Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Why the world is ignoring Congo war

By Vava Tampa, Special to CNN
November 27, 2012 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
The M23 rebel group is fighting the Democratic Republic of Congo military for control of the country, and the violence is driving tens of thousands of Congolese out of their homes. Here on November 22, thousands fled the town of Sake and headed east to the camps for displaced in the village of Mugunga. The M23 rebel group is fighting the Democratic Republic of Congo military for control of the country, and the violence is driving tens of thousands of Congolese out of their homes. Here on November 22, thousands fled the town of Sake and headed east to the camps for displaced in the village of Mugunga.
HIDE CAPTION
Crisis in DR Congo
M23
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
Crisis in DR Congo
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vava Tampa: Why does crisis in Syria get extensive media coverage, but not the killing in Congo?
  • M23 is the newest militia gang terrorizing the local population
  • Conflicts in DR Congo estimated to have claimed more than 5.4 million lives

Editor's note: Vava Tampa, a native of Congo, is the founder of Save the Congo, a London-based campaign to tackle "the impunity, insecurity, institutional failure and the international trade of minerals funding the wars in Democratic Republic of the Congo." Follow Vava Tampa on twitter: @VavaTampa

(CNN) -- If humanitarian crises were listed by some sort of moral -- or editorial -- standards on the stock exchange, to help indicate which ones urgently require international news coverage and political action, shares of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) would have commanded international news headlines and extensive press coverage over the past 12 years.

The U.N. has labeled the DRC, Africa's second largest country, as the "rape capital of the world" because of the pace and scope of the use of rape as a weapon of war by proxy militia gangs fighting for control of Congo's easily appropriable and highly valuable natural resources, destined for sale in Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States.

The wars in that country have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- all combined and then doubled.

Vava Tampa, founder of Save the Congo.
Vava Tampa, founder of Save the Congo.

Yet we rarely hear anything about it. Indeed, one only need contrast media coverage of the latest Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza strip and Hamas rocket attacks into southern Israel, which have made front pages around the world, to the stunningly limited media coverage afforded to graphic accounts of atrocities committed that same week by M23, the newest militia gang terrorizing the local population.

Desperate families flee Congo

The same trend has been observed in the extensive coverage of the on-going, fast-moving and difficult-to-report civil war in Syria, which has claimed nearly 40,000 lives.

M23's murderous campaigns to besiege Congo's eastern mineral-rich provinces of North and South Kivu have left over 200,000 people in terrible conditions, killed countless and ushered in a dire humanitarian transgression.

The Rwandan government has been accused by the United Nations of backing M23 by providing it with arms, support and soldiers, but Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame, has denied the allegation.

Rebels advancing in Congo
Refugees flee from rebels in Congo
Life in Goma amid crisis
Congolese rebels take over Goma

The question here is not whether the human suffering in Congo deserves more media coverage because it is greater than that in Syria or Gaza, but rather, why has the crisis in Syria or Gaza qualified for extensive media coverage, but not the killing and raping industries in Congo?

I doubt that this is because of a shortage of sobering imagery of Congo's killing fields or a lack of first-hand testimonies from survivors, or a lack of human rights and humanitarian reports and assessments of the situation.

Is it due to the geographical or cultural distance between London or Washington and Congo? Or are Western media just reluctant, if not uninterested, to cover it because no Western interests or ally is endangered by it?

Would the coverage the situation in Congo receives be the same if it was happening in Europe or if Congo spoke English rather than French?

What if Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or his disciples were implicated in funding murderous militia gangs in Congo? Or if the killing was between black Africans and Arabs? Or if minerals funding Congo's killing and raping industries benefited the East more than the West?

But as an activist, I believe that the editors of news organizations such as CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC must flood the airwaves with vivid images and news stories on the human sufferings in Congo. Newspapers such the Guardian, in the UK, and the New York Times must drumbeat front-page news stories on the wars and human tragedy engulfing that country.

Unless they tip that balance a little and force policy makers in Washington and internationally to pay more attention and act, the killing, raping and looting that have thus far claimed over 5.4 million Congolese lives, and continue to leave 1,100 women raped every single day, could continue to unfold undetected by the camera lenses of Western media and excluded from Western political agenda.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Vava Tampa.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
African Voices
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Through a variety of exhibitions including one signed off by the artist himself, Nigeria is presenting J.D. Okhai Ojeikere to the world one last time.
September 8, 2014 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
Neurosurgeon Kachinga Sichizya talks about caring for newborns and mothers from underprivileged backgrounds.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
Mulatu Astake may be the father of a musical genre: Ethio-jazz. But when he talks about the art form, he tends to focus on its scientific merits.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
U.S. response to Ebola is key for setting global example, writes global health advocate Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
One of the most debilitating medical conditions in sub-Saharan Africa isn't fatal. In fact, it's easily curable.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0953 GMT (1753 HKT)
Daniel
Kenyan funny man Daniel "Churchill" Ndambuki chooses five emerging comics from the continent to keep an eye on -- they are going to be big!
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)
African contemporary art is thriving, says author Chibundu Onuzo.
November 3, 2014 -- Updated 1355 GMT (2155 HKT)
Amos Wekesa has seen a lot of changes in his country. Today, the self-made millionaire oversees Great Lakes Safaris, one of the largest tour operators in Uganda.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1010 GMT (1810 HKT)
Photographer Ernest Cole made it his life mission to capture the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
In the largely male-dominated world of the motorsport, South African superbike racer Janine Davies is an anomaly.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
Athi-Patra Ruga,
For anyone that needs convincing that African art is the next big thing, they need look no further than 1:54, the London-based contemporary African art fair.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
A growing list of popular African authors have been steadily picking up steam --and fans -- across the globe over the last several years.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
South Africa Music Legends stamps
Artist Hendrik Gericke puts a spotlight on iconic musical legends from South Africa in these incredible monochrome illustrations.
Each week African Voices brings you inspiring and compelling profiles of Africans across the continent and around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT