Thousands of civilians fleeing to Goma to escape the fighting.

Thousands of civilians fleeing to Goma to escape the fighting.

UN agencies have stepped up efforts to assist those displaced by the violence.

UN agencies have stepped up efforts to assist those displaced by the violence.

Pictures from a photogallery at allafrica.com

Mahmood Mamdani asks:

And the politics around genocide is, when is the slaughter of civilians a genocide or not? Which particular slaughter is going to be named genocide, and which one is not going to be named genocide? …
the mass slaughter in Congo, which, in terms of numbers, is probably ten times what happened, what has been happening in Darfur.

and answers:

Well, I think that what’s happening is that genocide is being instrumentalized by the biggest power on the earth today, which is the United States. It is being instrumentalized in a way that mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends or its proxies are not being named as genocide.

On Friday Slate published an article about the war in the Congo: Five Million Dead and Counting – The disaster in Congo is all the more tragic because it was utterly avoidable. By Michael J. Kavanagh:

“There are only girls left in the schools in my village,” one 13-year-old boy told me. The day before, he and three friends had run from rebel soldiers who’d come to kidnap them.

There are now more than 1 million displaced people scattered throughout the province. In the last 10 years of fighting, more than 5 million people have died in the Congolese conflict—mostly civilians who haven’t had access to enough food or health care because of the fighting. And let’s be clear: That’s 5 million and counting.


Power-hungry Nkunda, his shameless Rwandan supporters, and the feckless Congolese government are primarily to blame. But the Rwandan and Congolese governments remain in power only because of the foreign powers that support them with enormous amounts of aid and diplomatic support. The failure of the United Nations and the international community—by which I mean the European Union, the United States, and the African Union—is massive.


It was no secret that the army was only willing and able to disarm the FDLR, their erstwhile allies against Nkunda, with support from the United Nations and the international community and with cooperation from the Rwandans themselves.

But exactly when it was needed most—exactly when they had the chance to put the legacy of the Rwandan genocide to rest—the support and cooperation and pressure from the international community never materialized.


Eastern Congo is a place of vast wealth in land and minerals, and all sides have their hands in the pot—or in the mines or forests or in the slaughterhouses. Rarely does any side negotiate in good faith, which is perhaps understandable after 14 years of war. But in the past, the parties involved have proved responsive to diplomatic and military pressure—if it’s credible.

Right now, it’s not.


The most obvious solution would be to send an EU rapid-reaction force to fill the security vacuum, but EU diplomats are dithering because—well, there’s no other way to say it: DRC is not a genuine priority. Instead, Angola is sending troops to fight alongside the Congolese army. Rwanda is essentially already fighting alongside Nkunda. And if, in a few weeks, Uganda and Zimbabwe join in as well, we can all party like it’s 1998-2003.

Over the years, many world leaders have made the trip to Rwanda to stand before the gravesites of genocide victims and apologize for their inaction in 1994. But if the worth of an apology is measured not in words but in actions, most of these apologies have been rubbish. True repentance for Rwanda has always meant ending the Congolese conflict—especially in the Kivus.

So far there is no sign of any country with genuine intention to end the conflict. And there is a lot of indication that more nations will get involved, or get more involved. The Slate article seems to say that the US and EU diplomats became tired of the peace process. Was it tiredness, or complacency with the status quo? After all, the coltan and other minerals are still coming out. The US and EU and others continue to profit from access. The current head of the U.N. mission in Congo, Alan Doss, is widely viewed as incompetent, maybe clueless would be as correct a description, not a choice calculated to achieve any positive result.

As long as there is this level of violence and unrest in the eastern Congo, It will be very difficult for the Chinese to mine copper or build the infrastructure projects they have promised in return for the copper. Is this result welcomed by the current US administration? The US has tended to treat China as a rival in African countries. Does the US see the current escalation of violence in the eastern DRC operating to its benefit? Rwanda, in sponsoring Nkunda, is the prime instigator of this current wave of violence. And Rwanda is a US ally, some might say client or proxy. As Mamdani said of the US, quoted above:

… mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends or its proxies are not being named as genocide.