For more than 100 years DRC has endured horror upon horror with barely any outcry. It wouldn’t be allowed to continue elsewhere
ome lives matter more than others: the “hierarchy of death”, they call it. The millions killed, maimed and traumatised in the Democratic Republic of Congo are surely at the bottom of this macabre pile. The country was the site of the deadliest war since the fall of Adolf Hitler, and yet I doubt most people in the west are even aware of it. No heart-wrenching exclusives at the top of news bulletins; no mounting calls for western militaries to “do something”.
We are rightly appalled at a barbaric conflict in Syria that has stolen the lives of 200,000 civilians; and yet up to 6 million people are believed to have perished in the DRC. Not that the mainstream media alone can be berated for this astonishing lack of attention. The left have rightly championed the cause of a Palestinian people subjected to decades-long occupation and subjugation: surely the misery of the DRC does not deserve this neglect.
Although the murderous intensity of the war peaked between 1998 and 2003, the misery has persisted. According to Oxfam, civilians in the east of the country still face exploitation at the hands of armed groups. The UN has labelled the country “the rape capital of the world”. Women, girls and boys have been systematically raped as a weapon of war. Back in 2011, it was estimated that 48 women were raped every hour in the country. Men were raped, too: there are stories of men being raped three times a day for three years. Then there’s the cannibalism: at one point, pygmies in the north east were being killed and eaten by rebels.
It was a war that was remorseless when it came to the innocent: when 45,000 people were being killed every month, around half of them were small children, even though they only represented a fifth of the population. The war triggered devastating waves of starvation and disease which claimed the lives of millions.