29 Oct 2008
Constantly Moving to nowhere
In this part of the world, misfortune is always lurking around the corner. More than 20,000 people in a settlement situated about 30 kms north of the Congolese border town of Goma were forced to abandon their shelter and take flight. This time around, they are fleeing from advancing Tutsi rebels led by the renegade Congolese Army General Laurent Nkunda. For some of the fleeing people, it is their umpteenth time of escaping from another of the armed groups that have been roaming this cursed land for over a decade. The fighting in Congo has left 5million dead and millions incapacitated since 1998.
The wretched people of Eastern Congo neither know when their suffering will end nor why they are suffering in the first place. The answer to the question why they are suffering lies beneath their sore feet. The earth beneath them contains many coveted minerals such as diamonds, cobalt, copper, uranium, tin, gold, silver, coal, zinc, manganese, tungsten, cadmium, coltran and more. Predators of all shades usually create conditions of instability so as to take advantage of the resultant chaos to loot these minerals even if they have to sacrifice the lives of the Congolese.
Frustrated by what they think is a failure to protect them, some of the refugees vented their anger on the UN peace keeping force by throwing stones at their barracks. The 17,000 strong Blue Helmets complain that they are overstretched by the endless conflicts in Congo DR
In January 2008 when a peace treaty was signed between the Congolese government and the warring rebels, many naïve people thought that peace was around the corner. Those of us who knew the real reason for Congo’s wars were not fooled by that agreement. We knew that the treaty was just used by some groups to regroup and prepare for the next round of fighting. It is obvious for observers of the Congolese political scene that Laurent Nkunda is fighting a proxy war for Rwanda and at the same time benefitting personally from the looting of minerals extracted from the portion of the country he controls.
Typically, Rwanda has denied backing Nkunda but it is obvious that Nkunda cannot survive militarily without support from Congo’s neighbors to the East. In fact, different credible sources confirm that the Rwandan army supports Nkunda in his current war.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has lamented that the ongoing violence was “creating a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic dimensions” and has called for a ceasefire. The stampede and chaos caused by fleeing Congolese soldiers and civilians from the town of Kibumba (about 30 km north of Goma) has sparked an outcry from around the world. Revolting images of women fleeing with children and luggage strapped around them have portrayed the rebels as insensitive and inhuman. There was no immediate logical explanation to justify the unleashing of violence on such a large scale on so many innocent people by Nkunda’s men. He (Nkunda) repeated the often recycled demand that Congo’s government should get rid of the ‘Hutu genocidaires’ as if these people are housed in one of Congo’s military barracks. The Congolese Government has repeatedly told remnants of these people that caused genocide in Rwanda to leave but they have preferred to defy the government and use their arms like Nkunda’s men to live as outlaws. Congolese have, in the recent past been subjected to the worst type of cruelty imaginable (read related article below). General Nkunda said Wednesday that a ceasefire from his side was in effect. The question is ‘for how long?’
All these armed groups prefer to tell the world different reasons why they hang around Eastern Congo but what they cannot deny is that all of them are involved in stealing minerals. Congo’s problems, it seems are unlikely to go away anytime soon as long as the minerals remain in abundance.
Njei Moses Timah