Intervention in the Congo?

At the Daily Beast, Congolese activist Annie Rashidi-Mulumba laments that the United Nations has not played a more constructive role in resolving Congo’s civil war.  She also seems to welcome the forthcoming exit of UN peacekeeping troops, engineered by Congolese president Joseph Kabilla. She writes:

Given this background, it may be that my government is analyzing the UN presence in these terms: A multi-million dollar UN-peace keeping operation has been in Congo for 10 years with more than 22,000 officers. How can it be that the number of civilians dying and in extreme need is still rising? How come Congo is home to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world since the Second World War?

Clearly, the United Nations peacekeeping force is not effective. A change is needed


If a state is failing to protect its citizens against such crimes and atrocities, then the international community can be justified in intervening. In the globalized world that we live in today, instability and human insecurity easily cross borders, and inaction may lead to more costly interventions down the line.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the perspective that Rashidi-Mulamba offers. But we have to be transparent about what she is calling for: When the “international community” intervenes in a country without the consent of the government it means the invasion and occupation of that country.    

To be sure, these kinds of interventions (think Iraq 1991; Kosovo 1999; East Timor, 2002) can  be justified on moral grounds — and if the Security Council invokes Chapter VII it can be justified on legal grounds as well.  But then you have to ask yourself: what country or coalition of the willing can or should intervene in the Congo? Should Congo’s neighbors intervene?  I’m doubtful. Part of the problem is that East Congo’s mineral wealth has been exploited by Congo’s neighbors and their proxy militias. 

What about more competent, western militaries?  Surveying the international scene, it is hard to imagine that there is much appetite to do this among NATO countries, which are already over-extended in Afghanistan.  

At present it doesn’t seem that any country or coalition of the willing is willing or able to invade and occupy Congo.  But rather than call for the UN’s departure, why not focus our efforts at better resourcing the UN mission we have and providing it with the political support that is needed to get the job done? The next best option, it would seem, is for the international community to provide more diplomatic, political, and military support to the already-existent UN mission.  

This would be heavy lift, but it is probably easier than mobilizing, say, the French, British, or American public to support an invasion of the Congo.