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DR Congo: New mass killings, weak media attention

While fighting in North Kivu – which displaced 250,000 people earlier this year – has been somewhat quiet of late, there are now reports of mass killings in a different part of Congo. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group, has gone on a rampage in the Haut-Uélé region in northeastern Congo, near the Sudanese border. The attacks are in response to recent military operations against the LRA bases in the surroundings of the Garamba National Park, launched in December by Ugandan, Southern Sudanese and Congolese forces. According to the NGO Caritas, over 400 people have been killed around the towns of Faradje, Duru, Bangade, Gurba, and Doruma since the 25th of December:

The Director of Caritas Dungu-Doruma says that the Ugandan rebels attacked a Christmas Day concert in Faradje City organised by the Catholic church there. He says the rebels returned the next morning to continue their killing spree. He says approximately 150 people were killed over the two days.

At the same time, another attack was perpetrated in Duru, north of Dungu. Caritas reports 75 people killed and the Church burned down.

Caritas reports that the killing continued along the Sudan border, including in Bangadi, Doruma and Gurba. Caritas reports 48 dead in Bangadi and that in Gurba 213 people were killed. Approximately 6,500 people have found refuge in the area with the Catholic church.

Caritas also reports that children are being abducted by the LRA, who use them as child soldiers.

The MSF (Doctors without Borders) team in Dungu received the following report from the town of Faradje:

First information on the attack on Faradje, a city of 25,000 people in northeastern DRC, reached the MSF team in Dungu on the evening of Christmas Day. […] On the following morning, a nurse form Tadu, a small town 20 km south of Faradje, signaled by radio the arrival in his area of thousands of people fleeing the attack, probably around 15,000. The nurse confirmed that Faradje’s head physician and another civil servant had been killed in the attack. According to him, many seriously wounded victims were still stuck in the city’s hospital, which was left without proper equipment following looting by LRA soldiers.

The Caritas blog posted three pictures of survivors from the Christmas day killings in Faradje by Emmanuel Bofoe:


(Photo by Emmanuel Bofoe of Caritas Internationali)

The conservation blog Baraza of the WildlifeDirect network reported an LRA attack in the headquarters of Garamba National Park on January 2nd:

Despite strong resistance by the park rangers together with elements from the Congolese Armed Forces, numerous casualties and material damages have been incurred. A first report mentions 8 people killed, including two park rangers and two wives of wardens, and 13 injured, most of them by bullets. An unconfirmed number of rebels have also been killed or wounded.

Several essential buildings of the headquarters have also been destroyed, along with many items of transport and communications equipment, and stocks of fuel and food rations.

In a different post, the Baraza blog described the situation in the area as “much worse than before”:

One person has described the outcome of this failed military offensive against the LRA as the equivalent of “stirring up a hornets nest”

Dahee Nam at Impunity Watch Africa reports that on Sunday December 4 another attack was launched in the region but no casualties occurred since the targets had fled before the rebels arrived.

Michael Kleinman of the Humanitarian Relief blog comments on the humanitarian situation in the area:

In addition, as many as 30,000 villagers have fled the area. According to a recent IRIN article – Deadly LRA attacks prompts exodus in northeastern Congo – aid agencies are struggling to reach those in need: “The military operations and the LRA presence make it very difficult for humanitarian agencies to operate, and some areas are currently totally inaccessible to aid workers.”

Kakaluigi [Fr], an Italian missionary working in Eastern Congo, compares the media reaction to these massacres in Eastern Congo to the recent ones in Gaza in a post titled “Scandal!“:

À Gaza ( Palestine) les Israeliens viennent de massacrer 400 personnes en l'espace d'une semaine, il y'a eu manifestation à travers le monde et les mèdias de tout genre ne font que nous bombarder avec leurs images de sang et de morts.

