Hyperbole and ignorance

Andrew Mitchell, the man who will be in charge of Britain’s international development budget if the Tories gain power, had this to say about Congo:

The terrible images beamed into our living rooms from the Democratic Republic of Congo last week are eerily similar to those from Rwanda in 1994

Yes Andrew, eerily similar. Let’s count the similarities:

1. They’re black

2. They’re African

3. Er, it’s in Africa

4. That’s it

Mitchell, sadly, is not alone.

Here’s Gordon Brown:

We must not allow Congo to become another Rwanda

And here’s France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, trying to outdo them all:

This is a massacre such as Africa has probably never seen, which is taking place virtually before our eyes

Congo is not Rwanda. It is a terrible, nasty war that has gone on (and off and on again) for more than a decade. An estimated 5.4m people have died, mostly from war-related diseases. “Something” needs to be done.

But making crass comparisons to a genocide because you know it will make a good soundbite is not just dumb – it’s dangerous. A genocide has a single bad guy. Stop the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, the Hutu militias and the genocide ends. Tell me Andrew, Gordon, Bernard, who is the genocidaire in Congo? Nkunda? The FDLR? The Congolese army? The Congolese government? Monuc? Rwanda? They all share the blame, some more than others, but trying to make it simple does not do anyone any favours.

We have been here before. The public debate on what to do about Darfur is based on the false premise that a genocide is ongoing. In an essay published in the Spectator earlier this year, Justin Marozzi wrote about the celebrities and activist groups campaigning for action to stop the genocide.

No one appears to have told any of these people that the genocide is over. What remains is a highly complicated, extremely brutal, low-intensity civil war.

 Complex problems require complex solutions.


3 responses to “Hyperbole and ignorance

  1. I hope they are reading you article, because you have called it 100%.

  2. Surely Nkunda claims to be protecting Tutsis against marauding Hutu militias. You are of course right that DRC is not Rwanda (they are spelled differently, for example, and I’m sure you can find plenty more differences) but you are also being deliberately awkward if you think there is no validity to comparisons

  3. I think only one of us is being deliberately awkward, Rob. There are links between what’s happening now and what happened in 1994, yes, but to say that they are pretty much the same – as some politicians have tried to suggest – is just wrong.

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