As so often happens with events in the DRC, fact and fiction fuse into a sticky mess that has come to define the history of that country. And there seems to be a preference for fiction over fact.
This is the case now with regard to the fighting in Eastern DRC in which Rwanda has been implicated. A web of lies – not particularly clever – has been woven around the fighting in the area. Incredibly, these third rate lies, unverified claims and clearly fabricated tales have been picked up and spread by media organisations hitherto thought to be beyond reproach in their reporting. Because of this the lies have been passed off as truth..
As I said in this column last week, the DRC has the history of being the graveyard of many reputations. And once reputations have died and been buried in the Congo, any attempts at revival and redemption end up having them buried deeper. If you doubt this ask the United Nations.
Media organisations are no exception to being strangled in the DRC. This will be the inevitable consequence for disseminating lies as people begin to reassess their credibility. The reputation for impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness associated with some of them will disappear, or if not, will be severely damaged.
Naturally in an atmosphere of lies, truth is nearly always completely smothered. Again this is the case in the DRC. The same media organisations that jump at the latest made-up allegations suddenly become silent when confronted with facts contradicting the lies.
For instance, MONUSCO’s rather belated denial that it ever produced a report naming Rwanda as supporting the M23 rebels has received scant coverage. So have the consistent denials by the Government of Rwanda about its alleged backing of the rebels. Perhaps more telling is the total disregard for the findings of a Joint Verification Team made up of Rwandan and DRC officials.
Clearly, there is something sinister here. And who stands to gain from it all? Apparently there are many.
One of the oldest tricks in the book to divert attention from oneself is to direct blame at other people. Equally, one of the most effective ways to get anyone to do what you want is to get them when they are at their weakest and therefore most vulnerable.
It is common knowledge that the government of the DRC has been under sustained pressure since the last presidential and general elections in that country. Both were reported to have been massively flawed.
But why a country with an incredible abundance of natural wealth should in the first place hold out its hands to donors beats all logic. Why it should cower before them is utterly incomprehensible. If I were the DRC government I would make them sing and dance and stand on their heads before they can lay their hands on my precious wealth.
Again, despite its enormous wealth and huge foreign support and the goodwill of neighbours like Rwanda, the government has failed to establish effective control over its entire territory. And no satisfactory explanation can be advanced for this dismal failure.
The lazy way out of multiple failures is to look for a convenient fall guy, and for a variety of reasons, Rwanda is the most convenient.
There are other elements interested in muddying the waters of the Congo so as to hide their responsibility for the mess in the wider Great Lakes Region. The current violence in Eastern DRC can be traced to the coming into the area of armed ex-FAR and Interahamwe. These forces were shepherded there and continued to be armed by some in the international community. That support for their genocidal protégés has not stopped.
A key player in the Congo has been a coalition of NGOs, mostly in the human rights movement, led by Human Rights Watch. Ironically their existence depends on the continuation of conflict. And to carry on their work, they need funds, and to get them, must justify their existence – which is the continued presence of violence. So we come full circle.
In addition, the NGO movement harbours a grudge against Rwanda for refusing them the opportunity to set up as alternatives to the state and thereby keeping the country in perpetual dependence to hand-outs.
They behave like a jilted partner in a love relationship gone sour – never giving up hope of reconciliation, but also doing everything possible to wreck the life of the other partner.
And let’s face it. The Cold War may have ended, but not so the rivalry between East and West. We see it everywhere in the world where there is conflict these days. It is present where there is competition for resources, and the Congo is a classic case.
In the Nineteenth Century control of the two Congos by Europeans triggered the Berlin Conference that partitioned Africa among them. Today’s continued rivalry over Africa’s resources will ensure that the continent remains partitioned and impoverished and therefore easy to exploit. What easier way to do this than keep us in perpetual conflict – and especially keep down those attempting to raise their heads.