Joseph Conrad was not just a great writer; he must have been a witch as well. He based his little novel, The Heart of Darkness, in Congo and see what that richly endowed country has become – a veritable heart of darkness. It is like it carries a curse that forbids its people from enjoying its immense wealth. At the same time, the curse attracts foreigners of every hue – idealists and charlatans, revolutionaries and mercenaries, fortune seekers like Kurtz and vultures of every sort to enforce obedience to it.
Kurtz died there. Others after him have suffered a similar fate. So have reputations – none more so than that of the United Nations and human rights organisations. Unfortunately truth also dies there.
The latest casualty in the land of Conrad’s curse is international justice. For reasons hard to believe, the International Criminal Court (ICC) basically dismissed charges against Ignace Murwanashyaka and Sylvestre Mudacumura, the political and military leaders of the FDLR – a known terrorist organisation. The plea of insufficient evidence against the two men is simply outrageous.
Perhaps this was to be expected. The trial of the duo who have ordered their men to commit the most horrendous crimes in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) could have revealed the complicity, past and present, of some powerful individuals and countries in the atrocities. And so better to protect the accomplices and subvert the cause of justice.
Which goes to show whose interests the ICC and similar courts actually serve. That they serve justice – end impunity and redress victims’ woes – is a myth. It is increasingly clear that so-called international justice is merely an instrument of the foreign policy of some countries.
Less expected, at any rate by those of us who are naive enough to believe in the universal respect for human rights, has been the resounding silence of such organisations as Human Rights Watch to the freeing of Murwanashyaka and refusal to have Mudacumura arrested.
Human Rights Watch has built its reputation as a crusader for people’s rights everywhere.They usually shout themselves hoarse about alleged abuses of human rights – especially in the developing countries. In the recent past, they have been baying for the blood of such people as General Bosco Ntaganda of the DRC purportedly for recruiting child soldiers when he fought in Ituri Province in DRC in the 1990s.
But inexplicably, Human Rights Watch are silent about the reported lack of evidence against Murwanashyaka and Mudacumura.
Their person in the DRC, Ms Anneke Van Woudenberg, has been stumping the eastern part of the country for almost as long as the FDLR has been there. For all that time she has not documented the atrocities this terrorist organisation has visited on the Congolese people. Incredible. The whole time she has been there she has not collected eye witness accounts of some of the worst violations of human rights in history. Astounding.
Yet the same Woudenberg who cannot see the horrors of the FDLR has, in a feat of unusual energy, amassed what she calls “overwhelming” evidence of Rwanda’s support to M23, an organisation that is barely two months old. It is simply unbelievable.
Maybe her memory and judgement have been impaired by Conrad’s witchcraft, Kurtz’ ghost and the darkness both have created in the hearts of her type. And, of course, her reputation and that of Human Rights Watch have suffered a similar fate.
The plea of lack of evidence against the two terrorists is difficult to believe for another reason.
The United Nations, through, first MONUC and now MONUSCO, has boots on the ground all over Eastern DRC. They have noses following every scent and should be able to smell the blood and rotting flesh of victims of the FDLR. Presumably, they have ears and do hear the anguished cries of people under machete attacks, of the hundreds of women gang-raped by Mudacumura’s men and of children and old men unable to escape from their burning houses. They have eyes and are capable of seeing the gruesome sights, and lips to tell the horrors, unspeakable though they are.
But no, MONUSCO have seen nothing, heard nothing and not been revolted by the stench of decomposing bodies, the buzzing swarm of green flies bloated from an oversupply of dead human beings. They have not been touched by the dead, blank expressions in the eyes of the traumatised women and children. And so there is no sufficient evidence to link Mudacumura and Murwanashyaka to these horrors.
Yet in far away Ituri, at a time when the UN had no presence there, there is enough evidence to convict Thomas Lubanga and indict Bosco Ntaganda.
I suppose this is also due to Kurtz’ ghost and the spell of the Congo on foreigners. In the real world, away from spirits and witchcraft, it must be the result of greed and the power that comes with it and overturns the scale of values. It is the legacy of Kurtz.