Trees and Problems in Congo

The head of the UN mission in Congo (MONUC), Alan Doss, has a blunt retort to those criticizing the force’s performance in the daunting task of controlling the violent powder-keg of eastern Congo.

“We cannot have a soldier behind every tree, in every field, on every road and in every market; it is impossible.”

And there are a lot of trees in Congo.

The problems, of course, are lot greater than an abundance of trees. As I highlighted the other day, MONUC’s mandate was crafted over-ambitiously, and this only now coming home to roost. The result is, as Refugees International Advocate Erin Weir opines from Goma, an increasing sense that the MONUC forces on the ground have been “hung out to dry.”

Ruthermore, there are no shortages of culpable actors in this tragedy, either. In addition to the “alphabet soup” of armed groups in eastern Congo that helpfully outlines here, Rwanda is playing a large role in the conflict. Former RI Advocate Rick Neal commented:

Rwanda is the key in all aspects of this crisis, and yet amazingly little attention is given to its role and what it should do. When I worked in the region, no one wanted to speak out too loudly against Rwanda for fear of being called an apologist for the génocidaires, and perhaps this still applies.

The failures to respond during one hundred days of genocide 14 years ago, unfortunately, are still painfully reverberating.