Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More about the DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) is a complicated subject. Trying to figure out exactly what's going on becomes an endless search as one thing seems to trigger another and there is no definitive way to exactly explain it. Checking into various articles on UN involved countries points of view, the general consensus is that it is just a mess and no one really knows how to respond to make it better.

 Historically speaking, DRC has had bouts of conflict intertwined throughout it's entire known history. This is the 3rd largest country in Africa, the 12 largest in the world with a population of nearly 71 million. There is no simple fix to the strife and aid groups are working hard to bring awareness to this part of the world while they are there, trying to pick up pieces.

 One thing I did not know, was that much of the current conflict is as a direct result of the Rwandan genocide of the '90's. They share a border and the group responsible fled into the Congo at that time. They belong to 1 cultural group who has made it their mission to eradicate another group. Since then, other rebel militia groups have sprung up to create a civil war unlike any other. Throw in the actual Congolese army (who sadly are not necessarily the good guys) and a few radical religious militia and now it is a full blown war - civilians caught in the middle.

 Interestingly, the Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world, HOWEVER the untapped resources themselves (minerals such as diamonds, gold & zinc etc and COLTAN) are estimated at an excess of  US$24 trillion. Unreal! This now involves all of us as each of us has benefited from mining in this country. Another point of interest is that while the Congo appears to be doing very poorly economically in terms of export, Rwanda seems to be doing pretty fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that they manage to globally export more minerals than their country even possesses. I DID mention they share a border, eh?

 *Disclaimer - I am not an economist, historian or anything of the like. I have been reading tons on the subject - some are factual pieces, others opinion pieces. If I've gotten something wrong, please leave a comment & correct me. Do your own research as well! This topic goes on forever and there is so much corruption, it is so difficult to know what is really going on.

So now comes to the real victims of this whole deal. Women & children (lots of men have it pretty bad too, don't get me wrong - I will write more on that soon).

The deaths as a result of this war are in the millions (some estimates go as high as 8 or 9 million). They figure 45,000 people are dying each MONTH. It is thought that upwards of HALF of that number are children ages 5 and under. I have a 5 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. Stuff like this hits hard. I also have an 8 year old son (he would not be off the hook either - more on that later).

 In this war, rape has become a weapon of choice. Cripple a woman through humiliation and submission, and you have her family and her whole community at ransom. If only they'd leave it there. The repercussions are devastating as these people are left broken & abandoned. Now bring in 5 (and more) various groups working this same angle?

 This bit only barely touches the minimalist part of this issue. The horrors are boundless and I won't include graphic details here, but a simple search would quickly tell you more. The crazy sad thing is the scale. Women from ENTIRE VILLAGES might be raped by a militia group over the course of a few days. Violence escalates in mass proportion and phenomenal numbers are affected. It is time to put faces to these stories. We may not know what to do to stop it, but there are ways to help support and care for the people of DRC.

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