As the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to battle with internal upheavals, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group formerly terrorizing northern Uganda, has come in to add salt to the wounds of North Eastern Congo. Currently, the LRA is mongering terror in formerly fortunate regions, like the Dungu community, whose experiences were previously limited to feeling the general national unrest. Mail and Guardian quoted, on September 14th, UNICEF’s Executive Director Ann Veneman saying, “These people were living relatively peaceful lives, sending their children to school- and then the LRA came.” The LRA, which is notorious for maiming, kidnapping and keeping young girls for concubines, is also currently believed to be responsible for over 1200 deaths in 2009 alone.
At the end of the day, we realize that the LRA has just taken over another ‘free’ area, as similarly practiced by DR Congo’s warlords and rebel groups. This trend continually brings into question H.E Joseph Kabila’s regime’s control of no more area than a little outside Kinshasa. There is however new factors to consider; the country’s physical size and Congo’s lack of cultural and lingual unity. Compared to Tanzania whose former president Julius Nyerere managed to unite under one Swahili umbrella, the Congolese population continues to be divided clearly along cultural lines. DR Congo has an estimated 242 languages, with at least four, Kikongo, Swahili, Lingala and Tshiluba being considered national while French is official. This, though it can’t be placed on top of the list of causes of the current conflict, has created some barriers in could-have-been local peace efforts. It would have been easier if people looked at one another as equal and fighting for the same cause; to save their beloved country. Clear cultural differences however tend to push locals into complacency as regards different war lords, and also make it difficult for them to make a united fight for freedom. What makes this situation worse? Many rebel leaders and recruits are not Congolese and could care less about peace in this country. While LRA’s Joseph Kony loots from the North East, Tutsis and Hutus (most of whom are Rwandese) destabilize the South East; these different nationals know that Congo’s instability doesn’t necessarily destabilize their own homelands, and so are not too motivated to seek peace.
Recognizing that the current government is largely incapable, many outsiders have stepped in, ranging from individual well wishers to Non Governmental Organizations to states and lastly the United Nations. The UN mission in Congo, code named MONUC, which still has the biggest budget in UN history (standing at US1.2 billion), is still largely ineffective. Capable countries have not contributed generously enough, and locals are still living at the mercy on the rebels. Generally, both local and international efforts, though commendable, are largely lacking. On a positive note, we can hope that among other human rights abuses, Hillary’s Clinton’s recent visit to the country will bring enough attention to the plight of Congolese women facing rampant rape as a tool of both war and hooliganism.
STAND E-Team; DR CONGO.