NWI Insights - Democratic Republic of Congo - the world's deadliest war
Last week on NWI, a report by Carol Off of the CBC looked at the growing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many believe that the increasing violence, lawlessness and instability in the region may be the start of a new and tragic genocide. In 1998 the Ugandan troops who had been occupying the north east of Congo left but on their departure armed both sides of the rival ethnic groups. Their departure caused a troubling power vacuum in the area. Since 1998 there have been an estimated 3 to 4 million deaths in the area of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo making it the world's deadliest war. Yet the horror barely makes back page news in the West and the international community and the UN seem unmoved by the epic of destruction and terror.
Off explains that at present there remains just 700 poorly armed UN peaceworkers whose responsibilities incorporate protecting only the UN workers in the area and to fire only when fired upon. In a telephone interview with Michel Kassa, Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, Off uncovers the horrifying scale of the violence already happening in northern sections of the Congo. Kassa explains that he sees many dead bodies and recently found a lady with her head chopped off. He says that in Bunia there is wide-scale fighting between the ethnic groups and that 4,000 have been killed and many have fled into Uganda.
Off also talks with Anneke Van Woudenberg a senior researcher from Human Rights Watch who asserts that more than 50,000 have died in the recent fighting and that the international community have to do more to reinforce their presence in Bunia. Woudenberg contends however that they do not want to see what is happening in the Congo and that the situation is replicating that of Rwanda in 1994 where the international community and the UN were too late in acting to prevent the atrocities.
Off talks to Canadian General Romeo Dallaire who was commander of the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda in 1994 and who asserts that what took place in Rwanda was the biggest shame on the international community, 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. He too believes that Congo is becoming an instant replay of the terrors of Rwanda and that the UN is still standing by. He asserts that military intervention is needed urgently. The conflict is being named as Africa's First World War where 3 million people have died since 1998 through the conflict, militias and the resulting famine and sickness associated with refugees.
Off talks about the recent history of the Democratic Republic of Congo from the Belgium influence as a colonial power in the early 20th Century to Joseph Kassavubu successful resistance movement against the Belgium rule. Kassavubu became the first President of the country in 1960 but after much conflict and unrest was ousted by General Mobutu in 1965. Mobutu changed the country's name to Zaire in 1971 and Africanised all of the place names. His military rule lasted for over two decades until civil war drove him out of power in 1997. Zaire was then renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Congo has a vast land mass and borders nine other African nations, states Off. It's stability is a vital component for the stability of Africa as a whole explains Off. However at present six of its borders are being used as a battlefield by the neighbouring countries including Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Angola, Uganda and Namibia. The Congo is regarded for its vast supply of minerals and in particular diamonds where it has the third largest supplies in the world.
Off in her continuing discussions with Woudenberg, highlights that there has been considerable outside influence in the Congo. Woudenberg asserts that the US has provided $100 million to the region for arms and training in the region. Since 1999 Woudenberg claims that 4 million people have died in the conflict and that it is the deadliest war in the world.
The Canadian General, Romeo Dallaire who was commander of the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda, asserts to Off that the international community do not want to get involved in the conflict because Congo is seen as 'Black Africa' and that the international community is still racist and that ex-colonial powers do not wish to solve crises in ex-colonies.
Off follows up that the UN have been battling to try and gain support for the problems in the Congo from the international community but without real success. France have volunteered to be involved but there is tension with this because of their previous history in the region. The role of the UN now remains reminiscent of the Rwandan war. Following the genocide in Rwandan, Off reminds viewers that President Bill Clinton asserted that this "should never happen again" and also sights the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's words that Rwanda was "our collective failure".
In his experience Dallaire says that between 20 and 30,000 troops are needed to prevent a further humanitarian crisis. The UN's efforts to rally support are not generating enough interest. He asserts that countries did not intervene in the crisis in Rwanda because they believed it was too late to do anything. However he argues that at this point in the Rwandan genocide 200,000 people had been killed. Following the international communities decision not to intervene, there were a further 600,000 deaths. It is never too late he asserts. Dallaire believes that the fact that there is no strategic value to intervene should be irrelevant, thousands of innocent people are being killed in central Africa.
Off concludes that whilst the world is scrambling to support the US war on terror, the most deadly war in the world struggles to make news. It barely makes the back pages of the newspapers on world events despite the millions killed in the conflict.
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