By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: February 6, 2010
It’s easy to wonder how world leaders, journalists, religious figures and ordinary citizens looked the other way while six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And it’s even easier to assume that we’d do better.
But so far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.
What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation, in ways that sear survivors like Jeanne Mukuninwa, a beautiful, cheerful young woman of 19 who somehow musters the courage to giggle. Her parents disappeared in the fighting when she had just turned 14 — perhaps they were massacred, but their bodies never turned up — so she moved in with her uncle.
Do you live in Oklahoma? Or have any friends and family in the lovely Sooner State? Then you need to get on the phone and tell Senator Tom "Dr. No" Coburn to stop blocking the passage of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), under the leadership of self-proclaimed messiah Joseph Kony, has terrorized a wide swath of central Africa for over 20 years, and became particularly notorious for their use of child soldiers and child sex slaves. What started as a brutal rebellion in Northern Uganda has now spread across the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Darfur, and the Central African Republic. In the past few months alone, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced, and thousands more have been either killed or abducted by LRA forces. According to an Enough Project researcher, as many as 400 people have been killed in the last two months. Recent waves of violence also threaten to further destabilize already-precarious situations in South Sudan, and possibly even Darfur.
As part of my work covering the LRA, I have been traveling to most of the LRA affected areas, where I have conducted numerous interviews with victims of LRA violence and policymakers alike. Based on my findings on the ground, there are at least five important actions that the policy team in charge of designing a multilateral strategy to address the LRA issues should focus on. Read More »
For this week’s Presidents Day Congressional recess, Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have headed to central and east Africa with plans to visit four countries during their six-day trip, including Congo and Sudan. Read More »
“[P]olicy makers and profiteers – near and far – must do more to remove the underpinnings of the war itself,” wrote Alan Doss, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, in a letter to the editor of the NYTimes. Read More »
More than 8,000 rapes were reported in eastern Congo in 2009, according to a new U.N. estimate. These numbers are staggering in and of themselves, but a recent connection made by the UNAIDS organization highlighted the fact that these atrocities are more than a humanitarian crisis; they are also a vital public health concern. Read More »
As Koko’s bother introduced us, he pushed up his sleeve to reveal a bandage around his upper arm. It was the father who was shot in the arm while holding his three year old daughter in the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, attack on January 14th. Read More »
With an estimated death toll of six million, the Holocaust is widely viewed as the singularly most devastating period in modern history. Yet despite the increased interconnectedness of the world today and the international provisions in place to respond to humanitarian crises, the conflict in eastern Congo rages on without an effective international response –- surpassing the Holocaust in number of years and now, even in number of lives lost. Read More »