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Treating gangrene with brown paper and vinegar, or No longer our burden


I think that my over whelming reaction to the newest humanitarian disaster in the Congo is very sadly that that it is just “more of the same old stuff” on a continent where disarray and disaster is the way of life rather than the exception. I have found it extremely difficult to become even interested enough to comment There is just no possibility of solving that continents myriad problems and I really think that the last thing that should be done is to send in British or French troops.

An estimated one million people have been displaced in the eastern North Kivu province on the border with Rwanda after two years of ethnic-related violence  Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the violence in Congo

An estimated one million people have been displaced in the eastern North Kivu province on the border with Rwanda after two years of ethnic-related violence Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the violence in Congo

The Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown disclosed that contingency plans were being prepared for the deployment of a European Union force, including a British contingent. However, with UK forces already stretched fighting on two fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mr Miliband was quick to pour cold water on the suggestion that British troops could soon be caught up in a new overseas entanglement.

Meanwhile, aid agencies warned that the situation on the ground was deteriorating as tens of thousands fled to escape the fighting and the threat of rape and murder by the various armed groups across the eastern Congo.

“The humanitarian situation here is completely out of control,” said Alpha Sankoh, ActionAid’s country director in the Congo. “Refugees are being targeted before our very eyes – we cannot allow this to continue. The protection of women and children is paramount – particularly as so many are on the move seeking safety.”

The UN already has a presence in the area and all they have managed to do is prove just how impotent they are. with very limited resources and very restricted rules of engagement they have always just been a show piece, window dressing for the benefit of the media. The reality is that on a social level most of Africa is a basket case with the most common foundation stones for the nations are thuggery and self interest. Frankly all efforts to broker  peace seem as effective as treating gangrene with brown paper and vinegar.
There are times when no matter how dire the need that we do the people no great service by intervening  especially  when we do intervene, as we did in Rwanda, the end result was still unspeakable brutality and murder. All that we achieve is a measure of blame for the resulting failure. The days of colonialism are well and truly over and there comes a time when we in the west have to say that peace and prosperity in Africa is no longer our burden.
Until next time  Comrades



  1. Toaf says:

    Iain, when you have such a poor grasp of the issues in Congo, and indeed Africa more broadly, it’s probably best that you don’t comment at all.

  2. Iain Hall says:

    Oh I don’t think that my grasp of issues in Africa are that bad Damian , I suspect that what irks you is that I have Zero optimism that that anything that is done by the west will ultimately make any long term difference at all and that you desperately want to believe that making a difference IS possible otherwise why would you be there in the first place?

  3. Jason says:

    Iain, I’ve been resisting commenting here because I thought Toaf might.

    I think, with respect, that the problem with this post is that has zero evidence of any kind of human compassion. It’s disappointing because sometimes I feel like I’m getting somewhere with you, and I know where you’re coming from. But this is, at best, just a bunch of clichés about Africa thrown together to excuse your own apathy.

    Even I know that you’ve got your explanation of the Rwanda crisis backwards. But why not try to learn something from a reader who’s actually there on the ground? Isn’t this what blogging is about, along with getting your opinions out there?

  4. Jason says:

    Oh no – “we’re” should be “where” – don’t know what’s wrong with me today. Sorry Iain.

    (Fixed) 😉

  5. Toaf says:

    What irks me, Iain, is that you use terms like “basket case” to describe an entire continent, draw conclusions about MONUC’s achievements in Congo without citing any evidence, and then refer to African peace being “no longer our burden” as if the world has been trying so hard for years and is within its rights to turn its back. None of your views are grounded in reality. That’s what irks me.

  6. Toaf says:

    Iain, did the comment I was replying to change?

    Jason, I was going to mention the compassion element too. I suspect, however, that Iain considers his expression of such uncaring views as a legitimate way to stir debate and generate comments.

  7. Iain Hall says:

    It’s not about a lack of compassion Jason It is a profound pessimism about African culture and its apparent inability to govern well or wisely for the benefit of the people there. What with the reign of Mugarbe and so many other dictators running every country into the ground. Can you really blame me for not seeing any real hope?
    And it is not about me just wanting to stir debate Damian this is a blog and I just write what I think about the things I read about and how I feel about them,Give me one reason to be optimistic and I will be very happy to take it on board but I don’t see any at present.
    Oh and I was Just fixing Jason’s Typo 🙂

  8. Toaf says:

    Since 2005 it has transformed its economy through agricultural sector reform, gone from being a net importer reliant upon “aid” to a net exporter with strategic reserves, respected democratic government, gains against corruption… and all of this without a bunch of IMF or World Bank experts telling the government what to do.

  9. Iain Hall says:

    But also

    Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labor force and government expenditures, and is expected to have a significant impact on GDP by 2010.

