June 21, 2013 | Quote

UN Troops On the March

The United Nations is in the process of deploying a 3,000-strong intervention force in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight armed rebel groups in a move that some foreign policy experts say sets a dangerous precedent and could do more harm than good in the region.

While the United Nations already has over 17,000 peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are allowed to use force to protect civilians under immediate threat, the intervention troops, who will be part of the existing mission, will have more flexibility when it comes to fighting rebel groups.

“These 3,000 have basically been given the role to ‘neutralize’ the armed groups, and that means they can proactively use force against armed groups who do not put their weapons down,” said U.N. peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer. “They don’t have to wait until they directly threaten civilians. That’s the difference.”

“What this really calls out for is an African Union solution rather than a U.N. solution,” Bolton added. “It is a stateless area in many respects, and something which the states of Southern Africa really ought to resolve themselves, rather than to try to do it from remote control from the Security Council.”

Claudia Rosett, the journalist-in-residence at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted that the United Nations has had peacekeepers in Congo for over a decade with little progress.

“After how many years we’ve been in there, and here we go again—one of [the UN Peacekeeping Operations] latest press releases tells us rape and other forms of brutal sexual violence are on the rise in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to the increase in the fighting, et cetera,” Rosett said. “They have been in there for years and the UN simply isn’t configured to deal with this type of problem. It’s a way of spending money and putting a Band Aid on things that fester.”

Rosett noted that there have been reported abuses by U.N. peacekeeping forces, including rapes and other assaults.

“The U.N. just turns them back over to their home companies to avoid embarrassment, so the thing usually just disappears,” Rosett said. “It’s a problem built into the UN system [and] they have yet to solve it. And in the meantime they spend billions on these operations. Too often U.N. peacekeepers become part of the problem.”

Bolton said he was concerned that the operation was “being entered into without a lot of thought and discussions in key capitals.”

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International Organizations