One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Could Rebel Fighting Possibly Be Good for Gorillas?

In the Year of the Gorilla, and amidst a consistent panoply of violence, comes this bit of surprising good news:

The population of mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park has risen by 12.5%, a census shows.

Doesn't seem too worried about rebels...

Doesn't seem too worried about rebels...

Rebels have had control of the park for a over a year, and the first census taken since then shows an increase in their population?  This is either an anomaly, or it belies the convention intuition that having a huge protected forest in the hands of murderous rebels probably does not bode well for primates.  That, or some entirely different explanation that has more to do with gorilla demographics than I’d care to know.

With only the first two options available, I’d say a little bit of both.  Not to disparage the benefits provided by the gorillas’ caretakers — the deplorable attacks against whom, one could reasonably wager, have been a destabilizing factor with regard to the area’s gorilla population (and they have a blog, so there’s no way I could disparage them) — but rebel presence in the enormous Virunga National Park may not have affected gorillas as much as is typically assumed.  Over 3,000 square miles. a couple hundred gorillas are not too likely to get hit by a stray bullet.

Really, though, the relative well-being of the region’s gorillas should just provide further reason to the, shall we say, morally eerie logic of bemoaning gorilla deaths when many, many more human beings are being raped and killed.  May the Year of the Gorilla continue successfully, but may the Year of Peace in Eastern Congo flourish at least equally.

cross-posted (hopefully soon) at UN Dispatch

(image of a gorilla in Virunga National Park, from flickr user bertieboy70 under a Creative Commons license)


January 27, 2009 Posted by | DR Congo | , , | Leave a comment

Treason is a very scary word

The dynamics within DR Congo’s most infamous rebel group appear to be, uh, sorting themselves out:

Rebel commanders in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have pledged their loyalty to Gen Laurent Nkunda, following claims he had been toppled.

His spokesman said those rebel officials saying he had been ousted had committed “high treason”.

Under the standards of either a notoriously rights-abusing rebel leader or his even more brutal rival — known as “the Terminator” and indicted for war crimes — “high treason” likely means only one thing: summary execution.  Human rights organizations, please pay attention.

UPDATE: My read on Bosco Ntaganda’s treason cum execution may have been a bit premature.  Well, that’s if you can trust the justice system of, um, Laurent Nkunda…

January 7, 2009 Posted by | DR Congo | , , | 1 Comment

An important job for NASA

Cartography, here we come.

Cartography, here we come.

If NASA and Barack Obama’s team could stop their apparent sniping, maybe they could get to work constructing some sort of multimillion-dollar craft to go deep into space and construct…maps.

If Africa’s conflicts were mapped from outer space, those conflict zones would look like three holes into which entire regions are tumbling.

I think the State Deparment already has some pretty good maps identifying where Somalia, Darfur, and DR Congo are located (Africa!).  Granted, they probably don’t have cool 3-d effects to depict these areas “tumbling” into holes, but I’m not sure how much that would help resolve the conflicts anyway.

Sending satellites to track pirates, on the other hand, seems like a great idea.

(image from flick user D’Amico Rodrigo under a Creative Commons license)

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Darfur, DR Congo, Humor, Somalia, U.S. Foreign policy | , , , , | Leave a comment

What Rwandans and Congolese are really like

"Reserved" Rwandans and ___ Congolese traveling across the border

"Reserved" Rwandans and Congolese in "outlandish dress" traveling across the border

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)

December 8, 2008 Posted by | Africa, DR Congo, media | | 1 Comment