What Do You Get When You Add Two Countries And Two Dictators?

Two particular African nations, namely the DRC and Libya, are facing political challenges. Both the DRC and Libya are currently governed by ruthless dictators whose sole purpose is to remain in power. With corrupt governments ruling for years, their citizens are at a crossroads: they seek new government reforms that will provide stability, liberty, freedom of speech and choice, and basic human rights which are accorded to all citizens of the free world. Intervention from allied countries such as Canada should be a viable option in order to promote and enforce democracy. Currently Canada is serving on a peacekeeping mission only, however both countries are now asking Canada to increase aid and to contribute more troops to the UN’s mission. Is Canada prepared to make a commitment towards one of these two countries? This report will focus on the conflicts involving DRC and Libya, their desperate situations, and their pleas for international aid. Furthermore, I will attempt to persuade my readers in agreeing with my views on realism and the DRC.

The current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) begs the question, “How did this all begin?” It draws upon the unresolved issues that stem from the Rwandan conflict and genocide in 1994. The leader of the Congolese rebel movement, General Laurent Nkunda, insisted that he fought to protect the Tutsi community from attacks by the Rwanda Hutu rebels, who fled to the Congo after the 1994 genocide. Known as the DFLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), they have lived in the east of Congo for about 15 years. This military mission began with the Rwandan army in January and February 2009. It’s been supported by the UN peacekeepers.

A vast country with immense economic resources, the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) has the potential of being a wealthy country. An $870 million diamond industry, more than 30% of world’s diamond reserves, second largest producer of tantalum – used in mobile phones, computers to other electronics, and the world’s largest producer of cobalt ore, the DRC, endowed with these natural resources of vast potential wealth, is a much sought-after country because of its trade patterns linking it to the Western markets.  It is no wonder that General Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi, wants to control the DRC; his real objective for obtaining more power.

The DRC, Africa’s third largest country, and home to more than 68 million people, has faced nothing more than violence, disease and poverty since 1998. Over 5 million people have been killed, and 1.3 million people have been forced out of their homes. The UN’s presence in the DRC is currently as only a peace-keeping force observing without involvement. This puts them in a difficult position because they are not living up to their mandate: they are supposed to protect civilians. According to the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) report by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, its basic principles are as stated: “Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect”.  This places the UN in a very contradictory position wherein they must protect civilians yet, at the same time, support a Congolese army that is often killing civilians. Human Rights groups have condemned the UN for merely standing by while atrocities are committed by the rebels, forcing the UN peace-keepers to rethink their mission in the DRC.  Current sanctions must be enforced, embargoes reinstated and international attention must be redirected on the DRC by the global community. Reports that thousands of people die every day from gun violence is just an example of how lax the arms controls are. It is imperative that the UN put forth resolutions aimed at protecting civilians caught in a political power struggle.

With all said and done the prospect of peace in the DRC is not in the foreseeable future. When governments impose new restrictions on arms dealers, they simply push the trade underground. The illegal flow of weapons is virtually impossible to control. Previous attempts at imposing such restrictions on the Congolese armed rebels and militias failed and government soldiers are still battling militias for control. Neither side has the strength to win, but both have the resources to continue fighting indefinitely. In the meanwhile, DRC continues to suffer.

Turning our attention to the crisis in Libya, we encounter the same dynamics in place as with the DRC. Muammar Gaddafi is currently the Arab world’s longest-serving leader, having ruled Libya since 1969. It now seems that his 41-year reign is about to be toppled. In a speech broadcasted from his home he said, “he would rather die a martyr, than to step down”. He called upon all his supporters to cleanse Libya “house by house” until all the protesters have surrendered. He claimed that those who did not love him did not deserve to live. A cunning, iron-fisted, eccentric ruler, frequently describing his own people as “backwards”, Gaddafi enjoyed a reputation among many African nations as an experienced and wise statesman. Earning the praise of such notables as Nelson Mandela, Gaddafi figured prominently in many African organizations and Humanitarian associations. Since the 1990’s however, Gaddafi’s role in politics has changed: many of his ideals and personal goals had never materialized and he has become obsessed with creating WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Acting out of fear for the future of his own regime, Gaddafi turned to Islamic socialism, following an accordance to his Muslim tradition. Not seen as a terrorist state, Libya is now being sanctioned by the UN, since anti-government protests have erupted.  The North African State is clearly heading into a civil war.

