Let’s define intervention: what exactly are we advocating for?
Intervention has, over the years, taken on many variant definitions, the most dominant being ‘the manipulation of one nation’s internal affairs by another’ (David N Gibbs). We can add to this definition the possibility of outsiders interfering in a particular nation’s affairs for altruistic reasons which include the protection of human rights, disease control and women’s empowerment among others.
Although the world has put DRC through countless bouts of intervention, its people are still laboring in mines and farms on their motherland, while a good number have lost their families and lives to local strife as well as botched interference by outsiders.
Trivia Question: Name 4 intervention missions (past/current) in DRC and the key actors involved.
Discussion: Define intervention. List key features which you believe must characterize a successful intervention regardless of which conflict it is or its location.
– Over the years, DRC has seen an influx of foreigners all of whom preach the rhetoric of ‘humanitarian intervention’
- King Leopold took the country on as a personal franchise in the late 1800’s to ‘help’ Congolese utilize their natural resources
- The Belgian government took over in 1906 to ‘save’ them from Leopold’s wrath but only made suffering more systematic
- (In a deal with Belgians sans Congolese), USA came in the 1940’s and took the uranium it dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- The CIA then helped to assassinate DRC first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba in 1961, to ‘save’ DRC from a potentially ‘communist’ leader
- USA would there after (1969 to early 90’s) financially prop Mobutu, DRC’s worst ever local dictator
- Today, Congolese who thought they had finally settled are running away from fresh violence by both the FDLR and the national army which includes carelessly conscripted former rebels, as a result of UN’s Kimia II operation (http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/Uneasy-Alliance)
-All this while, the world was and is still clapping at everything called intervention, regardless of its details
- There is strong literature documenting King Leopold’s humanitarian proclamations before he was handed DRC (check out Who killed the Congo by Philippa Schuyler)
- During the cold war, people blindly rallied against everything labeled ‘communist’
- Today, we are still pressuring the UN and capable governments, especially the USA’s, to intervene; we have equated every pro-DRC speech and ‘official visit’ to the country to seriousness, action and hope for change
- We have not asked the Congolese what they think about their history and current situation or what they suggest as steps forward
- Intervention efforts are still relying on western perspective literature definitions of what peace and development should be around the world
- We are still purchasing conflict minerals but wondering why the ‘blood mineral’ trade is still lucrative and difficult to combat
- We are still treating symptoms instead of root causes (treating rape victims four times over instead of cutting off income and therefore arms supply to the arrogant rebels)
- Preventing conflict is a great place to start and it is important that global citizens and governments take GPTF recommendations of risk assessment very seriously
- Currently, DRC can also benefit so much from prevention of botched interventions which lobbyists have not bothered to define, actors have not researched, and are generally differently phrased repetitions of “you Congolese have a problem; we are civilized and will teach you what to do so that you get out of it …”
1. Brainstorm possible steps that can be taken towards giving intervention missions the necessary background information for success, especially on ground perspectives
2. Many interventions have laid way for more chaos and suffering. Which tactics can we employ so as to ‘graduate’ to missions which solve existent problems and lay way for peace and reconciliation, in a country where ‘democratic’ elections in Kinshasa have no bearing on the chaos in Eastern Congo’s mines? Yet we continue to sigh and take a break every time such pawn elections take place.
Check the blog on Friday for answers and analysis. To receive trivia, discussion, and news briefs, email firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe.
-Sharon Muhwezi, STAND Congo Education Coordinator