Congo Watch: Why can't the UN send EUFOR into DR Congo for a one-month mission?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why can't the UN send EUFOR into DR Congo for a one-month mission?

Commentary by Peter Eichstaedt 17 January 2009:
Condemnation, but no action

The United Nations Security Council has once again condemned the atrocities that are currently being committed by the Lord's Resistance Army.

On Friday, the UNSC issued a press statement, read aloud by the Council President Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, which chairs the council this month.

Here it is:
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the recent attacks carried out by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which have resulted in over 500 dead and over 400 abducted, as well as the displacement of over 104,000 people. The members of the Council expressed their grave concern at the scale of these atrocities and emphasized that those responsible must be brought to justice.

"The members of the Security Council reiterated the statement of the President of the Security Council 22 December 2008. The members of the Council expressed their deep concern that the Council’s previous calls for the LRA to cease its attacks, and recruitment and use of children, and to release all women, children and non-combatants, have not been heeded.

"The members of the Security Council demanded that the members of the LRA cease all attacks on civilians immediately, and urged them to surrender, assemble, and disarm, as required by the Final Peace Agreement."
Does the world need yet another strongly worded statement? It seems that the LRA, and its leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium, has committed enough atrocities in the past twenty-two years to warrant more than grumbling from the UN's guiding council.

The French like to present themselves as the bastion of "liberty, fraternity, and equality," but they're disinclined to do much to enforce those values.

It's not as though France couldn't.

As I stated last week during a interview on BBC radio's The World Today show, putting an end to Kony and the LRA's endless rampages will take more than letting the Ugandan army wander around the jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It will take a well-trained and well-equipped force authorized by the UN and composed of international troops with the specific goal of capturing or killing Kony.

This is not without precedent. It's been done before in other African countries, including eastern DRC when the inept horde of UN peacekeepers there, which number an astounding 17,000 soldiers, were unable to keep the peace. The UN authorized a limited European Union force to enter the country, settle the situation, then pull out. It worked.

Such a force is sitting very close by. It's called European Force, or Eufor, and is about 5,000 EU troops, mostly French, who are sitting near in eastern Chad on the border with Sudan.

They're positioned as a deterrent to any further invasions by the Sudan-backed rebels who attacked the Chad capital of Ndjamena last February. And, some speculate that the force may be there to help protect Chad's oil fields, which are pumping out crude that is piped to the west coast of Africa via Cameroon.

But, there's not much for them do these days. Why can't the UN send them in for one-month mission? It's clear the Ugandan army needs help, as does South Sudan and the Central African Republic, where most say the LRA is headed.

The Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA), which is South Sudan's army, has found dozens of body of people believed to be killed by the Ugandan Lord Resistance Army (LRA) after being abducted.

And, the BBC reports that rebels attacked a village in the DRC this week, killing four people, including a girl of four and abducting a boy of nine. A bishop in South Sudan says two men had their hands and legs chopped off and were beaten to death, as boys watched.

The BBC noted that the LRA now operates in at least four countries in the region, and that the CAR has sent troops to its border with DR Congo in an effort to push back the rebels.

The survivors of the LRA attacks told a UN agency that the rebels looted and torched their houses, forcing them to flee into the forest.

"What we saw was shocking," David Nthengwe, UNHCR spokesman for eastern DR Congo, told the BBC. "People live in fear in the forest. Many of them are unable to move, as they fear that the LRA is going to attack them."

Clearly the Ugandan army is not making much progress. Yet, the Eufor sits there in Chadian desert, just an hour away by air.

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