30 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: International Outcry Must Be Louder


The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have long been savaged. Perhaps that is why the international outcry over the M23 rebels overtaking Goma and wreaking humanitarian devastation has been muted.

Everyone has grown used to hearing about the violence that has become endemic in the DRC. While the reports of rebel patrols leaving Goma as a result of a deal brokered in Uganda are encouraging, this temporary hiatus from the torture inflicted on Congo's displaced residents is simply not enough. What about the people who have been killed, the women who have been raped and the children who have been orphaned, injured and who are struggling for their lives?

Forces have been arrayed against resource rich Congo for many years. Holding any government that is complicit in backing the M23 accountable for the devastation that is occurring in the DRC is critical. The sovereignty of any nation in the international community warrants safeguarding no matter where it is situated. It is unthinkable, for example, that the United States could back rebels that would invade Canada without the whole world condemning this action.

Fortunately, the United Nations, African Union and regional entities such as ECOWAS, together with some African Heads of State, have stepped in during crises such as the one unfolding in the DRC and in Mali, to curtail the destabilization of countries and regions.

The continent of Africa has made huge strides within the past three decades in all realms. Most of the now 55 African countries have democratically-elected governments. Africa is on the rise economically. While six African countries have the fastest growing economies in the world, it is not unreasonable to believe that number will be doubled within the next few years. And African countries are now becoming a force to be reckoned with within the United Nations and other international bodies, including The World Bank and the IMF.

The only way this progress can be derailed is a reversion to the past where conflict was not limited to a few countries, where dictators were prevalent, where the voice of civil society was stifled and where poverty, disease and chaos existed and were amplified by the media. It is incumbent for those parties that are guilty in perpetrating these crimes against humanity in the Congo to be named and to be stopped. Weaker countries cannot simply be rolled by their neighbor, no matter where that neighbor is positioned within the United Nations. Not protecting one nation endangers every nation.

This is a new day for the continent of Africa. This is the Africa where citizens in countries are demanding their right to vote and are engaging in the political process. This is an Africa where many countries are clamoring to develop trade relationships and make investments. This is an Africa where more people are being educated and asserting their positions globally. Retrenchment cannot be allowed.

Bernadette Paolo is President and CEO of The Africa Society.

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