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Operation Artemis Congo, a success. ESDP's teething flaws

(B2 archives) Operation Artemis in the Congo is a success even if European defense cooperation still suffers from teething flaws

The European Union took stock of the Artemis mission to the press on Wednesday. Carried out in Bunia from June 12 to September 1, this operation saw the participation of 17 European countries – assisted by Brazil, Canada and South Africa – and the commitment of 2000 men in total (with relief) including 400 were located on the rear base in Entebbe (Uganda). It is now relayed by the United Nations Mission in Congo (Monuc); the last soldiers present in Bunia, 300 French, having returned to their base last Saturday.

Operational and political success

“We consider this operation a great success”, welcomed Aldo Ajello, the special representative of the European Union for the Great Lakes region, “from a double point of view, humanitarian and political". "When the first soldiers arrived, there were few people in the city, a large number of soldiers, very often children, with glazed eyes and armed with Kalashnikovs which exceeded them.” he testified.

“A few weeks later I went back there with Javier Solana (the Secretary General of the Council and High Representative for Foreign Policy), people had returned, there were no more weapons in town, at least visible weapons, and the child soldiers had disappeared. A week ago, the situation had improved further and the arrival of the Monuc contingent, 5000 strong and especially Indian combat helicopters, which will be deployed in Ituri is already making a strong impression on the militias”. [“The European Union demonstrated its responsiveness and its military capacity to engage in an operation which was an urgent response to a dramatic situation.”]

From a political point of view,the blockage of the peace process has been lifted, the mortgage of the intervention of foreign countries (Uganda and Rwanda) has been removed. All the institutions are there and functioning. A chief of staff, four vice-presidents have been appointed. The parliamentary assembly has been set up. An integrated police unit of 3000 men, made up of all government components, is being set up to be sent to Ituri".

But a precarious success

Aldo Ajello, however, acknowledged that this success was precarious. “Indeed, the militias continue to engage. But it's no wonder. At each end of conflict, it is the same phenomenon. Everyone is trying to position themselves in front of the power, to show their strength… It is therefore urgent to quickly form a new Congolese army and simultaneously proceed with the demobilization of the militias and their reintegration “either into the army or into civilian life. If the special representative has assured that “All war criminals will be prosecuted before the new International Criminal Court”, he also pointed out “that a problem remains for facts dating back to before 2002. "

Point which could find a solution in the future. The European Union remains, in any case, committed to the region by providing financial support of 205 million euros for the peace and technical process (structuring and training of police forces, judicial support through the training of judges and guards prison, administrative support).

Quick response but weaknesses for future operations

Drawing a lesson from this operation, the EU's Chief of Military Staff, General Rainer Schuwirth, for his part remarked that this operation “demonstrated the European Union's ability to intervene quickly and strongly”. A statement shared by French General Bruno Neveux, commander of Operation Artemis. The military chief of staff highlighted two points that could be weaknesses in future operations: “the question of transport” especially when the theater of operations is far from Europe and “means of transmission and communication".

Headquarters in Paris worked well

As for the need for a European headquarters, based in Tervuren, it was General Neveux who seemed more mixed. Without wanting to take sides, “this decision is a political decision”, the commander of Operation Artemis instead emphasized “that the framework nation concept has worked perfectly. He offered the structure to launch an operation in liaison with all the institutions in Brussels.” France indeed provided the commanders of the operation as well as the backbone of the corresponding staffs and was able to take advantage of the support provided by its various bases in several African countries (Chad, Libreville, Entebbe). For the first time, a European headquarters at strategic level, “Operation Headquarters” (OHQ) had also been set up in Paris.

Since 1999, Ituri, a region located in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaire) near Uganda, has been the scene of violent clashes which have left some 50 dead and 000 displaced.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

article published in Agence Europe, September 2003

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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