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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/15/12

"What Kind of Peace Are the Congo UN Peacemakers Keeping?"

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"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind." ~~ George Orwell

Early on Thursday, July 12, 2012, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) joined with the Congolese army (FARDC) and sent five Mi24 and Mi25 Soviet helicopters flown by Ukrainian pilots to bomb positions north of the provincial capitol of Goma. The goal was to conduct a joint operation with FARDC in opposition to the M23 rebel movement. MONUSCO was flexing its muscle in order to escape accusations of incompetence. In thirteen years, 20,000 troops with a budget of 1.4 billion USD  have been unable to protect the civilian population of eastern DRC, and the mission has been under increased scrutiny since its mandate came up for renewal in June.

The gunships strafed hillsides with 30mm rounds and fired rockets, a UN source said. Ultimately proving their incompetence and showing absolute disregard for civilians, the helicopters bombed homes in Kanyamagana, injuring several people and killing a woman named Ms. Bushye Agathe. Four others received treatment in a nearby hospital in Rumagabo.

The murdered woman, until now, has not been graced with a name in any of the news reports from the BBC or the AFP. Her crime? She was hiding in a banana grove when the 30mm rounds tore through her body. How pilots could possibly mistake colorfully dressed Congolese women for the fatigues of the M23 is beyond comprehension, but speaks to the malfeasance of both MONUSCO and the Congolese army. 

On a personal note, I have walked those roads and seen women dressed in vibrant blues and yellows, reflecting the colors of the sky above them as they tended their fields of maize. They turned and laughed at me as I played with their goats tethered in the grass on the hillside above them. When I read the account of the gunship attack, I could only imagine Agathe shattered by United Nations' gunships. 

Just imagine. 30 mm ammunition is typically used as an  armor-piercing round. Rounds of this size can be effective against armored vehicles as well as fortified bunkers. How do I know? I looked it up. 

Agathe may have sisters, children, and a husband. I don't know the details, but I do know she was loved and she cannot be ignored by a world hardened by atrocity. Has Agathe's death been widely reported? Of course not. Learning her name has not been important to the BBC, to AFP, or to Reuters, who refer to her only as the "woman in the banana grove," if they mention her at all.

(Image by Virunga News)
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Agathe by Virunga News

Here is Agathe's photo. Look at it and see the faces of millions of Congolese women who are caught in the middle of an endless war. Don't forget her.

In an absolute lie, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Roger Meece, said that that UN attack helicopters had engaged "very actively and very robustly" against rebel forces in the eastern DRC.

Look at the YouTube and read the guilt on the face of the UN representative as he ignores mentioning civilian casualties. He can nervously fiddle with his glasses, but does not have the nerve to tell us the truth about Agathe's body lying in the field near the banana grove. There have been absolutely no reports that the M23 suffered any casualties.

Meece told reporters in Kinshasa that the use of the attack helicopters was "in the context of seeking to do all possible" to protect the civilian population "against the advances of the M23 rebel faction."

Tell that to those who loved Agathe. Remember her the next time you hear the United Nations talk about "protecting civilians."

Watch this short video and imagine what it was like hiding in that banana grove with five helicopters bearing down on you.

There have been no reports of M23 injuring or harassing civilians in this latest outbreak of violence, but plenty of testimony that FARDC has looted and harassed civilians. Here is one from AfricaReport

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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