Monday, March 20, 2006

Heart of Darkness...

Our very own CongoGirl wrote quite a pointed indictment of the use by Western media of antiquated and offensive cliche - like the one in the title of this post - when talking about Africa. In her post, CG was looking partcularly at the German newspaper, The Speigel.

The reason why the Speigel is suddenly interesting in that apparently very dark and very jungly Congo now, is because there is a gestating project to send EU troops to help with security during the elections. In fact, the virtual "Foreign minister" of the EU, Javier Solana, is currently in Kinshasa to see about the modalities for that mission to take place. But aparently the Germans, whose country is supposed to house the actual commanding headquarters of the force, as well as some other Europeans, are a bit queasy about the whole thing:
monuc.org ::: German MPs line up against Congo mission
"BERLIN, March 19 (Reuters) - German parliamentarians from the right and left criticised on Sunday tentative government plans to send German troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying the EU-organised mission was ill-defined and unrealistic.

'Without an overall concept, and this is apparently lacking in Berlin as well as Brussels, it is irresponsible to send German troops to Congo,' Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), told German daily Die Welt."

(Read more)
I have lived in a war-torn country in Africa - Rwanda - and I have also seen how that and other African conflicts are portrayed - often rightly so - as pretty violent messes. Add to that the claims of cannibalism in the Congo, and the fact that we are often described as a bunch of hopeless savages (not in so many words), I can definitely see how - like Americans after Somalia - the Europeans would feel queasy about sending their "children" to assist militarily the so very remote Congo. After all, what interest do they have in potentially wasting their lives on a piece of junk country like the DRC, right? I mean it is not like Africa actually matters anyway. Especially not those parts of Africa where they cannot go for safaris and feel good about "staying in touch with nature"...

I appologize for the bitterness. But it stems from the fact that I remember those days when Europe had to call on our fathers and grandfathers to fight in their bloody wars that they have decided to call World wars, as if to give them some sense of nobility. I guess since at the time the Germans were on the other side of the conflict, they are somewhat - ironically - exempt from this criticism. But they were also colonizers. All of Europe is what it is today because they exploited our people without adequate compensation, and often as slave labour. The West and the USSR used our soldiers in their proxy wars in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and yes, within the DRC.

If we go even further back in time, it seems it was a heroic thing to go meet-up with the savages. A whole bunch of "explorers" came down to Africa, to - permanently - mess-up with our state of being, create half the conflicts that we live today by having no sense of the ethnic sensitivities on the continent (or as some say, did it on purpose to "divide and conquer").

Don't get me wrong, I have no particular inclination to go back to pre-colonial Africa, because one of the side-effects of colonialism has been that they have Westernized us somewhat in our minds too, and the reality that was then generated makes it impossible for us to survive on this planet, if we all decided to revert to our old ways. Too late for that. But what I would like is a bit of recognition of the role of the West in the messes that spur up here and there in Africa. Then, the West should come and help clean up the mess. It is not like they would be sent on the warfronts. In this case they would be a dissuasive force. But even if they have to lose a few lives in the process, let them just think of the tens of millions that their cosy lives in the West have cost us.

I am done venting. I will write a more balnced post on this issue when I calm down. In the mean time, I am still wondering...

1 comment:

Black River Eagle said...

I'm working on this interesting chain of events from the German PLM point-of-view Ali, so go ahead and "vent" all you want. PLM meaning Political/Legal/Media network that controls everything here. Acutally, the Congo Mission mini-crisis is more complicated than a case of the post-colonial jitters or outright racism. After all, post-WWII Germany should be charging the barricades every time ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide raises its ugly head anywhere on the planet, right? Nein!? Was!!?

The Der Speigel International article "Europe's Heart of Darkenss" is just one of a series of news reports by the press and TV news media here in Germany about the proposed EU mission to the DR Congo that has been published and aired over the past few months. You should see the state-owned TV news reports (ARD, ZDF) that keep harping on the dangers of child soldiers and cannibals possibly squaring-off with elite German troops. These reports are by Germany's premiere TV news networks. That kind of objective reporting oughta get a lots of public support for the DR Congo Mission, oder?

The German public has been very mute about the peacekeeping mission up to now because most of them are either very ignorant about the issues down in the DRC or they are simply apathetic about what happens there.

What is interesting to watch is how the new Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel is handling "the Boyz" in the political arena and living up to commitments made to the U.N. months ago and most recently to President Kabilla in providing security and logistics support (aka Boots on the Ground) for this important mission. What is shocking is the weak contributions being offered by several other EU member nations who do not already have troop commitments in Iraq or Afgahnistan or Kosovo or somewhere.

Germany and several other EU countries would rather throw taxpayers money at the problem vs. committing troops and police to the DRC in order to protect vunerable citizens in the first democratic elections to be held in over four decades. Note also that the EU defence ministers and their handlers (EU Presidents, Prime Minister, etc.) have weaseled out of sending EU troops to the volatile eastern DRC as originally requested by the U.N. and instead are sending about 1500 troops and police to Kinshasa.

The former Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schroeder would not have even gone this far (as Kanzlerin "Angie") as he told French President Jacques Chiraq before the EU emergency security mission to the DRC's North Kivu province (2003?) that he could not commit German troops to peacekeeping missions in(side) the DRC because his forces could not deal with the "African mentality". He never offered an explanation about what this nebulous statement meant, but you can guess can't you.

Hence the U.S. expression "The Axis of Weasels" in describing the Schroeder-Chiraq-Putin-Zapatero Nexus because that is exactly what several EU parliamentarians and national leaders are when it comes down to "walking the walk" vs. just "talking the talk".

German Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel is excluded from this term of course as she has exhibited some real backbone during her brief stint in office. At least Frau Merkel has the "kanollis" to attempt to do something for the people of the DRC, as weak and insignificant as that appears to be for the moment. Maybe she will up the ante before the mission takes off next month.

Guido Westerwelle of the German FDP party, you MUST BE JOKING!!! You ever watch and listen to this guy on TV??? He almost became the German Foreign Minister, that is, if the CDU/CSU/FDP coalition had won the last election. Thank GOD that didn't happen (Guido as FM, that is).

More on this later Dude, Germany is on my watch... er turf.

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