Thursday, June 25, 2009

More on the Joint MONUC/FARDC Operation

By far the most important development in Congo during my two-month hiatus was MONUC's decision to launch a joint strike with the Congolese army (FARDC) against the ex-genocidaires (FDLR). This has predictably turned into a disaster for the people of eastern Congo.

I have been a tepid supporter of MONUC since its creation. It has never been given anything like the tools or the personnel to do the jobs asked of it, and while its many failings and embarassments have been fodder for anti-UN neo-cons in the US, they are symptomatic of the gap between MONUC's mission and its resources rather than any discrediting flaw in the ideal of international peacekeeping. The people of eastern Congo desperately need protection, and who will provide it to them aside from the UN?

That said, from the beginning, MONUC's decision to join forces with FARDC to root out the ex-genocidaires struck me as a very bad idea, and that's in fact how it's turning out.

I'll have much more to say on this topic, but here's a quick round-up of reactions to the MONUC/FARDC mission:

Eve Ensler is upset.

Enough is upset that the world isn't more upset.

Reuters reports the army reform is failing.

The Inner City Press reports that Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former MONUC commander, said that recent events in Eastern Congo are "shameful" and "destroy the reputation of the UN and of MONUC."

And various people see active dissimulation and conspiracy instead of policy inertia and indifference. See here and here, for example.

One quick thought. Whether it's MONUC with FARDC against the FDLR or the US with Museveni against the LRA, people are asking variations on the same question: who's redeemable? Who can we work with? If all sides are responsible for human rights abuses, is it ever OK to help those who are somewhat less awful fight those who are more awful? I don't know the answer, but I remember an old line from one of Graham Greene's characters that might be apposite: "Better to have blood on your hands than water, like Pilate." What I can't remember is whether this was said by someone we were meant to admire, or someone with a gift for self-justification.

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