Problems in African countries should not be ignored

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The United States is at war against terrorism, and many countries are at war with the threat of an economic collapse.

However, there is also a war that has been raging for some time that has remained under the radar. Problems in Africa seem to be so frequent they have become the “norm” for many citizens in the world. However, these real-life problems are not ordinary for those who witness them.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is familiar with hardships and trials when faced with political uprisings, but this time the problems could put the country’s future on the brink. According to BBC News on Monday, the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, called for the mandate of U.N. forces in the Congo be increased. This came after he and other officials traveled to the region last weekend.

He said, “We need different soldiers and different rules of engagement,” during his presentation to European Union counterparts. He explained how the growing rebel armies in Congo are much more destructive than previously expressed.

The rebel army leader, Gen. Laurent Nkunda, has told reporters he is willing to grant a ceasefire to allow aid in. However, his spokesman, Bertrand Bisimwa, told the AFP news agency that the Congolese government will refuse direct negotiations and plans on “waging war.”

Recently a U.N. aid convoy was allowed to travel through a rebel corridor and into the war zone to provide water purification tablets and medical supplies. The U.N. workers expected to drive up to refugee camps holding tens of thousands to provide aid to.

Instead, the crisis has become such a problem that the camps were nearly deserted. A recent wave of rebel looting, raping and killing has drastically changed the face of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Refugees have risked their lives trying to return to their home villages on foot by sneaking through intense conflict zones. These refugees have had to forage for wild berries and roots to eat just to get by.

The neighboring country of Rwanda is probably the direct culprit for the current chaos across the border in the Congo. In 1994, the Rwandan genocides reached a death toll of 800,000. It is all too important to solve the problems in the Congo in order to prevent another Rwandan-type massacre.

The troop commitment in the Congo already makes it the largest U.N. operation in the world. Despite the current force of 17,000 in the region, much more will be needed to clean up the mess before it worsens. Kouchner’s presentation on Monday expressed the need for the 26 European officials present to help in any way possible.

In New York, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon appointed former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, as an assistant to help resolve the crisis. Other international figures are also helping lead the aid assistance to the region. Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, said the international community must “not allow Congo to become another Rwadna.”

Current conditions are economically bad in many countries, and budgets are tight for many as well. But the international community has a moral obligation to do all that is in their power to fight for these humanitarian issues.

A two-part process involving immediate aid relief followed by guidance for political stability are much needed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a great chance for the U.N. to step up with help from all committed nations to help out a region and its peoples.

Nick A. Wilson is a sophomore in political science. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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