Another United Nations Day

Being of a compulsive disposition, after classes on Friday, I wiped the board and wrote the date for Monday.

24th October? Isn’t it the date for something?

I remembered after a few moments. United Nations Day. I recalled school assemblies that presented a picture of an organisation which seemed at variance with the day to day reality of people’s experience of the United Nations.

United Nations Day recalls a moment travelling out of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi one Sunday morning ten years ago.  The full extent  of the incapacity of the United Nations to effect real change had become apparent that morning.

A convoy of white buses, with black letters painted on the side proclaiming “UN,” were moving slowly.

“What are the UN buses for?” I asked

“Refugees from conflict in DRC.”

“I thought the trouble was further north?”

“There is trouble further north – this is different trouble. The buses are going to fetch people who have fled across the border.”

“Where will they take them?”

“To camps on the other side of Burundi; the UN says they must be 150 miles from the border.”

“Isn’t that almost impossible in Burundi?”

My companion had shrugged.

Sometimes conversations are pointless; what would be changed by repeating facts already known? There would be no reports on the world media about busloads of poor people being taken across a poor African country to live in great poverty even in UN camps.

The United Nations could provide buses for refugees but could do nothing about the civil war that caused them, even in a failed state like DRC.

it was a far remove from P Tang Yang Kipperbang, Jack Rosenthal’s 1982 television film set in the Post-War Britain of 1948.

“Quack Quack” Duckworth, the shy and awkward fourteen year old who loves the prettiest girl in the school, walks along with Tommy, the school groundsman as Tommy marks the boundary of a cricket pitch.  He believes Tommy has been a soldier serving in battle after battle, not knowing he is wanted for desertion.  Quack Quack tells Tommy that the soldiers have brought in a new age:

“From now on, there’ll never be any more wars, never again, for the simple raison d’etre that the United Nations will insist there’s no more wars.  Any country wanting to invade another, well, hard cheddar . . the United Nations will vote against them, QED”

It seems astonishing, in the light of the United Nations’ record in failing to prevent genocide in Srebrenica, and in Rwanda, and its record in being impotent in the face of countless incidents of military aggression, that anyone should still believe that the United Nations could do anything to protect people.  Unless the United States decides to intervene, the United Nations is no more than a talking shop.

The ideal world is inhabited by Quack Quack Duckworth and the school assemblies of times past; it’s not inhabited by those for whom there is no protection.

This entry was posted in Out and about. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *