United Nations Peace Operations: Year in Review 2004

IV. Overcoming crises: missions with special challenges in 2004

MONUC: Facing mounting challenges

The peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo faced major challenges in 2004. The Transitional Government was generally slow in implementing the objectives of the transition, as set forth in the December 2002 peace agreement, such as adopting vital legislation, extending State authority, establishing a unified and integrated army, pursuing the national disarmament programme and preparing for the elections.

The brief seizure of the important eastern town of Bukavu in May and June by dissident but prominent military commanders of ex-RCD-Goma threatened to derail the transition process. Instability spread to other parts of the country. The repercussions of this development were felt throughout the region with a large-scale displacement of civilians, many of whom fled to neighboring countries. On 13 August, 152 Banyamulenge refugees from the DRC were massacred at a transit camp in Burundi.

The security situation in Ituri, in northeastern DRC, had improved after the Transitional Government signed an agreement with the armed groups of the region. However, the situation deteriorated in the last few months of 2004. The pilot disarmament and community reintegration, which was launched by the Government in conjunction with MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 1 September, has been slow. Armed groups also resumed clashes with rival groups. A MONUC peacekeeper was abducted by the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and remained in detention for three days in September, while the same group abducted staff members of the Government’s commission for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and a UNDP consultant in late December.

The DRC’s bilateral relations with Rwanda were tested in 2004, with various reports of cross-border activities on both sides of the border. In an effort to counter this negative trend, the DRC and Rwanda agreed to establish a Joint Verification Mechanism in September under the Secretary- General’s auspices. The United States also sponsored talks that led to the signing of an agreement which established the Tripartite Mechanism between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Despite the existence of these new mechanisms, the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda rose sharply in November when Rwanda threatened to undertake a surgical strike in the DRC to take action against the Forces Démocratiques pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR). Rwanda withdrew its threat following a unified condemnation by the international community.

In response to the Secretary-General’s request to augment MONUC in order to help meet the challenges facing the DRC, the Security Council authorized an increase in the Mission’s strength of 5,900 personnel, considerably less than his previous request for an additional 13,100 troops, but raising the military and civilian police ceiling to 16,700. The boost in military strength would make MONUC the largest UN peacekeeping operation in the world, once fully deployed. With the augmented military strength, two brigades of three battalions each were to be deployed to each of the Kivu provinces, enhancing the Mission’s capacity to assist the Transitional Government in discouraging activities of would-be spoilers.

Integrated Brigade in Bunia
Integrated Brigade in Bunia, 24 August 2004, MONUC Photo by: Knalidi Somerson

The Council further requested MONUC to provide advice and assistance to the Transitional Government on essential legislation, which would focus on a package of laws necessary to hold elections and on the post-transition constitution, the reform of the security sector and the holding of national elections in 2005 through the establishment of joint Transitional Government-MONUC-Donor Joint Commissions.

Holding successful elections throughout a country the size of Western Europe with no infrastructure will be an enormous challenge for both the Transitional Government and MONUC. The DRC’s stability depends on credible elections and a constitution that guarantees broad participation, inclusive representation and individual rights.The credibility of the electoral process and its aftermath will be of utmost importance.

To date, MONUC has made some notable achievements. It has peacefully repatriated almost 12,000 foreign combatants and their dependents voluntarily to Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. During the past 16 months, two-thirds of the country has been brought under the control of the central government, and over 1 million internally displaced persons have returned to their homes, particularly in areas where MONUC peacekeepers are present. MONUC’s investigations into allegations of massacres and other major violations of human rights have created credible records on such wrongdoings for their future prosecution by the relevant judicial entity.

However, MONUC’s achievements have been marred by numerous allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by its personnel. MONUC and the Secretariat throughout the year continued to follow-up vigorously on several fronts. Two investigation teams were dispatched to the DRC to look into the allegations and make recommendations on disciplinary actions, the most recent one being a team headed by the Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs. MONUC and other United Nations partners have been developing measures to provide immediate medical and psychosocial assistance to the victims of any abuses, while MONUC continued to implement preventive and advocacy measures in the Mission. This year’s allegations and investigations—not confined to problems in MONUC—are leading to major changes in the way peacekeepers will be inducted and trained, as discussions are underway within the UN and between the UN, its partners and troop-contributing countries on how to coordinate, harmonize rules and standards and enforce discipline so that sexual exploitation and abuse are eliminated from peacekeeping.


