I’ve spent much of the last month poking fun (with serious intent) at Irish EU peacekeepers in Chad praised by rebels for staying neutral during a shoot-out at a refugee camp. Yesterday, I spoke to some researchers just back from Chad who reported that the Irish had done the best job they could under the circumstances. Their failure was on the PR front, not the battlefield.
After all, operating alongside rebels is tricky. My colleague Ben Tortolani, an indefatigable hunter after peacekeeping trivia, draws my attention to this story from the Congo – if true, it’s definitely one for the “oops” file:
The scandal-hit U.N. mission in Democratic Republic of Congo is investigating an Indian peacekeeping officer accused of showing support for eastern Tutsi rebels, a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday. The allegations stem from recordings of a bush ceremony in which an Indian U.N. commander hailed the rebels as “brothers” and presented their leader General Laurent Nkunda with his regimental crest.
Nkunda’s rebels have continued to clash with Congo’s weak government despite a peace deal this year that followed 2006 elections intended to pacify the vast mineral-rich former Belgian colony.
The world’s largest U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo often finds itself stuck in the middle — fighting rebels and militias but also at times accused by the government of not doing enough.
“We have launched an investigation,” mission spokesman Kemal Saiki told Reuters in response to the allegations against the Indian officer. Saiki refused to name the officer but the transcript seen by Reuters identified him as Colonel Chand Saroha, the former commander at Sake, a strategic town in the eastern province of North Kivu.
“We are like brothers,” Saroha told Nkunda and his fighters at the ceremony in April marking his departure from the zone. “Officially we are not allowed to meet you. But your good conduct, your good discipline … made us feel we were associated with proud people,” he added. Amid chants from his soldiers, according to the transcript, Nkunda thanked Saroha, saying: “You have helped us a great deal.”
What I find most remarkable about this story is that someone was recording all this. I suggest that Indian officer training courses should make biographies of Richard Nixon required reading if this sort of leak is to be avoided in future…