What’s the flavour of the month now?

I remember a few weeks back how, without even meaning to, whenever I turned on the radio or the television I’d be accosted with images of raggedly dressed Congolese fleeing the ‘rebel onslaught’.

I remember a few weeks back how, without even meaning to, whenever I turned on the radio or the television I’d be accosted with images of raggedly dressed Congolese fleeing the ‘rebel onslaught’.

The rebels the good people of BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera were meaning were Gen. Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP. As the rebels got closer to Goma, and with each passing day, a type of hysteria gripped every journalist that was reporting on the events.

Numbers were invented (i.e. 100,000, 200,000 and finally 250,000 people dead) and a humanitarian disaster was declared.

Nkunda was declared a war criminal because of the ‘massacres’ and rapes perpetrated by his troops and Gen. Omar Bashir’s and Joseph Kony’s bogeyman, the International Criminal Court in the Hague, was invoked to try this African misfit.

The UN troop presence was declared useless and the entrance of a European Union ‘rapid reaction force’ was bandied about by, of course, the French. This well-armed force was meant to stop the rebel advance into Goma and, eventually, batter the rebels into submission.

Do you have a sense of déjà vu as well?

I remember back in 1994, in the aftermath of the bloody 100 days, how, instead of helping rebuild our country, all the world cared about was the ‘poor’ people suffering a ‘humanitarian’ disaster in, yes, once again, Goma.

Aid was flying through our airspace to the camps of Tingi-tingi and Mugunga while the Government of Rwanda moved into offices that lacked tables, chairs and even paper clips; because everything that could possibly be looted was looted.

A humanitarian disaster was easier to report, and therefore, get all-worked up about, while an on-going political process wasn’t as ‘sexy’.

While I understand that, like vultures, journalists must look for the bloodiest carcass i.e. story, but sometimes I wonder whether these fellows do their research properly and whether they don’t let their own values colour the story.

For example, in an area of the DR Congo like North Kivu, how in the world did they get those figures of 250,000 dead- because some NGO, like Oxfam gave that figure?

Come on; first of all, it’s in their (the NGO’s) interests to inflate the dead because it gives them even more funding from teary-eyed donors.

Secondly, in North Kivu, an area about seven times the size of Rwanda; did they (the NGO’s) go about counting the dead? I think not; it is not, as if, there are proper morgues in that war zone. That’s why I’m sceptical about the numbers.

Another thing that I don’t understand is the labelling of Gen. Nkunda as a ‘war criminal’ on account of his troops barbarism. While there is no ‘hard’ evidence that his troops have done what they are alleged to have done, on the other hand, Congolese government troops have been caught on camera looting and terrorising the people of Goma.

Actually, some brave journalists have mentioned the fact that Kabila’s troops have been killing civilians. So, here is MY question; why isn’t he being labelled a war criminal and having the albatross of an ICC indictment hanging over his head?

Is it, possibly, because, as president of the DR Congo, he has the ability to sign over mineral concessions?

But here is another weird thing about the Congo hullabaloo; it came right after the US elections. It was like journalists, worldwide, suddenly realised that they had nothing to report about now that Obama had been elected. So, they looked around and, presto, a ready-made conflict in the Congo.

And they milked it for all it was worth. That is, until, another crisis manifested itself. Iraq is so longer exciting; Afghanistan’s insurgency is a bit too low-key to whet our bloodthirsty appetites so where do we go? Africa. There is always a good story there. 

And we Africans, sadly, never disappoint. Right now, Uncle Bob is giving newshounds a field day; cholera is decimating people in Zimbabwe and, with unmitigated glee, the usual suspects (Oxfam, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and so on) are inventing figures. According to these doomsayers, 60,000 people are going to die soon because of the disease.

The disease is then married to the political situation and then politicians, like Kenyan PM Raila Odinga, start calling for Robert Mugabe’s head with the call for, yet again, an ICC indictment. I have absolutely no love for what Mugabe’s done to his rich nation but I detest the way Africa is used to fill up space in newspapers. Just to prove that point; wait until Obama gets inaugurated and he starts tackling the US economy as president.

Zimbabwe will be quickly forgotten once again, despite the fact that the old man will still probably be ruling the roost still and taking his country further down, and Congo will be yesterday’s news despite the fact that the insurgency will still be running on the boil. Just wait until something happens; we’ll be forgotten until we become, once again, flavour of the month.    

Contact: sunny_ntayombya@hotmail.com

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