Thursday, June 01, 2006

Heart of Africa

There is an article in Time magazine about Congo’s recent history. It is a must read because it truly opens readers' eyes to the reality and scale of conflicts around the world. Our attention span often restricts us to thinking about one humanitarian crisis at a time. Right now, it is the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. But the truth is that there are a lot of other countries with problems just as serious.

What is most striking about Congo is its contrast in the amount of hope there is for a country so rich in natural resources, as well as the pessimism for success in the near future.

Congo represents the promise of Africa as much as its misery: its fertile fields and tropical forests cover an area bigger than California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas combined. Its soils are packed with diamonds, gold, copper, tantalum (known locally as coltan and used in electronic devices such as cell phones and laptop computers) and uranium. The waters of its mighty river could one day power the continent.


Can Congo be saved? Maybe, but it can't save itself. If the country has any hope of escaping the cycle of violence, misrule and despair, it will need the largesse and mercy of governments and citizens all over the globe. "Even in five years, it will be lucky if we have isolated pockets of real progress," says a Western official in Kinshasa, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch says, "The focus is on bringing this country to elections, but there's almost no interest in the impunity and human-rights abuses that continue today. The truth is, Congo isn't magically going to become a democracy. It's going to take years of hard work and money."
It seems that Time magazine is trying to get the reader to take away the idea that if the world tried hard enough, Congo could eventually be self-sufficient. And just as war in Congo can bring in the nations around it, stability could also spread outwardly. All that stands in the way is violence, corruption, and international disinterest.