Thursday, November 13, 2008

Congolese Turning against MONUC

The indispensable Colette Braeckman reports that the mood in Congo is turning against MONUC:
The days are gone when William Swing, special representative of UN Secretary-General, was called "Coco Swing" in a song affectionately dedicated to him . . . Today Congolese throw stones at the white UN vehicles and editorialists [in Kinshasa] call for the departure of the UN peacekeepers. For his part, General Nkunda writes to the UN that his movement "can no longer guarantee the safety of UN forces on the front." Ten years after the arrival of the first UN observers and two years after having contributed to the success of the country's first democratic elections, the UN Mission has united almost everyone against it.
The UN mission has weathered criticism in the past. In 2003, before the arrival of French troops in Operation Amarylis, the population of Bunia had turned sharply against the UN for failing to protect them and end the fighting. In 2006, demonstrations against the UN broke out in Bukavu after that city was ransacked by rebel leaders. But Braeckman says that the massacre at Kiwandja in early November, whose death toll may exceed 200, could mark a point of no return. Not only did the 140 peacekeepers stationed in the town fail to act, but Alan Doss, the head of MONUC, then added insult to injury with ill-advised comments suggesting that the Mai Mai and the CNDP were equally to blame. (Most Congolese view the Nkunda's CNDP as the primary villain, and regard Mai Mai as local protectors.) Coming on top of a series of scandals--Indian soldiers discovered to be engaged in the mineral trade, Moroccans dismissed for sexual abuse, other UN officers discovered trafficking in ivory in Bunia, and above all, the inability of the UN to disarm and repatriate the Rwandan Hutu fighters who have infested the Congo since 1994 and whose presence has provided a pretext for the entire war--this latest turn could be permanent.

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