The Christian Science Monitor reports on the robbery that most African governments (in this case in the DRC) continue to visit upon their people, unabated. Some of the deals they make sound so bad they’d embarrass a two year old.
Gertler was just 27 when he first became involved in the Congo in 2000, obtaining a monopoly of diamond exports (worth around $600 million) in return for $20 million. He had previously been involved in diamonds in Angola and he is the grandson of Moshe Schnitzer, the founder of the Israel Diamond Bourse. He is now one of the richest Israelis.
Industry insiders, however, suggest that the last big round of mining concession acquisitions happened just before the last elections and helped the president raise funds for his expensive campaign. The next elections are in 2011.
The good news first. According to UNICEF, the global under five mortality dropped by about 28% between 1990 and 2008. In other words, 10,000 less children are dying daily worldwide than was the case in 1990.
But that is as good as it gets. The sorry fact is that millions of children under the age of five still die every year from treatable illnesses – malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea being the top child-killers. Last year alone saw the loss of 8.8 million children under the age of five. India, the DRC and Nigeria were the worst hit – together reporting 40% of all under-five deaths. Africa and Asia, combined, reported 93% of global under five deaths.
The madness that visited Kenya in February served to illustrate just how much the international community is one of unequals. Kenya, being the hub of the region with considerable foreign investment and the headquarters of a major UN agency, was not to be let to go under. But the same is not true for the Democratic Republic of Congo, where millions have died or have been displaced as a result of years and years of fighting.
I just read an article in the Economist Newspaper detailing the kind of atrocities that innocent villagers have had to go through in this horrendous war.
The big question is, why has the world forgotten these people? Aren’t they just as human as Kenyans are? Why can’t the AU concentrate even just half as much effort as it did in resolving the Kenyan crisis?
At this point it is not debatable that the people of the DRC cannot govern themselves peacefully. Order and the rule of law should be imposed on the warring factions and if necessary divide up the country in order to separate those that do not want to coexist in one nation state. The mineral resources can then be managed by an international trustee and shared according to needs of the autonomous regions.
No human being should have to go through what the Congolese have and are still going through. Not in the 21st century at least.
Negotiators from the government and rebel movements in Eastern DRC have indicated that a deal could be made soon to end a war that has led to the loss of thousands of lives and displacement of more than 450, 000. General Nkunda, the leader of the main rebel movement in the East of this vast central African nation seems to have finally gave up his war of rebellion against Kinshasa which he claims is aimed at defending his Tutsi people from Hutu rebels from Rwanda.
The European Union and the United States have pledged to ensure that the deal goes through unhindered and have also promised to provide up to 150 million dollars to help in the reconstruction effort. Most of the regions infrastructure has been destroyed by years of conflict going back to the mid 90s during the Kabila rebellion.
This is welcome news coming from a region that has in recent past seen the flaring of tensions in Kenya, the former oasis of peace and stability. Stability in the DRC is vital for the entire region as this single nation has about 60 million people – a size-able market for the other countries’ struggling economies.
It is my hope that the peace agreement is comprehensive enough to settle the dispute once and for all so that Congolese can for once concentrate on the project of economic development and modernisation.
Last week the government of the Democratic Rep. of Congo (DRC) belatedly announced that it had captured Mushake, a rebel held town in the Eastern fringes of Africa’s second largest country. This was seen by many as a sign of government commitment to winning the war (now that the rebels seem not to care about negotiations) and finally restoring peace to the region. It therefore came as a surprise when it emerged that the government had lost the town again to the rebels.
The DRC is a country that has never known peace; going back to the days when it was personal property of King Leopold of Belgium. Even after independence, the secessionist attempts by Katanga (South Eastern region), the assassination of Lumumba and Mobutu’s kleptocratic and murderous rule did not make things better. When Mobutu died there was hope that the elder Kabila would bring peace and a sense of nationhood. But this was not to be; Kabila was assassinated by his own men and succeeded by his son. The younger Kabila has tried to make peace, first with the Bemba led opposition and then with the Eastern rebels, but without much success.
The recent loss of Mushake is a sign of government ineptitude in fighting this war. It is clear that the rebels and their sponsors in Rwanda and Uganda do not want peace and will do anything to keep the embers burning because this way they will have unregulated, tax free access to the minerals in the Eastern region. The Kinshasa government cannot afford a war of attrition with the rebels as this will distract it from its main objectives of providing public goods for all its citizens, not to mention the long term effects such a war will have. The sooner Kabila gets his act together and wins this war, the better it is going to be not only for the Congolese but also for the entire great lakes region.
The African Union and other regional bodies should support the government in making sure that the rebels are defeated and punished for their criminal adventures. Although the Kinshasa government is not the best government the DRC could ever have, secessionist wars are not the best way to deal with this problem. The rebels should know that in this day and age there are better ways of expressing one’s grievances; ways that do not contribute to unwarranted human suffering and wastage of scarce resources.