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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Has the international community failed Congo?
Aid agencies working in the Democratic Republic of Congo have accused the international community of ignoring the country's horrendous humanitarian crisis.
Save the Children, Oxfam and Christian Aid say 16 million Congolese are going hungry, more than two million have been displaced by the war, and in some parts of the country, infant mortality is 40%.
The scale of the humanitarian crisis has only become apparent since the warring parties agreed to observe a ceasefire earlier this year, allowing aid workers to get to previously inaccessible parts of the country.
The aid agencies say that despite the scale of the crisis, the response from the international community has been totally inadequate.
Has the international community failed the people of DR Congo? What should be done to alleviate the crisis?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
It's tragic that everything having to do with Africa has to become a "crisis" before anyone even notices. What's worse is that it usually takes a few white people to suffer because of the "crisis" before any action is taken.
No surprise that the world is standing by on the death and calamity of what is currently happening in the Congo. The problem is not yet solved, and will not be solved soon until all of us stand together in behaving like human beings even though human beings are really evil.
Isn't it about time we asked ourselves the question what can DRC do for itself? It can for a start stop importing weapons to suppress and murder its own people, cooperate with neighbouring countries for economic gains, grant its people freedom of speech, encourage exiled Congolese to return to the country for development purposes etc. The list is long. Wake up, African leaders: you are making fools of yourselves in the west!!
Charles, London, UK
The development of Africa must be left to Africans. No other nation or group of nations has the ability to change the attitudes and traditional hatreds of other people. A second reason the solution can only be found in Africa is economic. It has been pointed out that Africa is rich in natural resources and is being "exploited" by the "west". Simple economics tell us that resources bring in far less wealth than finished goods. Until African countries stop relying on the easy income provided by resources, there will be a few powerful African robber barons sprinkled amidst abject poverty. Industrial development is the only thing that will save Africa. Industry that produces finished goods will employ the poor, raise the standard of living, and improve the prospects for peace in Africa.
Kima, Harare, Zimbabwe
I don't think African countries are being given enough credit for trying to stabilise this region. With virtually no resources, Southern African countries have at least stabilised the DRC. At least now, there is a semblance of a political system and negotiations to reunite the country again. My advice is that the developed world concentrate on providing humanitarian aid and leave the politics for the regional leaders to sort out.
The West has its own interests. If these coincide with Africa's (DR Congo's), that would be a pleasant coincidence. Recall USA rejecting the Kyoto agreement? Because it was not in their "economic"
interest! Not because it was fundamentally disagreeable! The West will continue to arm and publicly praise Uganda's Museveni and Rwanda's Kagame so long it serves the West's interests. While they kidnap and put on trial Milosevic for exactly the same actions they praise the other two for!
I find it outrageous that so many Brits and Americans so quickly place all of the Congo's problems at the Congolese feet. Africa is still and for the immediate future will remain an economic colony of the West. As long the West's profit margins are not jeopardised the West will continue to be reluctant to make real efforts to bring stability to Africa. I am an American of African descent. Every night our national news intensely concentrates on the horrors of the Serbian conflict as well as that of the Israeli's conflict with the Arabs. Yet, I am hard pressed to find any Americans who are aware of the magnitude of problems that exist in the Congo or any other nation in Africa.
As the United States threatens to boycott the UN meeting on racism, if the topic of slavery is to be discussed, it is time for western nations such as the UK, USA, and France to admit that when it is African blood that is being spilt, whether black or Arab, these nations are not very concerned at all. That is unless the investments of American corporations are at stake.
If you think that "...it is not Westerners who are killing people in the Congo.."; try an internet search on "mercenaries, Congo", The sad fact is that British-run mercenary groups are involved... Additionally, the developed world is in large part responsible for the easy availability of AK47s in that part of the world. It may well be African soldiers who are killing little children, but the international arms dealing community is making the process a whole lot more straightforward by selling guns to the psychopathic FNL, FDD etc.
When did we ever try helping them...all we did was momentarily blind them with our help and aid then ask them for their diamonds, to buy our weapons which we gave outdated ones and so on. I agree what do we get if we help unify a stable Africa - if that was so I wouldn't have a diamond ring for my girl friend.
I am sick and tired of Africans always needing the international community to solve it's problems. The solution to all the problems lie in the hands of the Africans themselves. Stop waiting to be save and come up with your own solutions. (This is to whoever is in leadership position. If you cannot come up with solutions, then step aside and let others try).
Amos Songor, Wilmington, Delaware
Who are "the international community"? Politicians, bosses and bankers have failed Congo, and Africa generally. Most of the rest of us want and will try to help. After all, the same politicians, bosses and bankers have failed us too.
Peter Robinson, Southport, England
It is very hard to provide aid and humanitarian assistance to a country that is in the midst of civil war and whose warring factions don't allow international aid to flow in because they use mass starvation as a weapon of war.
