Treasure-Hearts of Darkness

October 28, 2008


Despite all, wars keep warring. In Africa’s heart, seemingly all-perpetual war keeps hacking away at history, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The machete-AK-47 adventure continued in earnest on Monday as UN peacekeepers attempt to mount a rescue of its aid workers trapped in the deep Congo jungle, caught in the pincer of an escalating advance of a vicious renegade Congolese warlord.

The tale is the worst of African pulp fiction in real time.
A back story can be found here and it’s updated here, but terror on the ground in eastern Congo has to be enormous.

(Map and Congo info found here).

This evening’s New York Times:

  • But the attempt to evacuate roughly 50 aid workers trapped in the battle zone deep in the forest was halted after furious villagers attacked the armed convoy and blocked the road, United Nations officials said.
    In the melee, even Congolese government forces fired on the convoy, the officials said.
    “The situation was very chaotic,” said Ivo Brandau, a United Nations spokesman in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. “The convoy had to turn back.”

    Eastern Congo has been plagued by violence and insecurity for years and is home to the largest United Nations peacekeeping mission in the world.
    But the peacekeepers have seemed unable to stop one man, Laurent Nkunda, a renegade Congolese general, who is leading the rebel charge on Goma.
    For the past several weeks, Mr. Nkunda’s troops have been gobbling up territory and forcing the Congolese government’s forces to retreat.
    They are now within 10 miles of Goma, and they are employing new hit-and-run tactics that seem to be frustrating the United Nations peacekeepers who are working with the Congolese military to beat back the rebels.

The guy, Mr. Nkunda, is not a a real nice person — his army gained fame for rape murder and mass looting, all asshole/terror-proven veterans from the three or four Congo wars the past couple of decades.
A good look at the deteriorating situation can be found today in Time.
The current mess is just a continuing mess.
A snippet:

  • Hundreds of thousands of Congolese have fled renewed fighting in the eastern part of the country in the past few weeks.
    Government forces are pitted against rebel groups that have operated in the area since crossing the border from neighboring Rwanda at the end of the genocide there in 1994.
    In some ways — such as how the conflict has sucked in armies from across Africa and how it has often descended into a fight over the region’s plentiful natural resources — the war in Congo is immeasurably more complicated than the one in Rwanda.
    But in other ways, it’s a direct sequel.
    The rebels now advancing on Goma, for instance, are led by General Laurent Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi fighting remnant Rwandan Hutu militias.
    In all, according to humanitarian NGO the International Rescue Committee, the war in Congo — which escalated into a full-scale civil war in 1998 that lasted until 2003, and still erupts periodically, as now — has killed 5.4 million people, mostly through hunger and disease.

And what have our illustrious presidential candidates said about this horror?
Nothing except to conduct a course in political squabbling:

  • After Obama’s promise in Israel this year to “never again” allow genocide to occur, the McCain camp quickly pounced, issuing a press release saying that if Obama were sincere in that statement, he would have voted to allow the troop surge in Iraq.
    The media immediately published Obama’s response: “Well, look, if that’s the criteria [genocide or humanitarian crisis] by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done.”

    Friends of the Congo issued a strong response to Obama’s statement, objecting to the stereotypical notion that tribal bloodletting is responsible for this travesty.
    The United Nations has termed the humanitarian crisis in Congo the “deadliest in the world since World War II.”
    Nearly 6 million people have died in the region since 1996 due to the war and conflict related causes such as treatable disease, malnutrition and related violence, including the documented rapes of 200,000 women and children.
    Doctors Without Borders has consistently reported that the Congo conflict is one of the top ten most under reported stories in the world.

    The central reason for the nearly six million dead in the Congo since 1996 is not ethnic strife but rather the scramble for Congo’s enormous treasure trove of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, timber and more,” says Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo.

    DRC harbors the richest, purest minerals in the world, many of them vital to the U.S. defense industry. There is not one person who is reading this article who does not benefit by mineral extraction and exploitation in DRC.
    For example, Congo has from 64%-80% of the world’s reserve of coltan. Oil may arguably be the non-renewable resource which is front and center in every American’s mind, but coltan is found in cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, and video game consoles.
    Coltan is the engine behind our communications systems, and 1500 people a day are dying in this region while Americans profit from corporate greed, take Congolese resources, turn our backs, and power-up our cellphones.

Maybe it’s time for US peoples to take a journey through the darkest heart of darkness.

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