Ben Buchwalter

The Continuing Congo Crisis
November 18, 2008, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs | Tags: ,

Though the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not been front and center in major media outlets, some sources have written very powerfully on the subject. BBC on the UN’s involvement in the Congo; Washington Post on the devastating destruction of the rebel militias; New York Times on the Congo’s natural resources and how they fuel the fighting; most poignantly, Slate on the western world’s refusal to help significantly even after the collective guilt inspired by not doing something in Rwanda in 1994. 

A little background:

The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a direct result of this pre-independence ethnic favoritism; the Hutu majority (making up nearly 85% of the population) violently and maliciously rose up against the Tutsi leadership with devastating results. By most estimates, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in the 100 days of the Rwandan genocide.

Since the genocide, the Tutsis have retained control of the government, forcing ethnically biased policies on the population. The government’s treatment of the country’s Hutu population – perpetrator and innocent alike – prompted many Hutus to flee to the mountainous region of the Congo, afraid of further government retaliation. This resulted in a series of wars between 1998-2003, the aftermath of which (still being felt today) were responsible for more than 5 million deaths.

More recently, the Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has organized militias to protect the DRC’s Tutsi population from the Hutu genocidaires who fled to the DRC after the genocide in 1994 to avoid prosecution for their crimes.

What it means

The central problem plaguing Rwanda and the DRC is the lack of a moderate government. Only in 2006, the DRC inaugurated its first democratically elected government. Before that, its leadership had been dictated by military coups and ethnically charged ideologues. The country’s Tutsi population is statistically insignificant and feels that it cannot impact the government democratically, which some say is the reason for the rise of Laurant Nkunda’s rebel army.

This is all important because many sources say that Nkunda’s rebel army might be associated with the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan government. Nkunda famously calls himself the “Savior of the Tutsis” and his fighting under the supervision of the Rwandan government would surely cause a regional war between Rwanda, the DRC and many other Central African nations, based not only on governmental sovereignty but potentially on the same ethos that drove the ethnic wars of the last 15 years.

The international community must intervene before it is too late. Yes, the United Nations has been working hard in the Congo. But you would think that nearly 5.5 million deaths would require a major international presence in the country to work towards ending the war permanently.

Citing the West’s failure to act in the 1994 genocide, Michael Kavanagh presents this necessity very clearly:

Over the years, many world leaders have made the trip to Rwanda to stand before the gravesites of genocide victims and apologize for their inaction in 1994. But if the worth of an apology is measured not in words but in actions, most of these apologies have been rubbish. True repentance for Rwanda has always meant ending the Congolese conflict—especially in the Kivus.

Failing to act would mean adding the DRC to a list, including Rwanda and Sudan, of countries we don’t consider worth helping despite massive crises.


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