Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Calming the Congo

By Miranda Eubank
The Courier Journal
Louisville, Kentucky

May 18, 2009

The Democratic Republic of Congo is abundant with valuable natural resources. Congo holds more than half of the world’s cobalt, 30% of all diamonds, 70% of coltan - a vital ingredient in mobile phones - as well as huge deposits of gold, copper and various other minerals (BBC, 2008).

Congo lies in the center of equatorial Africa bordering nine countries. In theory, Congo should benefit from its inherent wealth and a location with many trade opportunities, but it has only brought tribulation.

There is constant violence over land and power. The current situation is complicated and grim. Although there is no longer a pronounced war, thousands of people die every day because of continued conflict. Congo is full of government corruption, rebel uprisings, and military invasion.

The Democratic Republic of Congo originated as a Belgian colony in 1908, soon after the country gained independence in 1960, Mobutu Sese Seko seized power and managed to continue the role of leader through a series of sham elections for 32 years.

In 1997, Laurent Kabila overthrew the government of Mobutu Sese Seko with the assistance of Rwanda and Uganda. Upon taking the role of president, he promised to respect human rights, create an open government, and put an end to corruption, but soon failed to carry out these promises.

A little over a year later, Rwanda and Uganda turned against Kabila and supported Congolese rebel forces who gained control of much of the country. Namibian, Angolan and Zimbabwean troops later came to assist Kabila.

In 1999, the Lusaka Accord was signed by all six states and most rebel groups. Two years later Kabila was assassinated and his young son, Joseph Kabila, became president.

Throughout his presidency, he has attempted to end the ongoing violence and remove foreign troops from the country, but has had relatively little success.The situation has festered for decades.

Rebel forces primarily supported by Rwanda and Uganda controlled about two thirds of the country.

Tens of thousands of women, possibly hundreds of thousands, have been raped in the past few years in this hilly, incongruously beautiful land (Gettleman, New York Times). On top of that, Angola regularly invades western Congo to chase the rebels back into Angola.

This situation will not improve unless the United States steps in actively to support the United Nations to end hostilities in the Congo and stabilize its government. We can do this by providing technical advisers to train police forces to keep order and prevent methods of torture that are used to get confessions.

In addition, with the return of the refugees, to prevent food shortages, we should provide agricultural development advisors to plan efficiency in harvest. Congo is also in strong need of medical supplies and training. Once the government starts to help the people, they will begin to respect the government.

Giving Congo the support it needs, we should insist that the Kabila Administration abide by the democratic ideas that were originally proposed, hold democratic elections every four years, and allow rebel leaders to take part in the democratic process.

Kabila should also declare an amnesty for all hostile activity that has occurred in the past. This would give Congo a fresh start and prevent favoritism in prosecution. Congo should actively prosecute corruption and human rights abuses in the future.

Finally, the United States should emphatically suggest that foreign governments should remove military forces from Congo and terminate their support of rebel groups.

The proposals suggested will effectively address the current intolerable situation in Democratic Republic of Congo. The United States should exercise leadership in the Security Council as well as solicit the cooperation of other countries in order to calm the chaos in the Congo. Perpetuating the violence can only further exacerbate the situation.

— Miranda Eubank is a ninth-grader at Manual High School.


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