Genocide Warning on Congo
The World Today
24 November 2008
Below is a transcript of a report by journalists Emma Alberici and Eleanor Hall on the situation in the Congo, along with questions asked to Jan Egelend, secretary of Humanitarian Affairs, and Jean-Marie Guehenno, the UN's former Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations.
ELEANOR HALL: The leader of Congo's Tutsi rebels staged his first public rally over the weekend in newly conquered territory. Laurent Nkunda told the crowd not to be afraid. But two former high ranking United Nations officials are warning that the conditions look frighteningly similar to those before the Rwanda genocide in 1994. They're calling on the British Government to support a deployment of elite European forces to protect the Congolese population. As Europe correspondent Emma Alberici reports.
EMMA ALBERICI: The United Nations peacekeeping effort in Congo is already its biggest force in the world. They've approved the deployment of 3,000 more troops to the troubled central African state. But now two former United Nations chiefs are questioning whether they will be given the strength and resources to protect the civilian population. Jan Egeland, the former UN emergency relief co-ordinator, has called the Congo's continuing violence the world's worst humanitarian disaster. He has called on the European Union to take the lead role in ensuring a swift end to the bloodshed.
JAN EGELAND: And everybody speaks about the biggest UN force in the world in the Congo. There are 17,000 people there - one fourth of the Western force in Afghanistan with a tenth of the equipment in a much bigger place. The response is inadequate and Europe has to show that it was no joke when Europe solemnly swore in the UN General Assembly that there was a responsibility to protect and there should be no more Rwandas.
EMMA ALBERICI: Many observers say the current conflict owes its origins to the Rwandan genocide. The mass murder of General Nkunda's fellow Tutsis by Hutu militias allows him to claim he is defending a minority. The peace-keeping force now in east Congo had its demands for reinforcements met but the complaints from commanders are the same as those voiced in 1994 about not being able to open fire early enough to stop killings. () Jean-Marie Guehenno is the UN's ex-peacekeeping chief. He believes that the extra UN troops being sent to the Congo need to be elite soldiers from Europe.
JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO: That would have a big deterrent effect. Because the troops, they really play two roles: they have their operational role but they also are a political signal. And if the Europeans showed that they are ready to go, that would be a very powerful signal. When you think of what happened during the election where there was a very small, very, very small European deployment in Congo, but it had a huge psychological impact because there was that sense that the rest of the world was watching. That deterrent effect was enormous. ()