Writing movie reviews is, for a journalism student interested in politics, like dying; you have to deal with it eventually, but you just don’t look forward to it. That said, I saw a political documentary called The Peacekeepers that captivated my interest.
The Peacekeepers is one of those films that coerce us into second guessing some of the beliefs we may have held for a long time.
For instance, what do we think about when we think of the United Nations? To be honest, I used to think the same thing that is the prevailing opinion now. I used to think the United Nations is a defunct organization, and that it outlasted its usefulness sometime between World War 2 and the end of the Cold War. That’s what I used to think until I learned why it’s a defunct organization, and that it is actually the fault of member states, not the organization itself.
Packed into 83 minutes, The Peacekeepers offers us insight on why people in the U.S. would think the UN is defunct, and also how the U.S. helps make the organization defunct. The story behind it is also gripping enough to keep a person interested.
What the movie does is give insight as to how the UN Peacekeepers operate, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and their UN mission there called MONUC. Told from the UN’s perspective, we get the impression that no one really wants to help the Congo, but when people do, great things can happen.
What is also evident is the reluctance of First World countries to help out in what is deemed a “failed country”. The US is reluctant to give even financial support to help out a people in a “developing country”, mainly because there will be no return or benefit to the U.S.
France volunteers their services, but only for three months, and declared that the warlords have been “disarmed” just as they leave. They weren’t, but the French said it anyway.
Instead, UN peacekeeping in the Congo is done by other Third World countries like Uraguay, India, and Pakistan.
I think what the film is insinuating is that it’s really the fault of member states that the UN mission could fail. After all, member states are the ones who provide financial and military assistance for these missions. If there is no cooperation, then there will be no success.
The after effects of the massacres, while saddening, drive home the point of what not helping does. It’s like when someone sees an accident on the freeway, but just drives by thinking someone else will help.
At the same time, I think it shows some naivety on the parts of the UN and the western world. We tend to live in a bubble that says the way of the world is supposed to work in a certain way. Take, for example, the way warring tribes in that section of the world do battle. Actually, they fight like all primitive cultures, from ancient Europe to Africa to the Americas. The fighting is opportunistic, involving killing and/or enslaving helpless villagers and lots of evading other people who are armed.
And when you come across another force that is well-armed, depending on the sophistication of the forces, they just simply run to the hills and hide until they can come out again. Really, the whole goal is to make money, not necessarily for some higher cause like nationalism.
In the mid-1880’s, European colonizers all the way in Berlin carved Africa up into neat regions called the Congo and Angola, etc. The problem is that these Europeans didn’t take into account the hundreds of tribes consisting of millions of people that often intersected with each other.
This is part of the reason why Ugandan troops and other troops from neighboring countries were to be found right there in the heart of the Congo, fighting the way they probably always have done, and to try to find ways to profit. Seeing the film, you’d notice that money and profit is the driving force for the fighting around the region of Irunduti, which has a number of natural resources like gold and mines.
It is too bad that the history of the Congo was not taken into account, as I think it would’ve added more perspective to an already engaging story, which is one of misunderstanding, apathy, and politics.