As usual most westerners seem conveniently ignorant of the fact that most troubles in Africa can be traced back to colonialism and political intrigue by western governments to aid their own economic and political interests. Tribal conflict has largely been a result of colonial border divisions which placed rival tribal/ethnic groups into direct conflict where previously they would have kept themselves separate. Western governments have aided western economic interests by systematically collaborating with corrupt regimes and actively sabotaging democracy movements (e.g. the Belgian government's involvement in the Congo) whilst simultaneously exploiting the continent's vast resources.
There is a reason why a land so full of natural resources is so poor and the West which is relatively lacking in such resource is so rich. The West will not intervene in Congo (apart from the obligatory tokenism from the United Americans, sorry Nations) because like Rwanda, but unlike Sierra Leone, there is nothing for them to gain (keeping control of diamond mines in the case of Sierra Leone).
Mr Wilson it is not Westerners who are killing people in the Congo its Africans it doesn't matter what has happened in the past this is a wrong that is being committed now! THEY are responsible for what their own actions not us, stop treating Africans like children - they know right and wrong just like us.
Yola Hurwitz, Victoria, Canada
The people of DR Congo are partly to blame for the misery being experienced in that country now. But the West takes the largest part of the blame in the sense that they exchange 'blood' minerals and other valuable natural resources with guns! The DR Congo does not manufacture guns or other weapons but where do they come from?
The entire point of ending
colonialism was to make
countries responsible for
their own futures.
It makes a nonsense of
the whole idea of independence
to say that the West is still
responsible for civil
wars that African countries
inflict on themselves.
In the nicest possible way, it's just naive to think that Europe has no case to answer with regard to the horrors going on in the Congo. One or two of your contributors to might do well to try an internet search on "Congo, Coltan, Barrick", or read "King Leopold's Ghost", and then decide whether they really think that "The West is not to blame for this one".
No rationalisation of blame will help the injured, sick, starving children, women and men in the Congo. To suggest that the country is left alone to sort itself out is the worst form of humanitarian solution.
Let us get something straight here, Africans or the Congo will be better off without the International communities' involvement in their lives to fuel wars and support coups after coups. Western countries are to blame for everything that is going on in the African continent. They pretend to be angels but they are really devils. All those who think the Congo should be re-colonised are being ignorant.
I have recently had the privilege of visiting towns and villages deep inside of Congo. I have seen the misery and I have seen the results of war, but I also have seen how much you can achieve with almost nothing. I am definitely in favour of continued aid to Congo! I also have seen the unmarked airplanes leaving Congo supposedly with diamonds and other valuables and returning to Congo supposedly with weapons. It is more than just abused relief money and bilateral aid that is financing the warfare! Ask their origin, next time you are glancing at sparkling diamonds.
You can talk about the war in Congo but you cannot neglect the interests of the neighbouring countries, whose soldiers are still present in Congo and whose politicians are justifying their presence.
Solutions: Massive international pressure on countries with doubtful presence in Congo. Controlled diamond trade. Massive assistance to spark the democratic development in Congo - already planned, but still not implemented. Congo is a beautiful country of abundant wealth. Give its people a chance!
John Paul M, Zaire/UK
The comments made on this forum are indicative of the kind of ignorance on African politics and economy which has infected policy making in the West. Africa pays out far more in debt service than it receives in aid and provides valuable commodities, particularly hydrocarbons, minerals and metals, which keep the world economy and Western businesses going.
Most Africans never see the results of this massive wealth generation.
The Congo is a typical example of how the country's vast natural resources have been plundered by Western corporations, while its citizens have lived on the brink of starvation. The enforced underdevelopment of Congo has helped generate the sordid battle over gold, diamond and copper mines by armed profiteers. The West can do two things: stop trading in arms with Africa and redistribute the profits generated by African resources to the continent's poor.
The pathetic and dangerous irony of this situation is shockingly evident. Disappointment, corruption, mismanagement and disease have managed to make the Congo (and practically the rest of sub-Saharan Africa ) ripe territory for a new brand of neo-colonialism.
Africa has so many resources and yet all is spent on buying destructive weapons. Unless stability is restored all over Africa we shall see more and more of these appalling pictures of starving children. African Government should take all the blame and should be ashamed. We can't blame the West, they are trying their best but with no success.
Robert Parker, United Kingdom
A hundred years from now and Africa will be no different from today. It is hopelessly wracked with tribal and cultural rivalries, and rampant corruption. I'm not suggesting it, but other than re-colonising most of the continent, there's no hope. Aid? You may as well just wire it straight to the offshore bank accounts of the political and military leaders.
How was the West supposed to stop these wars short of re-colonising the Congo? The people there define themselves by their intolerance of their neighbours more than of foreigners.
Serge Tshamala, RDC (USA)
Every year western countries pour billions into Africa, to no avail. We have more than paid our dues to that unhappy continent; now it must be up to Africans to sort out their own problems. Decades of charity and aid have done nothing to change Africa's situation. So long as the West keeps on offering handouts, nothing there will ever change.
You ask - "What should be done to alleviate the crisis?" Surely the answer is to stop fighting wars within the country? The West are not to blame for this one.
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