10 Nov 2008

Congo: the nightmare continues

Fighting continues between rebels and pro-government militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The humanitarian nightmare grows - cholera threatens - the latest news is that Southern African leaders have said they want to provide immediate support to the Democratic Republic of Congo's army in its fight against rebel forces.

Photo: Peace flag from recent Peace Day in Stroud

250,000 have been forced to flee their homes and three refugee camps - holding 50,000 people were also destroyed and found empty. This year alone, a quarter of a million have become refugees internally within Congo. Sadly the DR Congo has faced virtually continual conflict - indeed casualties are higher than any conflict the world has seen since the Second World War - over 5 million people have been killed since 1988.

The leader of the rebel faction, Laurent Nkunda Batware, was indicted for war crimes in 2005 and is still under investigation by the International Criminal Court. The conflict has seen massive human rights abuses conducted by both the government and rebel forces.

Here is SchNEWS comment: "While there has been international outrage about the West’s lack of help with aid or peace-keeping forces, the fighting in Congo is often layered with racist, or plain idle, clich├ęs of ‘tribal conflict’ - when in fact there is no focus on the West’s complicity in it. Those responsible for perpetuating the conflict runs from the local militia to government officials through to international corporations. "Complex international linkages, legal and illegal, public and private, fuel the war economy and direct the political organisations that perpetrate the violence. The DR Congo contains a wealth of natural resources – gold, diamonds, coltan, cassiterite – sold to corporations such as Anglo-American, Standard Chartered Bank, De Beers and over a hundred others. Those who exploitatively control and profit from Congo’s resources feed it to consumer markets: Each of us carries a slice of Congo – from the coltan in our mobile phones to the cassiterite used in consumer disposables such as tin cans."

This is an issue I've raised before on this blog and elsewhere - see my blog from last year - Blood Diamond, blood Coltan and blood gold and my letter published in The Ecologist in November 2001 here - an an update re the link with mobile phones here. We have just had a weekend of Remembrance - let us hope some sanity can come to this region.

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