Did anyone hear of Amos Namanga Ngongi? Well, you may be disinterested to know that he was officially "the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo." Yes, the same Congo where trouble was brewing for the last few years and erupted to media headlines recently. Well, Mr. Ngongi will no more be available to oversee hopelessly brutal massacres and the battering of U.N. compounds in the gold rich Bunia province. Instead that task will be entrusted to Mr. William Lacey Swing -- with better results, no doubt.

What is happening now in the Congo should not have come as a baffling surprise to the international community. Any average observer would have predicted at least some serious trouble evolving out of the rapidly deteriorating situation. That is, if someone was paying serious attention. That is, if some people were doing their homework on Africa, in Africa.

The astonishing fact is that the U.N. has had throughout that tragic period over 18 Special Envoys and Representatives of the Secretary General in Africa alone. Did not one of them realize what was about to happen, or observe what was happening? If so, what precisely did any of them do besides conferring with members of the Security Council; discussing the matter at length with Secretariat officials in New York, or have a "brief word" with the Secretary General -- himself a distinguished son of Africa. For at the least the last two years, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping has been visiting that region regularly. What was his analysis? What were his proposals? Regrettably, Monsieur Jean-Marie Guehenno, who saw fit to decry former "amateur peacekeepers" did not offer any substantive improvement. A year ago he had predicted an "unexpected opening" with the assassination of former President Laurent Kabila (as if tacitly welcoming it), and the election of his son Joseph, adding that there was a need "to exploit that window of opportunity." What happened next was more of the same atrocities, despite valiant efforts by U.N. staff in the field and other senior officials who tried their best to alert the international community to the emerging catastrophe. A recent article by Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times ("What Did You Do During the African Holocaust") highlighted to the American public what those claiming to be in the business of helping Africa rarely did. He confirmed that over the last four years 3.3 million died in the Congo alone.

Now the usefulness of the newly and belatedly decided peacekeeping force (under "U.N. auspices" but not yet a "U.N. force") remains to be seen. The poorly instructed and poorly motivated 600 Uruguyans will give way to 1400 Europeans, mainly French. There are many unanswered questions. How will they bring in their daily requirements through a small airport? Would they disarm everyone or "make a deal" with the two warring tribes to lay low for a temporary period -- that is until each side rearmed and the frustrated soldiers got wary and homesick? What are the rules of engagement -- shooting back only in self defence? Pre-emptive intervention to stop a potential massacre? If they will be limiting their area of operations to the town of Bunia only, how could they arrange for the repatriation of fleeing inhabitants? What does Rwanda have to say about those visiting troops? Yes, France has a letter from the Rwandan government welcoming them. But what will "uncontrolled elements" do when vested interests are challenged or regional powers feel a need to bargain? Then there is the time frame for the peacekeepers: out by 1 September. Reportedly some troops from Bangladesh will be arriving by then. Why would Bangladeshi manage to pacify the Congo when others failed may be a mystery. But there may be some hidden wisdom which will be unveiled in due course. A recent press communique indicated that as a measure of determination in dealing with the brewing crisis, the Secretary-General decided to "dispatch" a multidisciplinary assessment mission to the Central African subregion for two weeks "to determine the measures to be taken for implementation of a comprehensive, integrated, resolute and concerned approach to the issues of peace, security, and development in the region." More terminology in the air, more African casualties on the ground. Meanwhile, the Secretary-General has over 18 representatives in the field.

They are: Berhanu Dinka (Ethiopia), Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region; Mohamed Sahnoun (Algeria), Special Envoy in Africa; Hazel Scott (Guyana), Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Office in Angola; Jean Arnault (France), Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the U.N. Office in Burundi; Aivte Jean-Claude Kpapko (Benin), Senior U.N. Advisor to the Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process; Cheikh Tidiane Sy (Senegal), Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the U.N. Peace-building Office in the Central Africa Republic was recently replaced by a former Interior Minister of his own country, probably a General Ciss; ASG Ibrahima Fall (Senegal), Special Envoy to Cote D'Ivoire; Kamel Morjan (Tunisia), Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of Mission, who returned to Geneva and was replaced by another diplomat; Samuel C. Nana-Sinkam (Cameroon), Representative and Head of the U.N. Peace-building Support Ofice in Guinea-Bissau; Felix Downes-Thomas (Gambia), Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the U.N. Peace-building Support Office in Liberia; Oluyemi Adeniji (Nigeria) Special Representative and Head of the U.N. Mission in Sierra Leone; David Stephen (United Kingdom) Representative and Head of the U.N. Political Office for Somalia; Tom Eric Vraalsen (Norway), Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan; William Eagleton (United States), Special Representative for the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO); and James A. Baker III (United States), Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

As if that number was not enough, another special envoy was added. Former Ambassador of Mauritania, Ahmed Ould Abdalleh, admittedly an amiable and intelligent man, was appointed as Special Representative to the Groups of Western African States.

Let's stop here. What are all these Special, Personal, and other Representatives about? What, pray tell, is the rationale for having so many, most of them with little to show for confusing the issues while getting paid hefty per diems (which is tantamount to salaries), in light of the Organization's perennial financial malaise? Where is the money coming from to pay them? What Africa (and the U.N.) is doing for them is clear. What is unclear is what they are doing to Africa.

There may be some hope in recent political movement explored by senior Africans at the U.N. And it is true that "outsiders can help but cannot achieve much without total commitment of those affected," as Britain's U.N. Ambassador said. But the bottom line is that the U.N. Secretariat has had a nonchalant, fragmented, mainly diplomatic approach to the deteriorating situation in Africa over the last five years. It may be part of a wider problem. But, for the moment, those who rode on the African wave have a duty to Africa, if not to their own conscience.