The New York Times has two articles in today's paper about the turmoil in the Ituri region in eastern Congo, where more than 50,000 people have died. Currently, about 17,000 UN peacekeepers are stationed there as part of the MONUC mission, in an attempt to restore peace and order to the region.
Helene Cooper's Op-Ed suggests an interesting resolution:
Aside from regime change in Congo, one obvious solution to the mess in the east would be for the international community to feed, arm and equip Congo's own soldiers, who have been so ignored by Mr. Kabila's government that they prey on their own people for food and clothing. These soldiers are far from perfect. But nighttime here is not the time of rest it can be elsewhere in the world, so villagers seek out the Congolese soldiers when the sun goes down, sleeping near their camps, where they feel safer than they do in their own homes.
In January, President Kabila elevated six senior military leaders from Ituri to the rank of general in the new Congolese army. They included Jérôme Kakwavu, Floribert Kisembo, Bosco Taganda and Germain Katanga, all notorious military leaders who personally ordered, tolerated or participated in the killing of civilians. Thirty-two other militiamen from armed groups responsible for widespread human rights abuses against civilians are soon to become majors and colonels. The message is clear. Carrying out brutalities against civilians will help you to get a promotion in Congo.
Justice Plus, a rights group based in Bunia [the capital of Ituri], lamented that when the peacekeepers raided the market near Loga some civilians "paid with their life while the mandate of the United Nations was to protect them."
Justice Plus charged that peacekeepers intentionally chose a busy market day to stage a March 1 assault, ensuring civilians were caught in hours-long crossfire between heavily armed militia and several hundred peacekeepers, the Bunia-based rights group said.