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


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Africa’s geographical and metaphorical ‘coronary heart’, has grow to be notorious for its violent resource-driven and ethnic conflicts (Kabamba, 2010). Concurrently, the DRC gained consideration by means of 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 intensive criticism of MONUSCO’s on-the-ground practices, nonetheless, the very manner the UN speaks concerning the DRC may additionally 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 give attention to root causes of battle and inhibited the visibility of advanced 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 assorted conflicts within the DRC may be attributed to pre-colonial tensions and Belgian management from 1885-1960 (Kabamba, 2010). Nevertheless, most up-to-date instability stems from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and ensuing inflow of Hutu refugees within the DRC’s japanese 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) grew to become 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, on account of a most cancers therapy in Switzerland, to begin a Tutsi marketing campaign towards Hutu extremists. Quickly different states, specifically Rwandan, Burundi, Ugandan, Angolan, and Eritrean nationwide forces joined, initiating the First Congo Struggle (1996-1997) which culminated in a navy coup and collapse of Mobutu’s DRC (p.6). But, the conflict’s various civil and transnational armed teams triggered new conflicts, sparking the Second Congo Struggle (1998-2003), which claimed the biggest civilian death-toll since WWII. To reasonable combating, the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Settlement was signed between the warring states, prompting the UN Secretary Common to advocate {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 12 months, the necessity for extra on-the-ground personnel grew to become obvious, thus with each new UNSC decision the mission grew bigger and bought 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 conflict’s finish, MONUSCO had successes, together with the suppression of the rebel Nationwide Congress for the Defence of the Folks (CNDP) in 2012 (Luthuli, 2016, p. 36), formation of a Transitional Authorities, and elections in 2006. But, MONUSCO is extensively criticized for failing at its core mandates (Karlsrud, 2015), although particular criticism of the UN’s discourse stays extensively absent. This essay argues that language formed MONUSCO by creating restricted information buildings which affected its efficacy. 

Theoretical Framework: Constructivism and Postcolonialism 

In constructivist ontology, social actuality is constantly created and recreated by means of discourses: interrelated ‘speech acts’ which set up information frames about given points of society (Salter, 2010, p. 120). The information stemming from discourses is basically associated to energy, as the flexibility to form or prohibit them impacts what social actors understand as acceptable in given contexts (Autesserre, 2012, p. 207). This energy is most seen by means of 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 grow to be 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 means of minimal power and facilitate a transition to ceasefire, bringing situations again to ‘regular’ (Luthuli, 2016, p. 5). In the meantime, strong peacekeeping connotes a transition to the usage of power 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 advanced environments (Autesserre, 2012, p. 202). Nevertheless, understandings of ‘regular’ crucially rely upon restricted information, thus turning 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 conflict, 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 means of the Congo Free State (modern-day DRC) (Ndangam, 2002, p. 19) and racist foundations of sociological practices, as satirized in How one can Write About Africa (Wainana, 2005), have carefully related Africa as a complete 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, tutorial writing, and coverage have developed the tendency to group various 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 improvement, in want of rescue by means of ‘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]’ by way of Westernized state-institutions by creating restricted narratives and one-size-fits-all approaches to peacekeeping (Kabamba, 2010, p. 266). 

By means of 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 every thing ‘improper’ with Africa, shaping MONUSCO’s problematic practices (Kabamba, 2010).

Argument: Setting up 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 give attention to root causes of battle and second, it accommodated generalizations of advanced 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). Nevertheless, as media reported on the despair and brutality in ‘the center of darkness’ in 1999-2000, human rights violations grew to become extra blatant and stress mounted (Ndangam, 2002, p. 20). Thus, the priorities of MONUSCO shifted to navy enforcement of safety to re-establish the DRC’s “sovereignty… territorial integrity and political independence” (UNSC, 2000). From that time on, UNSC resolutions targeted on combating violence and state-building, by using navy personnel to regulate strategic factors, granting MONUSCO the ability to “take all needed measures to fulfil its mandate” (UNSC, 2003), and forming the Drive 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 standard mode of relations between the Congolese state and its inhabitants…in the identical manner as that they had all the time been” (Kabamba, 2010, p. 271). Understanding violence because the ‘regular’ state of affairs prevented questioning why it even happened, supporting enlargement of power and offering a simple resolution primarily based on conceptions “entrenched [in] organizational tradition and pursuits” (Autesserre, 2012, p. 209). Concurrently, it bolstered perceptions of the DRC because the ‘Darkish Coronary heart’, the place progress may solely be achieved by means of 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 steady (Kabamba 2010, p. 266). 

