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Ghastly UN deaths in the Congo

Congo UN Deaths

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#1 Rov Judicata

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Posted 02 June 2003 - 12:59 PM

WARNING: If you have a weak stomach, you really shouldn't read this. Use your best discretion.



Death, when it came, must have been a relief for the two UN soldiers. Stationed at an isolated gold mine in war-racked Ituri province, they were supposed to be observing peace yet fell victim to some of the worst horrors of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When the bodies of Major Safwat Oran of Jordan and Captain Siddon Davis Banda of Malawi were finally recovered, their UN colleagues were aghast. Their corpses were covered in cigarette burns, shot in the head and had their sexual organs cut off.

The circumstances of the murders in Ituri, northeastern Congo, last month are still under UN investigation. But details are emerging. They will give pause for thought to the 1,400 troops, some of them British, many of them French, due to deploy this week to rescue the blighted UN mission.

On 6 May a vicious battle erupted in Bunia, 40 miles to the south, the prized town at the heart of Ituri's ethnic cauldron. Militiamen from the Hema and Lendu tribes drew blood with guns, knives, spears and poisoned arrows. Within a week, more than 430 people would die.

A week later Mongbwalu, a once thriving but now desolate gold-mining centre, was still calm. But the townspeople, also fearing an attack, began to flee. So did the two UN military observers, according to a local aid worker who helped recover their bodies. Major Oran and Capt Davis Banda sent a radio message to their superiors in Kisangani, 400 miles to the west across a swathe of impenetrable bush. Later in the day, they were carrying their bags from their house - once home to the Belgian mine boss - when Lendu fighters tackled them. Accusing them of collaborating with the Hema, they carried them off. The two soldiers were never again seen alive.

The following Sunday night a helicopter carrying their remains flew into Bunia airport using car headlights as a guide. A Belgian priest, Father Joe Deneckere, was there. "The smell was truly awful. It remained with me for days afterwards," he said yesterday.

King Abdullah II of Jordan sent a special plane to Kinshasa to recover Major Oran's body; Capt Davis Banda was returned to Malawi aboard a UN flight. A horrified UN condemned the "savage" killings of its observers, whose severed sexual organs - according to some reports the hearts and livers were also missing - raised the possibility of cannibalism.

During the battle for Bunia, some victims' remains were badly mutilated; some fighters wore penises and kidneys around their necks as magic amulets. Last December, during fighting for control of Mambasa, there were 12 confirmed cases of cannibalism, UN investigators said.

Soldiers from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, led by a mobile phone entrepreneur turned warlord, Jean-Pierre Bemba, forced villagers to eat the remains of their slain neighbours. In one case a mother had to consume her son's arm; in another a pregnant woman was cut open and her foetus eaten.

Did the two UN peacekeepers die in vain? The first UN mission to Congo in 1960 saw UN troops lob shells on hostile cities and led to the death in a plane crash of the UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold. It was an unmitigated disaster. This one is not much better.

Since its inception in 1999, the $2 million a day mission to Congo - known under its French acronym, MONUC - has been "a long, bad story", according to the analyst François Grignon. Lukewarm international interest is to blame, but so are naivety and ineptitude.

Of the planned deployment of 8,700 troops, only about 5,000 are on the ground. Western nations are reluctant to contribute troops so the majority of those in place hail from poor countries such as Uruguay, Morocco and Senegal.

As a result, unarmed observers such as Major Oran and Capt Davis Banda find themselves stationed in isolated villages without the backup of the hundreds of troops supposed to be protecting them.

A much-touted disarmament and repatriation programme for Rwandan Hutu fighters has painfully crawled forward. During the first attempted disarmament, in the southern town of Kamina, the Hutu fighters raided a nearby Congolese government arsenal and shot their way into the surrounding bush. Of 2,000 Hutus, just 670 returned to Rwanda, the remainder being still on the run.

Another disarmament centre was set up in Lubero, far from any significant centre of Hutu fighters. The centre, which cost $100,000 a week and is now closed, finally repatriated a few dozen Hutus. "It was a fiasco," one disarmament officer admitted.

Of the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Hutu combatants in Congo, between 600 and 700 have been disarmed. In Bunia, a weak and confusing mandate fused with a foreseeably volatile situation to explosive effect during last month's Bunia massacres. During the killings the 700 Uruguayan troops cowered behind their razor-wire compound, outraging aid workers and some townspeople. Although their main task is to protect UN personnel and bases, MONUC soldiers are also mandated to protect civilians in "immediate danger".

A UN spokesman said yesterday: "If they [the Uruguayans] hear gunfire within their range of action they will intervene." When asked to define "range of action", he answered: "I can't answer that." Later, a frustrated UN soldier explained: "If I see someone being hacked to death in front of me I'm authorised to open fire. But if it happens around the corner, and I can hear it, am I authorised to go and look?"

The killings were triggered by the withdrawal of 6,000 Ugandan troops, following concerted international pressure from as high as the office of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. But despite local warnings of possible carnage, a robust force to fill the vacuum was not sent.

For now the only British officer in Bunia is a Scot who wears a kilt and bullet-proof sporran, but up to 200 more British troops are expect to join the operation. They will carry with them orders to shoot to kill if civilian life is endangered.

Lendu troops outside the town may attack. The volatile UPC, composed of at least 60 per cent child soldiers, may also attack if provoked, as its leader, Thomas Lubanga, warned yesterday. And if they manage to secure Bunia, the emergency force will face heading into the surrounding bush to ensure humanitarian access.

Where peace-keeping began

UN peace-keeping first began in Congo after Belgian colonial rule came to an end. In 1960 Congo, under the leadership of its first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, became independent. It rapidly collapsed into anarchy and a series of civil wars. The first of these came 11 days after independence with the secession of Katanga. Congo asked for a UN peace-keeping force, which was approved. In 1963 UN forces defeated the Katanga rebels and in 1964 the UN pulled out. Now it is heading back again with a French-led contingent of 1,400 troops.

Utterly, utterly awful.

If there's a way the US can lend troops to help in this situation, it should do it. And kudos to the French for more or less leading the peacekeeping troops...
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Posted 02 June 2003 - 01:50 PM


Rov: If there's a way the US can lend troops to help in this situation, it should do it.

Moving a carrier battlegroup into the region is pretty much out of question considering the current condition of the carrier fleet.  That said we should be able to dispatch and ARG or two to the region to support operations.  One or two Wasp or Tarawa vessels in the region would add a significant amount of firepower to the UN forces along with the embarked Marines.  We could probably round up a few B-52s for air support and hopefully get basing in the area for tactical aircraft.  With some limited faicilties we could base A  Then we could see about transporting some light forces into the region.

The only concession I’d want is that US forces operate under our ROE rather than the set of disasters that the UN applies to their “operations”.  I have a feeling those ROE and other details of typical UN peacekeeping operations are maybe a lot of the reason why the UN is once again blundering about.  This type of death shouldn't of happened to anyone.

Edited by CJ AEGIS, 02 June 2003 - 02:07 PM.

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#3 Bossy


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Posted 02 June 2003 - 02:00 PM

That's horrible. I do not understand how people can do that to other human beings.  :(

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 02:32 PM

Bossy, on Jun 2 2003, 03:04 AM, said:

That's horrible. I do not understand how people can do that to other human beings.  :(
Agreed, I’ve never fully grasped that level of hatred and how it exists to easily.
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
        -Fleet Admiral Nimitz
"Their sailors say they should have flight pay and sub pay both -- they're in the air half the time, under the water the other half""
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Posted 08 June 2003 - 03:43 AM

Looks like things are heating up again in the Congo.  I'm betting the rebels are trying to secure territory to make it harder for the INT Forces to force them out.

Violent clashes erupt in Congo


A day after French troops arrived here on a mission to quell ethnic violence, fighting erupted between rival militias Saturday in this northeastern Congolese town.

According to press photographers, Lendu militia attacked road-blocks set up by the Hema minority and pushed the Hema fighters -- who have been in control of Bunia -- further back into the town.


The contingent of French troops remained at Bunia's airport to secure the area for the arrival of more forces. So far, the forces have not intervened in the fighting, as they wait for more troops and weaponry.


The advance group of French troops arrived Friday morning. They are part of a 1,400-strong European Union intervention force, led by France, who were asked by the U.N. Security Council to help immediately secure the troubled region until U.N. troops arrive in September.

Over the next few days, the French contingent -- about 700 troops -- will arrive in Bunia and begin their mission, which has been described as "complex."


The U.N. peacekeepers do not have a mandate to intervene in the conflict. The U.N. force in Bunia is composed of 700 Uruguayan peacekeepers and some unarmed observers, two of whom were murdered and mutilated last month.
Unarmed?  Well that explains a lot....
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
        -Fleet Admiral Nimitz
"Their sailors say they should have flight pay and sub pay both -- they're in the air half the time, under the water the other half""
        - Ernie Pyle: Aboard a DE

#6 ElJay



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Posted 10 June 2003 - 06:44 AM

What a gods-awful situation.  The worst part of it is that unless a military presence is maintained, any fragile 'peace' that is established will probably crumble away again.  So 'peace-keepers' turn into defacto conquerors.  Being part of the human race really scares me sometimes. :(

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#7 Ogami

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 06:48 AM

I saw an article showing the French deploying an additional 1,000 troops there last week. The picture to the article had the troops in their UN personnel carrier, all wearing bright blue peacekeeper helmets. Bright blue helmets! What were they thinking?

I don't want to see a single U.S. soldier put under the direction of that idiot Kofi Annan, and his equally idiotic (not to mention corrupt and worthless) UN organization.

It was only a few weeks ago that Kofi piously warned the United States that as the "occupying power" in Iraq, it was our responsibility to get the utilities working again. What a jerk, we liberated Iraq, and we're doing the best we can without his urging.

There would have been tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties, had Kofi Annan ran the Iraq war. Like he's running the Congo mission.


Edited by Ogami, 10 June 2003 - 06:51 AM.

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