Monday, June 30, 2008

Congo Celebrates its 48th Year of Independence

Today, June 30, 2008, Congo celebrates its 48th year of independence from Belgium. However, for all intents and purposes Congo has not been independent since 1885 when it was given to King Leopold II as his own personal property at the Berlin Conference.

The central question that has dogged the Congo for the past 120 years remains; that is who will control and benefit from Congo's spectacular wealth. Today, Congo remains under tutelage as a result of the West's neo-colonial and/or neo-liberal dictates.

One day and one day soon, the sons and daughters of Congo will be free and liberated.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ben Affleck Brings Attention to Congo

ABC News reports that Ben Affleck traveled to the Congo three times in the last eight months ostensibly to understand the nature of what the United Nations calls the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two.

ABC's "Nightline" team accompanied Affleck on his trip to the Congo where he produced a video diary that will be shown on Nightline on Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 11:35 PM EST. The group "traveled through refugee camps, hospitals and clinics, meeting with warlords, relief workers, child soldiers and members of parliament in an effort to better understand" the nature of the conflict in the Congo.

Usually when the mainstream media covers the Congo or Africa in general, the coverage is often devoid of context or history. African conflicts are usually presented as warring "tribes" wantonly killing each other. A mix of alphabet soup rebel groups are usually presented as the ultimate source of the problem, which leads the viewer to the conclusion that the problems are too complex and very little or nothing can be done to resolve the crisis.

A few questions to ask or observations to make when watching tonight's show:

1. Does it come across clearly that the source of the conflict in the Congo is the scramble for Congo's spectacular natural wealth?

2. Are the foreign corporations that are systematically looting the Congo mentioned or identified?

3. Does the report mention that the conflict was triggered by two invasions (1996 & 1998) led primarily by Rwanda and Uganda and backed by the West?

4. Are any articulate Congolese scholars and activists consulted to provide analysis and prescriptions for resolving the crisis in their country?

5. Is Congo's enormous potential presented at all? For example, agricultural experts report that Congo has the agricultural capacity to feed the entire world through 2050 when the world's population is estimated to be 9 billion? ( Click here to read article).

Any attention focused on the Congo is a net positive considering that dead gorillas have generated more interest and concern than millions of dying Congolese. We need to encourage more people to care like Mr. Affleck obviously does, so that the needless suffering in the Congo can be brought to an end. Click here to participate in the discussion.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

UN Classifies Rape As War Tactic

The United Nations classified rape as a war tactic. The US-sponsored resolution was adopted unanimously by the 15-member council. The report noted that rape is used to displace populations, demoralize the enemy. Rape was declared a crime against humanity.

Various speakers identified former Yugoslavia, Sudan's Darfur region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Liberia as conflict regions where deliberate sexual violence had occurred on a mass scale.

The report also called on the United Nations to develop procedures to reduce rape by United Nations troops who commit rape during peace keeping missions.

Ban leads call for greater efforts to end ‘silent war’ of sexual violence in conflict

U.N. categorizes rape as a war tactic

Congolese Women Appeal to the United Nations

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Congo - Belgium: How Real is the Split

Since Belgium Foreign Minister Karl De Gucht criticized the Kabila regime for lack of transparency in its dealing with China, human rights abuses and corruption relations have been rocky between the two countries. The critique was leveled in less than diplomatic terms. In fact, it was done like a parent lecturing a child in proclaiming that Belgium had a moral right over the Congo and its leaders. De Gucht exact quote was "I feel that we have not only the right but the moral obligation to say what we think about what is happening in the Congo, and it's not going at all in the right direction."

Kabila's reaction was to recall Congo's ambassador to Brussels and closed its consulate in Antwerp. It is not much of a stretch for Belgium to lay claim over the current crop of leaders in the Congo. Belgium and the international community played more of a role in placing the current leadership in power than the people of the Congo. It was not long ago that former Belgium Foreign Minister and current EU Development Commissioner, Louis Michel declared that Kabila had the right vision for the Congo and soon after being "elected," Belgium was primed to endow president Kabila with a honorary doctorate degree.

Apparently, things have changed since those honeymoon days. The row has exacerbated to the point where Congo has forced Belgium to close two of its consulates in the cities of Bukavu and Lubumbashi.