Crisis Point in Congo


A major city in Eastern Congo is under siege. News reports describe Congolese Armed Forces retreating from the provincial capital Goma in advance of a rebel assault, lead by a renegade army general named Laurent Nkunda. Upon seeing the government forces retreat, tens of thousands of civilians have begun to flee. All that stands between Nkunda’s forces and Goma are Pakistani and Indian peacekeepers, which are already engaged with Nkunda’s forces on this and other fronts.

Local’s are understandably upset that the peacekeeping force had not done enough to stall the rebel advance. Protests outside the UN compound turned violent earlier this week as residents of Goma hurled rocks at the compound in frustration. Unfortunately, the peacekeeping mission cannot repel this attack without reinforcement.

It needs help. Fast.

Blue-helmets, though, are not set up for rapid deployment. What may be required is outside intervention by a global power. There is precedent for this. In 2003, French special forces led Operation Artemis which rescued the city of Bunia, capital of the the nearby Ituri province. 1800 special forces, operating under the EU flag, rescued the city and repelled marauding militias. They withdrew within three months and were replaced by a beefed up UN peacekeeping force.

Something similar may be what is required to prevent mass atrocities from being visited upon Goma. The question is, who, if anyone, is willing to step up?

(Photo: “Streets of Goma” from Flickr user Amalthya)