Sunday, November 02, 2008

Congo - We Need More Than Bandages

..... the debate about Congo in the West – when it exists at all – focuses on our inability to provide a decent bandage, without mentioning that we are causing the wound. It’s true the 17,000 UN forces in the country are abysmally failing to protect the civilian population, and urgently need to be super-charged. But it is even more important to stop fuelling the war in the first place by buying blood-soaked natural resources. Nkunda only has enough guns and grenades to take on the Congolese army and the UN because we buy his loot. We need to prosecute the corporations buying them for abetting Crimes Against Humanity, and introduce a global coltan-tax to pay for a substantial peace-keeping force. To get there, we need to build an international system that values the lives of black people more than it values profit.

The above is from Johann Hari's Column in the Independent on Thursday.

UPDATE. 4 NOVEMBER.....Here is a serious contribution on the situation in the Congo from "The Bickerstaffe Record" entitled "Is Tanzania the DR Congo Solution?" . One of my greatest regrets is that when I was in Tanzania in 1998 at the time of the Al Qaeda attack on the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam, a meeting that I had fixed up with the late and great Julius Nyerere was cancelled. What Nyerere helped to achieve in Tanzania is rightfully praised and is seen as an example for the Congo in the above thread.

3 comments:

PaulinLancs said...

Harry, thanks for the link. You are right that I certainly advocate Tanzania as a model for others in the region, especially in respect of the way it has dealt with potential tribal conflict.

It's a huge shame that Julius Nyerere's amazing successes in both forging a national identity free of ethnic strife, alongside major improvements in education and primary health, have been shoved to the sidelines of history.

Military intervention in Uganda and altruistic, pan-Africa motivated support for the ANC and for the liberation of Mozambique did lead to the near bankrupting of the country, and the IMF strictures that followed have stopped progress, but with an economy now growing at 5-7% GDP per annum, a government that does seem intent on tackling corruption, and reasonable ongoing stability, the country may yet benefit from what Nyerere and his colleagues did all those years ago.

What I'm also suggesting in my piece, albeit tentatively, is that if military intervention is needed in DRC to establish stability, it might be best coming from at least in part from a Tanzanian army properly resourced and authorised by the UN.

While the Tanzanian army is by no menas perfect, it does at least operate under legitimate civilian control. It also has a reasonably embedded 'culture' of (reasonably) responsible out-of-country intervention.

If the quid pro quo for Tanzanian action in this way is some infrastructural development in the North West of the country, and in time some routing of the mineral resources through Tanzania, then so be it. That would seem a bit like a win-win to me.

Harry Barnes said...

Paulinlancs : It was in the era when Julius Nyerere was at the forefront of the move to gain independence for Tanganyika (in the mid 1950s) that I first took an interest and involvement in politics. I always, therefore, saw him as great hope for the future of Africa. This was added to when he made the Arusha Declaration in 1967.

In 1998 I led a Parliamentary Group from our Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to Tanzania. At the time the country was suffering from huge and mounting foreign debts, which had forced their Government to accept the serious restraint placed upon them by the International Monetary Fund in order to gain assistance. The question of international indebtedness formed the background to many of our discussions with their Government Ministers and Parliamentarians. So when we returned to the UK we met up with Claire Short (who was at that time a very worthwhile Minister of International Development) to pursue the matter.

Our visit also involved six invaluable hours spent in Zanibar, where each minute was spent fruitfully. Zanibar was then involved in political turmoil with claims of electoral fraud and the situation there (plus the UK Government's response) formed the background of the other major item we discussed with Claire.

I was just sorry that Julius Nyerere was obliged to pull out of a one-to-one meeting which our Embassy had fixed up for me.

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