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Monday, January 09, 2006

The hidden war

While many in the West campaign against the Iraq invasion, some of us are guilty of forgetting far greater travesties:

"The civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed 3.9 million lives, according to a study.

"It says starvation and disease caused by a conflict, which began in 1998, were by far the greatest killers."

These kinds of figures certainly cause me to reflect on my own priorities as a journalist and activist. Highlighting transgressions of imperial powers is a key component of responsible reporting, though Africa should more prominently feature in our consciousness.


Blogger orang said...

Africa is bigger than Beh Hur. Full of poor suffering black people. Old colonial. Belgians, French, colonialists..tribal..very tribal..

Don't feel guilty..even Cheney won't go there.

Do a deal with yourself - if John Howard goes , you go.

Monday, January 09, 2006 7:13:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Yes it is a travesty, something worthy of shame. It's also worth remembering that present day Congo is a direct result of neglect compounded over centuries. Present day Iraq is a direct result of a positive ambition to conquer a territory through the use of violence. Reducing violence in Congo would require overarching institutional reform. For example, more stringent limitations on small arms manufacture would have a significant effect. Investing in Congolese society, as opposed to merely their resources, would be another. This would require a significant shift in international policy. In contrast, whilst similar shifts would greatly improve conditions in Iraq, ending the American occupation would singularly play a decisive role in helping to end the violence in that country.

Of course none of this should detract from the very serious need to reconsider the role and treatment of Africa in the international system. Dare I say it there is a reasonable amount of literature, much of the best from African thinkers, which include a range of conflict resolution proposals. It's somewhat difficult to institutes these however when there is a lack of political will amongst many African elites, the Western elites which still reign above the African elites, and a debilitating international economic system which permanently consigns Africa to poverty. For example, if the international economic system is more concerned with protecting drug patents than alleviating curable illnesses in Africa, it will be difficult for African communities to maintain progress towards developed and democratic nationhood.

One last thing I should mention is this. Congo tried to do the sensible, responsible thing. They fought hard for independence from Belgium. They immediately set up a democratic political process. They democratically elected Patrice Lumumba in the early 1960s as their first Prime Minister. But Lumumba was feared by the Western powers, particularly the US and Belgium. Like Nasser in Egypt or Mossadeq in Iran or countless others literally in every corner of the globe these powers feared Lumumba would nationalise the rich mineral deposits in the Congo, thereby stopping Western companies control of these resources. So they assassinated Lumumba (actually two Belgian soldiers/operatives hacked his body into little pieces and burnt the pieces so that no one would ever find his remains and give him a proper burial. The powers that be feared that a martyred Lumumba with a shrine would be a rallying point for the Congolese). The Western powers paid the leaders of the most mineral rich province in Congo to maintain an armed insurrection, and the insurrectionists also assisted in Lumumba's assassination. The US gave military aid to Colonel Mobutu, Lumumba's Army Chief, and ordered him to assume total control of the country. In exchange for unfettered access to the country's minerals, Mobutu was allowed to establish a medieval, totalitarian society which ensured that most Congolese remained desperately poor and illiterate. This dictatorship lasted for three decades. After his ouster only a few decades ago, Congo descended into chaos, civil war, and so on.

Monday, January 09, 2006 7:14:00 pm  
Blogger orang said...

do you mean we got rid of a democratically elected leader and placed a tyrant?

Oh stop it. What a kidder.

Monday, January 09, 2006 8:28:00 pm  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Democratically elected? Like Arafat? or like Saddam? or like Assad?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 5:13:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

So you admit you hate democracy Ibraham?

Thanks for clearing that up. Prefer fascims I presume?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 5:46:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

I admit those were not democratic elections. I admit you're full of addamo.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 8:21:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

So you are for democracy then?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 8:31:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

Also, if he were sitll alove today, do you think that Arafat would have lost an election against Mahmoud Abbas?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 8:33:00 am  
Blogger uphillsprinter said...


what do you base equating the democratically elected lamumba with saddam or assad?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 2:02:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Nasser was feared as a raving lunatic who wanted the 4th reich in the arab land with him as President for life. That was whom the article compared lamumba.

I wasn't there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 9:23:00 am  

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