Friday, January 30, 2009

What's the Security Council Smoking?

Is the UN sticking a yellow smiley-face sticker on a situation they didn't anticipate and can't control? I've just watched the informal press comments of the current president of the Security Council (and Deputy Permanent Representative of France), Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and the assistant SG for peacekeeping, H.E. Mr. Edmond Mulet, on the situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and both of them seem overly optimistic about the joint FARDC-Rwanda operation. Singing from the same hymnbook, they praised it as a positive development and an advance in regional cooperation. Neither gave any indication that they understood how easily things could go wrong. It's a common reaction among bureaucrats who have lost control of a situation to pronounce themselves pleased with the latest developments; it means they don't have to admit to their bosses that they screwed up.

It is possible that this operation will be a success, that the Rwandans will round-up the key ex-genocidaires they've been looking for, and then leave. But you'd have to be smoking some pretty strong stuff not to be aware of the pitfalls, and not to begin preparing contingency plans. This is an operation being led by James Kabarere on the Rwandan side and John Numbi on the Congolese side, both of whom are certifiable psychopaths. (And let's not forget the promotion of Bosco "The Terminator" Ntanganda, fingered in late November by the NYT and HRW for the Kiwanja massacre, and wanted for war crimes by the ICC, as head of the new CNDP.)

What if the Mai-Mai resist the Rwandan incursion? What if the FDLR or the renegade CNDP can't be so easily captured? What if the Rwandans or the FARDC begin committing massacres in the Kivus? Who represents the Rwandaphone community and their (very real) interests in Congo, now that the CNDP has been officially disbanded? And what happens in Kinshasa if the operation goes awry? Will Kabila be able to survive, politically? How will he govern for the next two years if the entire country turns against him?

I hope I'm wrong. But the UN's top people should be much more worried than they are. This has the makings of a real disaster. The UN should be preparing for it--and laying the groundwork to request a significant increase in military assistance and diplomatic pressure from the major donor countries.

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