Manipulating Peacekeepers in DR Congo


In addition to their Huff Post piece on a new China-Darfur strategy, the prodigious folks over at the ENOUGH project today also released a statement on the faltering peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s increasingly volatile eastern region. According to their analysis, the Congolese government has basically fallen flat on its political commitments to negotiate with the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). Instead, the authors argue, Kinshasa has attempted to sideline the CNDP, while — to compensate for its military weakness — inappropriately relying on the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUC, to mount offensives against CNDP and other armed elements.

The CNDP has not been blameless, of course, and tensions threaten to erupt into full-scale war. Trapped in the middle are the MONUC peacekeepers. While ENOUGH’s report criticizes the mission for condemning rebel atrocities more often that the Congolese army’s equally egregious transgressions, it also identifies the untenable bind in which Kinshasa is forcing MONUC.

[T]he Congolese government has expected MONUC to fight its war against Nkunda, and periodically blamed the UN for failing to dislodge the CNDP. Recent public protests against MONUC are a grim indication that blaming the UN resonates with frustrated and war-weary Congolese civilians. This cynical strategy by the Congolese government of failing to implement agreements while simultaneously blaming the peacekeepers for the eroding situation may well make things much worse.

If only such a “cynical strategy” were limited to DR Congo. UN blue helmets are stationed all over the world in incredibly difficult situations, at times with only skimpy Rules of Engagement and an overly constrictive mandate. Too often they are scapegoated for the failings, deceptions, and aggressions of governments, rebel groups, and, yes, the international community that deployed them. The civilians on the ground, who cannot peer into the back rooms of peace negotiations where promises are made and broken, should not be manipulated as vessels of propaganda. If parties truly have the interests of their people at heart, then they should help peacekeepers keep a peace, rather than use them to try to tear one apart.