The UN’s Latest Disgrace in Eastern Congo

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon must be grinding his teeth this morning as word filters out of Eastern Congo that once again his peacekeepers stayed in their barracks while fighting raged just down the road and precious resources were wasted looking for a foreign journalist rather than saving the women and children who were being murdered in the cross-fire between rebels and government militia.

The key indicators of the UNs ineptness in Eastern Congo came from the resignation of Vicente Díaz de Villegas y Herrería, the Spanish General who only was in-country for three weeks before jumping a plane back to Madrid. The official U.N. response was that the resignation resulted from ‘personal reasons’ but the U.N. is a very leaky ship and the real story seems that the Iberian Commandante was upset that he was a given a mission with ‘no mandate, no strategy and no resources.’ (One wonders why he didn’t inquire about these things before he took the assignment, but who knows what the career ‘wishful-thinkers’ in New York promised him. Remember how they bamboozled General Dallaire during the Rwanda Crisis.)

The war in the Congo is essentially an international conflict, a world-war involving many nations that has lasted longer than any other modern conflict and has resulted in the deaths of over 5 million people, the vast majority being innocent civilians. Having said that, how many people, even well-informed ones, would recognize the name Nkunda, the head of the main rebel faction? Despite its ferocity this has been an invisible conflict and is likely to remain so since aside from a few mining companies it will be hard to find anybody’s strategic interests at stake and the Security Council has been resting easy because its peacekeepers are on the ground. The problem is that the 17,000 strong peacekeeping mission, code- named MONUC, is in shambles and seemingly unable to protect itself, not to mention the hundreds of thousands now fleeing, whose safety they were sent to guarantee.

It is becoming increasingly clear that U.N. peacekeepers should stay out of areas where there is no peace. In a country like Liberia, the U.N. does a credible job of keeping the lid on a disarmed and developing country. The experiences in Rwanda, Bosnia and now the Congo suggest that a toothless U.N. presence, backed up by an ambivalent Security Council mandate, is more to be pitied than supported. It is also necessary to monitor and investigate the actual behavior of the so-called peacekeepers. During the 1990’s the forces that made up the ECOMOG peacekeeping forces in Liberia (sponsored by the Economic Community of West Africa) were too busy looting the country and starting up various self-supporting rackets to engage in much peacekeeping. There are suggestions that troops under UN command in the Congo are into the same sort of shenanigans. Why else, a cynic might ask, would they sign up for such a thankless task in the first place?

The bottom line is that the U.N. has to act fast to plug the holes in their Congo adventure, or else stop pretending and start begging for some effective help. Presidents Kagame of Rwanda, Museveni of Uganda and Kabila of the Congo have to pledge themselves to stop the carnage by cutting off aid to their proxies while the next U.N. commander on the ground had better have more in his pocket than his return ticket.

Michael Keating is a Senior Fellow/Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Read other articles by Michael, or visit Michael's website.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. keith harmon snow said on December 12th, 2008 at 11:27am #


    The article by Michael Keating above leans sweetly in right direction, a real surprise coming from an academic in the Five College area of Massachusetts.

    However, this statement is problematic and suggests that the author needs to do a little deeper research: “Despite its ferocity this has been an invisible conflict and is likely to remain so since aside from a few mining companies it will be hard to find anybody’s strategic interests at stake …..

    First, there are no FEW mining companies in Congo today. There are many scores if not hundreds. What is your (readers) definition of few?

    Looking at the other Dissident Voice article by the same author — — we find a similar lack of awareness.

    Michael Keating, if you are sincere in uinderstanding something you’d like to see some humanistic action on — suffering and plunder in Congo, assuming that is your motivation for writing these articles — then you would be true to your vocation to organize a presentation about Congo for UMASS students.

    Invite anyone you like, but at least invite me, because I live a few towns away, and my multimedia presentation on war and plunder in Congo, and “genocide” in Rwanda, is rather appropriately shocking.

