Last year, when M23 invaded the city of Goma, the blue helmeted Peacekeepers (under the leadership of American diplomat Roger Meece) stepped aside and let them in. The rebels released thousands of prisoners onto the streets, looted the central bank, raided the armory, cut power and water to most of the city’s residents, and assassinated Congolese whistleblowers by the dozen.
[Pictured: Congolese protestors carry the body of a civilian shot by UN peacekeepers.]
Congolese civilians had considered the peacekeepers irrelevant for many years, but suddenly the scandal was laid bare for the world to see. World headlines might as well have declared: “$1.5 Billion Budget and 17,000 troops Fail to Protect Fortified City from Band of Mutineers."
The UN quickly reorganized, authorizing a new "Intervention Brigade” with a mandate to act aggressively to neutralize illegal armed groups alongside the Congolese army. The governments of Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa contributed a total of 3,000 new troops to this Brigade.
New commanders took over, as well. Germany contributed Martin Kobler as the top civilian commander of the peacekeeping force. The Brazilian General who had gone to battle with Haiti’s street gangs - Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz [pictured above] - took over military command of the new Brigade.
Kobler & Santos Cruz abandoned the Congo peacekeeping mission’s historic stance of “impartiality,” got out of their air-conditioned SUVs, and made clear they were siding with the Congolese army against the rebels. They were immediately praised for their aggressive, no-nonsense approach.
Quelle surprise … it worked.
Using their helicopters to provide Congo’s army with air support, and risking life and limb to provide advice on the front lines, last week the peacekeepers stopped M23. Today, the last stronghold of the rebel leaders fled to neighboring countries and the remaining troops are in the process of being fully disarmed.
The price has been steep. At least 4 UN peacekeepers paid with their lives to stop M23, and dozens more were wounded.
Congolese need equal partners and not saviors to rescue us from our "misery."
The arrogance of international organizations amaze me. Some wants to decide for the Congolese people by pushing for economic integration. Others flatly just claim they stopped M23. All that’s in my head right now is the many Congolese soldiers who have died in the front fighting for peace in the Congo.
Let’s remember there are new mass graves in the Kivus that have been found while we are trying to get credits.