I’ve returned recently from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the world’s poorest country, where fighting is flaring up again. More than 5 million people have already died since the Second Congo War started in 1998, making it one of the greatest humanitarian disasters anywhere since the end of World War 2.
My report in The Nation covers a number of subjects, including how a huge international mining company and a small group of Congolese officials may have cheated the Congolese people out of as much as $5.5 billion.
One big question; why is the mainstream Western press paying so little attention, as contrasted with, say, Syria or, in past years, Darfur? Jason Stearns, whose Dancing in the Glory of Monsters is a brilliant and comprehensive history of the Congo’s recent past, pointed out, “The New York Times, one of the few American newspapers with extensive foreign coverage, gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, when Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly ten times the rate of those in Darfur.”
Of course traditional Western racism and indifference to Africa plays a role. But I wonder if there’s not another, very 21st century explanation; the Congo, unlike Darfur, has no Islamic threat, whether real or invented. Possible proof of this theory is the two big recent Times stories (July 18 and 19) about the rise of jihadism in the northern part of the west African country of Mali; the first article was the paper’s front-page lead.
The Times stories on Mali are excellent. But why can’t they send at least one of their reporters to the Congo, which is no harder to get to? Does a group of Congolese have to proclaim an Islamic jihad to get a little more coverage?