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.
Dec 21, '04
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