À Dungu- Faradje (RDC) c'est en presence de la Monuc que la Rébellion Ougandaise vient d'assassiner plus de 400 personnes en l'espace d'une journée, mais silence total à travers le monde, pas une image et même pas une journée de deuil au pays concerné.

In Gaza (Palestine), Israelis have just massacred 400 people in a week, there have been demonstrations all over the world and all types of media have been bombarding us with images of blood and the dead.

In Dungu-Faradje (DRC), in the presence of Monuc Ugandan rebels have just assassinated over 400 people in a day, but there has been complete silence all over the world, not one image and not even a day of mourning in the affected country.

In a similar vein Hugues Serraf, blogging at La tribune du vaticinateur [Fr] of Rue 89, wonders:

Si un mort israélien vaut plusieurs morts palestiniens, combien faut-il de cadavres congolais pour un linceul gazaoui?

[…] Comment un conflit qui a déjà fait quatre millions de morts en dix ans, et tue encore plus d’un millier de civils chaque jour du fait du chaos alimentaire et sanitaire qu’il entraîne, peut-il être aussi peu couvert? Comment les 271 victimes de la LRA (hypothèse basse, rappelons-le) de ces dernières semaines ont-elles pu échapper à la vigilance de nos reporters, de nos analystes, voire de nos manifestants?

If an Israeli death is worth several Palestinian ones, how many Congolese corpses are needed for a Gazan shroud?

[…] How come a conflict that has already caused four million deaths in ten years, and that is still killing more than a thousand civilians every day as a result of the food and health crisis that it is causing, can receive such little coverage? How come the 271 victims of the LRA (a low estimate, let's not forget it) of the last couple of weeks could slip out of the vigilance of our reporters, analysts, even our demonstrators?

Stop the war in North Kivu, a blog written by an international aid worker in Eastern Congo, reflects on the “ignorance of African wars by Western public opinion and Western media”:

I am convinced that the thunderous silence of Western media regarding horror in African conflicts entails an enormous, and unavoidable, ethic question. If five million people die in a given place, we as human beings have the obligation to know that this has happened. It is a moral obligation. We must know, the same way that we all know that millions of Jewish men, women and children were exterminated in Germany in the Second World War. However, we don´t know that more than five million Congolese have died as a result of the war since 1998.

Citizens of an information age have a right to know about it, and victims have a right for their suffering to be told, and known.

14 comments

  • I agree, the coverage of the African violence is very low in occident. The world must know the crimes of several African governments against his citizens.

  • A friend of mine who was freelancing on the Congo conflict in Nairobi told me that the BBC had instructed him not to bother sending dispatches if casualties were fewer than 50…

  • Carolina

    It is truly disheartening and unjust that the is a lack of news coverage of what is happening in DRC and Zimbabwe, to name only two of the several countries that we do not get any information on. What action can we take to change this?

  • BRE

    I’ve also been contemplating the comparison between the massive media coverage of the lastest Israeli-Hamas conflict vs. the global news coverage of atrocities and killings carried out by militias and renegade elements of the DRC Army in the Congo.

    The reasons for differences in reporting are many. I believe the Israeli-Palestine conflict(s) garner more attention and coverage from international news media because signficantly more readers, viewers, and listeners are interested in the outcome of those battles vs. what is presently happening in the DR Congo. Commerical news companies have to make money by selling advertising and to a lesser degree subscriptions, so big audience numbers are key to their business models.

    Of course one could criticize the international press and news media about how they report upon each of these important stories, but to single out Western media companies as providing poor or no coverage of the recent LRA atrocities against civilians in the DRC is bordering on ignorance___at the least it is an obvious attempt to distort the facts.

    Practically all of the information that I have read and viewed online about these killings has been from Western news sources, not Eastern news sources or whatever the opposite of ‘Western news’ is supposed to be in the minds of some people. Reuters, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC News, The IHT, all have covered the story. Name me 5 non-Western commercial news sources that have done a better job than these respected news sources I’ve listed above (not you Elia, but the anti-Western media whiners who may be reading this comment).

