). Nonetheless, understandings of ‘regular’ crucially rely on restricted data, thus changing into an train of energy (Jacobsen & Engell, 2018) when the UN identifies what ‘regular’ is and for whom, violating the UN’s normative dedication to neutrality (Martinez & Eng, 2016, p. 155). In the meantime, strong peacekeeping is commonly seen as problematically mandating the conduct of warfare, contradicting the ‘peace’ facet of an operation (Karlsrud, 2015, p. 43). 

Moreover, UN discourses exist in a postcolonial context. Popularized Western literature, like Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Coronary heart of Darkness, narrating a brutal voyage by the Congo Free State (modern-day DRC) (Ndangam, 2002, p. 19) and racist foundations of sociological practices, as satirized in How you can Write About Africa (Wainana, 2005), have carefully related Africa as an entire with metaphorical ‘darkness’, alluding to the continent’s supposedly inferior, unknown, and intrinsically violent nature (Jarosz, 1992). The simplicity of the metaphor has potent ideological energy in Worldwide Relations, as media, educational writing, and coverage have developed the tendency to group numerous cultures below pessimistic labels of “darkish”, “damaged”, and “primordial” (Wainana, 2005). Such discourses reconstruct the West’s colonial dominance in a social actuality the place the ‘African norm’ is perpetual battle and laggard growth, in want of rescue by ‘enlightenment’ primarily based on Western norms of liberalism, statehood, legitimacy, and democracy; from savage darkness into progressive mild (Jarosz, 1992, p. 105). The UN’s logic of ‘pragmatic simplification’ and truth-seeking can reinforce these restricted frames, undermining native relations, and reaffirming Africa’s dependency on ‘saviour[s]’ through Westernized state-institutions by creating restricted narratives and one-size-fits-all approaches to peacekeeping (Kabamba, 2010, p. 266). 

Via the televisation of the DRC’s battle within the 2000s, media allusion to Conrad’s ‘Coronary heart of Darkness’ metaphor, and MONUSCO drawing steady worldwide consideration, the DRC particularly has come to be seen as emblematic of the whole lot ‘fallacious’ with Africa, shaping MONUSCO’s problematic practices (Kabamba, 2010).

Argument: Developing the ‘Darkish Coronary heart’

The following two-part argument contends that MONUSCO’s adherence to norms of the DRC because the ‘coronary heart’ of the ‘Darkish Continent’ first prioritized Western norms over a deal with root causes of battle and second, it accommodated generalizations of complicated native actors which collectively prevented MONUSCO from fulfilling its mandate (van der Vleuten, 2017, p. 13). 

Root Causes

MONUSCO’s entrance as a peacekeeping mission initially required the UN to easily collect info and monitor (Jacobsen & Engell, 2018, p. 366). Nonetheless, as media reported on the despair and brutality in ‘the center of darkness’ in 1999-2000, human rights violations turned extra blatant and strain mounted (Ndangam, 2002, p. 20). Thus, the priorities of MONUSCO shifted to army enforcement of safety to re-establish the DRC’s “sovereignty… territorial integrity and political independence” (UNSC, 2000). From that time on, UNSC resolutions centered on combating violence and state-building, by using army personnel to manage strategic factors, granting MONUSCO the facility to “take all needed measures to fulfil its mandate” (UNSC, 2003), and forming the Power Intervention Brigade (FIB) in 2010, a specialised weaponized unit (Karlsrud, 2015). This immediate transition from peacekeeping to strong peacekeeping correlates with worldwide actors’ pessimistic conception of the DRC; as a Belgian diplomat commented in 2005, “[v]iolence was the same old mode of relations between the Congolese state and its inhabitants…in the identical method as that they had at all times been” (Kabamba, 2010, p. 271). Understanding violence because the ‘regular’ state of affairs prevented questioning why it even happened, supporting growth of drive and offering an easy answer primarily based on conceptions “entrenched [in] organizational tradition and pursuits” (Autesserre, 2012, p. 209). Concurrently, it strengthened perceptions of the DRC because the ‘Darkish Coronary heart’, the place progress may solely be achieved by a top-down imposition of order to ‘save and repair’ a ‘damaged’ state whose conventional “casual networks of civil society management” (Menkhaus, 2014, p. 165) had been insufficiently secure (Kabamba 2010, p. 266). 

