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Situation in Congo deteriorating quickly What others say

Posted: Monday, May 19, 2003

It was nine years ago that ethnic Hutu militias began the terrible Rwandan massacres, hacking, impaling and otherwise ruthlessly slaughtering nearly a million rival Tutsis in a 100-day rampage.

Horribly, something similar may be about to happen in the neighboring Congo.

This time, the participants are the Congo's Lendu majority and its Hema minority. The Congo's government, weakened by a civil war, no longer can control the northeastern portions of its expansive country. Militias of both groups have launched bloody attacks on innocent civilians. About 4,000 people have died.

The situation has deteriorated as Lendu gangs, mostly drugged teenagers armed with machetes and spears, fought a losing battle with Hemas for control of Bunia and the gold-rich area around the town. Now, there is fear that both sides will turn their furor on helpless civilians.

Several hundred U.N. troops are stationed in Bunia, but their mandate is only to protect U.N. personnel.

The Security Council has been asked to send a larger contingent to prevent further bloodshed, and a decision is expected soon. But, U.N. peacekeepers have proven totally inept.

It would make more sense to deploy a foreign force that has the world body's blessing. It should not be from the United States, however. Americans already are doing their share.

The recent anti-war movement made it abundantly clear that the left fringe in this country will not tolerate the use of American troops to save helpless people overseas from brutal, inhumane treatment.

Ideally, the troops should come from an African country. Five neighbors were drawn into the Congo civil war, however, and that weakens their credibility as peacekeepers.

The world body should find a solution quickly, and not allow another Rwanda.

Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville - May 17



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