Monday, December 24, 2007

Congolese Continue to Experience Hell: What are the Answers

Long before the 2006 elections, Congolese pro-democracy forces called for national reconciliation and justice in an effort to stem the climate of impunity that existed in the Congo as a result of the deadly invasions by Rwanda and Uganda. A major mandate ushering from peace talks in South Africa in 2002 was the integration of the military. Unfortunately, western interests who held the purse strings to the elections were in a rush to legalize the pilfering of the Congo by putting in place a government pliant to western interests, hence the short shrift given to sustainable prescriptions for peace prior to the elections.

The problem of Rwanda's involvement in the Congo, proxy rebel groups, integration of the military and justice for the people of the Congo remain as trenchant as ever. Nearly one million people have been displaced in the east of the country, primarily the Kivu's and scores continue to die each day due to conflict.

Much of the blame is placed on the Hutu militias responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda but that only explains part of the problem. Laurent Nkunda and his rebel troops, probably the best armed faction in the conflict due in large part to the support it gets from Rwanda, argue that they are needed to protect the minority Tutsi from attacks. Nkunda, probably the world's most accessible alleged war criminal will be participating in a peace conference called by the Congolese government after they failed to militarily displace Nkunda and his forces from strategically held areas in the North Kivu province.

As the government forces fight Nkunda's rebels, it is the people who ultimately suffer. The hardship is exacerbated by the rainy season. People displaced by the fighting have to remain on the move in order to stay safe and avoid the conflict. They have no food, no place to sleep, no medicine, and the suffering is enormous.

Without a doubt ethnic tensions exist and need to be resolved but at the root of the fighting is the continual quest by rebel groups to control resources such as coltan and tin, which still leaves the Congo via Eastern European planes destined for Europe and Asia. A vicious cycle exists where rebel groups mine minerals, sell them to companies who provide the rebels with cash so they can purchase weapons and ammunition to sustain the conflict. Neighboring countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi also continue benefit from conflict in the Congo. Multi-national corporations that get the coltan and the tin at "dirt-cheap" prices also benefit. The tin and coltan are destined for the electronics and computer industry to be used in cell phones, lap tops, game consoles such as Sony Play Station, X-boxes and Nintendo Wii.

The prescriptions are clear and have been offered by Congolese scholars for years:
1. Rwanda must cease its support of rebel groups in the Congo
2. Rwanda must create the political space and process to allow the integration of the Hutu back into Rwandan society so they can leave the Congo
3. The Congolese government must initiate a process for reconciliation and justice that involves all sectors of Congolese society. In addition, those responsible for the commission of atrocious crimes must be punished.
4. Corporations must cease the looting of the country so the country's resources can be used to properly pay soldiers, care for the sick and destitute and restore communities that have been destroyed by the conflict.


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