Consequently, root causes of battle resembling ethnic disputes, colonial exploitation and ensuing poverty had been dismissed in favor of Westernized understandings of why states fail: weak authorities and establishments, and inadequate administration (Menkhaus, 2014, p. 155). This deal with Western statehood is exemplified by MONUSCO’s obvious “obsession” (van der Vleuten, 2017) with organizing democratic elections and reestablishing state administration, mandated by all resolutions since UNSC decision 1493 (2003). Elections had been prioritized over guaranteeing civilians’ entry to fundamental wants, regardless of most deaths occurring resulting from absent drugs and malnourishment (Human Rights Watch, 2012). In the meantime, efforts of Deputy Particular Consultant for the Congo to deal with native conflicts had been confronted with hostility and deserted (Autesserre, 2009, p. 268). This simplification of violence contributed to the UN’s alleged “powerlessness…in a hopeless state of affairs”, as MONUSCO employees disclosed (p. 264). However this revealed that MONUSCO lacked long-term strategic considering (Karlsrud, 2015, p. 50) and was “not supposed to do an distinctive job within the first place” (Luthuli, 2016, p. 37), reasonably solely to offer minimal supervision to a forlorn state. Historic conceptions of the DRC as trapped in cycles of violence trapped MONUSCO itself in frames which didn’t account for non-Western dimensions of battle, limiting the operation’s deal with root causes (Kabamba, 2010, p. 276). 

Native Actors

After 1999, UN resolutions institutionalized data frames condoning top-down ‘fixing’ of DRC’s statehood, imposing discourses of Western superiority. Nonetheless, in 2004 the “safety of civilians and disarming rebels and international combatants” (UNSC, 2004) was added to MONUSCO’s mandate. This created a basic conflict inside MONUSCO’s logic of appropriateness between generalization and locality which restricted MONUSCO’s potential to understand native actors as complicated. Beneath the mandate, civilians had been to be shielded from “imminent threats of bodily violence” (UNSC, 2004) which left ample house for interpretation of urgency. In accordance with dominant peacekeeping logics, framing battle in (inter)nationwide phrases, native peacekeeping was “intermittent, and largely left till it was too late”, being seen as an “unimportant, unfamiliar, and unmanageable job” (Benner, 2011, p. 174). This strengthened perceptions of ‘darkish’ Congolese localities as too complicated and problematic to combine in simplified narratives, justifying absent broad civil safety past bodily violence (Kabamba, 2010, p. 270). Moreover, UNSC resolutions didn’t formally acknowledge the usefulness of “experiential linkages to…indigenous cultures and located knowledges” (Jarosz, 1992, p. 108) that civilians needed to provide, reasonably seeing them as merely passive ‘our bodies’ to guard (Lopor, 2016, p. 46). This maimed the autonomy of civilians and restricted native belief for MONUSCO. With out widespread safety civilians struggled for survival as internally displaced peoples (IDPs) or involuntarily started supporting native militias (Hayes & Burge, 2003, p. 5). 

Concurrently, whereas MONUSCO was initially licensed to again the FARDC (UNSC, 2004), one of many solely respectablearmed forces in Western statehood phrases, FARDC troopers considerably contributed to offenses towards civilians (Luthuli 2016 p. 39), forcing the UN to backtrack cooperation. This demonstrated a basic lack of curiosity in completely understanding native actors’ motivations and actions, as by taking sides MONUSCO compromised its potential to guard civilians and impartiality, and delegitimized different teams (Lopor, 2016, p. 33). The “lack of curiosity” is attributable to each the perceived complexity of the battle and the rigidity of current frames (Autesserre, 2012, p. 209), as for the final 10 years UNSC resolutions centered solely on extending, not essentially bettering MONUSCO’s mandate or creating an exit technique (UNSC, 2019). Regardless of Joseph Kabila’s (Laurent Kabila’s son who took over energy after his father was assassinated in 2001) calls for for withdrawal in 2006 and 2009, the UN continued to deploy MONUSCO “changing into celebration to the battle” (Luthuli, 2016, p. 37) as an enemy of the state. Consequently, MONUSCO continued to fail its mandate to guard civilians and restore establishments, reasonably furthering the DRC’s battle. 

Counter Arguments

Conversely, two important rebuttals have to be acknowledged. First, MONUSCO’s mandate matches properly inside internationally outlined norms of peacekeeping[1], reasonably being restricted by frequent operational constraints. The specification of ‘imminent risk’ in MONUSCO’s mandates purposefully gave personnel ample discretion to reply to complicated conditions with minimal violence, reasonably than reflecting an implicit bias. The UN additionally justifiably prioritized state-building, believing that reestablished establishments and administration would trickle-down to offer order on society’s decrease ranges (Autesserre, 2012). Moreover, MONUSCO’s shift to strong peacekeeping was a sound response to the severity of the state of affairs on-the-ground, necessitating permission to make use of ‘all needed measures.’ Mission failures, due to this fact, can reasonably be defined by operational constraints resembling poor pre/in mission coaching, lack of efficient management, and communication difficulties (Novosseloff, 2019). Nonetheless, these peacekeeping norms don’t clarify why MONUSCO’s mandate saved increasing and why regardless of MONUSCO’s deal with state-building and huge funds, new conflicts emerged yearly (Barrera, 2015, p. 1). This essay aimed to exemplify precisely how current norms restricted the vary of perceived viable peacekeeping practices. Locked-in on an amazing focus of combating violence with violence, the FIB, MONUSCO’s specialised army unit was established “on an distinctive foundation…with out making a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed ideas of peacekeeping” (Karlsrud, 2015, p. 45). In the meantime, the UN explicitly sided with ‘respectable’ actors, violating impartiality, and granted extreme freedom to decide on when to ‘shield civilians’, as demonstrated in Ituri in 2003 the place personnel had been seen merely “capturing within the air” throughout inter-ethnic conflicts (p. 44). If the urgency and seriousness of MONUSCO was emphasised by resolutions, past frames necessitating armed responses to ‘immutable’ violence, utilizing standard strategies, there would have been much less house for personnel’s “contingent unwillingness to execute the mandate” (Novosseloff, 2019), laziness, and obvious hopelessness of the state of affairs within the DRC and extra for native peacekeeping to create bottom-up safety. 

Second, the constraining results of discourse are overemphasized, thus the critique neglects the success of MONUSCO given the complicated circumstances. Undoubtedly, MONUSCO has supplied useful help to alleviate human struggling (Barrera, 2015, p. 12). As talked about, MONUSCO’s army motion towards the CNDP prevented additional violence within the DRC’s jap provinces and the formation of the Transitional Authorities in 2003 finally led to elections in 2006. Nonetheless, many extra makes an attempt to deal with different areas of battle, such a combating over useful resource extraction, using rape as a weapon, and corruption not often resulted in successes (p. 12). Even the Transitional Authorities, seen to mark the post-conflict interval solely resulted in additional in-fighting primarily based on ethnic rights and native insecurity (Human Rights Watch, 2012). But, MONUSCO’s mandate didn’t adapt. As an alternative, it additional imposed Westernized conceptions of state-building regardless of in depth proof of their limitations and ineffectiveness, proving that the UN failed to attract classes from its efforts to take care of complicated conflicts, constantly counting on current, inflexible, frames (Benner, 2011, p. 171). Subsequently, it’s needed to judge discourse as a aspect which essentially shapes peacekeeping and creates alternatives for future change. 


The objective of this essay was so as to add one other dimension to clarify why MONUSCO largely failed to satisfy its mandate. Evidently, there are numerous facets of DRC’s battle that this analysis couldn’t cowl, whereas the constructivist lens gives solely a restricted scope for particular points. Nonetheless, within the context of MONUSCO peacekeeping, the adherence to and reinforcement of constructions of the DRC because the ‘darkish coronary heart’ restricted the vary of doable actions which may contribute to peace and carried highly effective associations which confused interpretations of the battle (Ndangam, 2002, p. 18). This coincides with broader critiques of Westernized worldwide intervention; by this mindset change, the UN would break free from limiting logics of appropriateness primarily based on outdated stereotypes and norms. With this in thoughts, the UN must spend money on reflexive and evaluative capacities of locally-sourced data and acceptance of non-state sovereignties, making every new decision not a reiteration however reasonably an enchancment for smarter peacekeeping (Kabamba, 2010, p. 287). In Worldwide Relations there was a transparent shift in direction of context-based battle decision, with which MONUSCO stays at odds, making future change a matter of the extent to which the UN is keen and capable of facilitate radical adjustments (Benner, 2011, p. 177). 


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[1] Outlined within the Theoretical Framework 

Written at: College of Amsterdam
Written for: Battle and Cooperation in World Politics
Date written: Might 2020

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations


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