Ilankai Tamil Sangam

28th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Rawanda's Shadow

The New York Times, November 13, 2008 Editorial

The international community failed to stop Rwanda’s genocide and promised not to let it happen again. Has the world forgotten so quickly?

The legacy of Rwanda lives on in eastern Congo, where ethnic tensions fueled by the 1994 genocide are creating new horrors. More international peacekeepers and aid are urgently needed, but the United Nations Security Council is shamefully failing to act.

Congo already was struggling with 1.5 million displaced people when a peace deal collapsed and unleashed new fighting between Congolese government forces and rebels led by Laurent Nkunda, the Rwandan-backed general. Since then, another 200,000 civilians have fled the atrocities committed by both sides; hundreds are dead.

In recent years, Rwanda has invaded neighboring Congo twice in pursuit of Hutu rebels who fled there after taking part in the genocide. Mr. Nkunda claims that he is fighting to protect Congolese Tutsis from those Hutu militants. We suspect his ambitions go far beyond that. He is either hoping to overthrow the weak, elected government of the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, or at least win control of the eastern region.

There is a lot more blame to go around. Mr. Kabila has armed the Hutu militias and used them as proxies against Mr. Nkunda’s forces. Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, is risking wider regional war by supporting Mr. Nkunda. On Wednesday, Angola said it was sending troops to Congo, presumably on the government’s side.

Congo already has 17,000 peacekeepers — the United Nations’ largest operation. Still, the situation merits the extra 3,000 forces that United Nations officials are begging Security Council members to provide. The Council has been mulling the issue for a month and not acting.

Congo’s vast mineral wealth is fanning the competition. A political settlement is the only hope for a durable peace. African leaders, the United Nations, the United States and China (a major new regional investor) must exert more pressure on all parties — starting with Mr. Kabila and Mr. Kagame — to implement a broad peace agreement, not just another unstable cease-fire. More peacekeepers and aid are needed right now. On Wednesday, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, warned that the situation is desperate, with 100,000 civilians trapped behind enemy lines in need of food.

United Nations peacekeepers also have been accused of committing abuses. Still, they have helped control the violence. A Council on Foreign Relations report calls the mission “the single most important factor preventing the full collapse of state authority” in the region.

The international community failed to stop Rwanda’s genocide and promised not to let it happen again. Has the world forgotten so quickly?


Printer-friendly version