I’m back in the blogosphere after a hiatus, and I have a lot to say. If you’ve been following African news during the past few weeks, then you know that the Democratic Republic of Congo has spiraled once again into conflict. Since August, fighting has forced as many as 250,00 people from their homes, scattering them to refugee camps and the bush. In eastern Congo, a tenuous cease-fire is holding between rebel militias and Congolese government troops. The situation is so fragile that an emergency summit meeting was held in Nairobi on Friday, that brought together African leaders, Western diplomats, and UN officials. Notably absent from the proceedings, was Laurent Nkunda, the rebel general who has threatened to take the war across the vast country to Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. The New York Times reports that Nkunda was not invited.
Refugees in eastern Congo flee fighting [Stephen Morrison-European Pressphoto Agency]
The non-invitation of Nkunda to the summit meeting in Nairobi is intriguing since he is the chief instigator of the conflict in the Kivus. Speaking of Nkunda’s exclusion, Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete iterated that only leaders were involved in the summit (like it or not, Nkunda has emerged as a leader in his own right, and excluding him here seems ill-advised). In the general’s absence,
The African leaders then signed a multipronged agreement calling for an immediate end to the conflict, and they said that if United Nations peacekeepers could not protect civilians from senseless killing, African peacekeepers would be sent to the front lines.
The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUC) is the largest and most expensive in the world (over 16,000 troops funded at more than $1 billion), and they have already proven time and again that they are unable to adequately protect civilians from both the rebels and government troops. In fact, the general leading the peacekeeping mission resigned two weeks ago, and the NY Times reports:
Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the resignation, said he had criticized the lack of a coherent strategy, the lack of a mandate and the lack of resources needed to get the peacekeeping job done.
Call me crazy, but this sounds eerily familiar. How is it that 14 years after the Rwandan genocide, peacekeepers are still dealing with the same fundamental problems?
Congo’s war is Africa’s war and it is a conflict that can’t wait to be solved. In my opinion, the peacekeeping system needs to reworked and General Nkunda needs to be drawn in to talks if there is to be a hope of peace.