Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Cannibals Versus the United Nations

On May 18, 2003 Belmont Club followed the fate of UN peacekeepers missing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They went missing after the UN claimed it had negotiated a "successful" ceasefire. The UN pleaded for Congolese churchmen to find the missing observers. They've been found  among a pile of corpses who have been partially eaten:

Among the dead are two U.N. military observers, one Jordanian, the other Nigerian.

Their bodies were discovered Sunday in Mongbwalu, a gold mining center about 40 miles northwest of Bunia, where they had been "savagely killed," said Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo.

The two officers, both of whom were unarmed, were last heard from on May 13, when they described to their colleagues a tense situation in Mongbwalu, with rival Hema and Lendu fighters preparing to battle for control of the town, U.N. officials say.

Since losing contact, the United Nations tried three times to send search and rescue teams into Mongbwalu, but failed when Hema and Lendu factions said they could not guarantee the safety of U.N. personnel.

By Sunday, a team was able to enter the town by helicopter and exhumed the remains of the observers, which were taken to Bunia.

The U.N. plans to investigate the killings, Toure said.

More on the cannibalism:

Church leaders and residents in Bunia, the capital of the Ituri district, said Monday that Lendu tribal fighters killed civilians and combatants, cutting open their chests and ripping out hearts, livers and lungs, which they ate while they were still warm.

... "The sight of a corpse with a missing liver and heart is horrific, especially when you know that those parts were eaten by fellow human beings and that the same could happen to you," said Acquitte Kisembo, a 28-year-old medical student.

He said he saw several bodies with missing parts.

The United Nations is taking the allegations seriously and plans to investigate the reports of cannibalism, said Amos Namanga Ngongi, head of the U.N. mission in Congo.

The reports "cannot be so persistent and false," he told reporters in Bunia. "There cannot be so much talk of such things if it is false."

The UN should avoid profiling people with alternative dietary habits. Cannibal-Americans should not be discriminated against.

Some 700 unarmed UN observers remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The armed Uruguayan UN peacekeepers are unable to leave their entrenchments for fear of their lives. In the meantime, the European Union defense ministers said their forces were ready to maintain peace in the Congo, but said "the lack of hardware could make it hard to send and protect the troops". Several weeks ago, a number of Canadian peacekeepers sent to Afghanistan were prohibited by Ottawa from carrying weapons. Their mission was to protect the Afghan tribal council who were planning a meeting.