Not only has Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda threatened UN peacekeepers, but he also issued a strong warning to potential troop contributors from neighboring countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
[S]peaking to Reuters by telephone from eastern Congo, [Nkunda] added: “If they come in and fight alongside the [Democratic Republic of Congo government] and the [Rwandan Hutu rebels] … they will share the same shame as the DRC government..”
“If SADC engages like this, they will have made a mistake … I am ready to fight them,” Nkunda said.
Nkunda’s bluster should not be countenanced, of course, but he does hit upon a major blunder in the international response to Congo’s increasing collapse. As this Refugees International bulletin makes clear, the international community’s long-standing policy of allowing — indeed, even mandating — peacekeeping forces to assist the notoriously corrupt and rights-abusing Congolese army has generated a contradiction that is only accelerating the spriral of this conflict.
More peacekeepers are desperately needed — and at least one observer is very upset that the UK has blocked the rapid deployment of a supplementary EU force — but their role must be one of civilian protection, complemented by a vigorous commitment to political peacemaking.