Sunday, December 19, 2004

Maybe this time we'll be lucky (or not)

The EU’s spokespersons (Solana, Chirac, sometimes Schröder, and sundry others, such as the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg) have echoed the UN’s stand and Kofi Annan’s oft repeated assertion that the Iraqi election should be postponed because of the continuing, though diminishing problems in that country. One can just imagine what would happen if the election were to be postponed. The same people would dance a jig of joy, pointing a finger at American imperialism and President Bush’s refusal to let Iraqis rule themselves. Send in the UN they would proclaim.

Well, the elections in Iraq are, it seems, going ahead though with minimal UN involvement as Secretary General Annan is refusing to commit any more officials. (He it was who refused to commit more peacekeepers in Rwanda just over ten years ago, as it disintegrated into the largest massacre this side of 1945.)

However, in another country where UN troops have been present to no good effect whatsoever, elections are, according to the EU to go ahead: DR Congo, recently described as the biggest man-made catastrophe in the world.

The war in DR Congo has been going on for about seven or eight years and has involved the armies of six surrounding countries, not to mention several domestic government and rebel armies. It has resulted in about 3 million deaths (that is, I accept, a conservative estimate) and the complete destruction of various parts of the country.

The UN has had thousands of troops stationed there with very little result. In fact, the only time we heard about them was when they were accused of various malpractice, including rape of women and girls, some of them very young. The EU also rather proudly sent 800 troops, all of whom stayed in the barracks, too terrified (with good reason) to go out.

Now Louis Michel, the new Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissar (we have had occasion to wonder whether any development will happen in the Third World while those two concepts remain so closely tied in people’s minds) has announced that DR Congo has reached peace and stability. This seems to be at odds with everybody else’s reports, particularly from the eastern part of the country. But M Michel is unperturbed. Elections will go ahead in the country in June and the EU has committed €80 million (£55 million, $106 million) for that purpose.

My predictions are that the sum will grow over the next few months; that there will be no proper accounting; that the elections will be held (if at all) in circumstances of total mayhem, corruption and violence; and that eventually the Court of Auditors will produce a report that will show conclusively that not one euro devoted to DR Congo can be accounted for, some disappearing in that country, some before they even get there. Anyone would like to take me up on any of that?

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