13 Nov 2008
Take email action on Congo
On Monday I wrote about Congo - see here - and finished the blog feeling impotent to do very much - there seemed no rallying cry - concerns already logged with the MP - well now Avaaz has launched an appeal to email your country's leader.
I always wonder about the impact of these email campaigns - but clearly they have played a part in the past - Congo is a nightmare and during this week of Remembrance the ongoing war there seems even more horrific. Only recently I re-saw that film Hotel Rwanda and the images come back as I read reports of the Congo now. Here is what Avaaz write - do please follow the link to sign the letter:
The people of Congo need our help. In recent weeks over 200,000 people have been driven from their homes, and murder and rape are rife. The United Nations peacekeeping mission to Congo has not intervened to protect civilians. As this email is sent, families are running for their lives, stuck between the brutal violence of both the rebels and the Congolese army, without food or shelter - their only refuges are crowded camps which now face epidemics of disease. This is a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions. But, European foreign ministers meeting earlier this week said it's too early to act.
Europe can deploy a well-equipped protection force to be on the ground in two weeks - no one else can get such a capable presence in that fast. If Europe sent a neutral force to the region and helped put real pressure on Congo and neighbouring countries with UN and African officials, this humanitarian crisis could be addressed and a lasting peace made possible. This tough crisis will not be solved militarily but civilians desperately need protection now, and proper European engagement could help tackle the root causes.
The lesson of Rwanda was to step in before it's too late - Europe's politicians seem to have forgotten that. The people of eastern Congo need us now. Send a message to your leader and forward this email to friends and family-- we'll also place our message in newspapers around Europe. The situation is deteriorating by the day. The more messages that the European leaders receive this week, the more they will feel that their citizens and people around the world expect them to respond and protect the Congolese people. Follow this link to send your message now:
The recent clashes between General Nkunda's militias and the Congolese army are the latest in a place where the population has been attacked and terrorised for years by armed groups. Over five million people have been killed. It's been termed 'Africa's world war', with Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia all getting involved. The fighting is fed by a lethal war economy based on the extraction of minerals such as coltan, cobalt, diamonds and gold, to which we're all connected through the worldwide market.
Allegations abound of Angolan and Zimbabwean troops fighting alongside the Congolese army -- Congolese army soldiers committing atrocities and working with militias including the Rwandan Hutu Forces, some of whose leaders were responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide -- and the Rwandan army supporting General Nkunda to muscle the Congolese government to fulfill its commitment to demobilise these same Hutu militias. So it is no surprise that African-only diplomacy is faltering.
The United Nations mission (MONUC) is in Congo to keep the peace between this web of armed groups, but recently it has made clear statements that it cannot protect civilians. We have heard reliably that MONUC are desperate for a rapid EU bridging force to do what they can't and start restoring international legitimacy, which has been lost through overstretch and perceptions of taking sides -- UN troops have fought alongside the Congolese army and are even accused of sheltering pro-government militias.
To have a credible and effective force the United Nations mission will soon have to be reformed and redeployed. In the longer term, the international community needs to be a strong and honest broker to ensure implementation of peace agreements and confront the underlying issues feeding this war. If Europe sends a short-term, neutral force to the region now to protect civilians, it can start to change the terms of this brutal game -- providing a basis both to defend the defenceless and to apply political leverage to all sides. Click below to send a message asking your own country's leader to support action now:
We cannot let the best chance to stop the terror in Congo slip by as European leaders turn their backs. Congo needs concerted engagement now. Europe is providing millions in aid to Congo and Rwanda to ensure reconstruction and development, but without a more forceful and permanent push, there will be no peace to keep.