Thursday, June 01, 2006

TIME: Congo - The Hidden Toll of the World's Deadliest War

TIME Magazine Cover - June 05, 2006 issue
Photo copyright: TIME Inc.

See the related post On the Mississippi with Visitors from Kinshasa for more information.


Joerg said...

Thank you! Unfortunately, the article is only available to subscribers.

Did you see this? The British Independent published a piece by someone who seems to enjoy provocating folks across the political spectrum, thus I am not sure how credible he is, but he also won a few prizes and after all the Independent is a respectable paper.

He says the main reason for the conflict in Conog is getting "control of minerals essential to the electronic gadgetry on which the developed world depends"

"This war was launched by nations that sensed - rightly - that our desire for coltan and diamonds and gold far outweighed our concern for the lives of black people. They knew that we would keep on buying, long after the UN had told us time and again that people were dying to provide our mobiles and games consoles and a girl's best friend. Today, we still buy, and the British government - along with the rest of the democratic world - obstructs any attempt to introduce legally enforceable regulations to stop corporations trading in Congolese blood. They ignore the UN's warnings that "without the wealth generated by the illegal exploitation of natural resources arms cannot be bought, hence the conflict cannot be perpetuated" and insist that voluntary regulations - and asking corporations to be nice to Africans - is "the most effective route."

Would "legally enforceable regulations" really make a difference?

The essay is called "Congo's tragedy: the war the world forgot", published:
05 May 2006
Full text here:

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks Jörg for the comment and the tip about Johann Hari's May 5th article for The Independent (U.K.) online.

The connections between rampid resource exploitation (gold, diamonds, coltan, tin ore, copper, cobalt, timber) and the Congo Wars is well documented and known amongst many people who have been following this tragic story over the years. International media coverage of the situation and a plethora of UN and Human Rights NGO reports has NOT prompted the moral outrage and demands for action from the world's citizens as one should expect.

The UN's MONUC mission is the prime intergovernmental body trying to prevent the senseless fighting, looting, and atrocities against innocent people in the DR Congo but MONUC is understaffed and underfunded. This is the fault of several UN member countries who have made promises to help the DRC but instead have done absolutely nothing. U.S. taxpayers cover more than 25% of MONUC's annual budget of more than 1.2 billion dollars, followed by financial aid from European Union member countries. A small number of countries supply peacekeeping troops to the 17,500 man MONUC force, but these contributions are not free-of-charge. The rest of the world sits on the fence and watches the brutality and dying like a bunch of hungry buzzards.

Below is an excerpt from the article about Johann Hari's visit to the same eastern DR Congo hospital for brutal rape victims featured in the the TIME Magazine cover story of June 5th, 2006:
It starts with a ward full of women who have been gang-raped and then shot in the vagina. I am standing in a makeshift ward in the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the only hospital that is trying to deal with the bushfire of sexual violence in Eastern Congo. Most have wrapped themselves deep in their blankets so I can only see their eyes, staring blankly at me. Dr Denis Mukwege is speaking. “Around ten percent of the gang-rape victims have had this happen to them,” he says softly, his big hands tucked into his white coat. “We are trying to reconstruct their vaginas, their anuses, their intestines. It is a long process.”

We walk out into the courtyard and he begins to explain – in the national language, French – the secret history of this hospital. “We started with a catastrophe we just couldn’t understand,” he says softly. One day early in the war, the UNICEF medical van he was using was looted. Coincidentally, a few days later, a woman was carried here on her grandmother’s back after an eight-hour trek. “I had never seen anything like it. She had been gang-raped and then her legs had been shot to pieces. I operated on her on a table with no equipment, no medicine.”

She was only the first. “We suddenly had so many women coming in with post-rape lesions and injuries I could never have imagined. Our minds just couldn’t take in what these women had suffered.” The competing armies had discovered that rape was an efficient weapon in this war. Even in this small province, South Kivu, the UN estimates 45,000 women were raped last year alone. “It destroys the morale of the men to rape their women. Crippling their women cripples their society,” he explains, shaking his head gently. There were so many militias around that Dr Mukwege had to keep his treatments secret – the women were terrified of being kidnapped again and killed. So he became an Oscar Schindler of the Congolese mass rapes, treating women undercover for years, taking the risk he would trigger the fickle rage of the drugged-up and freaked-out teenager soldiers marauding across the country.

He describes the cases that made him go public in a fast get-it-over-with voice. One morning he was brought a raped three year-old by her broken father. “Everything had been shot away. There was nothing I could do for her,” he says. “The father started smashing his own head against the wall, screaming that he had not been able to protect his baby daughter. We heard later he committed suicide.” That same day, he saw a seventy-two year old who had been raped in front of her sons-in-law, the relations considered sacred in Congolese culture. She said, “Don’t cure me. Don’t feed me. I can never go back and look my sons-in-law in the face.” Dr Mukwege adds, “So she died here. She just didn’t eat. And I realised I had to speak out.”