Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Democratic Republic of Congo and the Death of Responsibility To Protect

As Congo contributes to unravel, Angola says it's sending in troops. This would in effect reignite the Congolese civil war, as Rwanda and Angola would go head to head for control of Congolese resources once again. This is seriously alarming, but what alternatives are there from a UN perspective? Here's a couple:

1. Strengthen MONUC's mandate. Depending on whom you ask, the UN Mission in Congo either has the mandate to fire on rebels to protect civilians, or it has the mandate to do so only in conjunction with the Congolese army. Well, now that the Congolese army has fled from Kivu, MONUC is on its own. The one thing they're definitely not allowed to do is fire on the Congolese army, which has done much of the raping and looting and killing. And even if the mandate is strengthened, it's not clear that MONUC -- with 17,000 troops in a country of 60 million the size of Western Europe -- has the capacity to stop, contain, or disarm any of the major militia groups in the area. So perhaps we could...

2. Send more troops to support MONUC, and better trained ones, too, from Europe. Only a couple of problems with that. First, according to diplomats at the UN, they'd take months to deploy. Second, who will send them? The only country that seems gung ho about this is, surprise surprise, Nicholas Sarkozy's France, and given France's deteriorating relationship with Rwanda and the Tutsis in general, it would be awfully hard to put them in blue helmets and expect them to be seen as honest actors. (Not that MONUC has exactly gained a sterling reputation.) Even the UN's Dept. of Peacekeeping, sources tell me, would rather the French not get involved. So, pessimist that I am, at the moment I'll settle for a more modest option:

3. Making sure that the UN doesn't make things even worse by committing abuse or promising to do things it can't. The first rule is, of course, do no harm.

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