The Congo Conflict is An Economic War, Rape is Being Used as a Weapon of Terror; Here is What Should Be Done & Why It Won't Be (At Least Not Soon)
Read Mission Song, John Le Carre's extraordinary thriller about the Congo. Click here for the Buzzflash review.
"Hundreds of women & children were raped yesterday, hundreds more today. This is an economic war that uses terror as its main weapon." Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service, 12-4-08
"This is a resource war," says Muzong Kodi of Chatham House, another British think tank. "There won't be a long-term solution if the issue of illicit exploitation is not solved." Eastern Congo is a treasure house of natural resources, especially cassiterite, the ore from which tin is made, as well as gold, diamonds and coltan, an essential mobile-phone component. ... Rod Norland, Newsweek, 12-6-08
Oxfam is extremely disappointed by the unwillingness of European governments to provide a temporary peacekeeping mission to DRC. Member states must live up to their responsibility to protect civilians caught up in fighting and they must do it now. EU leaders have to face up to the stark choice before them. Failure to do so means armed men go on murdering, raping and looting indiscriminately and the enormous suffering in DRC continues.” said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam's EU office in Brussels. OXFAM, 12-3-08
If you searched "Congo" on Goggle News this morning, you would come up with a few hundred headlines on progress concerning "peace negotiations." Nothing wrong with working to get people to the table, but the suffering of the Congo will not end without a sweeping, international commitment to a new approach.
Such a commitment must be predicated upon an unadulterated acknowledgment that this bloodshed is about profits from coltan and other vital resources. Such a commitment would also require a willingness to commit 100,000 well-equipped soldiers to a peace-keeping force, with a meaningful mandate and pragmatic rules of engagement. Such a commitment would also require the personal leadership of some individual of global statue to drive the process.
Tragically, the fabric of the world community is as weak today as the Congo is sick, and the likelihood of such a serious commitment being made is as remote as the Kivu region itself. Yes, this can be reversed. The world community could get healthy fast in the new year, but meanwhile, "hundreds of women & children were raped yesterday, hundreds more today." I do not know what to suggest you do, but give to those NGOs that are on the scene and alleviating suffering as best they can, e.g., OXFAM and the Irish Red Cross.
Here are excerpts from three insightful pieces on the real issues in the Congo crisis, one from Inter Press Service, one from Newsweek, and one from OXFAM:
International lust for the enormous mineral and resource riches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) abetted by international indifference has turned much of country into a colossal "rape mine" where more than 300,000 women and girls have been brutalised, say activists.
"Rape is being used as a deliberate tool to control people and territory," said Eve Ensler, a celebrated U.S. playwright and founder of V-Day, a global movement in 120 countries to end violence against women and girls. ... Hundreds of women and children were raped yesterday, hundreds more today. This is an economic war that uses terror as its main weapon to ensure warlords and their bands control regions where international companies mine for valuable metals like tin, silver and coltan, or extract lumber and diamonds, Ensler said.
Coltan is a rare and extremely valuable metal used in cell phones, DVD players, computers, digital cameras, video games, vehicle air bags, and more. ...
"A friend mapped the locations of the mass rapes in the DRC and they correspond to coltan mining regions," she said.
This "blood coltan" -- akin to blood diamonds -- generates billions of dollars of sales every year for electronics manufacturers in rich countries and brings hundreds of millions of dollars to rebels and others who control the coltan-producing regions. Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service, 12-4-08
Foreign troops have proved successful in ending certain African crises before (such as Sierra Leone's in 2002). But Congo's problems are more daunting. The country is vast—the capital, Kinshasa, is more than 1,600 kilometers from Goma—and the conflict is extremely complex, involving some 20 militias and ethnic (Hutu vs. Tutsi) hostilities. "You would need a minimum of 100,000 soldiers to have a credible peacekeeping force," says Chitiyo. "Nineteen or twenty thousand just doesn't cut it."
A better approach would recognize the sources of the conflict and address them. "This is a resource war," says Muzong Kodi of Chatham House, another British think tank. "There won't be a long-term solution if the issue of illicit exploitation is not solved." Eastern Congo is a treasure house of natural resources, especially cassiterite, the ore from which tin is made, as well as gold, diamonds and coltan, an essential mobile-phone component. ...
Effective action on the resource and the regional front will require some serious arm-twisting from the West. ... Many think it would also help to appoint an envoy with more gravitas and clout than Obasanjo; Chitiyo suggests someone like Kofi Annan or Pope Benedict (Roman Catholicism is strong in Africa's Great Lakes region). Rod Norland, Newsweek, 12-6-08