Containing The Congo

by Brendan James

The UN is putting some teeth on its peacekeeping mission in the DRC, authorizing a 3,000-strong “intervention brigade” to put down militia violence in the eastern part of the country. David Bosco reminds us that the last attempt to do so turned ugly, fast:

In 2006, a group of Guatemalan special forces soldiers assigned to the peacekeeping mission attempted to hunt down units of the Lord’s Resistance Army operating in Congo’s Garamba National Park. The operation turned into a disaster. Several U.N. soldiers were killed (likely by friendly fire), and the LRA forces escaped. In early 2009, U.N. forces began actively supporting the offensive operations of the Congolese armed forces. But that collaboration was dialed back as criticism of Congolese army tactics mounted.

He argues these missions are almost always hobbled by inadequate forces sent with ambitious goals:

Part of the problem with offensive U.N. operations is that the training and resources of the forces doing the fighting often doesn’t match the mandate. It’s one thing for the Security Council to authorize offensive operations from New York; it’s quite another thing for peacekeeping commanders to manage them successfully on the ground. During the U.N.’s Bosnia operation in the 1990s, that gap between the Council’s proclamations and the actual work of peacekeepers grew to tragic proportions.