Citing a new report from Human Rights Watch, the UN’s Congo mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, “has abetted the killings of at least 1,400 civilians and a number of rapes. The report calls on the UN to immediately suspend its collaboration with the Congolese army.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to the deadliest and longest lasting conflict since the Second World War. This year, a major offensive launched by the Congolese military against invading Hutu militias from Rwanda has resulted in entire villages being destroyed by both sides, while the MONUC troops either turn a blind eye to any atrocities, or, as the Human Rights Watch report accuses, actively support the “Congolese Army’s murderous tactics.”
The 19,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force, by supplying ammunition and food to the Congolese military, has lost any pretense towards neutrality or the function of a peacekeeper. And this is not just the assessment of Human Rights Watch. According to the UN’s own internal assessment of its performance in the Congo, it has failed in its peacekeeping mission.
The UN’s internal report also references MONUC’s complicity in the ongoing violence and the humanitarian catastrophe in the Congo, as well as the looting of the country’s natural resources. Reports that UN diplomats even tried to delay the release of its report, since “there is a lot in there that makes us look complicit” (according to an anonymous UN official) were leaked to the press earlier this year.
Civilians caught in the crossfire have not found much protection by MONUC peacekeeping troops. In many instances, MONUC forces have arrived “too late or not at all,” leaving people exposed to attacks with nowhere else to turn.
Most of the blame for the deaths of innocent civilians lies clearly with the ridiculous mandate of the UN’s Congo mission itself. Paradoxically, it has given itself the task of simultaneously protecting civilians while supporting the Congolese Government’s efforts at stopping a brutal civil conflict–with only 19,000 troops in a country the size of Western Europe!
As MONUC has grown into the world’s largest “peacekeeping mission” (with a budget of over $1 billion annually), it has done nothing to stem the illegal flow of minerals out of the country, and even less to protect civilians from the abuses of both the army and the rebels. Under MONUC’s watch, over 1 million villagers have been displaced, rape has been used as a military tactic, and the security situation (especially in the eastern part of the country) has gone from bad to nearly non-existent. Peace seems more remote now than before the UN’s involvement.
With that kind of record, and with worldwide support for its mandate sinking faster than Barack Obama’s approval ratings, it’s no wonder that even the Congo Government is contemplating asking the UN force to withdraw from its territory altogether.
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