Congo is, once again, on fire. Tens of thousands have fled south to the city of Goma as rebels have advanced. The Congolese army has also fled and is now doing what Congolese soldiers do best – raping, killing and looting.
The roots of the conflict are complex going back (at the very least) to the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
At least, I thought it was complex. Then I read this. According to John Prendergast and Javier Bardam (you know, that well renowned Congo expert best known for playing a killer in No Country for Old Men), it’s all very simple. It’s all about the vampires.
Vampires take many forms in Congo. They are the militia leaders who control the mines, and who use mass rape as a means of intimidating local populations and driving people away from areas they want to control.
Vampires also include some of the middlemen based in neighboring countries who arrange for the purchase and resale of Congo’s resources to international business interests, run by people who are often accomplices.
Really, where do you start with something like this? I know it’s Halloween, but still.
This ‘vampires’ nonsense, quite apart from doing nothing to really explain what’s going on in Congo, only serves to reinforce the notion that somehow the country is a dark, strange land. Somewhere deep in the heart of Africa, maybe the dark heart of Africa. Maybe we could call it the Heart of Darkness.
(By the way, Things Seen and Heard is going to be on 24/7 ‘Heart of Darkness’ alert, bringing you up-to-date info on all the worst Congo cliche offenders.)
If you’ve got the time (and it really is worth taking the time) have a look at Wronging Rights’ guide to Congo: “How to Become an Expert on the Congo in Just Five Minutes a Day”
(Although if you’re one of these people that likes to take things very seriously indeed – and we are talking about a series of wars which has killed around 5.4m people – you might be put off by the tone. Sample: “The IRC releases report in December 2004 pointing out that “seriously guys, everyone in the Congo is totally dying.” World community nods solemnly, goes back to searching for internet porn.”)
Don’t be. It’s a great read.