By Nordstjernan columnist Ulf Nilson, October 10, 2010

The other night, I found myself watching Swedish TV news. Which meant that I saw Margot Wallström, once a Swedish Social Democratic politician, now employed by the UN, reporting on her trip to the Congo.
I don't know Wallström at all, but I was moved by her performance (although maybe not in the way she would have preferred). She seemed serious, bright and honest. And she cried when she spoke of the unspeakable horrors of the rape wave which has been sweeping that poor country for years. 15,000 rapes in 2008, the same amount in 2009, and 500 just since the end of July this year.
Well, not that anybody has counted very carefully (who could?), but there is no question that something awful is happening there—in the country which Joseph Conrad long ago christened “the heart of darkness." Soldiers, guerillas, militias and loads of freelancers attack any female in sight—some as young as 7 years of age—and use them at will. Some get tended to, most don't. It is a scandal of the worst possible kind, which Wallström duly reported to members of the Security Council, the ones who were not out to lunch.
I may be forgiven if I felt a little nauseated, not by Wallström's performance—she did what she had to do—but by the circumstances. Let me explain:
In 1961, when the Congolese started to drive the Belgian colonialists out, I and my friend, photographer Anders Engman, took the ferry from Congo Brazzaville (then French and peaceful) across the mighty river to Leopoldville. Coming across we were promptly arrested by some very drunk soldiers. We might easily have been executed—such things happened—but managed to talk ourselves free and proceeded to report on the situation. It was horrible. It was rape and murder and stealth and chaos. I don't remember that I cried (a young reporter does not do that) but my heart became very heavy.
Many years later I went to Somalia, accompanied by another of Sweden's most accomplished photographers, Jens Assur.
Same story. Murder, rape and chaos. Nobody in charge, everybody in it for themselves, women and children last.
In both countries, I reported, as best I could. In both countries I was struck by a question that was never answered: What is the UN doing?
Having served in New York many years, I knew the UN well. I knew that in Sweden it is considered, well, nigh infallible. The UN, the world peace organization, the world government we ought to have.
Well, neither in the Congo, nor in Somalia, has the UN done anything really helpful. During the 50 years between my visit and Wallström's very little has changed. They still rape, kill and maim. There is still chaos, and he with the most guns calls the shots. Little girls of 7 still get raped and nobody—read this carefully: NOBODY—is safe. It's not the jungle, it's worse (lions and apes at least don't have guns).
In large areas of the world, the UN means not a thing (think of the Sudan, too) and world peace is meaningless. If there is a resemblance of peace in the world, it is because the atomic bomb has impressed on the world's most important leaders that war—a real, big war—is suicide. At least, so far.
But that, as they say, is another story.…