AFRICAN economies are rising steadily, but in the Democratic Republic of Congo life for many is as bad as ever. Armed men rape and plunder with impunity. Rebel groups terrorise vast stretches of land rich in minerals and agricultural potential. Millions have died as a result. And for years the outside world has done little more than shrug. Its main effort—a 14-year-old UN peacekeeping mission—has failed to end “Africa’s world war”, which started as an ethnic conflict sparked by the genocide next door in Rwanda before descending into murderous anarchy farther afield.
Now things are changing. The Rwandan government backed Congolese rebels until recently but, shamed by their cruelty and by international outrage, it has abandoned them. That presents an opportunity too good to waste, so the UN Security Council is trying a new tack (see article), deploying 3,000 troops to fight at least some of the rebels. Soldiers from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi wearing UN insignia will take on the irregulars who sow mayhem in Congo’s east.
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