Monday, January 14, 2008

More arms for Africa

Last night, 60 Minutes had a horrifying segment, "War Against Women," on massive numbers of rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Anderson Cooper gave no background at all. If, as he said, the rapes are a weapon of war; then why are these people fighting? Seems there's gold in the hills: here is a report from Human Rights Watch, The Curse of Gold. I have not read the whole thing; but from a quick skim, it looks like people have been fighting over this gold for over a hundred years.

Seeing the presence of large numbers of blue-helmeted UN "peacekeepers," at the beginning of the piece, made me suspicious right away, since we know that wherever the UN peacekeepers go, sex crimes follow. Haiti, Liberia, Kosovo, Congo, Congo. Human Rights Watch says the crimes in the DRC are also gold- and arms-related. Another news article: UN troops traded guns for gold with militias, says report. And a letter from HRW to the UN.

There is a big peace conference going on right now: Congo-Kinshasa: Aid Tops Agenda As Kivus Conference Gets Under Way. How bitter is it that this is an occasion for the elites to demand even more from these people who seem to have nothing left but pain:

An original list of 300 delegates grew to more than 800, with an additional 500 attending as observers. As a result, the US$2 million budgeted for the conference will not suffice, according to organisers.

"Delegates will receive a per diem of $135 but they haven't got it yet because I think there is a liquidity problem," said a member of the organising committee.

Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga has called on all DRC citizens to contribute the equivalent of a dollar to meet the shortfall.

"It is going to cost a lot of money but peace has a price which we have to pay," National Assembly speaker Vital Kamerhe said.

"The blood of our brothers and our army is priceless," he added.
The blood, and honor, of their women, on the other hand, is meaningless, and not worth mentioning. I don't know what can be done about this mess. But one thing struck me as I watched the report: the only ones with arms were the soldiers and "peacekeepers." Maybe the real humanitarian thing for some NGO to do here would be to provide pistols to the ordinary people. Some teeth for the prey, so to speak. Of course it will not happen.

Update: Zimbabwe: Mugabe troops use rape as weapon. Thanks to Theo Spark. And see: Gleanings from June 7, 2008.

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