Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Outrage: The reality of a forgotten war

Humanitarian crises: Congo worst

Eastern Congo is suffering the world's worst current humanitarian crisis, with a death toll outstripping that in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, according to a top UN official.
My dear mother, God bless her soul, sent me these pictures (at the end of this post) from the war in Congo, with this very short subtitle: "No comments"

I agree with her. These photos should generate no comment at all... just action! I am literally SICK and TIRED of seeing this being ignored, while lesser damaging conflicts are looked at - and often worsened - for the selfish and self-centered interests of some Western powers. Don't get me wrong. I will always support our Arab brothers in their struggle for freedom and self-determination; I will also always support the right for the young generation of Israelis and Palestinians, to live in Israel, in peace, freedom, justice, safety and democracy, side by side with a peaceful, free, just, safe and democratic Palestine.

That said, the amount of attention that Western powers focus on the Middle East, is making the entire International community commit a derelection of duty, in the matters of Africa. The amount of actions and negotiations that are needed to end the conflicts in Africa, and particularly in Congo are - if not simple - very straight-forward. The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is potentially 10 times deadlier than any attack Ben Laden and Al-Qaida, could put together - if you consider the possible spread of such diseases as Ebola, Monkey Pox, and recently the Plague; this is without even taking into account the regulars like Malaria, Cholera and Yellow Fever. The World cannot afford, tolerate, or pretend to ignore the combination of desperation and inhumanity that cause the mess in the Great Lakes, and cannot continue to great as partners the architects of that mess - namely Pres. KAGAME of Rwanda, and to a lesser extent Pres. MUSEVENI of Uganda. If the United States is truly hellbent on imposing Democracy and human rights on this planet, Iraq is not the neediest place, nor Afghanistan, but Somalia, Sudan, and the Great Lakes.

I am SICK AND TIRED AND OUTRAGED to see me and my people, and black people all over the planet in general, being treated like second class people when we are the source of humanity; like useless people when our blood and our sweat and our arms and our mineral resources literally built the USA and Europe into what they are; like hopeless causes when much of our situation today is the result of centuries of racism and degradation, and the cruelty and carelessness of colinial policies. I am OUTRAGED that 3.5 millions (that's 3.500.000) HUMANS have died in 7 years in Congo, and most people in the West couldn't care less, because they are little niggers. I treat every human being - black, white, yellow, green, blue - exactly the same, because despite having suffered colonialism, my parents took an extra care in inculcating in my head that "ALL (WO)MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL"... Ring a bell anyone? Well if its true - as I believe it is - explain to me How the World has been able to shamelessly turn a blind eye to THIS:


Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...

Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...

Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...

Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...

Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...

Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...

Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...

Les barbares rwandais-ougandais-burundais MASSACRENT les congolais...
Also see Pictures from the Ituri District, in Eastern Congo

I wonder...


Brian said...

The fact of the matter is that the Palestinians have much better publicists than Africans. It helps that other Arab autocracies need the Israelis as a scapegoat to deflect their people's attention from the failings of their own regimes. The Palestinians have succeeded in internationalizing their cause much like the Tibetans and, to a lesser extent, Irish republicans. Those causes have much more appeal to the romantic types than African causes because for the simplistic, it's much easier to frame in black and white (no, I don't mean that racially). Evil Jews [being sarcastic] and saintly Palestinians. Evil Chinese Commies and peaceloving Tibetans. Evil British imperialists and cursed Irish people. Much more compelling narrative than a place where you can't easily say 'one side evil, one side rigtheous.' Even worse when that place already triggers stereotypes of primitive darkness, so then when people see stuff like this, it only confirms what they think is the natural order of things.

The above, of course, is an explanation, not a justification. I agree wholeheartedly that what's happening in the eastern DRC is disgusting and merits far more attention.

Carine said...

I agree with Brian here. Many conflicts in Africa are just too complex for the rest of the world. There are about 48 conflicts within Africa, which often have nothing to do with each other. In addition the concept of "tribes" fighting agaisn't each other probably doesn't make sense either (I might be wrong).

That being said I have the feeling that the war isn't taken seriously enough by the authorities so I doubt they are making any serious efforts to publicize the conflict. Actually I think they don't want to publicize it. Half the government should end up at the Intl Court of Justice anyway (JP Bemba is still convicted I think). Some officials in Congo and Rwanda don't want anything to interfere with the diamonds (+ others) trade either.

Brian said...

First, as someone who agrees with you that the situation in Eastern DRC is deplorable, I would be curious to know what you think should be done by the westerners you denounce? Or by western governments in general? Specifics, please.

Furthermore, while I agree with your comments about most westerners not much caring about this .I think the greatest fury should be reserved for those who committed those despicable atrocities. THEY are the scum most guilty of treating the Congolese as second-class citizens, as useless people, as little niggers.

In fairness, I think most westerners know very little about what's going on in Eastern DRC. People cared very little about Darfur until the media and others started making a big deal about it. Now, even westerners who don't know much about Africa are up in arms about Darfur. So I'm moderately optimistic that the same might happen in this case. Though, as I said, the conflict isn't quite as easy to condense and there are a distinct lack of specific ideas for solutions.

TheMalau said...

My fury for the people actually doing the massacres is beyond what most people can imagine. Do not forget that I lived in Rwanda during the genocide, and it is no pleasure for me seing the same horrors repeating themselves. So yes my greatest fury and disgust is towards those that actually have done the dirty work on the ground. I guess I figured that was obvious enough.

