THERE are 17'000 UN peacekeepers in the Congo. It is widely accepted that they are too few in number to do their job. There are therefore calls for reinforcements and the British and French foreign secretaries have been in the Congo for the past few days assessing the situation. The French may have some uncommitted military resources to deploy but it is obvious that Britain, with its continuing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, can do little to help. That does not stop David Miliband from issuing strong statements warning the Congolese and others of dire consequences if they do not stop scrapping.

Yesterday the brief and fragile ceasefire between the rebel general Laurent Nkunda and the Congo's army broke down when Nkunda's forces resumed their advance which, he says, “will continue until we reach the capital Kinshasa”.

Today in Nairobi the president of the Congo, Joseph Kaunda, will meet Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general who has said he will do everything in his power to restore peace in the Congo. But what can he do?

Some five million lives have been lost in the Congo basin in the past ten years and the number increases.
Peace treaties have been signed, ceasefires have been established and elections have been held, but the fighting and the killing continues unabated and the plight of the Congolese people deepens in a country the size of Europe.