29 March, 2010

The LRA and the Congo

For as much that does change around the world, some things sadly stay the same... One of those things is the LRA. I don't understand why it's the truly horrible that we can't seem to find, though, sometimes, I have to wonder how hard anyone with any real authority is looking... After destabilizing Northern Uganda, the LRA have moved into the Congo and the Sudan. Their M.O. is brutal - attack villages, rape, conscripting children into their armies, taking girls as sex slaves, "marrying" them to generals in their armies... fun times to be sure.

Advocacy is only good when it does not push the issue onto someone else. And all the work of some have done all they have succeeded at doing is to turn the LRA into another country (-ies) problem.

This is bad advocacy.

Like in Cambodia where the government made prostitution illegal, which did nothing but push it all underground, but that's for another day.

So what are the LRA up to?

According to HRW "The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children, during a previously unreported four-day rampage in the Makombo area of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009," 

"The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim."

The UN had this to say on the LRA and the future of MONUC in the area:

MONUC has about 1,000 peacekeepers in this northeastern area of the (Congo); according to Human Rights Watch, this is far too low a number to deter or prevent further attacks on civilians. The UN special representative of the secretary-general in the DRC, Alan Doss, told the BBC that rooting out the LRA "requires better intelligence gathering, requires particularly air mobility, and of course cooperation with the local people."

Meanwhile, in spite of the continued, chronic violence plaguing his country, DRC President Joseph Kabila is hoping to see the backs of the UN peacekeepers as soon as possible. Members of the UN Security Council have diverging points of view on the matter. While the U.S. and France support continued engagement, China endorses the Congolese view that there will be "no new beginning for Congo as long as MONUC is there."

It seems, however, that what the Eastern DRC needs is more and better UN peacekeeping, not a withdrawal of the mission. The country's own armed forces cannot be trusted to protect the people, several local and transnational rebel groups are still at large, committing atrocities on civilians: as Mr. Doss suggested, now is the time for a better, reinforced strategy for the UN mission in DRC, not its departure.

So what is to be done? I have said before that the UN is far from squeaky clean in the Congo, but they are still one of best forces there. They do provide some stability, and prevent some violence from occurring. Kabila is highly corrupt and not to be trusted to have anything resembling his county's best interest in anything he does. I've been to the Congo, there is NOTHING getting to the Eastern side, and so if MONUC brings any level of control to the chaos they should stay.

Yet, 1,000 peacekeepers are not enough. How do you expect 1,000 people to effectively patrol, protect, and assist in an area the size of the Eastern U.S.? It is no different than in the genocide when Dallaire's hands were tied and yet everyone blamed the UN for not doing more. But who is going to send people, equipment, etc? And yet, the U.S. cannot condemn the Congo with one hand, supply money and supplies to the UN and then turn around and give money, arms and supplies to the Congo, which it has been doing via Rwanda (and the RPF) since the early 2000's (if not before). The RPF is one of the major de-stablizers in the Congo. 

With LRA attacks continuing across borders it's about time something is done to stop them. 23 years is enough! Now the LRA are affecting the Congo and the Sudan - so why don't all of us who care about one of the issues that the LRA are touching get together and demand real action on this issue. Including not sending anything more to Rwanda, and demand they give up their commander (who is under "house arrest" in Rwanda) to the UN to stand trial for acts of genocide. Then the U.S. can send the money it was sending to Rwanda to assist a rebel army in the country, to the UN and helps the enable MONUC to succeed and be effective. Finally, we take a stance against any country that helps the LRA - believe me none of the aid the U.S. sends to these countries is getting to the people anyway, so all it will do is dry up a cash cow for the corrupt leadership. 

Then what else? There are smarter people than me who have answers to what is going on. But something has to be done. I am continually amazed at what people get fired up about and what things they let slide. This situation - the LRA, Congo, etc. - should make everyone angry. So let's harness that energy into something useful, force an honest look at what is going on over there and who is involved (the U.S., China, companies, etc.) and end it!