Sometimes I read something that makes me remeber what I've forgotten from my short trip to Congo, namely the nuance and complication of the situation. This is what makes advocacy so difficult, the lack of stark enimities, the diffuse dragging nature of the fight. Read this view of the Hutu rebels in the east
that I've been talking about. They were too young to be genocidaires. They are rag-tag. Some fight for ideals, some fight for bread, some don't remember what they're doing there and would like to go home but are afraid... all of these guys joined various militia groups in the mid-and late nineties, and this is the ongoing fallout. And since there's no law where they are the criminals among them go unpunished, and the population despises their predation...
I spotted my hosts in the Congo, Lyn and Jo Lusi
, in an article from Australia where they are trying to drum up support for their efforts in Goma. It requires registration, unfortunately, so I'll block quote it at the end of this post.
There were a couple of interesting articles lately, courtesy of my home-town paper and its subsidiary, the International Herald Tribune.UN Troops Get Tough, by Marc Lacey (my hero)
andIn Congo, Lives Too Wretched to Merit Aid
, by Helene Cooper, the assistant Editorial page editor at the Times, who was my boss for a while. She's a tough cookie.
Sometimes I wish I was back there, reporting. Maybe someday soon. It certainly seems that the story isn't going away any time soon.
Keep checking here, for soon I will put up a link to the trailer for "Heal My People," the documentary about rape and recovery in eastern Congo that we have been making.
Eyes shut to chaos in Congo, says doctor
By Louise Williams [Sydney Morning Herald]
A humanitarian crisis 10 times the extent of the Boxing Day tsunami is
virtually going ignored in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where militia gangs
are stripping natural resources and slaughtering and mutilating villagers,
according to Congolese doctor Jo Lusi.
In the latest attack, militia fighters hacked 18 people to death and kidnapped another 50 in the eastern region on Tuesday.
The deadliest conflict since World War II has already cost 4 million
lives. The UN's largest peacekeeping force has secured urban areas, but bands of
gunmen, former soldiers and militia fighters roam much of the countryside. "We
are in chaos," said Dr Lusi who is in Sydney to raise awareness of the
An orthopedic surgeon working with the medical aid agency, Doctors on
Call for Service, and a member of the interim government, Dr Lusi said some
militia gangs, run by warlords who controlled mining, timber, gold and oil, were
backed by factions in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda. The gangs were responsible
for looting crops, the murder and mutilation of villagers and the sexual torture
and gang rape of women and young girls.
There is only one doctor per 100,000 people in conflict zones.
Dr Lusi said international efforts to stabilise Rwanda were coming at a dire cost to the Congolese because Rwanda's problems were being pushed over the border.
"We regret the genocide in Rwanda, but the international community has responded there. No one is responding to the genocide in Congo," he said. "The disaster in Congo is 10 tsunamis. I want to challenge the international community: if you can respond to the tsunami
suffering, why not Congo? It is just a matter of using the normal channels.
Where is the IMF? Where are the UN officials? Things are happening that are
so terrible we can't even talk about them; women are being vilified."
Dr Lusi's wife, Lyn, who works with victims of sexual violence, said crops were
routinely looted, so malnutrition was rife in one of the most fertile areas of
Dr Lusi said national elections, which were likely to be postponed
because of the violence in the nation of 60 million, would achieve nothing
without an internationally backed nation-building effort.
Fatigue du "Systeme D"
This blog has slowed to a crawl, my friends, I know. What can I say... maybe my approach to it (the fireman/newswire approach) is wrong. There is so much to be said about the Congo, a mighty country with many tales untold. It's a struggle to do justice to what I saw, what I know. This is just a little release valve for that weight I feel. Marking Mobutu's fall from Kin-la-belle (now, Kin-la-poubelle).
The last decade in the DRC has been an unbelievable saga, human history on a grand scale. How isolated, how marginal, the story has been, but it's a shattering story. The dictator's fall. The whirlwind of war and armies of liberation that soured and grew corrupt. The genocide in Rwanda that sent its millions over the border like a curse. The camps. The refugees. The guerillas and madmen hidden in forests and mountains... finally, the unimaginable toll, the millions dead and dying for want of protection and basic medical care.
You need more than an article, more than a film, to capture this.
We've been translating Swahili and gathering our strength for a push to finish the movie before the end of the summer. DOCS has been undergoing some upheaval which has made the situation a little murky, but the footage itself is definitely fantastic and the story is coming together. We're putting a trailer together for grant season this week.
Au Congo, our rapist brigades have still not departed for home... here's the situation from the International Crisis Group
. Interhamwe go home...