    Instead of bringing in the voices of truth, institutions like UMASS — now one of the top military-intelligence-permanent-warfare-economy funded “good-corporate-citizen” manufacturing centers in the world — bring in things like this:

    People — especially but not only students — love my presentations becuase they can immediately see that passion and honesty, even if I am sometimes incorrect about the details, and they know the real thing when they see it.

    keith harmon snow
    Williamsburg, MA

  2. Michael Keating said on December 12th, 2008 at 1:10pm #

    I thank Mr. Harmon for his back-handed compliments but his sense of Massachusetts geography is a bit off. I am in Boston not Amherst….and I think he will find that many ‘academics’…people like Samantha Powers, Chris Blattman, et. al. have been in the forefront of bringing issues like this to the forefront. Unless there is something particularly backward about the 5 college area, I don’t know why he should be surprised. I certainly acknowledge that there are many mining companies in the Congo but only a few of them are big enough to warrant having ‘strategic interests’…most of them can hardly afford shovels. The role of the Chinese in all of this is also interesting as they have apparently bought some mining concessions from President Kabila which they now find they cannot use because of the violence. One theory suggests that Rwandan mining interests are funding Nkunda to keep the Chinese from scooping up all the pay dirt.

  3. Tree said on December 12th, 2008 at 5:17pm #

    “The article by Michael Keating above leans sweetly in right direction, a real surprise coming from an academic in the Five College area of Massachusetts.”
    Ouch. I happen to love the five colleges area.
    And I would take facts over passion any day. I mean, televangelists are passionate, you know?

    I’m so sick of the UN, one of the most inept organizations ever. They are worthless in my estimation.

  4. sk said on December 13th, 2008 at 2:59am #

    Ludo De Witte dug many details on the duplicity of the United Nations in his accalimed work, The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Following are a few excerpts from it:

    During this period, the Western press stressed the part played by the UN in the development of the situation. The Times reported on 7 September: “There then the United Nations stands, ostensibly in the middle as always but leaning perceptibly in one direction.” La Libre Belgique of 15 September stated: “If Kasa Vubu and Ileo finally got the victory they deserved, they would owe it to the UN. Without the UN, Lumumba could turn the situation round with a few hundred followers.” The overthrow of Lumumba’s government was the result of a whole chain of unconstitutional actions. The United Nations played a decisive part…The United Nations, Belgium and the United States removed politics from parliament and put it in the street, where the balance of power is played out in a brutal fashion, in numbers of soldiers, battalions and weapons. It was there that UN generals, Belgian officers and Joseph Desire Mobutu awaited Lumumba.

    After Lumumba had been murdered, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah spoke on the radio:

    Somewhere in Katanga in the Congo…three of our brother freedom fighters have been done to death….About their end many things are uncertain, but one fact is crystal clear. They have been killed because the United Nations, whom Patrice Lumumba himself as Prime Minister had invited to the Congo to preserve law and order, not only failed to maintain that law and order, but also denied the lawful Government of the Congo all other means of self-protection. History records many occasions when rulers of states have been assassinated. The murder of Patrice Lumbumba and of his two colleagues, however, is unique in that it is the first time in history that the legal ruler of a country has been done to death with the open connivance of a world organization in whom that ruler put his trust….instead of preserving law and order, the United Nations declared itself neutral between law and disorder and refused to lend any assistance whatsoever to the legal Government in suppressing the mutineers who had set themselves up in power in Katanga and the South Kasai.

    The Observer‘s correspondent described the mood in New York as follows: “In small private wakes for Patrice Lumumba, the Afro-Asian delegates at the United Nations swallow their drinks as if there were a bitter taste in their mouths. Even the wiser among them let this bitterness slur their speech as they pronounce the name of [United Nations Secretary General] Hammarsköld.”

    In case anyone is interested, they can listen to an interview of Ludo De Witte here (MP3).

  5. Lloyd Rowsey said on December 13th, 2008 at 8:32am #

    So, DV is closing comments on all articles after one day? Or just those that garner zero comments, like Edward Jayne’s article yesterday, a book review lambasting Israel? Or just those that lambast Israel? Or is that zero review category and that lambasting Israel category the same hereabouts, and as Mark Twain said: “I repeat myself”?

    Well, bless Keith Harmon Snow, and I hate to post something that detracts one iota from his first comment on this article. But let me see. Secondary matter: didn’t I read a piece by KHS right here at DV talking about Israel meddling in northeast Africa, six or eight months ago?

