Why would a U.N. peacekeeping mission end up in such apparent shambles, especially after the lessons learned from the Rwandan genocide and even the Srebrenica massacre? Let's just say the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is no stranger to scandal and controversy. Dubbed MONUC, the mission was launched on Nov. 30, 1999, and is, as of this writing, authorized by Security Council Resolution 1794 through Dec. 31, 2008. As of Sept. 30, 2008, the mission was staffed by 18,434 total uniformed personnel, including 16,667 troops, 702 military observers, and 1,065 police, and had suffered a total of 129 casualties, including 34 local and international civilian workers. The largest contingents of troops are contributed by India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
MONUC was first rocked by sex scandals that found U.N. peacekeepers to be sexually abusing girls and women, and giving them small bits of food or badly needed money in return. In 2004, a confidential U.N. document was leaked that detailed the problems with sexual abuse of the Congolese by foreign soldiers. In 2005, the United Nations admitted that the abuse was continuing. Even through late 2008, Indian peacekeepers were accused of sexually exploiting and abusing the DRC's women and girls. The Congolese have been harmed by the same forces ostensibly sent to protect them.
But even the amount of protection afforded the Congolese is negligible under the MONUC mandate. Stymied by a bureaucratic tangle, even a late October 2008 request for 3,000 more peacekeepers as bloodshed peaked in the DRC was met with a delay on any action until late November. Yet even faced with situations where force is necessary to save lives, U.N. peacekeepers are reluctant to practice this. Or they're simply overwhelmed, as MONUC claims is the case with a spate of civilian deaths (Human Rights Watch claims the toll is over 50) as rebels evacuated a refugee camp at the U.N. base at Kiwanja.