The United Nations is notorious for moving at glacial speed. Sometimes it does not move at all, especially when dealing with matters concerning the developing world. Other times it moves in reverse gear.
Of course, there are also occasions when, despite its bureaucratic weight, the UN moves with amazing alacrity – when doing the bidding of the member states that wield an enormous clout.
And so it comes as some sort of surprise that the Security Council has slapped a travel ban and freeze on the assets of three top leaders of the FDLR in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The trio are the vice president of the rebel outfit, its chief of staff and planner of combat operations in DRC and a gun runner who ferries arms from Tanzania to Congo.
Equally surprising is that the sanctions on the three men were initiated by France, Britain and The United States of America. They would normally do this if their vital interests were threatened.
But the reason for this rare move by the three permanent members of the Security Council (according to them) is that the actions of the three men have undermined stability in Congo.
The sanctions by the Security Council are, of course, welcome. But should we shout for joy and cry, Alleluia, now the blind see and the deaf hear, that an unlikely miracle has happened?
Or that representatives of the three countries have suddenly been stricken by pangs of guilt and a bout of compassion for the hapless Congolese?
No such luck. No scales have fallen off the eyes of the top diplomats or cotton wool removed from their ears. Nor have any moral scruples been pricked. The reason is more likely the result of a matter of self interest.
The wonder remains – why has it taken them so long to come to this conclusion when the evidence has always been there?
For the last sixteen years FDLR, in its various forms, has wreaked havoc in Eastern Congo and posed serious security threats to Rwanda.
The government of Rwanda repeatedly told the UN and the rest of the international community about the FDLR menace in the region. They behaved like they had not heard.
In the meantime the FDLR continued to commit massacres, raped hundreds of women, mined and sold minerals and bought arms. Their leaders moved freely in European capitals, well, until recently when top leaders Ignace Murwanashyaka and Callixte Mbarushimana were arrested in Germany and France respectively.
Even when the UN had thousands of troops in Congo, the FDLR carried on in its rogue fashion and no action was taken against the rebels. Until now. And even then the action does not go far enough. Why can’t the whole rebel force be disarmed, for instance?
So what has changed? There have been reports that the FDLR have huge stocks of uranium which they have trying to sell – so far without success. But it cannot be guaranteed that at some stage they may not be able to get a buyer – Al Qaeda, for instance.
Now, the prospect of uranium falling into the hands of terrorists and other rogue elements makes the powerful countries jittery. Does the sudden and belated change of heart by the Security Council trio have anything to do with this? You bet.
At about the same time, the UN mapping report on Congo was being flogged again in a malicious attempt to prove it is still alive. Some organization calling itself the Great Lakes Policy Forum, bringing together such organizations like Amnesty International and the like organized a one-day conference at John Hopkins University on the theme: Congo: UN mapping report and the responsibility to justice.
The conference brought together western “scholars and researchers” on the region, notable more for their activism than scholarship, for their open biases than academic objectivity.
It was also remarkable for the absence of anyone from the region, people with intimate knowledge of the issues, or those affected by events there. No one with a real stake in the region was invited.
Instead there were people like Carina Tersakian – yes, the same one – talking about “the next steps towards justice”.
You can be sure she read a long and angry list of indictments against Rwanda, cheered on by fellow conferees. You would not be wrong to think that the whole discussion must have been a huge exercise in imagination (fantasy, really.
Imagination is too positive a word) about supposed culprits and weapons used to commit the untold crimes.
They will have gone away feeling good about themselves, having presented papers to their peers and anticipating good reviews. They will be excited about having bashed the “evil doers” and thinking they had exorcised the demons within.
And of course they did not talk about the hordes of armed groups marauding in Eastern Congo, killing, pillaging and raping and wreaking all manner of havoc.
Any guess why all these worthies usually get it wrong on Congo, and worse, why the misery there will not end soon?