20 April 2008

The War In Congo

Africa's seemingly never ending traumas can be Byzantine. Among the worst is a war being fought Democratic Republic of Congo. This war is sometimes known as the Second Congo War:

The Second Congo War, also known as Africa's World War and the Great War of Africa, took place between 1998 and 2003 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly called Zaire), and ended when the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power.

There are 5.4 million deaths attributed to the conflict, and a level of mass rape and torture of unthinkable proportions. There are about 62 million people in the DRC but it isn't entirely clear, in my cursory review, how many people live in the area where the conflict continues or what parts of the country were most severely impacted by the Second Congo War as a whole.

The trouble is that despite a peace treaty in July 2003, this war isn't over, and the line between it and related wars like the immediately preceding First Congo War (1996-1997), and multiple waves of massacre by partipants in the war including Rwanda (1994 genocide), Burundi (genocidal killings in 1965, 1972, 1988, and 1993), Uganda (massacres by Ida Admin in the 1970s and multiple wars some current) and Sudan (engaged in some form of civil war for all but 11 years since 1955), isn't always clear.

The international Hutu v. Tutsi conflicts in Africa in the last half century or so make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict look like a tea party. A UN peacekeeping force is present in the region, but is too small to end the violence and has had incidents of corruption itself.

Wikipedia identifies four primary factions in the Second Congo War, none of whom have obvious connections to any large geopolitical struggles.

The current post-treaty hostilities are described as follows:

The fragility of the state has allowed continued violence and human rights abuses in the east. There are three significant centers of conflict: North and South Kivu, where a weakened FDLR continues to threaten the Rwandan border and the Banyamulenge, and where Rwanda supports RCD-Goma rebels against Kinshasa; Ituri, where MONUC has proved unable to contain the numerous militia and groups driving the Ituri conflict; and northern Katanga, where Mai-Mai created by Laurent Kabila slipped out of the control of Kinshasa.

The ethnic violence between Hutu- and Tutsi-aligned forces has been a driving impetus for much of the conflict, with people on both sides fearing their annihilation as a race. The Kinshasa- and Hutu-aligned forces enjoyed close relations as their interests in expelling the armies and proxy forces of Uganda and Rwanda dovetail. While the Uganda- and Rwanda-aligned forces worked closely together to gain territory at the expense of Kinshasa, competition over access to resources created a fissure in their relationship. There were reports that Uganda permitted Kinshasa to send arms to the Hutu FDLR via territory held by Uganda-backed rebels as Uganda, Kinshasa and the Hutus are all seeking, in varying degrees, to check the influence of Rwanda and its affiliates.

North and South Kivu are provinces 13 and 12 respectively on the map above. Ituri is province 14 on the map above. Katanga is province 26.

In short, the active areas of the conflict at this point are confined to the country's far eastern border. This area lies on the western side of the Rift Valley that divides East Africa from the rest of the continent in the country's most mountainous region. The area is home to at least two active volcanos that have errupted several times in the 21st century, one of which poisoned Lake Kivu, after which two of the provinces where the conflict remains active are located.

The current conflict is roughly as far from the capital as Los Angelese is from Washington D.C., or Amsterdam is from the eastern fringes of Western Europe.

AIDS originated in or around the DRC and has a high prevailance there. It may have made the transition from primates to humans through humans eating or exposed to blood in bushmeat.

The Rift Valley area is home to vast mineral wealth.

Congo is also home to the closest primate ancestors of humans, the common chimpanzee and the bonobo.

Recent DNA evidence suggests the Bonobo and Common Chimpanzee species separated from each other less than one million years ago. The chimpanzee line split from the last common ancestor of the human line approximately six million years ago. Because no species other than Homo sapiens has survived from the human line of that branching, both chimpanzee species are the closest living relatives of humans.

Put another way, this war is being fought in Eden.

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