International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

U.N. Peacekeeping in the Eastern Congo

This article offers an interesting insight into the myriad difficulties faced by U.N. military intervention, specifically in the Eastern Congo. As highlighted in the article, MONUSCO has repeatedly failed to protect the civilian population as per its mandate-the most striking example involved rebels decapitating civilians and parading their heads in front of an apathetic peacekeeping force. The litany of failures by MONUSCO is appalling, as per the article:

In 2005, MONUC (the former name for MONUSCO) expelled 63 of its soldiers for paying refugee children for sex. A separate internal inquiry the same year found that Pakistani peacekeepers sold weapons to militias in exchange for gold. While those incidents may be exceptional, TIME has seen in repeated trips to eastern Congo how, at the first sign of trouble, blue-helmet peacekeepers habitually barricade themselves into their bases, leaving crowds of several thousand refugees who tend to gather outside to fend for themselves.

Given the fairly obvious failures of the U.N. peacekeeping force to protect civilians, does it instead make more sense to focus efforts on alternative means of support? A large majority of the authors read and discussed thus far are concerned with rebuilding societies after conflict and devastation have occurred, not during. Given the inability of the U.N. to protect civilians through peacekeeping forces, what other means can be employed, or is it simply a matter of reforming MUNESCO?


One response to “U.N. Peacekeeping in the Eastern Congo

  1. j.a. December 5, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    This post made me recall a photo I had seen on the website of the Atlantic that was taken in Goma just after it was captured by M23 rebels. (The link to the photo, which is part of a series on the capture of the city, is below. You should know that a few of the photographs are quite graphic.) The photo in question is of an armed M23 rebel walking past a white UN tank, completely disregarding it and the peacekeepers on top, who watch passively. In another picture, peacekeepers set up barbed wire, though it is unclear what, if any, function this will serve, seeing as trucks laden with celebrating M23 rebels were already driving around the city. Other pictures in the series make it painfully clear that the UN peacekeepers have failed to carry out their mandate to protect civilians.

    Nevertheless, despite its failures in Goma and inexcusable abuses against civilians in the past, peacekeepers remain the only viable option for mitigating the effect of armed conflict on civilians. In Congo, government forces have repeatedly demonstrated their inability and apparent unwillingness to mount a defense against the M23 rebels. They clearly cannot be relied upon to protect civilians. In many other conflicts that we have studied, government forces have themselves been implicated in atrocities against noncombatants. Reforming UN peacekeeping missions—including MUNESCO—to increase their ability to carry out their mandate may seem like a tall order. But it is necessary nonetheless, and every effort must be made to do so. Ideally, UN peacekeeping forces should be composed of soldiers that are actually willing to put themselves in the line of fire to carry out their mandate. (Although I am by no means a military expert, it seems to me that barricading themselves in their bases is not an effective way to protect civilians.)

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