Africa – War and the Peace Prospects

August 26, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

Rwandan Rebels Atrocity against Congolese Women:

The Rwandan rebels reportedly gang raped 150 women and brutally attacked them during the weekend August 21-22, 2010, raid in the eastern Congo villages – the village of Ruvungi, in North Kivu Province.

According to the reports, the U.N. held the Democratic forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, F.D.I.R. responsible for the violent assault. The systemic abuse and terrorization is routinely carried out against the innocent civilians, especially the women in that region.

The F.D.I.R. is believed to be the Hutu rebels plundering the village communities in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as ‘Zaire.’

Despite the regional violent past leading to the U.N. military base as peacekeepers within 20 miles from these villages, the U.N. officials’ ambivalence on the peacekeepers’ knowledge about the horrific crime and the lack of intervention in protecting the victims is a tactical flaw.

It defeats the purpose of peace mission if the repeat violence is undeterred and escalating with no end in sight to the sexual attacks against women.

Reflecting on the history in the Central and eastern African nations – Rwanda, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola – There are many commonalities from the origin to the status quo.

All of these nations have endured the unspeakable crime against humanity during foreign power dominance and in the late twentieth century.

Accordingly, the basis of such atrocity emanates from the deliberate division in these societies created and fomented in the course of spreading religion by Western missionaries and their colonizers in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

1. The Democratic Republic of Congo formerly known as ‘Zaire.’

Colonial Power – Congo Free State by the Monarchy King Leopold II of Belgium and the Belgian Congo by Belgium until 1960.

First Congo war – December 1996 – As per the reports then – Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a self-declared communist led the rebel forces ADFLC (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) against the ruling government.

Civilian Deaths – 60,000 (That comprised disappearances, torture and killings).

Second Congo War also known as the Africa World war – declared the deadliest war since World War II

War Period – August 1998 – July 2003

Civilian Deaths during war and aftermath – 5.4 million

2. Rwanda: Colonial Power – Germany and then Belgium until 1962.

Rwandan Genocide – Civil War – 1994

Civilian Deaths in mere 100 days – around 800,000 (believed to be 20% of the total population)

3. Burundi: Colonial Power – German and later Belgium until 1962 but officially ended in August 2005.

Civil war Period – 1993 – 2005

Civilian Deaths – 300,000

4. Angola –

Colonial Power – Portugal until 1975 – Gained freedom after the war of independence.

Civil War – 1975 – 1991 between communist, anti-communist and the separatist militant groups.

“The Angolan Civil War was one of the largest, longest, and most prominent armed conflicts of the Cold War. Both the Soviet Union and the U.S. considered it critical to the global balance of power and to the outcome of the Cold War.”

The Angolan civil war resumed again in 1992 – 1994 and 1998 – 2002.

Civilian Deaths – 500,000 in the 27 year war that officially ended in 2002.

While, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola wars are related to the political upheavals with external intrusion within Africa and the global powers at that time.

Rwanda and Burundi have been dealing with clashes between the once peaceful Hutu population and the Tutsi tribes that co-existed including intermix marriages until the European colonial powers upon their colonization assigned the Tutsis the superior status based on physical appearance against the traditional Hutu peasants.

Since then, the perpetual violence predominantly between these two groups had been widespread with the 1994 massacre appropriately recognized as the ‘Rwandan genocide,’ that resulted in roughly 500,000 – 1,000,000 fatalities by the Hutu militiamen under apparent foreign influence against the Tutsis preceded by the reversal killings in the latter part of twentieth century.

Evidently, The Democratic Republic of Congo has its share of warfare and violence that continues until now. Among them, the distinctive Second Congo war August 1998 – July 2003, notably the Africa World War involving eight nations and 25 armed groups have caused the several million deaths not only in war, but an estimated 5.4 million documented to have died from disease and starvation by 2008.

Many have succumbed to preventable diseases and malnutrition with children being the major casualty.

The eastern part of Congo is considered the ethnic Hutu rebels stronghold for economic reasons with the spate of sexual violence callously carried out against the Congolese women.

Notably, these simultaneous civil wars occurred from 1992 to 2005 in the east and Central Africa with the world powers exacerbating the situation such as in Angola war and other times leaving the victims at the aggressors’ mercy not excluding military action made possible with the obvious arms supply to the warring factions.
Had peace been initiated or promoted vigorously the generational conflict heightened in the early 1990’s until 2008 could have potentially prevented the incredible loss of lives.
Unequivocally, the arms trade had flourished in the process rendering central and eastern African lives dispensable with history repeating itself in Darfur, Sudan.
On the bright side, Rwanda today is acknowledged as the vibrant and progressive nation with rapid economic growth, political stability highlighted with the national legislature represented by majority women.
That being the case, there is all the more reason for the Rwandan female legislators to condemn the violence by the Rwandan Hutu rebels against the Congolese women in the eastern Congo and exemplify their solidarity to the victims through strategic support in curbing the senseless act against the village communities in the neighboring eastern democratic republic of Congo.
“The rights of all are diminished when the rights of one are threatened. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – By none other than the venerable DR. Martin Luther King.Jr.
Africa – where life dawned on earth is owed by the rest of the world particularly those nations that have prospered from its abundant resources and subsequently benefited from the human capital in their respective domain.
It’s time for a new beginning in Africa long been mired with civil wars, corruption, disease, poverty and exploitation from within and foreign power.
Rwanda’s status as the developing nation is further enhanced in promoting peace with its neighbors by addressing the Rwandan Hutu rebels’ violence against the villagers in the eastern Congo.
African leaders across the continent could reshape the destiny by honoring the democratic rule in the politically vulnerable states and focus on providing economic opportunities for the people affected in the ceaseless conflicts.
It’s entirely in the hands of the leaders to restore Africa’s image as a resilient, resourceful and remarkable global partner in every aspect.
Wishing Long lasting peace, progress and prosperity to the land of the sparkling jewel.
Thank you. Padmini Arhant


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