By Hama Tuma
An Ethiopian proverb says: someone who has been out in the rain will not worry of getting wet. Having been out in the rain for far too many times than I care to remember I am presently unperturbed by the slack I may pick when I deal with weighty and sad subjects in what some may consider a lighter vein. Of course, satire being an altogether different ball game, some fail to grasp its core and often accuse me and others of trivializing “serious subjects”. Here goes anyway.
I contend that the present mayhem and havoc in Goma and Eastern Congo is caused by jealousy and fierce competition with Darfur. Someone claiming more knowledge than poor me, has authoritatively stated that jealousy first originated in Africa much like human kind– Dinkinesh or Lucy of Ethiopia being the first one to date. It is evident that this assertion is flawed, as jealousy and the rivalry engendered by it are to be found all over the world. According to Bush junior, the Al Qaeda attack on America was motivated by their jealousy and envy of America which suggests that at least Arabs are also jealous. Huntington’s clash of civilizations is really a jealousy theory. Most Ethiopians think the world is jealous of their beautiful country, the Japanese think they are a special race envied by others and the Chinese consider the whole world inferior and jealous of their aged civilization. To come to the mundane or what the French, trying to be Anglo chic, call “people” topics, Madonna was red hot jealous of Angelina Jolie and when the latter adopted a small girl from Ethiopia/not an orphan but poor/ and so she went farther South and adopted a small boy from Malawi/not an orphan but poor/. Will Madonna next go to Asia to compete is not an issue that is riveting anyone’s attention but let it be said that even rich pampered dolls are jealous of each other.
That said, the contention that Eastern Congo became jealous of Darfur needs a reminder in that the havoc in the Congo predates the one in Darfur and is not comparable at all. Four million Congolese have perished in a free for all carnage that was ignored even by Kofi Anan and led to the Armies without Borders phenomenon when numerous African countries intervened in the Congo to destroy or prop up a regime and, in the process, rob the mineral rich country blind. The war in the Congo was sponsored or pushed ahead by multinationals like the British Anglogold Ashanti corporation and other gold diggers and Coltan chasers, with rowdy militias being paid by the companies to wreak havoc and assure the mineral extraction. Congo lost its patriotic nationalist son Patrice Lumumba in the same way when Washington and Brussels collided to have him murdered brutally and to bring in puppet Joseph Desiree Mobutu. You are rich and everyone bothers you, you are poor and no one lets you alone to enjoy your poverty–this has been the sad fate of our continent. Did anyone hear the two candidates for the American presidency mention Eastern Congo? The Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise promised to give 20,000 dollars to a charity against hunger if and every time Obama or McCain mention world hunger–they did not. What chance could Goma have had then? Darfur is another matter altogether and there is why Eastern Congo has flared up in envy and jealousy. The problem of Darfur has a whiff of oil in its wake but it hogged the limelight because of the nature of the regime in Khartoum which, if truth be told, is not anymore odious than the mercenary one in Kinshasa. The hatred for the fundamentalists in Khartoum made Darfur very, very interesting. All of a sudden, right wing Christian fundamentalist groups and the White House got interested. Even Britain that has funded and still supports many a murderous group in Africa cried foul at Khartoum. Beshir of Khartoum was cornered and the casualty figures in Darfur went up. Well known actors like George Clooney chimed in. Who talked of Eastern Congo? Maybe Ben Affleck from the actors group, no more. Ghanaian Kofi Anan talked more of Afghanistan than Eastern Congo where his UN troops were not protecting anyone but raping young girls. And so Darfur became a hit song….and every George and Brad was mouthing the word Janjaweed taken by some to mean ganja weed or marijuana. Poor Goma. Poor Kivu. Sad Eastern Congo. 4 million dead and no one to rile and cry– no one to pull out his or her hair and wail!
I am particularly sympathetic because my country Ethiopia gets little or no attention unless Mr. Famine visits it as it does, lucky us, every few years. Take the Enough Project of concerned Americans–they are concerned about Somalia but not Ethiopia. Take the International Crisis Group–the same. The stars in these bodies from John Pendergast to Gayle Smith were former groupies of the Meles Zenawi cabal who chose to castigate all opposition as Amhara chauvinist and the nostalgic of the deposed military regime. Ethiopia has had its massacres from Arba Gugu, Areka to Water and Gambella but not many bothered. The blood stained regime of Meles is presently dancing with joy at the possibility of Hilary Clinton being named as Secretary of State and with reason as she had hailed in the past the most ruthless dictator in the Horn as a democrat and was only topped by her husband who added the Great Lakes dictators as democrats too. Talk of the short end of the stick! Eastern Congo lost four million–is this comparable to half a million in Darfur? Eastern Congo has many regimes and forces battling over it–is this comparable to Darfur where disparate rebel groups have to confront just one regime? Take any measurement and by all standards eastern Congo deserved the primary attention that Darfur was basking in instead. So, who is to blame if Eastern Congo raises the ante and calls on all of us: “hello, there is a bigger mess here, please take notice”? Does Darfur have flamboyant rebels like Laurent Nkunda of Eastern Congo, who changes chairs and uniforms and attire so often right there in the jungle and tells foreign journalists his idol is Charles De Gaulle of France , the very country accused by his backers in Rwanda of supporting the genocide in Rwanda? So, Eastern Congo had to explode and attract foreign attention away from Darfur. If only….! And then the Somali pirates had to appear, chewing their kat and swaggering in their “shirit” skirt- like wear, brandishing their ordinary Ak-47s. Given the fact that the Somalis have been at it for the last 20 years, Nkunda could not be expected to cope, could he? And where could the rebels around Goma find so many ships and super tankers to sea jack? And to cap it all, most of the Congolese of all hues in the East are not even Moslems !
Life is not fair in Africa. And so we simmer and boil in our jealousy and rivalry and competition and die in millions and not much changes. A half Kenyan has come to power in the USA but who said even full blooded Kenyans were ever sympathetic of anybody else. Obama will surely make some noises over Darfur and Somalia. Eastern Congo? They have to die more and hope for the best. And if Hilary Clinton becomes Secretary of State? Will a dove be hatched from an egg of a serpent? Between Nkunda, Kabila and Hilary… and Darfur and Somalia ….the Congolese will, if we can imagine it, be in a worse mess. Of course they can take solace in the fact that this is Africa as we know it and that there are others worse off than them that are forgotten even more.