UN Faces Uphill Battle In Effort To Bring Calm To Democratic Republic Of Congo

Armin Rosen has a lengthy article examining the roots of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a conflict which has escaped the headlines despite claiming between 3.5 and 5.4 million people since the war began in 1996.

The war also escaped the attention of much of the international community. The United Nations has had a “peacekeeping” force in place for more than a decade, yet nothing changed. So, the UN took an unprecedented step by dispatching a 3,000-member “intervention force” to the region.

As The Economist notes that the force will mark the “first time that the UN will send its own troops into battle.” Previously, the UN approved the deployment of foreign troops but not its own. In the Korean war the Americans were in command. In Afghanistan and Libya NATO took charge. The UN will be responsible for artillery fire, helicopter gunships in the Congo. In addition, drones will be used to monitor activities of rebel groups, as well as provide a level of protection for UN forces.

However, by the end of May, only 100 had arrived. This week, the UN did begin to deploy more troops to the coal-rich province of Katanga to counter recent by Bakata Katanga, a separatist militia group which has stepped up attacks in Katanga since March.

Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang recently was asked recently about what Congolese thought of the prospects of a long-term peace. She said they placed a great deal of hope on the Peace Security and Cooperation framework as the “last chance” to bring about peace in  Eastern Congo, but added that the intervention force was just a piece of the puzzle. At the end of the day, she added, it was up to the DRC authorities to “beef up” security and protect the civilians.

War In Congo Has Become Systemic And Normal
The eastern region, Rosen says, is an example of how “it’s possible to witness how war can become systemic and normal, even in the absence of some broader, national-level struggle — how a region can become trapped in violent tension and mistrust.”

It is a war that has produced horrific acts, including the rape of children, even those younger than one. In fact, UN agencies estimate that at least 200,000 women have been raped in the country since 1998, and eastern DRC has been described by one former senior UN official as the “rape capital of the world.”

Rosen argues the Eastern DRC “calls into question nearly every notion of what wars are fought over, and what they even consist of, “a fact which should remain on the minds of global decision makers should keep this in mind as the international community launches a landmark regional peace effort.

And while the UN has dispatched troops to the Congo with the purpose of protecting human life, the Congo remains an “an environment where the conditions for conflict appear to be cemented into place. Democracy is a human and constructed thing, and in DRC, its absence has nurtured a conflict so fully encompassing that everything seems to sustain it, whether it intends to or not.”






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