Thursday, September 15, 2005

DR Congo set for more suffering

So what else is new. From the moment they achieved independance in 1960, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (aka Belgium Congo, Zaire) has been lumbered with corrupt and brutal leaders. It still has the resources to be a functioning and relatively prosperous state, but fate seems to have other plans.

Der Spiegel Online has a portrait of the newest butcher. As usual, the threat comes from the east, where most of the country's enormous resources are located. Also as usual, the cat's paw is Rwanda.
Africa's bloodiest war shows signs of flaring up once again. In eastern Congo, a brutal warlord is gathering his forces and has threatened to topple the government. Many see neighboring Rwanda behind the renewed saber-rattling.

Even for eastern Congo, General Laurent Nkunda is a brutal butcher. Last year, his
band of soldiers spent a week occupying the border town of Bukavu in South Kivu province, a region rich in natural resources. When Nkunda's killer gangs finally left the town, the shops in once-lively Bukavu had been looted and its streets were lined with corpses, the men massacred with machetes and countless women raped and then beaten to death. [...]

Nkunda is said to have assembled more than a thousand soldiers in the town of Masisi in the North Kivu region. They speak the language of neighboring Rwanda and are descendants of that country's Tutsi ethnic group. And Nkunda -- a Tutsi himself -- has made no secret of what he intends to do with his army. [...]

Another wave of bloodshed in Congo would hardly be unexpected. Democratic elections -- the first in the history of this war-torn country -- were in fact scheduled to take place in Congo at the end of this year. But many of Congo's neighbors -- especially Rwanda, the much smaller neighboring country that already instigated the last two wars in Congo in 1996 and 1998 -- have no interest in such elections.Rwanda, after all, has profited handsomely from Congolese chaos. The exploitation of Congo's natural resources -- including coltan, gold, diamonds and tropical hardwoods -- has brought millions to the Rwandan capital Kigali. [...]

Meanwhile, in Kinshasa, the government is almost completely unable to meet the growing threat in eastern Congo. The Congolese army is on the verge of disintegrating. In the village of Mwesso, not far from an area where the Tutsi warlord has been gathering his army, the 53rd battalion of the Congolese army, which consists almost exclusively of Tutsis, has completely deserted. In Masisi, half of the army's regular units have already defected to the rebels -- and disarmed the other half before doing so. President Kabila also cannot expect much support from the remaining soldiers in his army, many of whom prefer plundering to playing soldier.
The upshot: more bloodshed, followed by hangwringing from the international community. I was extremely hopeful following the exile and death of Mobutu; I expected that the world would not allow the country to fall back into anarchy. Boy was I wrong.