Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali: Multinational Forces Supporting Weak States

Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali: Multinational Forces Supporting Weak States

Walter Sebastian and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Multinational forces in Mali led by France are currently bombarding Islamist forces in several parts of this country. Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) is deeply troubled by the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alongside other areas of instability in this nation. Therefore, major plans are under way in both nations whereby central powers are to be supported by outside nations, in order to lay the foundations for greater stability in the DRC and Mali.

Of course, the events happening in the DRC and Mali are very different but weak central states and internal inefficient military forces mean that only outside nations can prevent further chaos, providing it is backed by a genuine political angle in both nations. Likewise, many African nations are in Somalia in order to contain the Islamist al-Shabaab (al-Shabab) threat. Also, the Central African Republic (CAR) is another hotspot whereby regional powers are needed because of the weakness of the central state and tensions exist between Sudan and South Sudan.

It is too early to say if international forces can contain the various issues related to instability in the DRC and Mali. After all, the events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are firm examples of failed states after outside nations meddled within the internal political arena. However, on the plus side is that regional nations are on board when it comes to Mali. Similarly, since M23 rebels took several parts of the DRC it is clear that regional nations have lumped together in order to try to contain the situation. Yet, unlike Mali, you have disagreements between several regional powers and the UN over who is funding the M23 rebels in the DRC.

Another major issue for regional nations which promise to support an intervention force in the DRC is how will this be funded, will the new entity be fully equipped militarily and how long will it take to come to fruition? Likewise, you clearly have tensions with the current political leaders of the DRC and Rwanda because both nations have accused the other of arming various rebel factions. Alongside this, many regional powers are involved in Somalia and clearly some nations could become overstretched.

In Mali it currently appears that the military intervention led by France is building up a powerful momentum because Islamist forces have either been repulsed in many areas or they have melted away. Of course, it is too early to say if counter-attacks by small Islamist bands will emerge. Also, the vast size of Mali and the uncontrollable border regions mean that events could still transpire negatively in the future. However, unlike the DRC, it is clear that one major power is interested in trying to resolve the crisis and this can be seen by the number of French troops being deployed in Mali.

France clearly wants regional African nations to send troops to Mali in order to crush Islamists in the north of this nation. Nigeria and many other nations have promised to support Mali but it takes time because of issues related to logistics and many other important areas. However, one major headache for France, Nigeria and other nations involved in Mali, is the weakness of the internal political arena and elements in the north do have genuine political concerns based on the ethnic angle.


Barbara Plett, UN correspondent for the BBC, confirms about the DRC that eight regional presidents are set to sign a UN accord related to stability throughout the region. From the standpoint of the UN it is instrumental to have an intervention force to deal with the crisis in the DRC. The seriousness of the crisis in underlined by the fact that a reported 800,000 people have become displaced since the M23 rebels began their military advance.

Barbara Plett states that “The M23 rebels say they want to improve living conditions for the people of eastern DR Congo, but the UN says they are supported by Rwanda, which has been heavily involved in its eastern neighbor since those responsible for the country’s genocide fled there en masse in 1994.”

Further down she states that “Alongside this rapid reaction force, said a UN official, a broad political plan to bring stability to the region is set to be signed on the side-lines of the AU summit in Addis Ababa by the leaders of the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Tanzania and South Africa.”

Thierry Vircoulon, International Crisis Group, and many others remain skeptical because clearly you have tensions between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. On top of this, many other regional issues are extremely problematic. Therefore, Thierry Vircoulon comments that “The African Union does not possess the necessary military capabilities to deploy a force in eastern DR Congo in the short term because it is already overwhelmed by the crises in Somalia, the Central African Republic and Mali.”

However, it is clear that the UN is extremely alarmed by events in the DRC and Mali therefore the regional angle would become potent if it helped to bring these nations on board. In Mali, for example, it is clear that Islamists have destroyed indigenous African Islamic Sufi shrines and other places of religious and historical significance. Alongside this, the introduction of Islamic Sharia law is clearly troubling the people of Mali which fear the Talibanization of society. Therefore, France and regional nations needed to step in once Islamist factions threatened to move deeper into the country.

Despite this, France and other nations should look deeply into their policies in Libya because clearly the destabilization of this nation is unhinging many regional nations. Likewise, the recent terrorist attack in Algeria had a major Libya angle with regards to military arms, training and other factors. Untold numbers were killed in Libya and many massacres took place against pro-Gaddafi forces. This reality means that Libya remains shattered by the meddling of outside nations and the convulsions of this reality continues to shake modern day Libya and other nations like Mali.

Events in Mali are still in the early stages and nobody yet knows the knock-on-effect to regional nations. Similarly, the political and military angle to the DRC is still in its infancy and it remains to be seen how the M23 rebels will take to outside meddling if you have no genuine political agenda. However, leaving both nations to fend for themselves isn’t a viable option given the past reality of the DRC and the destruction of indigenous Islam in Mali. Therefore, it is essential that the international community supports regional nations which are willing to help given the seriousness of both the DRC and Mali.

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