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Blue helmets fail to keep peace in Africa

Posted January. 06, 2014 06:47,   

Updated January. 01, 1970 09:00

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“’Blue helmets,” U.N. peacekeeping troops, are deployed to Africa at the largest scale ever, but they have effectively failed to achieve the goal of ‘peacekeeping,’ a leading U.S. daily said.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the U.N. dispatched peacekeeping troops to areas in conflict including South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, but the troops failed to keep peace due to restriction of their authority and lack of equipment provided to them.

A total of 97,955 soldiers deployed to 16 regions worldwide are participating in U.N. peacekeeping operation. Among them, 76,296 or 77.9 percent are active in eight regions in Africa. This represents the largest ever in scale among the troops that have been deployed to Africa, and amount to about double the size of troops dispatched in the 1990s.

The Washington Post singled out as a reason for blue helmets’ failure ‘restriction of authority’ that only allows for combat for defense. Before the massacre in Rwanda occurred in 1994, the U.N. peacekeeping troops were aware that weapons were smuggled into armed Hutu militia. However, ranking U.N. officials blocked the peacekeeping troops from seizing the weapons, saying that forfeiting of the weapons was beyond the mission authorized to the troops.

The peacekeeping troops currently stationed in South Sudan were also deployed before tribal conflict intensified, but failed to prevent the worst bloodshed from occurring. The newspaper said conflicts between tribes are leading to political conflict, but the U.N. has been reluctant to intervene by regarding them only as “domestic affairs,” and avoided holding leaders accountable, which caused the situation to go from bad to worse.

The U.N. Security Council decided to double the size of peacekeeping operation stationed in South Sudan to 14,000 only after violence spread to the entire territory of South Sudan in December last year. Even the mission of the troops thus to be deployed was restricted to “regional development” however.

However, others argue that were it not for peacekeeping troops, the situation could have been even worse. “I think one can legitimately criticize peacekeeping operations for not doing enough,” said E.J. Hogendoorn, deputy Africa director for the International Crisis Group. “But without the physical intervention of either U.N. or African peacekeepers, those conflicts could oftentimes have escalated much more,” adding that tens of thousands have sought refuge inside U.N. peacekeeping bases.