What I was trying to point out, are the other levels of responsibility, and the complicity of the International Community by their inaction. And I also wanted to remind everyone that this tragedy is just the lattest in a pattern of failiures that were TRIGGERED by the careless policies of the West (and the East, to be fair), and the systematic "disqualification" (for lack of a better word) of Africa, and black people.

Now it is a fact that conflicts in Africa might be a bit different than conflicts elsewhere; but for the most part they are caused by totally preventable situations. If dictatorships were not supported in Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, or Uganda, about half the conflicts we know today would not exist. Even before that, if we hadn't been treated like inferiors for the past four centuries, and pinned against each other - like the Tutsi and the Hutu in Rwanda, or Luba and the Lulua in Congo - things could have turned out quite differently.

As to what can be done now that the genie is out of the bottle, first we need to stop thinking that these conflicts ae so complicated that they are unsolvable. That is how we perpetuate the sense of hopelessness that lead to inertia.

***The Western media - and I mean internal media, i.e. not CNNI but CNN-US - could report on these conflicts more in depth. Something tells me that it is more important than Robert Blake, or Michael Jackson. (BTW you should read a book called BAD NEWS by Tom Fenton retired foreign correspondent of CBS)
***The position of the US and European authorities should be firmer (i.e: Americans should feel that their leaders actually know where Congo, Darfur, Sierra Leone, Liberia, or Somalia actually are on a Map, and that these are not a bunch of animals or soul-less "aliens" that are being killed, but actual flesh-and-bone human beings. I watch C-SPAN often, and if I were American, the level of concern in the debates in Congress on African countries, is no higher than if they were talking about a troublesome flock of sheep, in some remote pastures).
***The support given to MONUC - as well as the oversight - could be better, and more carefully planned, and as much as the US et al. loves to put the blame on the UN bureaucracy (which has its share of responsibility too), they are still the heads of the Security Council...
***Internal resentment of the UN in the United States should not result in furher deaths. Either they give the UN the authority to ACT - and I mean truly ACT, or they give a viable alternative
***African States, as well as African organizations should be considered equal partners in discussions, not inconvenient pawns.

These might not be the clear-cut specifics that one would want, but they could be a starting point; they all boil down to recognizing the HUMANITY of Africans, and their status as equal deservants of life, dignity, freedoms, food, happiness and peace. It is not as much a particular course of action that I am seeking; more like a change in attitude and perspective.

TheMalau said...

Oh, and about our own leaders in Congo, it is definitely true that many of thm deserve some quality time in Court. And in many ways, perpetuating the situation is at their advantage. They can continue the plundering of the country, alongside all the foreigners that do the same, and the people ends up being the helpless victim of the deal.

Kabila is probably among these crooked leaders. But at this point of time, he is probably the best of the evils; he is as much an actor and a victim of the nepotistic system we have in Congo.

The problem is that the "elite" has succeeded in maintaining ALL the power in their hands, through the power of weapons. The people have lost much of the national cohesion that existed, because of a "parasitical survival" culture that I will address in another post today, resulting from a desperate resugence of tribalism.

So in fact there is somewhat of an easy dichotomy too: The Evil "Career politico-mafiosi" and the victimized people.

Brian said...

I wholly agree with all five points you make. I've personally agitated for years for almost all of them.

The reason I asked is because I was developing an essay on the eastern DRC situation too. And it would have been nice to have specifics about what can be done now that, as you said, the genie is out of the bottle. I read a lot of people bemoaning what's been done in the past and, frankly, it needs to be said. But there's little concrete out there about what can be done now.


Brian said...

Incidentally, I wasn't saying they were so complicated as to be unsolvable. People can solve complicated problems if they want, which is your point (and mine). My point is: I know more about the DRC and what's going on there than 99.9% of Americans and I still don't have anything great ideas about what external powers can do.

TheMalau said...

I agree Brian, that you know much more about the DRC, and I commend you for that. Actually, listening to the hearings about the UN in congress, I doubt that the Congress(wo)men actually know how the UN works, let alone Congo :)

But as for actions from the West:
***How about sanctions on Rwanda and Uganda? I mean theuy stared the mess, and their leaders are treated like saints in the West.

***How about a weapons ban on Kagame and Museveni? They are running around sponsoring the conflict! And we - the Congo - are STILL under weapons embargo i.e. unable to defend ourselves (even if there were more will to do so in the leadership).

***How about stopping to treat them like they are the saviors of Africa? Kagame and Museveni have received only praises from this, and previous White Houses. The West needs to get over their 1994-guilt, and see these leaders for who they are.

***How about a no BS, UN Charter's Chapter VII enforceable commitment to the territorial integrity of the DRC?

***How about stopping to treat Congolese people like thieves and terrorists (only granting them 1 month entry visas in the US, and showing them disdain and spite at the ports of entry all over the US and Europe), while treating Rwandans and Ugandans like saints (up to 5 years visas)?

It is about time that the West stop using double-standards. They are seeing what it is costing them in Israel-Palestine, and they still haven't learned!!!!!!

Brian said...

Good ideas. I've actually advocated a few them before myself. I'll certainly see how I can use them in my essay.

Brian said...

Good ideas. I've actually advocated a few them before myself. I'll certainly see how I can use them in my essay.

Donate to The Salon

Help us continue to do this important work of promoting freedom of expression about the Congo.

Explore The Salon