Peacekeeping: The Best Peacekeepers Warlords Can Buy

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June 4, 2007: The United Nations is facing another crises in its peacekeeping operations, as details of a "gold-for-guns" operation, run by Pakistani peacekeepers in Congo three years ago, emerged last month. The UN was officially notified of the scam in 2006, and its investigation is not get complete. The accusation is that, Pakistani peacekeepers charged with supervising the surrender and disarming of rebel militias in 2004-5, took bribes, in gold, to give some of the weapons back to militiamen. The disarmament was part of a peace deal, with the disarmed militiamen getting job training, or positions in the regular army. The senior rebel officers were to get high ranking jobs in the government. But in Congo, a lot of people do not believe that the current peace will hold. So some of the warlords apparently made deals with some of the Pakistani troops, to get their weapons back after they had been officially "surrendered." The warlords had long kept their operations going via exploitation of diamond fields, gold mines and other salable natural resources. The bad guys had the resources to buy any of the good guys who were for sale.

The UN is still recovering from earlier peacekeeper scandals involving sex, prostitution and brothels. Peacekeepers in the Balkans and Africa were involved in all three activities, for business and pleasure. Some of the women involved were young teenagers, and some were forced. But the business in Congo was strictly business.

The UN has now adopted a "zero-tolerance" policy towards peacekeeper misbehavior. But all the UN can do, to those caught behaving badly, is to send them home. This is a hardship for peacekeepers from poor countries, where the UN peacekeeper pay of about a thousand dollars a month, is much higher than what they make back home. That, however, is not enough to keep all the 100,000 or so peacekeepers on duty, on the straight-and-narrow. Worse, the UN cannot, according to the deal it has with the nations supplying the peacekeepers, impose any more detailed discipline on the troops. That is up to the nations supplying the troops. This, however, is going to change, at least if some UN officials get their way.

The investigation of the gold-for-guns deal revealed some other scams, and some rather blatant threats against the investigators. The delay in getting the story of this scandal out has left some believing that the threats worked. After all, word of the investigation was leaked, and now the UN is in damage control mode. The UN is run by diplomats, not soldiers, and everyone expects the UN brass to try and sweep all of this under the rug. That's because trying to impose discipline and training standards on dozens of different countries (that contribute peacekeepers) would be a diplomatic, not to mention military, nightmare. But the United States, and some other Western countries, are offering trainers and equipment to upgrade peacekeeper standards, and backing the UN in asking for more authority over its peacekeepers.

 


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