What Rwandans and Congolese are really like
Jeffrey Gettleman’s reporting from east Africa and, increasingly of late, the Great Lakes region is informative, insightful, and deeply necessary for anyone interested in keeping up-to-date on the region. Every once in a while, though, he demonstrates that he is a mere mortal, slipping into some unfortunate and unhelpful journalistic clichés.
An article from last week, for example, contains some exceedingly useful and timely analysis of the disruptive role of the Rwandan government in the lawless eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. About halfway through, however, Gettleman veers into a “Tale of Two Africas.” This is, Gettleman informs the reader, presumably in case s/he doesn’t have a map handy, “a true David-and-Goliath matchup.” And then we get the side-by-side list:
While Congo is vast, Rwanda is packed. While the Congolese are often playful, known for outlandish dress and great music, Rwandans are reserved. While Congo is naturally rich, Rwanda is perennially poor.
I’ll buy the former (though the cramped camps in eastern Congo would appear to contradict the dichotomy), but the second seems a gross generalization. And unless “reserved” Rwanda is interfering in its neighbor out of jealousy of the Congolese’s “outlandish dress and great music,” then I really don’t think such characterizations have a place here.
(image from flickr user worthbak under a Creative Commons license)