By Owei Lakemfa
MOST of humanity began a work week on Monday, November 7. I watched hundreds of Congolese youths including ladies engaged in rowdy but seemingly joyous group dances, songs and banter. There were also a sprinkling of soldiers amongst them. Good, you might say. Except that the gathering was not about celebrating life.
While billions of youths across the world were either heading to school, work or some useful engagements, these youths of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC were offering enlistment to fight the M23 rebels who were approaching the city of Goma. These youths in a seemingly joyous mood were offering to go kill their fellow youths on the rebel side or be killed. It is all part of a senseless conflict with an increasingly insane propensity to take or lose lives.
In the last twenty six years when almost all these youths were either not born or were toddlers, over six million Congolese have lost their lives in conflicts. But this did not start in 1996. Thirty six years before then, Belgium, the United Kingdom, UK and the United States, US, had conspired to overthrow the three-month old government of Patrice Lumumba, the DRC founding Prime Minister. He was caught and executed on January 17, 1961 by a firing squad commanded by the Belgians.
The DRC attracts conflicts like sugar attracts ants because it is one of the most naturally endowed countries in the world. The Belgain King Leopold II had massacred 15 million Congolese just to own the DRC as a “private estate.” A week after the ‘joyous’ scene in DRC, many of these youths and the rest of the population on the outskirts of Goma, were on the run. They were fleeing death as the M23, the proxies fighting for Rwanda, approached the city.
If Goma falls to the rebels, it will not be the first time as M23, established in 2012 to ostensibly defend Congolese Tutsi interests, had previously taken the city. It is a strong militia because it is trained and backed by Rwanda which is presided over by a fellow Tutsi called Paul Kagame.
Although Rwanda’s main produce is coffee and tea, but it has emerged a major exporter of gold and gems, not because it has them in abundance, but because they are looted from the DRC. The DRC had witnessed two ‘African Wars’ between 1996 and 2003 which pitched the armies of the DRC, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe against the invaders from Rwanda and Uganda. The Congolese conflict goes on because it is considered a free territory to plunder.
The Education Ministry in Mogadishu, Somalia is a symbol of the determination of Somalis to be educated for a future that is quite bleak. On October 29, 2022 two car bombs exploded outside the Ministry. Over 100 persons were killed and 300 injured. So conscienceless is the evil that struts that country.
Five years earlier in the same month, a truck bomb had exploded, killing over 500 persons at the K5 intersection of Mogadishu. Death is so common in a country that the world seems to have forgotten. Today, Somalia consists of a separatist state and a portion, purchased by the United Arab Emirate, UAE.
Somalia was a bit unstable before the military overthrew its government on October 21, 1969. That was when its woes began. General Mohammed Siad Barre ruled for 22 years before his ouster by various organisations which led to the chaos that still pervades the country. To the world, Somalia is like a territory lost in time and space. Afghanistan was a victim of the Cold War. Radicals close to the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, seized power.
To flush them out, the West mobilised Muslim youths across the world to fight the supposedly godless infidels. The USSR intervened and a decade war ensued from 1979. The Soviets were defeated and they departed leaving the Islamic youths in control. Then the US intervened in 2001 to flush out the group it had assisted to gain power. The war went on for twenty years with the defeated armies of the US and its allies departing, leaving the same Islamists in power, and of course, a ruined economy and country. Afghanistan runs the danger of being forgotten like Somalia.
Inter-ethnic and intra-religious conflicts erupted in Yemen in 2014 pitching the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels against the pro-Saudi Sunni government. With the former overrunning major parts of the country, the Saudis and their allies like the UAE intervened, bombing parts of the country, targeting markets, schools and hospitals. But no major country is willing to step in to stop the Saudi genocide because they want to be in the good books of the conservative Saudi monarchy which deploys oil and religious power in a most vicious manner.
The Russo-Ukrainian War promises to drag on until the world starts forgetting it or it erupts into an all-European war. This week, a missile fired deliberately or in error from Ukraine, landed in Poland killing two. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, perhaps hoping that this would lead to other European countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO attacking its enemy, shouted that it was fired by Russia.
But other European countries and the US do not seem to buy the story. Why that war, like others, fester, is lack of effective leadership in the world. These endless conflicts are not about to end. Rather, new ones might be added like the baiting in Taiwan, and new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unilaterally declaring China as the greatest danger to world peace and development.
In the next few weeks, world attention will be diverted to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. That tiny country of 2.931 million people occupying 11,437 square kilometres was almost suffocated in 2017 by big Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE which gave it thirteen conditions to meet or pack up as a country. This included its shutting down the Aljazera international television network and Turkish military bases and cutting ties with Iran and specific Islamic militant groups. Defiant Qatar survived the war threats and from this Sunday, will host a football population over a third of its entire population.
The field of play will be the war zone with attackers from various countries facing defenders. Although no physical missiles will be fired, but US which is testing its javeline weapons in the Ukrainian War and Iran which is testing its military drones in the same war, are squaring up in the field of Qatar on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Football and politics might mix. Since there are few leaders of substance in the world, troubled humanity would continue its unproductive conflicts after the entertainment in Qatar.
*Owei Lakemfa is a journalist and labour activist