Congo’s Forgotten Conflict in the Limelight

November 11, 2008

Got to be honest, I’m not too sure what to make of recent coverage of the troubles in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The story shows no sign of disappearing off the world news schedules just yet… and yesterday the BBC propelled it right back up to the top again.

Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda tells the BBC he will topple the government if it refuses to talk to him.

Never mind the fact that government troops basically gave up the eastern city of Goma to Nkunda only to see the renegade army officer say thanks but no thanks, and that he is barely able to hold on to his own territory much less take Kinshasa, reporters seem intent on presenting the story as rebels about to overrun the country.
This would fall down against my former’s editor’s test of: “This might be what they say, but is it true.” Nkunda’s words would be presented in a much more sceptical light if that test were to be used.
Of course it’s great that Congo’s neverending cycle of destruction is in the public gaze for a few days. But that’s the point. This stuff has been going on for years without the rest of the world giving a damn. So why now?
Michela Wrong, author of In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo, sums it up in Sunday’s Observer…

But Congo’s crisis is not unprecedented, nor is it unrivalled. To people who know the continent, there’s something of an arbitrary quality as to how one crisis seizes the public imagination and others go ignored.
The eastern town of Goma has seen far worse than this, including a biblical flood of Rwandan refugees in 1994, a cholera epidemic that left corpses lining its streets and a lava flow that turned the lake town into a mini-Pompeii. Those episodes made what is happening now seem insignificant. Suddenly, Western politicians are flagellating their electorate with the fact that nearly five million have died in the DRC in the last eight years.

I’m not sure I have an answer. But part of the problem is that Goma is now home to a chunk of Nairobi’s press pack, most of whom are desperate for the sort of career-defining conflict that was common here back in the 1990s – think Somalia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and so on. Few are now going to talk down what is happening around Goma as business as usual.



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2 thoughts on “Congo’s Forgotten Conflict in the Limelight”

  1. The web site, http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org , provides information about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by troups under Nkunda ‘s command since 2002 . The website is also launching a petition calling on concerned people around the world to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.N.’s biggest peacekeeping mission will soon be over 20,000 in Congo “must ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws are brought to justice” said Mr. Kyubwa.

    Nkunda is accused of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity of which most cases are well documented by various human right organzations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In September 2005, the Congolese government issued an arrest warrant for Nkunda, accusing him of numerous war crimes and crimes against human rights. Human Rights Watch, for example, which has been calling for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity since February 2006 has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under the command of Nkunda in Bukavu in 2004 and in Kisangani in 2002. Also armed groups loyal to warlord Nkunda have been repeatedly accused of using rape as a weapon of war and the recruitment of child soldiers, some as young as 12 after the abduction from their homes.

    According to Mr. Kyubwa, NKunda continues to be involved in the committing of crimes in DRC, and in particular in the province of North Kivu, where again groups armed acting under his command are reportedly responsible for killing civilian systematically in the town of Kiwanja. The continuing horrific killing of civilians testifies that Human Rights Watch was absolutely reasonable in its warning then in 2006 and it’s today. “So long as Nkunda is at large, the civilian population remains at grave risk”

    The website http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org encourages concerned people around the world to sign a petition to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For more information please call the project coordinator in the United States , Amede Kyubwa at (916) 753 5717 or email: [email protected]

  2. John Robert says:

    A web site calling for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo (known by its French acronym MONUC) to immediately arrest Laurent Nkunda to face justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity, has been launched according to project coordinator, Amede Kyubwa.

    The web site, http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org, provides information about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by troups under Nkunda ‘s command since 2002 . The website is also launching a petition calling on concerned people around the world to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.N.’s biggest peacekeeping mission will soon be over 20,000 in Congo “must ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws are brought to justice” said Mr. Kyubwa.

    Nkunda is accused of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity of which most cases are well documented by various human right organzations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In September 2005, the Congolese government issued an arrest warrant for Nkunda, accusing him of numerous war crimes and crimes against human rights. Human Rights Watch, for example, which has been calling for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity since February 2006 has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under the command of Nkunda in Bukavu in 2004 and in Kisangani in 2002. Also armed groups loyal to warlord Nkunda have been repeatedly accused of using rape as a weapon of war and the recruitment of child soldiers, some as young as 12 after the abduction from their homes.

    According to Mr. Kyubwa, NKunda continues to be involved in the committing of crimes in DRC, and in particular in the province of North Kivu, where again groups armed acting under his command are reportedly responsible for killing civilian systematically in the town of Kiwanja. The continuing horrific killing of civilians testifies that Human Rights Watch was absolutely reasonable in its warning then in 2006 and it’s today. “So long as Nkunda is at large, the civilian population remains at grave risk”

    The website http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org encourages concerned people around the world to sign a petition to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For more information please call the project coordinator in the United States , Amede Kyubwa at (916) 753 5717 or email: [email protected]

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