PhD Candidate of International Relations,
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg—South Africa
Beyond the rhetoric of traditional causes of conflicts which intermittently are also at the root cause of African territorial civil conflicts, this paper examines the question as to why conflict resurges in states where conflict has previously been resolved. From the perspective of two major theoretical frameworks in International Relations: Liberalism and Realism, this paper argues that mechanisms for conflict resolution are often short-termed and often not home-groomed to accommodate the needs of citizens emanating from a civil war. Liberals argue that this is primarily a failure of cooperation between external and internal actors or stakeholders in the peace process. To them, this lack of cooperation generates economic problems and inhibits mistrust which is the embryo for conflict resurgence. In contrast conflict resolution fails primarily as a result of factors emphasized by Realism. The conflict may not have been ripe for resolution because the practical meaning of recognition revealed large gaps between the ways that the parties defined their core interests. Against this background and given the depth of antagonism between the DRC government and MONUC on the one hand and rebel movements on the other, economic wealth of the Congo has failed to generate support for the peace process. Instead, it increased friction and placed additional political obstacles in the way of compromise. The paper also examines the potency of peacekeeping as a vehicle for conflict resolution. It argues that the design and conceptualization of peacekeeping albeit structural challenges like inadequate resources, ill-equipped personnel and lack of a clearly defined and sustainable vision are at the bedrock of cyclical conflicts. In examining the role of MONUC and other interveners in the Congolese peace process, the paper engages a conceptual thesis which seeks to clarify the difference between peacekeeping as a mediator, meddler and interventionist in African civil conflicts. This clarification will inform conceptual thinking on the potency of peacekeeping as a vehicle for the resolution of civil conflicts.
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one demonstration of the fragile nature of post conflict reconstruction and speaks to the need to step-up conflict prevention strategies to meet current challenges which have given rise to new trajectories to territorial conflicts in Africa. Despite deploying a Peace Mission to the Congo (ONUC) in the 1960s, and despite currently harboring the largest and highest funded United Nations Peace Operation (MONUC); the United Nations (UN) is still finding it difficult to bring an end to the territorial conflict in what is regarded as the site for the world’s worst humanitarian conflict. The conflict, therefore, seems to protract with each renewed effort to resolve it. Following field visits, extensive reading on the Congo and interviews with conflict analysts and residents of the DRC, this paper assesses the viability of peacekeeping as a measure for preventing the resurgence of new territorial conflict. While most interviewed are of the view that the challenges of the DRC peace process are enormous and complex, this paper interrogates the role of MONUC as a conflict prevention mechanism, and its effectiveness in sustainable peacebuilding in the Great Lakes region. The paper enriches conceptual thinking with the view that peacekeeping as a form of external intervention has the capacity to support fragile states in their peace building process, and to check prospective territorial conflicts if certain requirements are met. Preliminary investigations indicate that, contrary to previous research which posited political, natural resource and cultural underpinnings as causes of the current DRC conflict, the lack of a clearly...