Tuesday, October 28, 2008

more evidence that North Kivu is the worst place on Earth

Renegade general Laurent Nkunda's rebels have attacked government forces in Eastern Congo. UN forces, seeking to protect civilians, have basically taken the side of the government in this war, but seem to be unable to defeat or even contain Nkunda's militia.

A few thoughts:

First, Congo is one of the very few places where UN forces have taken a side in a civil war, and it's happened twice now. In the 1961, following the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the UN force in Congo used military force to crush the Katanga secessionist bid. (Conspiracy theorists continue to claim that Dag Hammarksjold's plane was shot down because he was acting against the wishes of the Belgian-backed Katanga militia.) And now the MONUC mission has basically taken the side of Kinshasa in fighting the militias in Kivu.

Second thought: Congo is the most intractable conflict on Earth. An oil power-sharing agreement, or some kind of federalized structure, can bring some measure of stability, someday, to Iraq and Sudan. But how do you solve Congo?

Third thought: A friend of mine suggested that countries who have bad p.r. should change their names. Haiti comes to mind. Democratic Republic of Congo is proof that this does not work. If anything, it only makes people long for Zaire, and who ever thought we would long for Zaire?

Fourth thought: This current round of fighting is serious. The UN and Congolese army have been in retreat, and the rebels have been bombing roads where civilians are trying to flee to Goma. But most telling, the UN press corps is actually showing an interest in Congo, where the UN's largest active peacekeeping force is trying to keep some semblance of order.

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