UNMEE: Marginal progress in the peace process

The year 2004 saw a deepening of the stalemate in the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process and not much progress on demarcation of the border between the two countries. Despite this setback, UNMEE continued to consult all interested parties in an effort to break the deadlock, and the peace process scored some gains, albeit marginal, - on issues such as the resumption of direct flights between the two countries and meetings by military officers from both sides at the local level.

During the year, the positions of both parties remained polarised. At issue has been Ethiopia's rejection of the April 2002 decision by the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC), which awarded the disputed border village of Badme to Eritrea. Ethiopia continued to justify its rejection of the EEBC decision, arguing that it was "not in the interest of peace between the two countries, and will not advance the major objective of the Algiers Agreement [which in June 2000 ended fighting between the two countries] nor the cause of peace in the subregion," and called for direct talks between the two neighbours. For its part, Eritrea remained firm that the EEBC decision was final and binding, could not be negotiated and should be fully implemented. Eritrea rejected dialogue with Ethiopia, which it said could take place only after the EEBC decision had been implemented.

As the year came to a close, the Ethiopian Government announced on 25 November a five-point proposal which accepts, in principle, the decision of the EEBC and seeks to resolve the conflict with Eritrea through peaceful means. The UN Secretary-General welcomed any step that would contribute to the full implementation of the Algiers Agreement and the subsequent EEBC decision, dialogue between the two countries, as well as to the restoration of normal relations between them. Eritrea, however, has not accepted the Ethiopian proposal.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan inspects an honour guard at the headquarters of the UNMEE
Secretary-General Kofi Annan inspects an honour guard at the headquarters of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, Asmara, 3 July 2004, UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe

In January 2004, in an effort to move the peace process forward, the Secretary-General appointed Lloyd Axworthy, former Foreign Minister of Canada, as his Special Envoy for Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Special Envoy visited Ethiopia twice for consultations, but he was not received by Eritrea. In his letters to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, the Secretary-General explained that the objective of his good offices, through his Special Envoy, was to facilitate the implementation of the Algiers Agreement, the decision of the Boundary Commission and the relevant resolutions and decisions of the Security Council, and to encourage the normalization of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Eritrea's refusal to engage the Special Envoy along with its rejection of dialogue with Ethiopia was based on the fear that acceptance would open the doors to re-negotiate the EEBC decision. Eritrea therefore insisted that Ethiopia must unequivocally accept the EEBC decision and allow the demarcation of the border in accordance with that decision.

UNMEE's relations with Eritrea fluctuated during the year. Perhaps the most notable development was in early March, when the Eritrean Government closed UNMEE's main supply route to its contingents in Sector West, citing unexplained "illegal" activities by UNMEE personnel.

Earlier in the year, Eritrean authorities made a series of public accusations in the media against UNMEE, alleging wrongdoing by Mission personnel. The accusations were accompanied by stepped up restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNMEE personnel in and around Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. Personnel of UN agencies were also subjected to similar restrictions, all of which were strongly protested by UNMEE.

In August, Ethiopia announced that it would allow UNMEE to use a direct flight route between Addis Ababa and Asmara. Eritrean authorities however did not agree.

Smaller but positive developments came in February, when the Military Coordination Commission agreed to hold meetings at the sector level, which strengthened cooperation between the parties by addressing security incidents at local levels.

In addition to carrying out its core mandate, UNMEE also provided humanitarian assistance to the local population by bringing food, water, school lunches and medical clinics to some areas.The Indian contingent provided computer training courses for young people and established a veterinary clinic to train staff and provide service to farmers. Quick impact projects addressed some local needs by reconstructing schools, building latrines and sinking water pumps.

For UNMEE, 2004 was a tough year during which it tried to implement its mandate in a situation of virtual deadlock. Peace, the Mission learned, comes in small steps, with perseverance.


UNMIK: Holding Kosovo to high standards

Over the year, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) faced new challenges in maintaining civil law and order,while it continued to transfer civilian administrative functions to the Kosovo government and to support and strengthen the building of democratic institutions in Kosovo. Creating the conditions that would allow the Security Council and the international community to determine the future status of Kosovo was a priority in 2004 and will continue to underlie the mission’s work in 2005.

Considerable progress remains to be achieved in implementing the “Standards for Kosovo”, which were endorsed by the UN Security Council in December 2003. UNMIK has made it clear that the Kosovo Provisional Institutions must remain committed to establishing a multi-ethnic Kosovo through the rule of law, freedom of movement, return of displaced persons, and functioning democratic institutions, including decentralisation.

Progress towards achieving these goals was set back dramatically in March by widespread violence between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs. Roma and Ashkali communities were also affected. In a series of clashes seemingly spearheaded by Kosovo Albanians, 19 persons lost their lives and hundreds more were injured. UNMIK also suffered casualties.

More than 2,000 of the 4,100 people displaced by the March riots could not return to their homes in 2004.Although many houses have been rebuilt by funds from the Kosovo budget, some displaced families remained too afraid to move back in. More than 30 Orthodox Christian churches and religious buildings were damaged in the riots, and reconstruction was delayed over disagreements with the Orthodox Church.Dozens of investigations and prosecutions of the perpetrators and organisers of the violence were launched to ensure confidence in the rule of the law, and some 80 persons were convicted.

Focus Kosovo - front cover
Focus Kosovo - front cover, September-October 2004 issue

The situation in Kosovo remained tense as the year ended. In view of this,UNMIK police and KFOR have been maintaining a high level of visibility, particularly in minority areas.UNMIK has been steering the political process in Kosovo towards gradual stabilization, recognizing that stability in the region is a key factor in achieving any long-term solution.

UNMIK intensified its efforts to help develop Kosovo’s democratically elected provisional institutions in accordance with the “Standards for Kosovo” plan. Progress achieved in key areas such as security and freedom of movement for all, functioning democratic institutions, the rule of law, return of displaced persons, and respect for the rights of minorities is considered a pre-requisite for the start of talks on future status. The Security Council will review the implementation of the Standards in mid-2005.

The successful holding of the Kosovo Assembly elections in October confirmed the province’s path toward democratic principles, although the lack of Kosovo Serb participation was regrettable. A new alliance among Kosovo Albanians between Ibrahim Rugova’s LDK (Democratic League of Kosovo) and the AAK (Alliance for the Future of Kosovo) surprised many observers, and the new parliament named AAK’s leader Ramush Haradinaj, a former Kosovo Liberation Army field commander, as the new Prime Minister, with Mr. Rugova continuing as President.

UNMIK will continue to work closely with the new government and other local institutions to implement the decentralization plan, which was agreed to in July between UNMIK and representatives of the provisional institutions. The plan seeks to address the concerns of minority communities which want more control over the running of their affairs and greater accountability by local governments. It also calls for the creation of “pilot municipalities” to implement different models and concepts of local government reform.The results will then be evaluated to determine how best to extend reforms throughout Kosovo.

Another overriding priority is to strengthen Kosovo’s economy, since progress on inter-ethnic relations has been thwarted by continuing social tension. In partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Kosovo government, UNMIK is developing programmes to create more jobs for the local population. The plans include encouraging business investments and privatizing land and formerly stateowned enterprises.

UNMIK is expected to play a crucial role in preparing the groundwork for talks on the future status of Kosovo.The Mission will need to address perceptions among Kosovo’s neighbours on how the province’s future status will affect their interests and stability. Other important partners in efforts to resolve the future of Kosovo include the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO.

“The next 12 months will be crucial in determining the future of Kosovo,” SRSG Soren Jessen-Petersen told the newly elected Assembly.

UNMIK’s success will depend in large part on the performance of Kosovo’s elected institutions, which in turn rely on participation and consent by the people of Kosovo. The mission must continue its efforts to mobilize the public to support its work for a stable and peaceful Kosovo.


UNAMA: Milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to peace

After the successful conclusion of the Constitutional Loya Jirga in January and the signing of the new Afghan constitution, the holding of presidential elections in October was the major political development in Afghanistan during 2004. As laid down in the Bonn Agreement of 2001, the country has now a fully representative government that will be working to move forward and consolidate the transition to peace, assisted by the international community.

A voter casts her ballot in the Afghan presidential election
A voter casts her ballot in the Afghan presidential election, Kabul, 9 October 2004, UNDP Photo by Marie Frechon

With the help of UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan), the Joint Electoral Monitoring Body conducted, under difficult conditions, what was generally judged to be a peaceful and credible electoral process. Some 10.5 million Afghans – 41per cent of them women – registered to vote.Voter turnout was remarkable.About 70 per cent of the registered voters made it to the polls. Hamid Karzai won the elections with 55 per cent of the more than 8 million ballots cast and was sworn into office as Afghanistan’s first-ever democratically elected president in December. As the year came to a close, UNAMA was gearing for its next big challenge – assisting parliamentary and local elections expected to be held in the spring of 2005.