Consequently, root causes of battle reminiscent of 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 give attention to 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 primary wants, regardless of most deaths occurring on account of absent drugs and malnourishment (Human Rights Watch, 2012). In the meantime, efforts of Deputy Particular Consultant for the Congo to give attention to 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 scenario”, as MONUSCO workers disclosed (p. 264). However this revealed that MONUSCO lacked long-term strategic pondering (Karlsrud, 2015, p. 50) and was “not meant to do an distinctive job within the first place” (Luthuli, 2016, p. 37), relatively solely to supply 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 give attention to root causes (Kabamba, 2010, p. 276). 

Native Actors

After 1999, UN resolutions institutionalized information frames condoning top-down ‘fixing’ of DRC’s statehood, imposing discourses of Western superiority. Nevertheless, in 2004 the “safety of civilians and disarming rebels and overseas combatants” (UNSC, 2004) was added to MONUSCO’s mandate. This created a elementary conflict inside MONUSCO’s logic of appropriateness between generalization and locality which restricted MONUSCO’s means to understand native actors as advanced. Beneath the mandate, civilians had been to be protected against “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 activity” (Benner, 2011, p. 174). This bolstered perceptions of ‘darkish’ Congolese localities as too advanced 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 supply, relatively 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 reputablearmed 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 elementary lack of curiosity in completely understanding native actors’ motivations and actions, as by taking sides MONUSCO compromised its means 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 present frames (Autesserre, 2012, p. 209), as for the final 10 years UNSC resolutions targeted solely on extending, not essentially enhancing 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 “turning into get together 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, relatively furthering the DRC’s battle. 

Counter Arguments

Conversely, two important rebuttals should be acknowledged. First, MONUSCO’s mandate matches properly inside internationally outlined norms of peacekeeping[1], relatively being restricted by frequent operational constraints. The specification of ‘imminent risk’ in MONUSCO’s mandates purposefully gave personnel adequate discretion to answer advanced conditions with minimal violence, relatively than reflecting an implicit bias. The UN additionally justifiably prioritized state-building, believing that reestablished establishments and administration would trickle-down to supply order on society’s decrease ranges (Autesserre, 2012). Moreover, MONUSCO’s shift to strong peacekeeping was a sound response to the severity of the scenario on-the-ground, necessitating permission to make use of ‘all needed measures.’ Mission failures, subsequently, can relatively be defined by operational constraints reminiscent of poor pre/in mission coaching, lack of efficient management, and communication difficulties (Novosseloff, 2019). Nevertheless, these peacekeeping norms don’t clarify why MONUSCO’s mandate stored increasing and why regardless of MONUSCO’s give attention to state-building and enormous price range, new conflicts emerged yearly (Barrera, 2015, p. 1). This essay aimed to exemplify precisely how present 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 navy unit was established “on an distinctive foundation…with out making a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed rules of peacekeeping” (Karlsrud, 2015, p. 45). In the meantime, the UN explicitly sided with ‘reputable’ actors, violating impartiality, and granted extreme freedom to decide on when to ‘defend civilians’, as demonstrated in Ituri in 2003 the place personnel had been seen merely “taking pictures within the air” throughout inter-ethnic conflicts (p. 44). If the urgency and seriousness of MONUSCO was emphasised by means of 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 scenario 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 advanced circumstances. Undoubtedly, MONUSCO has supplied worthwhile help to alleviate human struggling (Barrera, 2015, p. 12). As talked about, MONUSCO’s navy motion towards the CNDP prevented additional violence within the DRC’s japanese provinces and the formation of the Transitional Authorities in 2003 ultimately led to elections in 2006. Nevertheless, many extra makes an attempt to give attention to different areas of battle, such a combating over useful resource extraction, the usage of 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 a substitute, it additional imposed Westernized conceptions of state-building regardless of intensive proof of their limitations and ineffectiveness, proving that the UN failed to attract classes from its efforts to cope with advanced conflicts, constantly counting on present, inflexible, frames (Benner, 2011, p. 171). Subsequently, it’s needed to guage discourse as a side which basically 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 meet its mandate. Evidently, there are numerous points of DRC’s battle that this analysis couldn’t cowl, whereas the constructivist lens affords solely a restricted scope for particular points. Nevertheless, 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 potential 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 means of 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 information and acceptance of non-state sovereignties, making every new decision not a reiteration however relatively 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 prepared 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

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