Tag Archives: Genocide

Providing Stability in the Congo

In the past few months tensions have flared again in the Western region of Congo. A lawless place with little to no government control, this region has often been called the “wild west”. Congo has consistently had problems with rebels in its western territories, especially since the Rwanda genocide in 1996. A few years ago, the region calmed down with the aid of the UN, AU peace keepers, and a cease fire with the rebels, but those tensions have flared again as the rebels have soundly defeated the Congo army.

Most significant is the tacit support that the rebels are reportedly receiving from Rwanda. Many speculate that the continued support is a continuing revenge response by the Tutsi’s against Hutu’s living in Congo.

While nothing that occurs in Africa surprises me anymore, I doesn’t make sense to me why the Rwandan government would stir the hornets nest of violence and rebellion right outside of their border. Their President, Paul Kagame, is a bright man, forward looking, and has done a lot of good restoring Rwanda and making it one of the brightest locales of freedom and relative economic prosperity in Africa. Mr. Kagame has been lauded by Western governments and has the full support of the United States and European Union.

I suspect that if this rebellion is being funded out of Rwanda, that the support is not coming from the top, but from either lower Rwandan government or military officials or from non-governmental groups. Regardless of the source of support, this poses a huge danger to Rwanda’s increasing prosperity.

As has been evidenced by multiple African wars and disputes in the last half century, wars quickly spill over into neighboring countries. If the issue in the Congo continues to escalate it is quite feasible that Uganda and Rwanda will be forced into it. This is the last thing those countries, Africa, and the world need.

So what is to be done? I call for an international peace keeping force lead by the UN in concert with the African union to deploy to western Congo. They should be given authority to engage in combat, but only when they are engaged upon and under orders. Their primary mission should be to be a presence of stability and encouragement for the millions of civilians who have been forced from their homes. They should have the authority to stop tribal violence where they find and be tasked with assisting the distribution of food, medical supplies, and building infrastructure (to a minimal extent).

This is one location where the example of America’s recent strategy in Iraq can be partially implemented. That is, there is strength in numbers and soldiers given proper orders and instructions and deployed to the appropriate areas can be a huge benefit to regional stability and development. It is highly unlikely that the Congo rebels would attack international troops, aside from the occasional skirmish, which would be inevitable. They know that if they did, they would likely have the muscle of the international community fall upon them.

Ideally, the troops who deploy there would be a fairly standard UN force. It would be unlikely the United States could provide any significant number of troops, but that does not mean the United States should be excluded. On the contrary, the U.S. would arguably be the most important player from the international community. The U.S. is the only country that currently has the ability to deploy rapidly and to maintain an effective logistical supply chain to anywhere in the world. The U.S. should provide a majority of the logistical support, to include the use of C-130’s and other supply aircraft. The U.S. can also provide a significant number of multi-purpose vehicles and aircraft that can provide logistical, medical, rapid deployment, and attack support; tools like the Chinook and the Bradley.

Sadly, this conflict in the Congo is just another “issue” with Africa. The cycle of violence is so common place that it is difficult to be optimistic that something positive can be done to alter it. It is very easy for us in the comforts of the West to just shrug our shoulders and say, “well, that is Africa”. But that is wrong. There are too many places in Africa that showing hope and development for us to turn a blind eye now. Places like Botswana, Rwanda, Kenya (despite the violence a year ago), Ghana, and even Liberia. The U.S., EU, Russia, and China should all promote those places and provide support where appropriate. Because in the same way that violence spills across borders, so does prosperity. With good governance and self-criticism and reliance, Africa can stabilize. It won’t be anytime soon, but there is hope and it should be built upon and encouraged.

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Africa’s Vicious Cycle Continues

There is something inherently wrong with Africa.  It seems that no matter how much a country in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa,  progresses at some point it all falls apart and returns to what Africa is apparently used to being: a land of chaos.  I suppose there is a reason it is called the “Dark Continent” and it has nothing to do with the color of the skin of a majority of the people. 

