Failure in Congo

  1. Failure in Congo
    Monday, December 13, 2004; Page A20

    ONE OF THE MOST costly wars of the past half-century is on the brink of resuming: There are reports of heavy fighting around eastern towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some say the army of neighboring Rwanda has again invaded, as its government threatened it would do last month. Congo's government is sending its own troops to the area; refugees are once again on the move. Last week the U.N. Security Council issued a stern warning to Rwanda and threatened unspecified "further actions" if it did not withdraw. Yet if Congo once again becomes a regional battleground, the United Nations will have mainly itself to blame.

    Rwanda has sent its army into Congo twice before, in 1996 and 1998. In both cases, as now, the announced aim was to attack Rwandan Hutu militias based there, including fighters responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The last incursion led to a five-year war involving at least seven African countries; by common estimates more than 3 million people died, mostly from disease or starvation. A peace agreement 18 months ago was to end the war, and Rwanda and other nations withdrew their troops. But the keys to the accord were that U.N. peacekeeping troops fill the vacuum in eastern Congo, a vast area where the central government and its forces have little presence, and that the militias whose presence ignited the conflict be disarmed.

    In both these tasks the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known by the acronym MONUC, has failed miserably. Though it is the largest such mission in the world, with more than 10,000 troops, it has failed to keep order or even to prevent massacres in some of the principal towns of the region. In Bukavu and Bunia, it has stood by while local militias have raped and murdered civilians within sight of its bases. Worse, its own troops have raped or sexually exploited women and girls; the practice "appears to be significant, widespread and ongoing," according to a confidential U.N. report described by The Post's Colum Lynch last month. With Rwandan troops massing, the U.N. force finally raided a couple of militia camps in the past few days. But its policy of relying on persuasion rather than force to disarm hard-core Hutu militants has, not surprisingly, achieved next to nothing.

    Rwanda is wrong to respond to this situation with a new invasion, which may be aimed at Congo's lucrative resources as much as at the Hutu militias. If its troops have crossed the line and are not withdrawn, the Security Council should consider sanctions. But it should also, at the same time, take an honest look at the wreck of its mission in this strategic African country. Perhaps there are mitigating circumstances; it's probably true, for example, that the force has always been too small to do its job. Still, the disastrous performance of U.N. peacekeeping in Congo ought to lead to a broad reconsideration of such missions. Neither Africa nor the rest of the world can afford such failures.
  2. 36 Comments

  3. by   Mkue
    Congo Peacekeeper Sex Scandal: Investigators Said to Be Threatened
    December 17, 2004

    UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 16 - United Nations investigators looking into charges of rape, pedophilia and prostitution involving peacekeepers in Congo have been threatened with retaliatory attacks, and witnesses have been bribed to change incriminating testimony, a draft report says.

    The confidential 34-page document details 68 allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers from Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uruguay, and lists incidents where soldiers from Morocco, Pakistan and Nepal worked to obstruct investigators.

    The majority of allegations involved peacekeepers soliciting prostitutes, but there are nine cases of rape cited, including one in which a Nepalese soldier is charged with kidnapping and repeatedly assaulting a 14-year-old girl over a three-day period.

    A team led by Angela Kane, an assistant secretary general, has been sent to Congo to step up the investigation, and the organization's Office of Internal Oversight Services is expected to make public soon how many of the 68 allegations are supported by enough evidence to merit legal action.

    Earlier investigations of the scandals, according to United Nations officials, have resulted in the imprisonment of a French civilian near Paris on charges of pedophilia and the suspension of a senior official from Australia for consorting with Congolese prostitutes in a bar.

    The report, dated July 15 and first disclosed by The Washington Post on Thursday, said that it was difficult to identify and apprehend perpetrators because of the inability or unwillingness of women to name them, the lack of cooperation from commanders and because troop contingents rotated so frequently that individuals were difficult to trace. For many of the women, the report noted, prostitution is their livelihood and foreign troops their favored customers.

    It said that Congolese women working for the United Nations were afraid to report supervisors' demands for sex for fear of losing their jobs. Another problem was the number of babies fathered by soldiers, who usually had returned to their own countries before the children were born.

