The UN’s second-highest peacekeeping official pens a letter to the editor in The Washington Post, responding to critics of the overwhelmed, undermanned, under-resourced, and under-appreciated mission in eastern Congo.
MONUC forces are patrolling, holding access routes to the provincial capital of Goma and maintaining the fragile peace there. It is the only force actively contributing to the protection of the vulnerable and helping to make a difference where it matters most. However, with barely one peacekeeper for every 10,000 civilians in eastern Congo, MONUC cannot be everywhere at once. Its troops are spread thin throughout the country; moving large numbers of them would destabilize other volatile regions. This is why we have called on the international community to reinforce the mission immediately. We need the right tools if we are to succeed in the difficult days ahead.
Without the U.N. force, the situation in North Kivu would have been far worse. Without the blue U.N. helmets and U.N. expertise, Congo could not have emerged from the horrors of its brutal civil wars to hold its first national elections in half a century. U.N. peacekeeping is an imperfect instrument, but where would Congo and indeed Africa as a whole be without it? [emphasis mine]
UN troops cannot indeed be “behind every tree,” and Mulet raises a good point about the counter-factual difficulty of realizing the benefits of having UN peacekeepers behind at least some of those trees. Check out this RI bulletin that I flagged earlier for more on what the mission is doing — and what needs to be done to support it.