  10. Toaf says:

    Iain, you wanted one example of something to be optimistic about. Progress doesn’t give you a sense of optimism? If not, you won’t be interested in any other examples, either.

  11. Jason says:

    Also, Iain – isn’t optimism normally oriented towards the future? You’re picking up problems in the present but Toaf is giving you reasons to think that things might get better.

    You know something about you, iain? You never, ever seem to change your mind about anything, no matter what evidence you are presented with. Have you noticed this?

    Also, what the hell is “African culture” anyway? What do berbers, Egyptians, Congolese and zulus have in common, besides living on a landmass we’ve arbitrarily described as a continent, or being human beings like you?

  12. Iain Hall says:

    Toaf you example does give me a very small twinkle of optimism that is may be possible but It still does not give me cause to change from my profound pessimism over all.

  13. Iain Hall says:

    Sure Jason optimism is about the future but it surely has to be informed by the history of the past and the reality of the present.

    I do change my mind about things but i will admit that it may take quite a while for me to do so. For instance up until about 15 years ago I was arguing most strongly for abortion on demand, euthanasia, and organ transplants but my position on those issues has changed and I now argue them differently.

  14. Iain Hall says:

    Stories like this do not help me find any optimism about Africa

  15. Jason says:

    Iain Africa is a big place, with many different cultures. You say your pessimism is informed by history and the present, but all I see are errors, and an unwillingness on your part to take on board anything Toaf says, even when he is actually in Africa.

    Don’t you think Toaf is a reliable guide to what’s happening in his part of Africa?

  16. Iain Hall says:

    to be fair Toaf has not actually said much about his African experience at all. and i am well aware that Africa is a big place with diverse cultures but that fact does not give me much cause for hope either.

  17. Toaf says:

    Iain, I’ve not bothered saying much because what I do say you ignore anyway, or suggest that it’s because I’m “too close” to the issues.

    On this issue, I would say that misrepresent are or ignorant of MONUC’s work in Congo, you simplify the conflict that is taking place, and you incorrectly characterise an entire continent on the basis of a conflict which you don’t seem to understand anyway. If you wanted to understand what is going on in Congo our discussion would take another form, but the fact is that you don’t care.

  18. Iain Hall says:

    Well make the case Damian, because all you have done here so far is bag me, You are shadow boxing arguments that I have never made to or about what you are saying about Africa.
    I want to find reasons to think that these problems can be solved long term but you are giving us nothing to work with here and you are in Kenya…
    Finally being profoundly pessimistic does not mean that I don’t care, I do, but it does mean that I do not want to entertain false hope.

  19. Toaf says:

    Hall, it’s your case to make, mate. Your post claims Africa is a basket case, MONUC has been a failure, and “we” shouldn’t be burdened by all of this anymore. Two of those assertions need to be backed up by facts, the third is your opinion and you’re welcome to back it up as you see fit. I don’t think we have anything more to discuss, do we?

  20. Angus Dei says:

    I’m old enough to remember when George Harrison et al started bringing attention to the cyclical starvation in Africa, which was nothing new to the world, just to western liberals. So, of course, the immediate and seemingly obvious solution was to send food, which only resulted in a higher population, which in turn only lead to the next cyclical starvation being a bigger problem.

    And, of course, the influx of western aid only helped to create and enable a new generation of utterly corrupt strongmen who took the aid for themselves, their families, and their fellow tribal cronies, while letting the rest starve anyway. That is, when they weren’t out and out murdering their opponents with the weapons they acquired with said aid.

    So, here we are: Western nations are still trying to cure the disease by feeding it with the food that will only exacerbate and prolong the misery, all in the name of compassion.

    This doesn’t seem overly difficult for me to wrap my brain around, so I’m mystified as to why more people don’t understand: Accepting reality is not hateful, and ignoring it is not compassion.

    We in the west don’t even have the excuse that these consequences were unintended anymore, because all of these consequences have been visible for decades.

  21. Iain Hall says:

    That sir ,is a bloody cop out and frankly i expected better from you Damian 😦
    it is very telling though that of all of the countries in Africa that You can only find one rather small one that has anything to be optimistic about. which sort of proves my point that most of the countries on that continent are either riven by incessant civil war, endemic crime and corruption, pandemic disease, or just plain incompetent governance and you expect this to engender hope for the future?

  22. Iain Hall says:

    Welcome to my Blog Angus, and you make some very useful points here about how aid has corrupted the productive capacity of Africa when we can see regimes like that in Zimbabwe turn was was the bread basket of east Africa under white rule into a nation of starving beggars within the span of ten years under Mugabe and his Marxism how can we think that there is hope?

  23. Toaf says:

    \When you asked for one example, I provided it. Maybe you want me to “name just ten”.

  24. Iain Hall says:

    That little meme is just a little over used in my opinion Damian 😉

  25. Toaf says:

    Touche; it is indeed.

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