Thursday, December 04, 2003

The UN and the Congo 

The Washington Times has a lengthy, and positive, assesment of the UN's involvement Ituri. The article calls the UN mission in Ituri "one of the biggest of its kind" and includes quotes from William Swing, the UN special representative in the Congo, that claim the UN and the Congo are in a "political phase" right now, in which the main objective is to get Congolese institutions up and running and ensure that democratic elections do in fact take place in two years. The article mentions Ituri as the "toughest test for the United Nations in the Congo," but does not elaborate on the region any further, a glaring error in my opinion. The article, I think, is too broadly positive. It was only a few weeks ago that the UN declared the Congo one of the worst human rights situations in the world. Things have not improved as much as this article implies since then. I still feel the UN deserves more criticism than praise for its involvement in the DRC.

The article is, of course, here: http://washingtontimes.com/world/20031203-093014-7134r.htm

Saturday, November 29, 2003

There have been a few important incidents in the Congo in the last few days, including a ferry accident and a small outbreak of Ebola, but those fall outside of my scope, which is Congo politics and war.

Regarding politics and war in the Congo, it seems there has lately been a kind of stasis. I've come across no reports of new massacres or fighting, and one political development - the governments in Kinshasa and Kigali yesterday recommitted to repatriating the Rwandan soldiers still in the Congo. Kofi Annan recently admitted that human rights are still a problem in the Congo, but that is something that we all already knew, and unless it leads to more active involvement of the UN in the Congo then I don't think the admission is very significant. I'm sure there is still violence in Ituri, but for the moment the press is ignoring it, and I can't go to the country myself. For a little while this month it seemed that media interest in the Congo was starting to resurge. Emily Wax of The Washington Post sent a few reports from the country, and there were articles on recent massacres. That resurgence has died already, and today I'm worried about media coverage of the Congo really fading away.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

UN Developments 

Nothing in Congo news today except an update on UN activity in Ituri. A group of 35 UN officials left for the Eastern Congo on an advance mission to secure three towns. How 35 officials are going to secure three towns in Ituri I do not know. The mission seems to epitomize the UN's approach to Ituri in general.

The brief, brief article is here: http://allafrica.com/stories/200311250359.html

Friday, November 21, 2003

The Suppressed UN Report 

The BBC broke an important story yesterday by obtaining suppressed portions of the UN report on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The suppressed portions cite documents that suggest Uganda has been and still is exploiting the Cong's natural resources. The portions claim, too, that the FAPC, a militia that controls the mineral-rich Northeast Congo, is only a proxy of Uganda. The UN suppressed these portions of the report because it feared that the claims would disrupt the Congo's fragile peace. Uganda and the FAPC militia of course deny all the accusations. Regarding the suppression of these sections of the report, I agree with Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch, who is quoted in the BBC article: suppressing those portions of the report "means the peace process will fail. There is no peace process in the world that has worked without dealing with the underlying problems. " The UN seems afraid to confront the problems in the Congo directly. Things in the Congo will not improve until the UN finally does.


Friday, November 14, 2003

UN Moves Its Forces Eastward - Where They Belong 

There is excellent news today. According to the BBC, the UN will move more than 80% of its 10,000 soldiers in the Congo to the East of the country. That means that Ituri, where the worst massacres are taking place, will receive significantly more peacekeepers. There still will probably not be enough peacekeepers in Ituri to stabilise the province, but this is a substantial improvement and will certainly save some lives. I hope it is the beginning of a continuing trend.

The article is here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3272469.stm

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Congo "one of the worst human rights situations in the world." 

According to an article on theage.com, a UN report declared the Congo one of the worst human rights situations in the world. The statement itself is nothing significant. The atrocities in the Congo have been known about for a long time already. In fact, one might call the UN report understatement - the Congo might be the worst human rights situation in the world, period. I am pleased with the report, however, because it should focus the UN's attention on the Congo and perhaps pressure the organization to become more heavily involved in the country - how can a group like the UN ignore a country that it itself admits is one of the worst human rights situations in the world? This report could be a step towards the UN finally taking the Congo as seriously as it needs to.

The article is here: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/11/11/1068329533035.html

Friday, November 07, 2003

Attack on the UN; Bush and Kabila 

Yesterday one of the most serious attacks on UN peacekeepers took place in Bunia. Gunfire lasted nearly four hours and one Bangledesh soldier was wounded. I do not see the UN doing enough to suppress violence in the Congo. I have not noticed any significant difference between the level of violence before the UN arrived and the level of violence afterward. What is the UN doing in the Congo?

The article is here: http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=62B7CF56-CF21-45E0-9304AAB41615A43C

Also, Bush and Kabila met on November 5th. It doesn' seem that they said anything meaningful to each other. Bush congratulated Kabila's "successes," etc. Bush also said that the U.S. would continue to support the Congo with humanitarian needs. With what humanitarian needs has the U.S. supplied the Congo? I'm not aware of anything the U.S. has done for the Congo.

The article is here: http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=F9CF6CF8-E5C8-43D3-9E0F21B097AD3D30

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