intervention in the fifth circle

Intervention in the Fifth Circle of

Mr. Richard O’Brien

Director, The Center for the Prevention of Genocide

This month we are witness to an historic intervention in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC).  The International community, led by the European
Union, is sending the United Nations’ equivalent of the cavalry to stem the
massacres of innocent Hema and Lendu civilians who live in the Northeastern
Province of Ituri, DRC.  It is an historic yet incredibly flawed mandate
that will likely feature the nightmare scenario of UN-mandated peacekeepers
battling 7-13-year-old child warriors to protect the innocent.

 Other troubling aspects to
this mission include the lack of mandate to disarm combatants, the lack of
ability to respond to massacres in the countryside of Bunia, the town where the
peacekeepers are stationed, and the brevity of the mission.  This first
deployment is scheduled to pull out at the end of August, a blink of time in
the span of this conflict.  At stake is the likelihood that more innocents
will be bludgeoned, beaten, hacked and machine-gunned to death when the mission
ends or where the mission does not protect.  There are reasonable
arguments for a limited, more manageable scope to the mandate.  However,
the arguments for strengthening the commitment in Bunia are far more powerful:
an 87-year-old grandmother cut down by machine gun fire as her family flees an
approaching militia; villagers of one ethnicity brought to a town center,
tortured and executed in full public view; patients in hospitals massacred in
their beds in reprisal for killings in other remote villages. The accounts of
horror stories will continue unabated with half measures and incomplete

 Over a year ago, the Center
for the Prevention of Genocide narrowed the list of rebel groups and foreign
armies fighting in DRCongo. Our list comprised of 15 armed groups, including
seven foreign armies.  A year later, in a startling turn of events, Rwanda
appears to have completely pulled out, with the exception of their proxies, and
Uganda recently followed suit. Ironically it has been Uganda’s withdrawal that
has destabilized Ituri Province further, creating the need for a stabilizing
and protective force.

 There are three hotspots,
all in the east of DRCongo, which deserve attention: Ituri Province; North
Kivu, where internally displaced people from Ituri Province are straining
meager relief resources; and South Kivu, where inter-rebel group conflict has
escalated to include the targeting of civilians.  The peace process is now
fully engaged in DR Congo, providing a realistic prospect to the end of this
horrible civil war that has claimed over two million lives. There are a number
of solutions for the problems that ail this nation: early warning systems;
conflict prevention, resolution and intervention; even perhaps the use of
armed, peace-operation professionals.  Whatever the solutions, prolonged
attention is required.

 Today, many of the world’s
remote hotspots are in remission.  Sudan has a fragile peace. 
Indonesia is stable save Aceh.  Burundi is receiving the international
attention it deserves.  Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army is considering
meeting with the government at the negotiating table. India has sent large
police forces to ensure peace during contentious religious celebrations. The
Chechen conflict seems to be abating after the recent plebiscite.  But DR
Congo, with millions dead, remains the most volatile, most recent, and most
likely scene of genocide and genocidal activities. Ignoring it would be an act
of fatal indifference. Let those of us who have vowed “never again” remain
vigilant and continue to commit resources to this beautiful area that can at a
moment’s notice descend into a hellish conflagration.


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