The United Nations has pulled out another one from its bag of excuses. Its forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), numbering over 20,000 troops will not lift a gun against the genocidal Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and force its fighters to disarm.
It has said that it is withdrawing its backing for a planned offensive against FDLR.
The newest excuse is that the UN will not back a Congolese army offensive led by generals tainted with human rights abuses.
We will not make a pact with the devil even if the intention is to fight the devil, they are saying. As has become the practice, the UN is stretching it a little too far.
In the first place, they have lived, fraternised, supped and been in bed with the very devil for nearly two decades.
Secondly, there has been only noise about an impending offensive. There is no evidence of any definite plans or preparations for it. The UN cannot, therefore withdraw from something that does not exist.
Thirdly, the UN has said that even if the offensive were to take place, it would be carried out by the Congolese army. For all intents and purposes, the UN has distanced itself from any possible military action against the FDLR.
It is therefore disingenuous for the world body to claim it is withdrawing from actions or plans that it was never part of in the first place. The high-minded reasons they have given – not to be part of a force led by people with blood on their hands – is only an excuse for inaction. It is meant to show the UN in good moral light. Even then, it is not convincing.
Even assuming that the abhorrence of evil is the real motive for the UN refusing to back the Congolese army in fighting FDLR, has it just occurred to them that General Bruno Mandevu and other senior officers have been committing human rights abuses?
If so, this is a damning indictment of the competence of the UN commanders and their men in DRC. They have been there close to twenty years and should have a better knowledge of the people they work with.
The truth is that the UN has always been aware of the human rights abuses committed by the Congolese army and yet this knowledge did not stop them from mounting joint operations against the M23 rebels, for example.
Retreating Congolese troops raped hundreds of women in Minova after being routed by M23 fighters in Goma.
They tortured captured rebels and civilians, and under Colonel Mamadou desecrated bodies of enemy dead.
That was not a hindrance to joint military action.
It is a fact that the UN’s MONUSCO troops have always worked with Congolese generals, clean or tainted. The most recent such collaboration that was trumpeted around the world was the fight against M23 rebels in eastern DRC.
At the time there were no qualms about the morality of working with generals and soldiers stained with the blood of murder or rape victims, or loaded with cash from plunder or illicit trade, some of it with FDLR.
On the contrary, there was an unusual haste to act, from an organization notorious for being slow and indecisive. All attempts for solving the rebellion a different way were brusquely brushed aside.
No scruples of any sort – political, moral, humanitarian or any other – stood in the way. Only force would do – and a trigger happy FIB duly obliged.
There has been some action against the Ugandan rebels – the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). No such scruples have been raised. It is the same Congolese army involved.
So why is it different with the FDLR?
The fact is that even if the Congolese army was made up of saints and commanded by angels, the UN would not go after FDLR as they are morally and legally bound to do. They would still find an excuse not to act.
For close to twenty years, MONUSCO, the UN force that was deployed to disarm various armed groups and stabilise eastern DRC, has kept clear of FDLR, essentially permitting the genocidal force to do as they please. In fact, some of the UN troops have been reported to trade with the renegade fighters, exchanging weapons for minerals.
The words used in relation to FDLR are also revealing. They show an attitude of tolerance, even acceptance.
The UN and other foreign actors ‘urge, persuade, appeal, plead’ with the armed gangs to lay down their arms. It is markedly different from the way they dealt with M23. With them, they demanded, threatened and ordered the rebels to vanish. It was, ‘disarm and disband’ or face the wrath and might of the UN. The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) was itching for a fight and could barely be restrained.
Where is FIB today? There is no mention of the force. The threats are gone. The eagerness to take on armed groups has, for obvious reasons, been blunted. We are back where we were – no action against the FDLR.
The latest excuse for not taking military action is merely moral posturing. The United Nations is actually preparing us to accept that there will be no offensive against the FDLR with or without UN participation. It is laying the grounds for its absolution for inaction.