I have a great fascination with Africa and in terms of political/social desires, there is nothing that I would rather see than a generally stable and prosperous Africa.  What a sight that would be to behold.  A continent so ripe with conflict and war, being able to rise above it and enter into the developed world while providing relative peace and prosperity for even the poorest of people. 

In the 80s and 90s it appeared that there was a shift towards this vision.  While many countries continued to reside in hell (Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda), many were stablizing and becoming prosperous.  However, today many of those same countries are or look as if they are regressing and being trapped by the grasp of ethnic strife and war once again or, at least, are in the grip or totalitarian leaders who are destroying their country.

There are three countries that come to mind that have fallen into this trap.  In the 80’s and early 90’s the Ivory Coast was often considered Africa’s shining star.  An example of openness and relative prosperity, however today it is embroiled by war and strife.

Even worse, and I would argue the most serious, is Zimbabwe.  Zimbabwe had a burgeoning economy and was Africa’s breadbasket.  They too were among the most prolific examples of African prosperity all while under the same leader they have today, Robert Mugabe.  Yet around 1998 something snapped in Mugabe (or at least that is how it seems to me), perhaps he became paranoid of losing his power, but he instituded terrible economic reforms and has continued to do so since.   As a result, Zimbabwe is arguably the worst country in Africa, or at least the worst country that was somewhat prosperous a decade ago (it is hard to compare Zimbabwe with Somalia, a country that has always been in chaos).   And through all of this, Mugabe and his government refuse to recognize that it was their policies that caused this devastation. 

Perhaps the most disappointing is what is currently going on in Kenya.  Kenya WAS as late as last fall Africa’s proud country.  The one that Africa could show the world the potential they have.  Granted, things have never been as prosperous as the West there, but they were a far sight better than most of the rest of Africa and became the standard bearer of success.  Yet, for some reason, Africa’s nature would not let it be.  Just like with the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe (and throw Nigeria in there), Africa is pulling Kenya back to what it is apparently supposed to be; Chaotic. 

As a result of a contested and likely corrupt election, huge swaths of minority tribal people are dissatisfied and are partaking in ethnic cleansing of the Kikuyu people.   It is in sharp parallel with the Rwanda genocide in 1994, except that it has not overtaken the whole country.   All is not lost yet in Kenya however, the President can take a nearly unprecedented step for Africa and step up and either resign and call for new elections or bring all sides together and forge a new political and power sharing agreement.  But even this is no guarantee of success. 

What a complete shame and disappointment.  Will there ever be a country in Africa that will be able to rise above the fray and stay there?  I don’t know, but there are reasons for optimism.   Right now, Botswana is doing incredibly well.  They have a stronger economy and higher GDP than even South Africa (last I checked) and have a stable, though relatively totalitarian government.  Their biggest issue is AIDS; an issue that can easily bring down the country. 

Ghana, too, is a strong country with decent leadership, though with it’s own corruption issues.  However, what Africa needs immediately is stability and security, they can deal with corruption later, but stability is essential for international investment, key to fixing Africa. 

So the question now becomes, can Botswana or Ghana continue it’s rapid rise?  Can countries recently embroiled in strife, yet now seemingly out of it and improving, like Liberia and Uganda, continue to hold together it’s fragile stability?  Or will the curse of Africa strike again and tear these down.  My guess is that only one or two of them make it out alive and I would put my money on Botswana and Liberia. 

Africa is a sad yet fascinating place.  One that probably has so much more to offer in terms of U.S. national interest (which it takes for the U.S. to care about truly helping a country) than we realize.  The question is, will any country there stablize enough for us to find out?  Will the tribes put aside their differences for the good of the whole?  I doubt it.  Certainly a small handful of countries can pull it off, but as a whole Africa looks doomed with little hope.  I pray that I am wrong, but this latest failure in Kenya shows that chaos and genocide are only a moment away.

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