By Anthony J. Gerst
The war-torn and ravaged nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a rather confusing issue. A rapid-fired crash course on the subject brings up some interesting facts, however. This nation has basically been at war since 1998, and the result has been an estimated 3.5 million deaths. There are more residents classified as internally displaced persons (IDP’s) than established citizens. OK, that may be a stretch but not by much.
Oddly enough in the nomadic camps throughout this nation, we find citizens from the entire region, as the populations of these camps are composed of people from Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Sudan and of course the Republic of Congo. So what on earth is going on here, in a nation that recently saw an outbreak of Ebola deep in its jungle recesses? Well, to understand anything of the area is to understand what makes the Congo go around. This nation is home to a vast array of precious metals and resources: found here are reserves of cobalt, copper, uranium, timber, gold and silver to name but a few. It is the control over these resources that brings about the constant battles within the Congo. On any given day, from 6-10 different factions are battling for control. Within this number are local indigenous peoples who are simply trying to stay alive.
Terror and terrorism is alive and well here, as the battles are waged at the expense of anyone in the vicinity. The groups battling have no honor; they are simply armed groups of masquerading hired thugs. They instill fear in the populous with rape and rampage. According to the UN, 90,000 people were forced to flea their homes in September alone. The ongoing warfare has prevented 150,000 people from receiving food aid from the UN World Food Programme.
The following is from a field journal recorded by Matthew De Galan, a gentlemen who recently spent five weeks in the Congo working with the Mercy Corps:
These are answers to a questionnaire filled out by Francince Ancirite, formerly of Sake, a city of 30,000 that recently became the focal point of chaos. Chaos generated by the oldest vice known to man, greed.
Question 14: Did you eat anything yesterday morning? No. We skipped the meal.
Question 15: Did you eat anything yesterday at midday? No. There was no food.
Question 16: Did you eat anything yesterday in the evening? Yes. Manioc, corn and peas.
Question 18: How many times per week do you eat animal protein? Zero.
Question 19: How long do your food stocks last? N/A. We have no food stocks.
Question 20: List your sources of revenue for the household: Agricultural day worker, 400 francs/day (about 80 cents).
Question 26: In the last six months, have you borrowed or been given any money? Yes. 1000 francs to feed my brothers and sisters.
Question 34: What livestock or fowls do you possess? None.
Question 38: Do you have access to the quantity of water that you need? No. Because we have to pay and are means are insufficient.
Perspectives: it is hard to have opinions when ones perspective is on not starving to death. So if you are interested,
Image credit: Matthew De Galan/Mercy Corps