Hearing reports about Burundian peacekeepers in Bangui battling anti-Balaka has made me think of a conversation I had with a Burundian military observer in Kaga Bandoro at the end of 2010. In theory, he and his (DR) Congolese associates were to verify ex-combatants for disarmament and oversee their demobilization, but stalling on the part of the DDR Steering Committee meant that they sat idle for months on end.
I met them at their base for sodas and a chat in the wan shade of their paillotte. After a few minutes I looked over and noticed that the Congolese officer had fallen asleep. The Burundian officer glanced at his dozing colleague and reflected, “This isn’t a real war. We [Congolese, Burundians] know real war.” He spoke with the dismissive authoritativeness of the battle-scarred. “This is just a peasant rebellion. They have old-fashioned homemade guns, not armes de guerre. Here, there are some skirmishes, but not a real war.”
He’s long since back in Burundi. But his MISCA compatriots must now acknowledge that CAR, too, is home to a “real war,” and that the peacekeepers are actively a part of it. So much for sleeping on the job.