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"New World of UN Peace Operations" Echoes from Rwanda to Jonglei, 4 Frenchmen

By Matthew Russell Lee, Book Review

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- With UN Peacekeeping under fire for recent inaction in South Kordofan and Darfur in Sudan, slow action in Pibor in South Sudan, abuse and negligent introduction on cholera in Haiti, and standing by during mass rapes in Walikale in the Congo, one expected the new 250 page book "The New World of UN Peace Operations" to suggest solutions to these problems.

  Instead, the book's three German authors lavish praise on the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, mostly on Jean-Marie Guehenno (the second of the four Frenchmen in a row to run DPKO) with a few mentions of his successor, Alain Le Roy.

  There are many below the top level of DPKO who want to do a good job, and some do. But as the proverb says, a fish rots from the head.

  The book does acknowledge some problems: the capture and "undressing" of UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone in 2000 by forces under Corporal Foday Sankoh; the erratic management in Liberia of Jacques Klein. But it misses more recent stories.

  Though copyrighted and published in 2011 the book feels out of date, with only glancing mention of the Department of Field Support that was spun off in 2008. Ban Ki-moon is not even listed in the book's index; his name appears once, connected to a press release, on the book's penultimate page.

  Jordan's Prince Zeid is mentioned, but not his incomplete work on sexual abuse and exploitation. This is a bureaucratic book about a bureaucracy, portraying DPKO as a "learning organization."

  But what has DPKO learned? The book recounts DPKO inaction in Bukavu in the Kivus in 2004 during attacks led by Jules Mutebutsi and Laurent Nkunda.

  But the same thing happened last year in Southern Kordofan, and to some degree this month in Jonglei State in South Sudan, where the UN proceeded without Russian helicopters flying from November on, until a bloodbath in Pibor ensued (click here for an Inner City Press story.)  Even now the UN won't say what it has learned. (UNMISS official Lise Grande is in the book, at page 185; Hilde Johnson is not.)

   The book praises Alan Doss, the former SRSG in the Congo who left after proof of nepotism: urging UNDP to break the rules and give his daughter a job (a protest by the staffer whose job was being given away led to the staffer, and not Doss, being submitted to justice.)

   Amid bloviating about the UN's Rule of Law work, there is no mention of the peacekeepers' immunity, which has led for example to the mere repatriation of over 100 Sri Lankan soldiers after being accused of pedophilia in Haiti, and the more recent case involving Uruguayan peacekeepers.

  Inevitably there's mention of the Romanian UN Formed Police Unit shooting protesters in Kosovo in 2007 with 13 year old rubber bullets which got hard enough to kill. But this same issue -- allowing peacekeepers to use out of date munitions -- had earlier led to deaths in the DRC. So what did the UN learn?

  There are many below the top level of DPKO who want to do a good job, and some do. But as the proverb says, a fish rots from the head.

(c) UN Photo
UN Peacekeeping in decline: Ladsous & Ban his year, response on cholera in Haiti not shown

  One wonders what the authors think of the capture of UN Peacekeeping by a single member state, to the degree that France put forward Herve Ladsous at the last minute to replace Jerome Bonnafont, even though even his supporters say Ladsous is unqualified.

  At an early meeting, Ladsous reportedly told UN staff, don't look to me for vision, I am a bureaucrat. So it seems are this book's authors, Thorsten Benner, Stephan Bergenthaler and Philipp Rotmann, all affiliated with the Global Public Policy Institute GPPi. The book was funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research. The money could better have been spent trying to protect civilians in Pibor, or South Kordofan before that. Live and learn.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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