Today's New York Times has a phenomenal story on the Congo that, all of a sudden, makes everything clear. Take just 5 minutes and 27 seconds to watch (yes, watch -- the video is even more powerful than the written report) Lydia Polgreen's story on the early November massacre in the village of Kiwanja. The video shows what is going on and clarifies what needs to happen: Congo's civilians need an effective international military force to protect them -- now.
What do we learn from her grim story? #1: The massacre was committed in cold blood by Laurent Nkunda's CNDP troops, led by an indicted war criminal, Bosco Ntaganda, who is Mr. Nkunda's chief of staff. #2: The UN peacekeeping force, MONUC, was only a mile away, but was under-equipped, understaffed, and simply incapable of responding either to prevent or disrupt this disaster. #3: The Congolese Army, which had held the village of Kiwanja before Nkunda's forces arrived, ran away when attacked by Nkunda's forces. As they ran away, they looted, raped, and otherwise abused the civilians that the Congolese Army exists in theory to protect. They are the worst army in the world and part of the problem, not part of the solution, in eastern Congo today.
What else do we know? This is not an isolated event. Such massacres have been a disturbingly regular part of existence in rural areas of eastern Congo for the last dozen years. Eastern Congo has become a lawless land, where groups like Nkunda's and dozens of others can prey on civilians, living off the richness of easily-exploitable mineral resources.
What is going on about this elsewhere? Critical activities are taking place now in New York, Brussels, and The Hague. In New York, the United Nations Security Council is discussing what MONUC's mission should be. They will provide the answer to MONUC before the end of this year. In Brussels, the European Union is discussing the formal request from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to deploy a Multinational Force (MNF) in support of MONUC. The Europeans discussed this on Monday, deciding to further study the issue. In The Hague, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant of arrest earlier this year against Bosco Ntaganda, Nkunda's chief of staff.
What needs to be done? As Ms. Polgreen's story makes chillingly obvious, only the international community can prevent the reoccurence of such massacres. MONUC is already there, and the Security Council recently approved 3,000 additional troops and police. The Security Council now must make it clear that the strengthened MONUC must protect civilians and prevent such massacres. Unfortunately, it will take months before these urgently-needed additional forces arrive.
Therefore, the European Union should fill this gap by agreeing as soon as possible to send an MNF to support MONUC. The MNF should support MONUC, help protect the civilian population, and arrest indicted war criminals, such as Bosco. Nkunda has already said that there is "no chance" that he would turn over Bosco. Therefore, Bosco must be arrested by an international force and sent to The Hague.
The United States should strongly support all these efforts, by leading in the Security Council and providing military logistics and intelligence support to MONUC and an MNF.
If you think this is too much to ask, watch the video again. Without these actions, it is certain that such massacres will continue -- how many more need to occur before effective international action is taken?