Over 4.7 million Congolese have died as a result of the 1998 invasion of Congo by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, says a new report by the American aid agency, International Rescue Committee (IRC).
As the IRC published its distressing report in early April, Rwanda and Uganda were again on the brink of war against each other on Congolese soil. "This is the worst calamity in Africa this century, and one which the world has consistently found reasons to overlook," said David Johnson, director of the IRC's operations in eastern Congo. "Over the past three years, our figures have been consistent and clear. Congo's war is the tragedy of modern times," he added.
Which is all the more disturbing, because the conscience of the "international community" (although coming late) has been smitten by the 1994 genocide of 800,000 people in Rwanda, and the scores of thousands who died or suffered during Sierra Leone's rebel war.
In fact, Rwanda and Sierra Leone have UN Tribunals and Special Courts trying those responsible for the atrocities in those two countries. Yet, 4.7 million people have died as a direct result of the invasion of Congo by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi since 1998, and there is not even a UN magistrate's court for Congo!
The answer is simple. James Astill, writing in the British daily, The Guardian, on 10 April, said it all: "While Rwanda and Uganda remain in Congo, peace will be impossible. Yet both continue to receive more than half their budgets in Western aid, and only an occasional chiding for their role in the slaughter. How do they get away with it?"
The biggest donors to both Rwanda and Uganda are Britain and America. Britain contributes over [pounds sterling]30m a year to Rwanda's budget. Clare Short, the British minister for international development, flies in and out of Uganda, Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region several times a year. So, she must know what is going on! In his Guardian article, Astill said when he returned from a reporting trip to Congo in the middle of last year and put his findings to British and American diplomats, "virtually all -- off the record, of course -- corroborated them".
"I put them to Clare Short, and she refused to comment," said Astill who went on to quote Richard Dowden, the former Africa editor of the British weekly, The Economist, as saying that when he asked Glare Short last year why Rwanda "needed to occupy [Kisangani] a diamond-rich town 700 miles into Congo to protect its border", Ms Short hit...