Thursday, February 19, 2009

Too many thoughts are a bad thing

"A Moroccan peacekeeper told an AP photographer the 240 U.N. troops now have no contact with the people they were sent to protect; they stay in their new camp at an airstrip, a 20-minute drive from town, according to the soldier, who would not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

After the rebel attack on Dungu in the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 1, the peacekeepers finally arrived at 4 p.m. to evacuate aid workers from the town, U.N. officials said. By then, the Congolese troops had driven out the rebels.

"MONUC did nothing for us the day we were attacked," said Edoxie Babe, a market vendor, using the French acronym for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo. "I saw MONUC come in only in the afternoon, and then only to get the white foreigners to safety."

This is from yet another excellent AP article (link here if you want it) about the LRA attacks in Congo.

I get accused a lot of being way too cynical, of being needlessly hard on the humanitarian community and, honestly, being a bit of a whinger. At drinks by the river a couple weeks ago a friend asked me if I had it to do all over again would I do this again. I said honestly, even though I love my life and all the things I've gotten to do and see, no, I wouldn't do it again. And, more to the point, when people come to me asking for advice on how to break into the aid industry I tell them to run screaming in the other direction.

The friend, who had been doing this for yonks as well and is just as tired but still believes we do more good than harm, was horrified. No no no, she said, we still save lives. Which is true, we do. But then we also leave people on the side of the road for weeks without any support when they flee a conflict (see this post), when we're returning them, it isn't much better (see this post) and, as you can see above, even when men with guns come out to protect you, they really AREN'T interested in getting shot at to protect some kanga-wearing villager from a deranged child soldier.

So yeah, there are some bugs in the system.

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