Monday, April 18, 2005

The UN. . .Accomplished Something?

I'm as shocked as anyone. The genocide in the Congo is serious business, and has been going on for a long time. For all we talk about the atrocities of Darfur, which are atrocities because they have all the appearance of being perpetrated by the state, the endless civil wars in the Congo have cost many more lives than both Darfur and Rwanda combined. For an overview, see Global Security's summary, but it has been estimated that as many as 3 million people have been killed in Congo's endless wars SINCE 1998. Recent history puts the total at around 50 million whose lives have been affected by this interstate war. Another roundup of news is captured at AllAfrica here. As always, Allafrica's indexing by country is helpful. Every one of Congo's neighbors has bloody hands in the matter as well, especially Uganda. Part of the problem is the complexity of Congo's 200 different ethnic groups, all of which seem to have their own militia (and to think only 3 in Iraq make it difficult).

The modus operandi for ending this enormously bloody conflict has been negotiations with each of the major militia groups in attempts to convince them all to slowly disarm one by one. The UN Mission added onto this disarmament deadlines for all militia groups in each region. In the district of Ituri, this approach has yielded major headway. The largest groups have peacefully disarmed, and plan to join the political process. It's more than a little good news that in this district, the war may finally be over. With Congo's diversity, it makes sense to try to end the conflict on a piece by piece basis, since the scale and complexity of groups involved renders it one of the most difficult conflict resolution dilemmas ever. It bodes well for this UN Mission that it was able to accomplish this minor breakthrough in getting all the groups in the district to disarm, especially since the track record of UN Missions in Congo and elsewhere up to this point is spotty at best. One major group, the UPC, have declared that any remaining armed members are outlaws, basically denouncing any of their own people who decide to keep weapons. Let's hope that this spreads further throughout Congo, but the odds and history are against peace in this case, and sadly against the lives of the Congolese as well.