22 siječnja, 2007


"What times are these, when to speak of trees is almost a crime,
because it passes in silence over such infamy!" (Bertolt Brecht)

With only a short observation of the world media such as CNN and BBC, together with national (in my case Croatian) and internet news, it’s easily noticeable that
Africa virtually disappeared from our notion of the world. The scarce media coverage of an entire continent at the beginning of the 21st century definitely cannot be attributed to underdeveloped tools of informing. Why is so that a doubtedly isolated conflicts such as those in Iraq of Afghanistan draw much more attention, compared to the problems in Africa? Can news about Angelina Jolie’s new baby or whales on the shores of Australia overshadow a 10-year long war with nine involved nations and millions of casualties?

With the ongoing globalization, the mass media have gained more power than ever before. They create vox populi, a critical mass that can be a source of changes. Only after the attack on Dubrovnik, the war in Croatia which had already claimed 10 000 lives got enough place in the foreign media. Soon Croatia received international support, both verbal and military. US president Clinton claimed that the report of two children murdered in Central Bosnia in 1995 which he saw on CNN was one of the key reasons for the large NATO military action in Bosnia in 1995. Not four years of ongoing massacres and 200 000 casualties, but a tragic story of two children which circled around the world via TV, newspaper and the internet.

And what about

With the risk of sounding like Bob Geldof whose involvement in African affairs could easily be attributed to personal promotion, the ongoing situation in
Central Africa deserves much more place in the media, with my (maybe naïve) hope that an awareness of the problem is a step closer to solving it. Because not Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo or Palestine, but the Great Lakes region in Africa is the most troublesome area of the world.

The source of the Congolese wars (started in late 1996) can be traced back to infamous Belgian colonial rule of the first half of the 20th century. Still, the conflict started as a “spill over” of the ’94 Rwanda genocide when Rwandan forces entered DR Congo in attempt to eradicate paramilitary Hutu forces that committed massacres in Rwanda and soon afterwards fled to Congo. Rwanda was backed up with Uganda, while Namibia, Chad, Zimbabwe and Angola entered Congo allegedly to help the DRC government forces. Many of the involved parties in fact had their eye on vast natural resources of the DRC, including gold, diamonds, casserite, coltan and timber. Plundering of resources which have later been sold in Belgium, Switzerland and USA certainly remained a major reason for the long occupation of the Congolese territory that ensued, thereby prolonging the war, especially in the cases of Rwanda and Uganda. Some peace accords have been signed in 2002, but sporadical fighting continued. Numerous cases of genocide have been reported, including reports of cannibalism and outbreaks of bubonic plague which already killed hundreds of people in the region. Millions of people have been displaced, 5 million died as the cause of the conflict, including 600 000 children under 4 years of age.

Other than deploying around 8000 UN soldiers in a country with the surface of 2.5 million sq km, the international intervention was and is more or less nonexistent. The question asked by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian responsible for UN forces in
Rwanda 1994 remains unanswered :

Why would there be more of a reaction by the international community to curtail or to stop the organized killing of 320 endangered mountain gorillas that than there would be in attempting to protect thousands of human beings being slaughtered in the same country?

Mass blindness and amnesia are becoming a pandemic in the world. But with so many ways of informing ourselves through a plethora of media tools, the excuse “We didn’t know” couldn’t be more obsolete than today.

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