Early on Thursday, July 12, 2012, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) joined with the Congolese army (FARDC) and sent five Mi24 and Mi25 Soviet helicopters flown by Ukrainian pilots to bomb positions north of the provincial capitol of Goma. The goal was to conduct a joint operation with FARDC in opposition to the M23 rebel movement. MONUSCO was flexing its muscle in order to escape accusations of incompetence. In thirteen years, 20,000 troops with a budget of 1.4 billion USD have been unable to protect the civilian population of eastern DRC, and the mission has been under increased scrutiny since its mandate came up for renewal in June.
The gunships strafed hillsides with 30mm rounds and fired rockets, a UN source said. Ultimately proving their incompetence and showing absolute disregard for civilians, the helicopters bombed homes in Kanyamagana, injuring several people and killing a woman named Ms. Bushye Agathe. Four others received treatment in a nearby hospital in Rumagabo.
The murdered woman, until now, has not been graced with a name in any of the news reports from the BBC or the AFP. Her crime? She was hiding in a banana grove when the 30mm rounds tore through her body. How pilots could possibly mistake colorfully dressed Congolese women for the fatigues of the M23 is beyond comprehension, but speaks to the malfeasance of both MONUSCO and the Congolese army.
On a personal note, I have walked those roads and seen women dressed in vibrant blues and yellows, reflecting the colors of the sky above them as they tended their fields of maize. They turned and laughed at me as I played with their goats tethered in the grass on the hillside above them. When I read the account of the gunship attack, I could only imagine Agathe shattered by United Nations’ gunships.
Just imagine. 30 mm ammunition is typically used as an armor-piercing round. Rounds of this size can be effective against armored vehicles as well as fortified bunkers. How do I know? I looked it up.
Agathe may have sisters, children, and a husband. I don’t know, but I do know she was loved and she cannot be ignored by a world hardened by atrocity. Has Agathe’s death been widely reported? Of course not. Learning her name has not been important to the BBC, to AFP, or to Reuters, who refer to her only as the “woman in the banana grove,” if they mention her at all.
Agathe by Virunga News
Here is Agathe’s photo. Look at it and see the faces of millions of Congolese women who are caught in the middle of an endless war. Don’t forget her.
In an absolute lie, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Roger Meece, said that that UN attack helicopters had engaged “very actively and very robustly” against rebel forces in the eastern DRC.
Look at the YouTube and read the guilt on the faces of the UN representative as he ignores mentioning civilian casualties. He can nervously fiddle with his glasses, but does not have the nerve to tell us the truth about Agathe’s body lying in the field near the banana grove. There have been absolutely no reports that the M23 suffered any casualties.
Meece told reporters in Kinshasa that the use of the attack helicopters was “in the context of seeking to do all possible” to protect the civilian population “against the advances of the M23 rebel faction.”
Tell that to those who loved Agathe. Remember her the next time you hear the United Nations talk about “protecting civilians.”
Watch this short video and imagine what it was like hiding in that banana grove with five helicopters bearing down on you.
There have been no reports of M23 injuring or harassing civilians in this latest outbreak of violence, but plenty of testimony that FARDC has looted and harassed civilians. Here is one from AfricaReport.
Shops and offices were being looted by retreating elements of the national army, FARDC (Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo) as M23 soldiers advanced towards Goma, the provincial capital of north Kivu.
We need to ask the question why is the UN supporting a corrupt Congolese army and a corrupt government in Kinshasa? Who pays the bills for the UN?
The US, Japan, Germany, the UK and France contribute 55% of UN budget. Of that number the US portion is around 22 percent.
Yes, your tax dollars are supporting an impotent, incompetent and corrupt force in Congo. Last week eight armored vehicles from MONUSCO fled Rutshuru for a UN base five kilometers away in Kiwanja, where local residents took shelter in a refugee camp. The fighting has displaced 200,000 people, with 18-20,000 in refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda. The next threat they face is a disease outbreak.
If you tend to want to believe Meece’s story that the UN is actually working with FARDC to protect civilians, take a look at this YouTube from a reporter working for NTV. Look at mark 1:15 in which he describes how the routed Congolese army had commandeered the primary school in Bunagana and used it as a munitions depot.
Then look at mark 3:30 in which the reporter asks the question the locals are asking; “What kind of peace are the peacemakers keeping?” The footage clearly shows a UN compound within walking distance of the school.
There is something else I noticed in this video, and it reinforces what I have witnessed on past trips to DRC. The rebel army appears to be disciplined, articulate and organized. In contrast, the FARDC troops look unorganized and unkempt. Any encounter I had with FARDC troops in the past involved forced bribes, bullying, sexual innuendo, drunken behavior, and lack of military discipline. Draw your own conclusions from the video.
If all of this testimony is not enough, please take the time to rent the documentary “UN Me” from iTunes. Ami Horowitz takes a look at UN failures world-wide and includes an especially sickening segment on the UN in Congo, where troops consult a training manual on why it is wrong to solicit sex favors from children.
I honestly don’t know what else I can say or write or do except to encourage readers to stay informed. We owe it to Agathe, since we paid for the gunship that killed her.