IF 17'000 UN peacekeepers cannot keep the peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo it is hard to see how 3'000 more will make any difference. The Congo is the size of Western Europe and one of most unruly countries in the world. However, this week the UN Security Council voted unanimously to send the 3'000 additional peacekeepers that the UN's representatives on the ground have said are necessary. The only problem is that no one seems to know where these additional forces are going to be found; UN officials in New York said it might take some months to assemble them.

There is a dilemma here. Most of the UN peacekeepers already in the Congo are from other African countries and some Asian countries also. In strictly operational terms the UN officials in charge would like to see highly-trained European troops added to their resources but there is always a risk that the presence of white soldiers in a former colonial territory - particularly one which had such a bad colonial experience as the Congo - will cause trouble, whatever colour helmet they may be wearing. There is also a difficulty over rules of engagement - peacekeeping implies that a peace has been agreed and is being observed and only needs to be maintained, but in the Congo peace has always been a fragile thing. So when does peacekeeping become peacemaking?

The continuing demands on the UN's peacekeeping role are such that these and other questions need to be answered.


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