Tuesday, November 11, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
November 10, 2008

There are 17,000 UN troops in the DRC. Renegade Nkunda, the rebel leader has an estimated 5000 troops, most of them child soldiers. The same applies to rebel leader Joseph Kony of Uganda with even a less number roaming the wilds of the Congo forests.
A quick glance at the UN Peacekeeping Force in the DRC is a spectacle to behold. They are a group of experienced, well fed and well equipped soldiers with ground tanks, ammunition and helicopters. They lead an extremely luxurious life if not pampered lifestyle compared to General Nkunda’s ragtag army. If anything, all we have heard for years was the involvement of these UN troops; especially those from India for engaging in criminal activities like the smuggling of gold and diamonds from the DRC.

Iremember those days gone by when Kenya’s General Opande used to head the UN Peace Missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone or even when the ECOMOG of West Africa would invade Liberia and Sierra Leone to quell the fightings there. One got the impression that some serious soldiers were on the ground trying really hard protect civilians from factional warlords. The story coming from the DRC is different. One gets the impression that the UN has posted some 17,000 expensive and ineffective foreigners in DRC not to help the Congolese people but rather to have a good time in Africa!

The humanitarian tragedy in the DRC is not something to be taken lightly. Thousands are dying by the day. It is a stark reminder of the Rwanda genocide in the last decade. And just like in Rwanda; the UN troops seem to be mere observers as the massacre continues. Had the UN forces intervened in Rwanda, the damage would have been less. Now the scenario is being repeated in the DRC as we watch helplessly.

The question to ask is this: How strong are the rebels to warrant the UN troops do nothing about it? How come when there was genocide in Bosnia the UN and NATO troops were deployed there to fight and capture the warlords? What is it that when it comes to Africa; 17,000 troops cannot keep peace in a single village despite their armory?
The behavior of the UN troops is setting a very bad precedent. African militias are beginning to believe that the UN forces are a toothless bull dog. They can bark without biting. That you can commit atrocities right in front of them yet they will not raise a finger. They will have to wait for some UN Commission on Human Rights to come and investigate if crimes against humanity had indeed occurred! What a tragedy for the continent!

And it gets worse! The other day the AU, EU and the UN convened a peace conference in Nairobi to broker peace in the DRC. Not less than ten heads of State in Africa attended apart from officials from the same organizations. Among those that attended were Paul Kagame and Joseph Kabila; the two presidents believed to be fuelling the conflict in the DRC.

Yet after a full day of meetings, no ceasefire was secured and neither did Kabila and Kagame have face to face talks! What then was the point of having this discussion if no concrete decisions could be arrived at?

The solution to conflicts in Africa can be simple and straight forward if external powerful nations stop having direct interests in the continent. Nkunda is not a weapons manufacturer. His army must be getting supplies from somewhere. Joseph Kony is not an arms dealer. Someone must supply him with weapons, military uniforms, equipment and food to keep him in the bush for over twenty years. If the European gold and diamond traders can get out of Africa; if the African blood diamonds can be boycotted on the world market, arms supplies will cease and African armed conflicts will reduce significantly.

Another thing; it is time the continent had a standby army to deal with regional conflicts. We have enough hotspots in the region to keep that army busy all the year round. We need that army to hunt Joseph Kony down, drive Nkunda out of the Congo forests and deal with the Janjaweeds in Darfur. We need that army to run Mugabe out of town if he cannot share power he stole. We need that army to deal with Kenyan warlords at the next general elections.