The current situation in Libya had humble beginnings. Upsets in delays of the building of housing units and over political corruption, made protesters break into and occupy housing that the government was building. Inspired by the Egyptian & Tunisian uprisings, Libyans called for demonstrations to be held in support of greater freedoms. Confrontations began on the 15th of February 2011. Over 600 protesters assembling in front of police headquarters were quickly and violently broken up, resulting in 38-injuries. Within hours, police and security buildings were set on fire and a call for the end of the Gaddafi regime began.  Composed primarily of civilians such as teachers, lawyers, oil workers, and students, the rebels grew stronger, and threatened the Gaddafi administration.

In response, Gaddafi shut down all internet communications and arrested all who contacted the media. International journalists were banned from reporting. Cell phone service was down and landline service was sporadic. Within a week, the uprising had spread across the country and Gaddafi was struggling to retain control.

The International Criminal Court warned Gaddafi that he was being investigated for crimes against humanity. Gaddafi, however, was defiant. He viewed all anti-government protesters as insignificants who deserved the death penalty.

Always presenting himself as an Arab nationalist, Gaddafi is a shrewd operator having survived several attempts on his life. He has supported many armed groups with all alleged involvements in attacks, in both Europe and Africa.  Viewed as a martyr by those loyal to him, Gaddafi has managed to rule Libya with a mixture of control and popularity. With Libya being the third largest oil producer in Africa and with the revolt driving oil prices above $108 a barrel, it is no wonder that Colonel Gaddafi is unwilling to give her up. He has been quoted as saying, “I am not going to leave this land and I will die here.” His links to terrorism are legendary and he claims to having ordered the bombing of the Lockerbie plane crash in December 1988 – quite the claim to fame.

World organizations such as the UN Security Council, the Human Rights Council and Amnesty International are calling on Libya to respect human rights and international humanitarian law obligations. Sanctions have been imposed but if these are to have any effect at all, the Security Council needs to enforce and authorize the military to take immediate action. Cries continue for a no-fly zone to be imposed, an arms embargo to be enforced, and for humanitarian aid to continue to flow. As it stands, Gaddafi has violated basic human rights, and all laws governing international behaviour. His complete disregard for life in general sends a strong message to the global community. As his people brave the bloodshed and cope with many shortages of food and medical supplies, Gaddafi continues to seethe with anger, refusing to bow to calls even from his own diplomats, soldiers and protestors. He is working with his sons on a plan to regroup in Tripoli, his birthplace, which is assumed to remain loyal.

Libya is no stranger to external interventions. In the past, invasions in Libya by the US and allied forces did little to change the mindset of those who intended on keeping Libya controlled.  Without a doubt the International community needs to come together and with a vengeance impose military intervention in Libya. Libyans need to gain power in order to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. Military support can provide this type of power and can also guarantee emotional stability, which in turn will give the confidence to a population that has been terrorized for over four decades. Muammar Gaddafi is a ruthless dictator unwilling to admit defeat and the only solution to this current crisis is to fight war with war. The majority of Libyans want Gaddafi exiled from Libya. They want the current dictatorship to be replaced by justice and democracy. NATO’s intervention is imminent. The sanctions and embargoes have definitely crippled Libya, but it seems to me that it is not Gaddafi who is suffering but his people. Where is the justice in that?

A model of peace and security, human rights and social justice, Canada and its foreign policy goals is committed to promoting greater human rights, negotiations with countries at war and to restoring stability in countries that are afflicted with bloodshed and human loss. Canada is influential in encouraging greater respect for its foreign policy in countries that are currently under threat. In trying to define the DRC and Canada’s foreign policy roles, we find that the democratic process in the DRC is in a minute form. The Congolese need a more active role in their own govenment and must at all costs pursue negotiations for peace.

When referring to realism we must also discuss the issue of Responsibility To Protect, a doctrine which enables the UN to take action when countries are endangering their own citizens. Human practice consists of norms, rules, and identity. This is how the world’s sociopolitical structure is constructed. Realist’s believe that all countries are inherently aggressive and obsessed with security. They believe that there are no universal principles with which countries may guide their actions. They must arrive at relations with themselves on their own, rather then being dictated to by an outside authority. Currently in the DRC, the conditions are intolerable and their citizens cannot coexist. It is a realist’s belief that human nature is conflictual and as such it is up to each country to guide themselves accordingly. It must use a pragmatic approach to resolve any problems it is faced with. Only the Congolese are aware of their plight and only the Congolese can resolve it. Canada should maintain its peacekeeping efforts within the DRC while monitoring closely the situation at hand. How will a country and its citizens learn if someone is always there to pick them up when they fall?


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About Chameleon

-Multi-Sport Athlete, Coach, Geographer/Cartographer, Linguaphile, Statistician, Vexillologist
This entry was posted in Corruption and Power and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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