"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

2.01.2009

of mice and men

"We would prefer that they just negotiate with the FDLR peacefully," said Gideon Kambale, a farmer. "When they fight, it is us who will suffer."

Here's the sad truth of what passes for "hopeful" in the eastern Congo. Everything has to go well in what the Washington Post's Stephanie McCrummen describes this way:

"That entails mixing Rwandan soldiers with the Congolese soldiers who once fought them, with the rebels who were fighting the Congolese, with the ragtag militias that were fighting the rebels -- and the entire operation is targeting a group the Congolese army has collaborated with for years."

Add on top of that the fact that every single one of those command structures involves soldiers and commanders who are either directly responsible for or complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Oh, and that someone has to keep the Tutsi-commanded Rwandan soldiers from slaughtering all the ethnic Hutus in the area who aren't members of the FDLR, or who aren't married to them.

If you're from the Nyamilima area like Mr. Kambale, you have absolutely no reason to believe that this will go badly. Nyamilima is one of those places that's perpetually part of MONUC's Friday briefings at OCHA in Goma. It is not an exaggeration to say that something bad - looting, rapes, slaughter of innocents - happens there almost every week. I had the opportunity to spend three days there with the World Food Programme a couple of years ago. To be honest, I was a little relieved that my schedule made it impossible to go. Nyamilima is a miserable place by all accounts.

We can hope against hope that this will work, that MONUC's presence will keep the Rwandans and Congolese and the militias and the CNDP forces from going too far. But the people of Nyamilima know better than we do the possible consequences of these best-laid plans.

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