ON THE EDGE of Beni, a city in north-eastern Congo, a field is strewn with bricks and broken glass. Three Malawian soldiers, working for the UN’s pe
ON THE EDGE of Beni, a city in north-eastern Congo, a field is strewn with bricks and broken glass. Three Malawian soldiers, working for the UN’s peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, lounge under a tree amid the rubble. It is all that is left of MONUSCO’s offices after they were burned down in November by locals furious that the mission had failed to protect them from rebels. “We have suffered years of massacres,” says one of those who took part in the burning. “We see UN soldiers all over town, but when the rebels are killing us they never come.”
The peacekeeping mission in Congo, with over 16,000 soldiers and police, is the largest and third most expensive in the world. UN troops have been in Congo since 1999, when they arrived to oversee a ceasefire in a civil war that had left between 1m and 5m people dead, thanks to bullets, machetes and disease. For two decades the mission has tried to pacify the country’s embattled east. Yet more than 100 armed groups still hide there in the forests. They survive by smuggling minerals, looting and extorting cash from the locals.
This year alone about 1m Congolese have been displaced by violence. Some of the bloodiest fighting has taken place in Ituri province, where two rival tribes have been clashing. Rebels have hacked at least a thousand people to death with machetes, attacking 60 schools and raping children.
Even though the…