Critics say peacekeepers did nothing to prevent mass-slaughter of civilians
I bet "Blackwater" wouldn't have had this problem. One thing is for sure - the United Nations won't get attacked by the Anti-War forces for failing to use deadly force against aggressors that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Absent an "actionable target" to propagandize over and bring attention from the Anti-War Left, the VICTIMS are S.O.L.
Ultimately the fact that the Congo is left to depend upon the United Nations to defend its own citizens is the problem. I can think of no other continent that has more United Nations' involvement than Africa has.
DUNGU, Congo - Early in the morning the warnings came: Rebels notorious for vicious attacks on civilians were advancing on this eastern Congolese town of thatched roof huts along the winding Kibali River.
Aid workers alerted nearby U.N. peacekeepers, but for hours no one came.
So tens of thousands of townspeople fled — on foot, on bicycles, on motorcycles, anything to escape. Some did not get out on time and were slaughtered on the spot. Others were abducted and killed in the bush.
The failure to protect the people of Dungu and other towns from attack by the Lord's Resistance Army is a sign of the collapse of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in this sprawling Central African nation.
More than 1,500 civilians have been slaughtered since September, many hacked and clubbed to death in unspeakably brutal attacks, according to humanitarian groups. Aid workers and others say the U.N. force and Congolese military received almost daily alerts as the death toll mounted and the rebel offensives multiplied.
Critics say the 17,000-member U.N. mission has foundered despite being the largest and most expensive in the world — and with the strongest mandate ever issued to U.N. troops to use force to protect civilians.
U.N. officials say they simply do not have enough boots on the ground to perform effectively in Congo, a country more than twice the size of California and Texas combined, but with only 300 miles of paved roads.
With a population of more than 58 million, there is only about one peacekeeper for every 3,400 people.
'Can we do better?'
During a tour last week of towns laid waste by the rebels in the remote Haut-Uele region, the top U.N. diplomat for humanitarian aid, John Holmes, said the peacekeepers have been given an impossible task.
"Can we do better? Yes. The fact that I am here is an admission that we need to do a lot more — more resources, more capacity on the ground, better security," Holmes told The Associated Press.
"In an area like this, where attacks are coming from all directions, it's impossible to protect every civilian. Even the big towns aren't particularly safe," he said.
Over nearly a decade, Congo's people have suffered through back-to-back civil wars that devastated the nation. Adding to the misery, the Lord's Resistance Army's more than 20-year insurgency in Uganda spilled over into Congo about five years ago.
Medecins Sans Frontieres holds the U.N. peacekeepers responsible for the hundreds of civilians killed by the Ugandan rebels, blaming the force for not doing more to protect them. And other agencies have joined the outcry.
The U.N. troops "are mere spectators in the massacres of these people whom they should be defending," Fides, the Catholic missionary news agency, wrote last week.