  6. jgsman said on December 23rd, 2008 at 3:22pm #

    Things become much easier to understand when we know that the ‘genocide’ in Rwanda was attendant upon a US led regime change operation to install Paul Kagame and his RPF as leader. Canada assisted. The recent conviction and sentencing of an alleged “kingpin” by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ICTR was widely reported. The response by the ADAD – ICTR Defence Lawyers less so:
    because we have been sold a bill of goods on this by CBC etc., further background information will be helpful:,91027,.shtml

  7. coltan_kills said on December 26th, 2008 at 11:02pm #

    Mr. Keating,

    I appreciate your work in this area and would strongly consider you to look past Mr. Harmon Snow’s abrasive comments and look into some of the groundbreaking work he has done an independent journalist in Africa.

    His expose published in Z Magazine is a bold step to name names and pronounce the corporate and geo-political interests fueling this war. Mineral companies such as Anglo-Ashanti, Barrick Gold, and others have friends in very high places amongst the Bush, Clinton and now Obama administrations.

    Keith is the only journalist I’ve come across to illuminate these connections, and I strongly urge all of you to examine his work. The link above is just a starting point but a good place to begin.

  8. Annie said on January 22nd, 2009 at 8:34pm #

    Thanks for your comments “coltan-kills.”
    The problem is contigent on greed, 100%.
    Congo has more natural resources than any country on the planet, and everyone but the Congolese benefit.
    For them, the coltan and copper (and gold, and geo-thermal energy, and oil, malachite, etc. etc. etc.) would be better left in the ground!
    It is most dis-heartening to know that Hilary Clinton is our new Secretary of State.

  9. keith harmon snow said on January 25th, 2009 at 11:41am #


    I did not receive a notice that my comments to Mr. Keating had been responded to, or I would have replied sooner.

    That I erred in thinking that the author was in Amherst after learning that he was a UMASS Professor is irrelevant. Wherever I read the UMASS connection it didnt make the geographical disticntion, and it isnt important.

    What is important is that I live in Massachusetts and, indeed, I began my college studies at UMASS BOSTON — and that would suggest that perhaps Mr. Keating might be even more compelled to invite me to speak/present about Congo at UMASS BOSTON.

    How about it?

    The problem is academics and academia and colleges and universities. Not whether the academics come from Boston or Amherst — though the Five College area is very rich with white supremacy and over educated intellectuals who serve as gatekeepers to truth and knowledge. And of course its a generalization and I apologize for generalizing, but I call it as I see it, and when an honest academic comes along they are able to look at the facts as I am some others are (quite outside of teh box) presenting them, and then they take up the gauntlet and throw it where it needs to be thrown — not between you and I but at the corporations and institutions involved, like Harvard, BC, Amherst, Columbia, UMichigan, Berkeley….

    I’d like to not combat with you, Mr. Keating. Rather I will share a few hundred images of war and suffering and plunder in Congo, and offer a rather large list of names of people from the west and companies involved, and then you not make such an uninformed comment as “most mining companies in Congo can’t even afford a shovel.”

    Please, if you or anyone wants to apologize for multinational (mining) corporations, or the UN operations in Congo, don’t be surprised to recieve a “backhanded” comment.

    As for Samantha Power , her Pultitzer is validation of her deceptions in support of a rapacious system. She has completely peddled total nonsense in her “genocide” these about Bystanders to Genocide etc etc.

    I’m sorry, and I don’t mean to damage your ego, but it makes me wonder if you are affiliated with some interests or other who are plundering Congo, or Africa. If not, please invite me to Umass Boston, and I will apologize in front of everyone for my own impatience and arrogance while trying to do the best I can to break through the wall of injustice I see all around us and the absolute silence that exists, at so many levels, regarding the truth about holocaust in Congo.


  10. dove said on February 28th, 2009 at 2:23pm #

    What a beautiful response from Mr Snow. I wonder if Keating will go for it..?? But actually, I really doubt it as I have seen too many deceivers like the deliberately misleading article’s author — another academic gatekeeper… Samantha Power indeed! Mr Keating, do you think we are all stupid?