Saturday, January 17, 2009

Progress in Congo?

I was a geography freak as a kid, and one country that has always inexplicably fascinated me is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known when I was a child as Zaire). I'm not sure why that country in particular piqued my interest: maybe because it started with "Z", maybe because it was so big and smack in the middle of Africa. But it's always stuck with me, even to this day.

Unfortunately, the roughly two decades comprising my life have not been good times to be a member of the DRC/Zaire fan club. They've been locked into a devastating civil war for decades now, and the central government has been too weak to stop the violence, bloodshed, and human rights violations that have been running rampant. I genuinely think that President Laurent Joseph Kabila is a good guy -- a position I first came to after reading this CNN article on sexual assaults and rapes done by army and rebel soldiers in the country -- and after holding the first free and open elections (he became a transitional President after his father was assassinated, and held the election shortly thereafter), he has helped Congo slowly but surely build up its democratic institutions. But the overall pattern still was not looking good.

But we may be on the edge of a turnaround. Reuters reports that the Congolese government and rebel groups in the east are on the cusp of a peace agreement which may end the fighting once and for all. The forces formerly under the command of dissident General Laurent Nkunda (read about him here) are apparently no longer loyal to Nkunda, who was responsible for much of the fighting and war crimes in the east. Nkunda reportedly has been deposed by General Bosco Ntaganda, who claimed (accurately) that Nkunda was blocking peace efforts. Ntaganda, of course, is no picnic either -- he's wanted by the Hague for war crimes of his own. But as the mediators in the region have been saying, for Congo, the first priority has to be ending the fighting. We can worry about international law prosecutions afterward.


Anonymous said...

Er, you might want to read this:

And with the diamond mining still running, the end of the war is probably temporary.

Mór Rígan said...

Also, rape as a weapon of war is very widespread in Congo on both sides and that must have a higher priority. Clear violation of the rules of war.

Anonymous said...

There's this too: