The U.N. Security Council Thursday approved a two-month extension of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The move has raised hopes that the coming months will be spent overhauling the troubled mission and approving more troops and a rapid reaction force to stamp out conflict.
It has been an up and down year for peacekeeping efforts in Congo. Hopes were raised with the installation of a transitional government, then diminished spectacularly with a fresh uprising and renewed violence in the east.
MONUC, the U.N. mission for Congo, is charged with monitoring the peace process, supporting the transitional government due to lead Congo to elections in a year's time. Perhaps, its most crucial role is stepping in, where possible, to prevent violence against not only its own personnel, but also civilians and aid workers.
A brutal uprising in June by dissident army officers who seized the border town of Bukavu rocked the country's fragile peace process, put in place to end five years of war.
For many, the violence also highlighted the inability of the United Nations here to fully implement its mandate and they looked to Saturday's renewal of MONUC's mandate as a chance to revamp the mission.
However, for now, the decision has been delayed for two months as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan prepares recommendations on what steps should be taken that will help bolster Congo's chances of peace.
By the beginning of October, it is hoped that MONUC will have a new mandate that would substantially add to the 10,800 peacekeepers now deployed. It will also establish a rapid reaction force that could be deployed to stamp out flare-ups of violence.
U.N. sources say that they need at least another 15,000 peacekeepers to operate effectively. They say that, due to budgetary constraints, especially in the United States, which provides a third of the mission's funds, only another 5,000 can realistically be expected.
They also would like to see the creation of a rapid reaction force, which would help MONUC deal with outbreaks of violence, such as the Bukavu uprising in June, more effectively.
However, critics say that MONUC already has the mandate, but has failed to implement it.
Many Congolese do not yet have faith in the peacekeepers. The failure of MONUC to prevent Bukavu from falling into the hands of the rebels led to three days of violent anti-U.N. protests in the capital Kinshasa.