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"You Cannot Eat Propaganda, and You Cannot Eat Hope..."

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Calm Returns to Kinshasa--Copyright Olga Frayshteter/MONUC

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The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) is reporting that over 100 people were killed in the capital city of Kinshasa in two days of heavy fighting that ended Friday. The violence was instigated by fighters loyal to defeated presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba, who fled to safety in the South African embassy. South Africa has called to an end to the violence. Reports from the area indicate that, although calm has returned, doctors are ill-equipped to contend with the steady stream of dead and wounded—all victims of heavy machine gun fire and mortar explosions. The casualties included the Congolese regular military (FARDC) and the Congolese National Police, members of Bemba’s guards, and Congolese and expatriate civilians.

Nearly 4 million people have died from hunger and disease in DRC in an unreported war which has raged since 1998. There was a window of calm and hope in October (2006) when closely-monitored democratically held elections saw Bemba lose to President Joseph Kabila. Bemba soon alleged fraud, and the election process was tainted, renewing anger and resentments. DRC is linguistically divided, with Bemba drawing support from Kinshasa and the Lingala speaking west, while Kabila is more popular in the Swahili speaking eastern part of the country.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of aid from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been pumped into DRC with little tangible results. Meanwhile, villagers and orphans in the east go hungry, while doctors at Mamo Yemo Hospital in Kinshasa are crying for help to attend to the wounded. The dead are beyond hope, help or mercy. The ultimate irony is that the wounded know no language barrier. You can find them in the hospitals in western Kinshasa and in eastern Goma. Meanwhile CNN and the Christian Science Monitor continue to focus on gorillas and wildlife while broken babies and broken mammas fill hospital tents in Goma and the innocent die at Mama Yemo.

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keith harmon snow (sic), an independent American MONUC accredited journalist is now on the ground in DRC. He reports that mainstream American media and Congolese support groups are totally blind to hidden agendas in DRC. The aid and guns continue to flow, and the innocent go on suffering forever.

“They do not report on the true thieves; or the true thievery -- they are always blaming the victims -- the people of Congo who, most of the time, suffer in silence, and die out of sight,” snow wrote when speaking about Congolese support networks.

“The Congolese on the plantations, in the forest, around the gold mines, are being paid as little as 1000 francs Congolese ($2) per month. After 100 years there is nothing -- no health care, no development, and everything is poised to have exactly the same now. It’s all being covered over by propaganda. But you cannot eat propaganda, and you cannot eat hope, and you cannot live on two dollars a month, snow says.”

A UN official writes, “We spent two nights in our offices here in Kinshasa, with our colleagues…no way to sleep…Oh my God...the situation this morning (Saturday) at 9:30 AM is calm but volatile; we do not know what how it will evolve....”

MONUC peacekeepers are now patrolling the streets of Kinshasa and removing unexploded munitions. In an official statement, MONUC welcomed “the restoration of order in Kinshasa by government forces, although it deeply regrets that force was used to resolve a situation that could and should have been settled through dialogue.”

Note: As the author of this story, I am writing as a MONUC-accredited journalist.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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