    This Italian missionary working in the wild, wild East of the DRC and screaming “SCANDAL!” writes “In Gaza, Israelis have just massacred more than 400 Palestinians in a week…”___ this guy has just blown any chance of objectivity in his reporting on the crisis by leading with such a d–b-ss statement as that. The (presumed) French author at ‘Rue 89’ is off-the-wall in his use of a similar statement in his post, “If an Israeli death is worth several Palestinian ones, how many Congolese deaths are worth a Gazan shroud?”. Who are these guys and what are they trying to sell? Objectivity? Ich bitte dich! Have you ever read or seen a report about Palestinians in Gaza (or anywhere eles in the Middle East) taking to the streets to protest for the rights of victims of war atrocities in the eastern Congo? Non!

    Try an online news search using the terms “Congo, LRA, mass killings, massacres” and see for yourself if the Western press and news media have ignored the recent LRA killings in the Congo. Try the same search in languages other than those spoken in Western countries just for kicks. See what I mean? Non?

    People need to give the better news media professionals (journalists, editors, photographers, publishers, and support staff) a break. It is important that we learn to recognize and acknowledge good journalism when we see it (media literacy) whether it is coming from seasoned professional journalists working for big news organizations or from independent and amateur citizen journalists working hard online and in the blogosphere.

    Nonetheless, thanks for the DRC update Elia, it was very useful for my own personal interests.

  • paula

    Hiya, Please sign my petition and pass it on.

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/DRCONGOSOS/

    Thankyou

    Paula

  • […] Beitrag erschien zuerst auf Global Voices. Die Übersetzung erfolgte durch Martin Ruopp, Teil des “Project Lingua“. Die […]

  • BRE, I’ve heard a number of times the argument “the Israeli-Palestine conflict(s) garner more attention and coverage from international news media because signficantly more readers, viewers, and listeners are interested in the outcome of those battles”, but who decides what interests the audience the most? The media.

    Perhaps people would be more interested in what is happening in the DRC or in other parts of Africa if international media would give it the same type of coverage as it gives to the Middle East. I believe people are interested in following stories that they are familiar with, they know the background of, etc. and so how can they be interested in what they are ignorant about. For more on that, I recommend to everyone this post in Ethan Zuckerman’s blog which was written over two years ago but in my opinion still holds true today. BRE, I see you commented on it as well, and although you raise very good points I’d have to agree with Ethan’s answer:

    The question for me is not whether it’s possible for people to get information on DRC – it’s whether they will. I would like to see news outlets have less of a monofocus on the current crisis in [Lebanon – substitute with Gaza]

    And your point about Western media being the only one reporting on African conflicts, or giving them a somewhat decent coverage, misses what the last two bloggers quoted in this post were trying to say: why is international media (not just Western, but media in general) don’t give the same type of space and resources for correspondents that they give to the Middle East. I don’t think any of them meant to say that there was no coverage whatsoever of the DRC, but simply to compare the two conflicts.

  • […] conflicts in Africa receive such little media attention, in particular the horrors unfolding in Kivu, is an age-old question (as persistent as the question […]

  • @BRE, your logic is based around approaching this issue of reporting from how it currently sits. You need to back up a bit and look at the fact that reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict has consistently been blown out of proportion for decades, which is why it seems that people “want” more of these stories. For instance, if people were only to see advertisements for peanuts all the time, then no one would really buy almonds or macadamia nuts and it would seem that all folks wanted were peanuts. Supply and demand doesn’t really work when it comes to the media as the variable of choice is often neutralized.
    Journalists, for better or worse, always have an agenda and this is one instance where the agenda does nothing to aid reporting of events in Sub-Saharan Africa. So yes, I think you can take the journalists to task on this issue.

  • […] que os conflitos na África recebem tão pouca atenção [en] da mídia, e especialmente os horrores que se desenrolam em Kivu, é uma questão antiga (tão […]

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