    Although the United Nations has openly addressed sexual abuse by its personnel in Congo, the scandal has further harmed the organization's reputation at a time when it is under fire for mismanagement and corruption in the oil-for-food program and members of the United States Congress are calling on Secretary General Kofi Annan to resign.
  4. by   Mkue
    In both these tasks the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known by the acronym MONUC, has failed miserably. Though it is the largest such mission in the world, with more than 10,000 troops, it has failed to keep order or even to prevent massacres in some of the principal towns of the region
    More than 10,000 troops, I don't understand why the peacekeeping mission has not been more successful.
  5. by   gwenith
    By what do you measure success??? This is a very very volatile area that is a mix of jungle and rebels.

    I have searched the web for articles either supporting or refuting this claim of "miserable failure" (compared to what Iraq???) and it seems that the situation there is far far more complex than is being reported by the Washington post.

    Last Updated: Saturday, 20 November, 2004, 08:23 GMT
    E-mail this to a friend Printable version
    DR Congo's wild east
    The BBC world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle begins a four-part series on the Democratic Republic of Congo by reflecting on his travels in the east of the country. It is difficult to imagine a place more pivotal to the future of Africa than the DR Congo.

    There are of course more important countries in terms of economic power and political clout. South Africa, Nigeria and half a dozen other African states can be ranked as serious players on the world stage.

    Internally displaced Congolese people wait to see a doctor in Ngungu, eastern Congo
    The region's conflicts have left an array of displaced people
    But since Congo's latest war broke out in 1996, its potential to drag down the prospects of the whole continent have once again become clear.

    At the height of the war, the armies of nine African countries were either directly or indirectly involved in DR Congo.

    Most of them still have influence through the medium of proxy militias, mafia-style business networks or ethnic links.

    Under the transitional peace deal government DR Congo has a president and four vice-presidents drawn from the main local players in the conflict.

    It also has the most expensive UN peacekeeping force in the world (it costs around $700 million a year) and is due to hold elections next June.

    Explosive region

    After a journey through the war-torn east of the country - I went from Bunia in the north-east to Uvira in the south-east - I find the idea of holding fair elections across the country, in just a few months' time, almost inconceivable.

    Eastern Congo is a critical part of a critical country because it borders Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

    The war in DR Congo

    All of these countries have their own internal conflicts. And all of them, in one way or another, have intervened militarily in Congo.

    Rwanda is the key. Despite its small geographical size, it has one of the most powerful armies in the region.

    It has intervened directly in Congo at least twice on the grounds that the remnants of the ethnic Hutu army which committed the Rwandan genocide of 1994 are still a coherent force hiding in the forests of Congo.

    The government in the Rwandan capital Kigali argues that the armed Hutu represent a threat to ethnic Tutsi civilians in Rwanda.

    This is almost certainly true. But more importantly, given the cynical way power is exercised, they are also a threat to the Tutsi-dominated military-economic power network which extends well beyond the borders of Rwanda.


    UN 'glue'

    The UN is the glue which is holding Congo together.

    Although it is stretched absurdly thinly - currently about 10,000 soldiers for a country larger than western Europe - it seems clear that without a UN force, and international pressure for peace, the war would have been even longer, bigger and more deadly.

    With so few soldiers the UN cannot, as a rule, physically stop fighting.

    There seems to be a determination in America to disband the UN. This of course has nothing to do with the fact that the Iraq war in not getting a mandate from the UN became an illegal action.
  6. by   Mkue
    In the past I would have thought that 10,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops would be able to have better control of rebels but then again, I'm not there so I have to rely on the media to keep me informed..just as in Iraq...we rely on interpretation of hostilities..

    And then I came across the article about peacekeepers being accused of sexual abuse and so on and I'm wondering why this isn't plastered all over World News everywhere. It's really a shame to accidently come upon stories such as these.. I'm sure if U.S. peacekeepers are involved it would be front page news. Breaking news at that.
  7. by   gwenith
    That pliant of "they are covering it all up" is getting old and tired and is blatantly untrue. It is in all the papers all over the world along with the reaction of horror and dismay shown by Kofi Anan. A simple Google search will show you that that part of the story has been reported and reported well. But that was not what was highlighted. What was highlighted was the UN "failure". I merely pointed out that it might not BE the failure that many neocons would love it to be. Remember dismantling the UN would be doing the current administration a big favour - it would cripple America economically and politically for the next 10 years but it would be doing Bush and Co a big favour.
  8. by   Mkue
    I don't know any neocons personally but speaking for myself as an American Citizen I do want peace in the Congo, I want UN efforts there to be successful just as I want coalition efforts in Iraq to be successful.

