Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Going past Ghana: What Obama can do in Congo

The U.S. must look beyond stable, democratic Africa to the nations torn by poverty, war and corruption. In Congo, that means a special envoy, more aid and help with a deal with China.

Now that President Obama has made his visit to Ghana, which represents stable, democratic Africa, attention also must be paid to the rest of the story: the countries gripped in misery, suffering from the results of foreign misuse and national bungling.

While Ghana, having transformed into a democracy after decades of turmoil, symbolizes the hope springing up in quite a few countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo in the heart of the continent is the perfect example of that other Africa.

The eastern region of Congo has been beset by civil wars for a decade, a horrifying symptom of breakdown through the entire government. About 5 million people have died from the violence and its side effects of malnutrition and disease, while more than 1 million have been made refugees.

The undisciplined Congolese army and the various militias combating it use rape as a weapon of war. As many as 200,000 women and girls have been violated, some mutilated to the point of death, in what is described as the world's worst episode of sexual violence.