UNAMA has overall responsibility for UN activities in the country. In 2004, as has been the case since the signing of the Bonn Agreement, the priority of the UN system was to support Afghan institutions,with more than 500 UN personnel (international and locally recruited staff) working in Government ministries. UNAMA and several UN agencies and programmes have also been cooperating with the authorities on responses to the six-year drought and other related humanitarian issues affecting 4 million Afghans. Though many children still do not go to school, 4.2 million enrolled in 2004 – the largest number in the history of the country. More than 740,000 refugees returned to Afghanistan in 2004, bringing the total number of returnees since 2002 to 3 million. As a direct result of the UN Mine Action programme, the number of mine victims went down from more than 150 a month in 2002 to fewer than 100 in 2004.

Effective support for reconstruction and development require a sustained and predictable influx of resources. At the Berlin conference in March, the Afghan Government presented a post-conflict transition plan, which laid out a long-term recovery programme. Donors responded generously and pledged some $8.2 billion towards rehabilitation and reconstruction activities for a three-year period (2004 to 2007), with the pledges fully covering the funding needs of the first fiscal year.

However,Afghanistan’s tenuous security situation continued to threaten the gains of the recent transition, with incidents caused by terrorist and criminal activities, as well as factional clashes. The increase in poppy cultivation and narcotics trafficking continued to be of particular concern in 2004 as they further eroded the security environment. This situation had a negative impact on assistance and development programmes in the country, as deployment of the United Nations personnel, NGOs and other humanitarian agencies was restricted due to security considerations.

A further example of the tenuous security situation was the abduction of three UN electoral employees on 28 October in Kabul in broad daylight. (They were released on 23 November). In September, demonstrators attacked UNAMA, UNHCR and other UN and NGO offices in Herat. Last year some 33 voter registration personnel were wounded, and 12 were killed.

It is widely believed that a crucial factor in improving the local security environment would be to speed up the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants. Reducing the power of factions would help create space for the effective functioning of the legitimate Government institutions.

Afghan’s disarmament programme, launched with UN support in late 2003, has two major components: demobilizing and promoting the reintegration of an estimated 50,000-60,000 soldiers and officers from existing military units registered with the Ministry of Defense, and collecting heavy weapons. About 30,000 members of the Afghan Military Forces had been disarmed by the end of 2004 and more than 7,500 useable or reparable weapons collected, which included tanks, rockets, anti-aircraft guns, and armoured personnel carriers.

Improving security throughout Afghanistan and establishing the rule of law are key elements for a successful transition to peace.Although there has been some progress in the establishment of the new Afghan National Army and National Police as well as in the reform of the justice sector, support from the international community, in particular through the presence of international military forces, will continue to be required. As part of its assistance mandate, UNAMA’s priorities in 2005 will focus on preparations for legislative elections, the conclusion of DDR, and support to governance and institutional development.UNAMAwill devote special attention to the new National Assembly, the continuation of the reform of the justice sector and the fight against narcotics.Work towards the establishment of the rule of law will continue, including support for mechanisms to protect human rights, and in particular for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.


UNOMIG: Supporting the peace process

In 2004, the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) continued to play a dual role in the Georgian-Abkhaz post-conflict situation. It verifies compliance with the 1994 “Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces” – commonly referred to as the “Moscow Agreement” -- while striving to keep the sides – the Government of Georgia and the de facto Abkhaz authorities – focused on moving the peace process forward.

UNOMIG Military Observers' winter survival exercise in the Caucasus Mountains
UNOMIG Military Observers' winter survival exercise in the Caucasus Mountains, Kodori Valley, UNOMIG Photo

UNOMIG has proved to be an effective tool at defusing tensions by managing difficult situations and rapidly responding to challenging moments in the turbulent relationship between the two sides. During 2004, the Mission faced an increasingly complex political situation on both sides of the ceasefire line and a faltering peace process. However, there was progress in some areas. UNOMIG facilitated several meetings between the parties and with the Group of Friends.

The Mission continued to focus on improving the overall security situation and to encourage voluntary and sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees through economic rehabilitation and quick-impact projects, including renovating schools, hospitals and libraries and restoring basic public services. UNOMIG has cooperated closely with UNDP in preparation of a rehabilitation programme, which will focus on agriculture, health, water, sanitation and capacity-building for the Gali, Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli districts

However, these activities must be seen in the context of the Mission’s ultimate aim: to initiate meaningful dialogue between the parties, leading to a comprehensive political settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict through substantive negotiations on the future status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia.

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