    I did do a search and found several articles about the UN Peacekeepers abuse, however if I had not accidently came upon the topic I wouldn't have looked for it. The newspapers I read in the US have not mentioned the story so I was very surprised and upset by the article when it was accidently brought to my attention.

    I certainly wouldn't want the United Nations dismantled but it's obvious to me that changes need to be made in order for the body to regain credibility.
  9. by   donmurray
    Expecting 10,000 peacekeepers to do a better job than the fifteen times bigger coalition forces can manage in Iraq, in a country four times the size of Iraq, seems a little optimistic.
  10. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from donmurray
    Expecting 10,000 peacekeepers to do a better job than the fifteen times bigger coalition forces can manage in Iraq, in a country four times the size of Iraq, seems a little optimistic.
    You took the words out of my mouth, Don.
  11. by   Mkue
    It has taught me to lower my expections of the United fault for thinking they could solve a crisis without hostility and sexual corruption.
  12. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Oh please marie....
  13. by   Mkue
    A thousand a day dying in Congo, survey finds

    From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

    One thousand people die every day in Democratic Republic of the Congo, almost all of them from entirely preventable causes such as malnutrition and treatable disease, a new survey has found-despite the fact that the war has officially been over for 18 months.

    The survey, conducted by the International Rescue Committee through exhaustive house-by-house interviews with 19,500 families in 750 communities, is one of the most comprehensive ever compiled in a conflict zone.

    "This is 3.8 million people dead above what you would normally expect [in a developing country such as Congo] and we've ignored it," said IRC doctor Richard Brennan, who co-wrote the study.

    "Put that in perspective: We know 250,000 died in Bosnia; we know 12,000 died in Kosovo. And that was on everyone's TV screen. Congo is the deadliest war anywhere in the world since the end of World War II and no one knows about it. No politician is saying, 'This is outrageous.'"

    Just 2 per cent of the Congolese deaths are due to violence, according to the study, but the fighting that continues in parts of Congo, particularly the east, is the source of instability that precludes agriculture and the rebuilding of the country's health-care system.

    A new invasion by Rwandan and Rwandan-backed troops has flared in recent weeks, including clashes with government forces Monday.

    "The good news: It's something you can do a lot about," Dr. Brennan said. "Our survey demonstrated that if you remove violence, de facto all those other death rates, malnutrition and disease, would almost be normal. If the international community responded appropriately by investing in an appropriate peacekeeping force, providing human assistance in proportion to the humanitarian need in Congo, you would save hundreds of thousands of lives per year."

    A relatively simple solution, he said, would be to increase the size of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo and to better train and equip those soldiers. But the UN Security Council turned down a request from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to double the size of the existing 10,800-person mission and increase its budget in the fall; instead, about 5,000 more troops will be sent. Congo is roughly the size of Western Europe.

    "We're not expecting people to go into Fallujah, this is not high-intensity conflict," said Dr. Brennan, who spent months with the IRC team travelling by motorbike and canoe between villages to compile the data. "If you control the militias, people will go home, farmers will return to the fields. Parents could start going to clinics, they could feed their kids and get vaccinations."

    In 2003, international expenditure for humanitarian assistance for Iraq was $138 (U.S.) per person per year; in Sudan's Darfur region that figure is currently $89. But in Congo, it is $3, despite the fact that the country's death toll dwarfs those of Iraq, Darfur or any other humanitarian crisis of the past two decades.

  14. by   gwenith
    The really sad part is that this is a country rich in resources but like so many African countries for the last 200 years - some other beggar is getting rich off of it while they starve. Ask them why they like the world bank. And who has the biggest share of the world bank???

    Even sadder is that if it were not for Iraq.....................
    Last edit by gwenith on Dec 21, '04