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Assessing the Way Forward in Eastern Congo

Interviewee: Anthony W. Gambino, former USAID mission director for the Democratic Republic of Congo
Interviewer: Stephanie Hanson
October 31, 2008

Conflict in eastern Congo has escalated, with hundreds of thousand displaced in recent weeks. Anthony Gambino, former USAID mission director for the Democratic Republic of Congo and author of a new Council Special Report on the country, discusses the rampant lawlessness in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu. The Congolese military is not fighting rebel groups, but rather looting and fleeing from conflict. Gambino says that the "only plausible force" to secure eastern Congo is the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC. He suggests that the problem in eastern Congo is analogous to the problem Sierra Leone faced in 2000, when a British intervention stabilized the country.

Gambino is critical of U.S. policy toward the Democratic Republic of Congo. "We have regularly been satisfied with small steps that may appear to paper over the crisis of the moment but in no way deal with the fundamental problems." As he notes, the problems in eastern Congo are not new, but have persisted for the past fifteen years. The United States should support an expansion of MONUC by two thousand troops, he says.

The Congolese army needs extensive training to become a professional force, Gambino recommends. He outlines the way in which this training should work, and notes that it will take at least two years before even one or two brigades would be ready for operations.

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