June 12, 2003

HERE’S AN INTERESTING COLUMN on how the United Nations is, and has been, screwing up in the Congo:

International civil servants and diplomats from developing countries, appointed by their parent countries on a rotational basis, frequently lacked the qualifications demanded by the UN’s job description. More often than not they were successful in obtaining lucrative New York appointments as a direct result of their personal ties with their nation’s leader. On arrival at the UN, their self-interest motivated them to perpetuate the system that rewarded those within their inner circle. Within two weeks of Mr. Thornberg’s enlightened report landing on the Secretary General’s desk it was shredded — having been declared much too controversial! I have one of the few surviving copies.

General Baril’s recent appointment by Secretary General Kofi Annan to try and organize a national army in the Congo is a vivid reminder that the UN’s “old boys’ club” is alive and well — and doesn’t just recruit from developing countries.

Tragically, General Baril and Kofi Annan were at the very centre of the UN’s two most disastrous failures in its history — the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the embarrassing and futile attempt to resolve the refugee crisis in Eastern Zaire (now the DRC) in 1997. . . .

An advisory job to the Secretary General at UN headquarters in New York during the Rwanda crisis, and a short visit to Zaire during a botched UN mission, do not uniquely qualify someone for a challenging and critical job in the current DRC crisis.

One is more inclined to conclude that the “old boys’ club” of the Rwandan genocide and the “bungle in the jungle” a few years later in Zaire refuses to acknowledge its disastrous role in those two monumental failures. On the contrary, the failures are offered up as qualifications for taking on key roles in the current crisis in the same area. Seems to me there are plenty of experts on that area of Africa who would be eminently qualified to take on General Baril’s challenging task.

Is it just me or is the UN proving completely incapable of arresting its downhill slide into irrelevance on issues of international peace and security?

It’s not just you.

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