Sunday, 18 November 2012

Blue Helms At The Black Heart But Where Is The African Union?

    Fighting has intensified over the last few days as rebel forces of M23 (otherwise known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army) push into the DRC from the East. The Congolese army and United Nations Peacekeepers have fallen back on the provincial capital, Goma, as the rebels take settlements along the border between the Congo and its neighbors Rwanda and Uganda, forcing half a million people to flee their homes.
     The army has been forced back with reports coming in that the rebels are armed with heavy weapons, 120 mm mortars and night vision equipment and have continued to advance even under the repeated bombardment of UN attack helicopters. These are not the hallmarks of a band of rebels and mutineers from the army, better suited to brigandage, rape and murder of unarmed civilians.
      Both the Congolese government and the UN have stated that M23 are supported heavily by the neighboring states of Uganda and, especially, Rwanda. This is backed up by both the sophisticated armament of the rebels and even reports that Rwandan troops have crossed the border in support of M23. While both states have vigorously denied these claims it is clear that the DRC is suffering the worst crisis it has faced in recent months.
     The UN has long been present in the DRC trying to create a state out of what was left after 'peace' was declared over a decade ago. They have already responded to this new threat, supporting the Congolese Army in holding the line at Goma. Simultaneously, though crises in Syria and Israel may have diverted the giant organisations attention, an emergency session of the Security Council was called to respond to the emergency. Adding to previous condemnations and asset-freezes the UNSC called for antagonist states to come together and for all support of M23 to cease immediately.
     While the UN has started to respond to the situation in the DRC what has also become apparent is the amazing silence of the African Union on the issue. While recent issues around Somalia and Mali may have diverted its attention the AU has remained stunningly silent especially considering that DRC, Uganda and Rwanda are all member states. Their website has no update on the situation and they have made little attempt to diplomatically or militarily engage with crisis. With the UN and Congolese struggling valiantly to hold back the heavily-armed rebel assault now would seem an appropriate time for the leading transnational organisation to assert itself properly or risk losing a great deal of legitimacy and respect if the rebels somehow defeat the combined forces at Goma. 

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