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Edward B. Rackley has been traveling in the Congo and has a report and some photos in the Old Town Review.
The human catastrophe of Eastern Congo is, for visitors, a bundle of numbness and raw nerves. In September, at the invitation of a British think-tank, I visited the unstable region to assess the causes of ongoing violence against civilians. With close to 15,000 peacekeepers on the ground, a transitional government anticipating national elections in six months, and well-funded efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate combatants into civilian life—the “DDR process”—why are civilians still being killed with such impunity? Scores of interviews with humanitarian actors, UN staff, and Congolese revealed the usual suspects: predatory governance, uncontrolled armed groups, endemic impunity, and the inaccessibility of civilian populations due to ongoing combat.Read the rest here.
None of these factors is particularly well understood by outsiders; this opacity keeps the “heart of darkness” myth alive. For insiders, Africa remains a Dark Continent by sole virtue of its ability to generate degrees of suffering that surpass human comprehension. Unfettered anarchy it is not. Recent African crises have birthed a new truism: “If it looks like anarchy, then you don’t understand what you see.” Eastern Congo fits the adage well: “chaos” and “senseless tragedy” are the inevitable, indelible impressions etched on any visitor’s memory. But behind the barrage of extreme scarcity, mute agony, and feverish suspicion is a clear pursuit of economic interest, a highly dexterous application of disorder as political instrument.