samedi, 7 décembre 2019
 

Africa’s World War

A new report, "Congo, Forgotten : The Numbers Behind Africa’s Longest Humanitarian Crisis" by Human Rights Watch and the New York University-based Congo Research Group, finds that between June 1, 2017 and June 26, 2019, there were at least 3,015 violent incidents—including killings, mass rapes, and kidnappings—involving 6,555 victims in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.

An average of 8.38 civilians were killed per 100,000 people in those two provinces alone, a number that exceeds even the 2018 death rate of 6.87 civilians in Borno, Nigeria, the state most affected by the terror group Boko Haram. It’s more than double the rate—4.13—in all of civil-war-torn Yemen, where Houthi rebels and civilians have, for years, been under a relentless assault by a U.S.-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

From the 1990s through the first years of the present century, an estimated 40 armed groups operated in the eastern Congo. Today, more than 130 such groups are active just in North and South Kivu Provinces.

Violence has stalked the Congo’s far east since at least the nineteenth century, when slave raiders plied their trade here and local mutineers from a Belgian colonial expedition rampaged through the region. And since the end of the last century, North Kivu has been an epicenter of conflict.

For its part, Goma—home to two million people—has been called "cursed," labeled a "magnet of misery," and identified as "the most dangerous city in the world." While it might not sit directly over hell, beneath the volcano that looms over it, Mount Nyiragongo, is a burning lake of lava—an estimated 2.3 billion gallons worth. In 1977, Mount Nyiragongo erupted, sending lava racing through the outskirts of the city at the fastest rate ever recorded, around 62 miles per hour, just shy of the speed of a cheetah running at full tilt. Several outlying villages were obliterated and almost 300 people burned alive.

Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, in 2002, Mount Nyiragongo erupted again, sending more than 14 million cubic meters of lava flowing down its southern flank. Two raging rivers of molten rock tore through the center of Goma, destroying 15% of the city, killing at least 170 people, leaving 120,000 homeless, and sending 300,000 others streaming into Rwanda. At the same time, Lake Kivu, the body of water on whose shores Goma sits, could potentially asphyxiate millions in the event of an earthquake, thanks to gases building up beneath its surface. Then again, Lake Kivu itself might just explode—as it does about once every thousand years.

In 1994, after the overthrow of a Hutu-led regime that had committed a genocide on the Tutsis of neighboring Rwanda, more than a million refugees, mostly Hutus, swamped Goma, prompting aid agencies to set up camps for them. Those camps, in turn, became bases for the ousted genocidaires to launch cross-border raids into Rwanda. In addition, cholera ravaged those refugee camps and Tutsis who had also fled the genocide were soon being attacked in Goma just as they had been in their native Rwanda. The aftermath of that genocide birthed what came to be known as Africa’s World War, a conflict that raged from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s and saw Goma become a rebel capital controlled by a military elite, while more than five million people in the region died of violence or its fallout : hunger, starvation, and illness.

Despite a regional peace deal that same year, Goma became the target of a Tutsi group that evolved into the March 23 Movement, or M23, a militia that would then battle the Congolese army for the better part of a decade, leading to yet another influx of displaced people settling into yet more camps and slums on Goma’s peripheries. Worse still, in 2012, the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels briefly seized and sacked the city, while carrying out an assassination campaign in and around it. Today, Goma is officially at peace, but it’s never really peaceful. "Since the start of 2019, a series of murders, violent robberies, and kidnappings have taken place in peripheral neighborhoods of Goma," reads a report released this spring by the Rift Valley Institute, which investigates conflict and its costs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the face of such violence, most Congolese are left with few options but to endure or flee. Last year, 1.8 million people—more than two percent of Congo’s population of 81 million—were internally displaced, second only to Ethiopia. All told, there are currently 5.6 million displaced Congolese and it’s estimated that 99% were made homeless due to violence.

With at least $24 trillion in gold, diamonds, tin, coltan, copper, cobalt, and other natural resources beneath the ground, it’s often assumed that Congo’s violence is intimately connected with the desire to control its mineral wealth. The Congo Research Group’s Kivu Security Tracker data, however, indicates that there is "no systematic correlation between violence and mining areas." Instead, that land’s conflicts have become their own revenue stream. A "military bourgeoisie" has used the country’s complex set of conflicts-within-conflicts for career advancement, financing their private wars through kidnapping, the taxation of commodities and the movement of people, poaching, and protection rackets of every sort. Violence has become just another resource in the eastern Congo, a commodity whose value can be measured in both pain and Congolese francs.

Between June 2017 and June 2019, about 11% of the killings and 17% of all clashes in the Kivus occurred in the Fizi and Uvira territories of South Kivu and yet the epicenter of the violence in the region remains Beni territory in North Kivu (also a hotspot in the current and widening Ebola outbreak that even powerful new vaccines are unable to stem). Thirty-one percent of all the civilian killings in the Kivus took place in or around Beni, according to the Human Rights Watch report, "Congo, Forgotten," with most of the bloodshed attributed to conflict between the Congolese armed forces and the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, a decades-old group that only recently rebranded itself as an Islamic State franchise.

Nearby Rutshuru territory experienced 35% of all the kidnappings in the two provinces, according to "Congo, Forgotten." Recently, Sylvestre Mudacumura, a leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, an armed group founded by Hutu genocidaires in 2000, was killed there by the Congolese army. Rutshuru and neighboring Lubero territory are also home to two loose coalitions of opposing militias—the Nyatura and the Mai-Mai Mazembe—that draw from and nominally defend different ethnic groups in the region.

And so it goes in one of the most persistent bloodlettings on this planet, which is likely to continue taking a terrible toll in the years to come as the world turns a blind eye to it all.

Taken from here https://www.commondreams.org/views/...

 
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