The Second Congo War of 2005-2008 where a number of at least 4 million people were killed was actually one of the most voiceless, censored and neglected genocides in the human history, I believe. Why did the mass media fail to put a comprehensive and impartial coverage on the war?
Unfortunately, often the news that is covered is based on the demand for it. Amongst many people there sadly is little interest in the fate of millions of people in the Congo. To put it bluntly, people just don’t care. Partly this is because the Congo situation is so complex and has been going on for so long, so that people have lost interest. News cycles favor simplicity and quickly lose concentration on long-burning, complex conflicts like in the Congo. Remember: this is not a case of a battle between a “good” side versus an “evil” side: rather, it is a situation in which competing factions fight for power and resources, with the civilian population caught in the middle, suffering the most. This complexity is why there has sadly been so little coverage of the conflict in the media.
Fortunately, coverage recently of the conflict has increased considerably and it would appear that Congo is back on the agenda. There has been good reporting from agencies like Reuters and the BBC. Interestingly a photo essay of the Congo conflict was recently published in “Time” magazine.
15 African countries are currently involved in longstanding, erosive wars and conflict over natural resources exploitation is a common factor among all of them. Do you believe in any particular way to end these battles, or at least reduce the civilian casualties in them?
There are no easy solutions to conflicts in Africa but there are certain things that must be done to help to stabilize situations. One such thing is holding leaders accountable for their actions. A lot of the Darfur conflict stems from the oppressive, brutal policies and actions of Sudan’s dictator Omar al-Bashir.
The ICC’s arrest warrant for crimes against humanity sends a strong message that dictators and their ruling parties can no longer continue to foment conflict and inflict suffering on their innocent populations with impunity.
I believe the international community also has a roll to play in facilitating dialogue and promoting conflict resolution and peacekeeping on the continent. This is a vital role that the UN needs to be supported in, both financially and politically, or it will continue to fail Africa’s people as we have seen in Rwanda’s genocide and elsewhere.
The perception created by the international media is that most of Africa is engulfed in conflict, and this perception exists because most news reported from or about Africa is about conflict. Like in rest of the world, normality isn’t newsworthy. But it is also important to remember that there are many countries in Africa that are at peace and are relatively stable. With the exception of Zimbabwe, most Southern African countries are stable and relatively democratic.
In Western Africa there is a more diverse picture; there’s instability in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Cote d’ Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has also been marred by violence. But then there are success stories: both Liberia and Sierra Leone, which were both caught in vicious civil wars, are now peaceful democracies. Nigeria is the most stable and democratic it has ever been.
In Eastern Africa, Rwanda and Burundi are steadily rebuilding themselves after decades of conflict and Kenya and Tanzania are relatively prosperous and peaceful. Tensions simmer between Ethiopia and its tiny neighbor Eritrea while anarchy reigns in Somalia.
Compared with the current UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the Ghanaian Kofi Annan seemed to be much more decisive, trenchant and unequivocal in his statements, orders and decisions. What do you think?
I think some people have indeed been a disappointed by Ban Ki Moon’s apparent weakness. It is uncertain as to who will replace him and whether the replacement will be an African. If he serves two terms as UNSG then that will still be remain in office for quite a while. So, as yet, his replacement has not really been discussed in the media.
Is the intervention of foreign forces something tormenting and offensive in the view of African people? Do they crave for the involvement of US or other western countries in resolving the current conflicts in the region?
Perceptions around international involvement do vary from conflict to conflict. In 1993 in Somalia the UN forces, led by the Americans, were hated and viciously attacked by certain factions. In sharp contrast is the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the moderates and persecuted Tutsis were crying out for greater involvement from the UN to stop the slaughter of innocent lives.
I think it fair to say that while Africans do not want to be “occupied” or “invaded”, there is a general appreciation of the role the UN and other international bodies play. For those caught in horrifying conflict situations such as the Congo, the UN is regarded as an organization that must provide refuge and protection from the conflict, as well as the basics such as food, water, medicine etc required to survive. Unfortunately, the lack of political and financial support provided to the UN means that UN operations fall far short of these high expectations since they lack the resources and capacity to deliver on them.