On September 12, 2002, the 57th Session of the United Nation’s General Assembly opened in New York City. President George W. Bush addressed the Assembly reminding them that exactly one year and one day before, the United States had faced a devastating terrorist attack. His question to those present was whether the UN would serve the purpose of its founding or if it would be irrelevant.
It was not the first time the UN had been accused of irrelevancy.
This film gives the viewer unprecedented access to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping, and the determined and often desperate maneuvers to avert a disaster, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC).
The Eastern section of Congo is blessed with diamonds and gold and cursed with those who are willing to do anything to get their hands on it.
One district, Ituri, is particularly dangerous because although it might seem peaceful at first sight, it’s an area that is controlled by a dozen violent warlords. In order to save The Congo, this place needed to be saved first. However, the warlords refused to lay down their weapons because the instability that their presence produced was good for business.
Many schools in the area had to close due to the increasing violence and the results were that the children became easy prey for the warlords. They offered them weapons and food and got the gold in exchange.
In addition to the warlords, soldiers from neighboring Rwanda and Uganda roamed the streets of the towns. These soldiers claimed to be protecting their borders, but the truth was that they were after Ituri’s wealth too.
When it was declared that the war was over in one area, heavily armed child soldiers walked to the hills to join other fighters that were camped there, waiting for the order to attack somewhere else. The scene was quite a disturbing one because despite the ‘tough’ look on their small faces, there was still a hint of innocence mixed with fear in some of their eyes.
The film goes back and forth between the United Nations headquarters in New York and events on the ground in the DRC. Viewers get to experience the ‘Crisis Room’ as the peacekeepers balance the risk of loss of life with the enormous sums of money required to maintain peace in the area. This money needs to come in the form of donations from other countries.
Then northeast Congo erupts and the future of the DRC hangs in the balance. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan tells the General Assembly “History is a harsh judge. The world will not forgive us if we do nothing.” Whether the peacekeeper did enough to save The Congo remains to be seen.