Decimated by Ebola, the DRC needs international assistance; but peace more

21 Jul 2019

The DRC is in the clutches of a man made tragedy.

War, poverty and disease are an Unholy Trinity eating away the DRC.

Right from inception, the DRC had too many factors conspiring against the success of that country.

Colonialism brought misery.

When they left, the colonizers did not allow for a smooth transfer of power.

The first leader was assassinated by the west.

And in his place a stooge was planted.

Since then it has been one tragedy after another.

Democratic Republic of the Congo is a huge land mass that has known no peace for over fifty years.

The country is so large that governing it is almost impossible.

It is a country endowed with all kinds of resources, but sadly such resources are used not to develop citizens but to help sustain warlords and their private militias.

A recent presidential election has brought some hop, after a long period of postponements that were accompanied by bloodshed.

There remain large swaths of the DRC where government presence is literally absent.

Some of those areas, especially to the east have been actively at war since the early 1990s.

Governance or the lack of it has been DRC’s big scourge.

There are no structures of governance to talk about.

Peace with neighbours has at the very best been cosmetic.

The borders are porous. And because the country is so large borders are impossible to patrol or enforce any presence or order along them.

And now the country is facing a more pressing emergency; Ebola.

Over the last year alone, the World Health Organisation says close to 2000 people have died from Ebola.

There are no signs that the country is about to defeat the disease.

If anything Ebola is spreading.

And recently new cases were found in Goma, a large city where containing the disease will prove much harder.

The tragedy is that many of the people who died had not been in contact with a doctor.

For Ebola to be contained, a patient has to be vaccinated.

And in DRC there are many areas where facilities like clinics and hospitals are non-existent.

The WHO has responded by declaring a public health emergency.

The agency says Ebola in the DRC amounts to an emergency of international concern.

This is sufficient alarm coming from WHO. But is the rest of Africa listening?

Resources are being mobilized. But they are far from being enough.

True Ebola treatment needs vaccines. And there are not sufficient vaccines in the DRC to help fight Ebola.

More than vaccines, the DRC needs peace.

Uganda has reported a few cases of Ebola.

All the affected people had come into contact with people who had travelled to the DRC.

In the areas most affected, people are suspicious and even resentful of officials. They are seen as representatives of the state that wants to kill all of them.

Any efforts by these officials to ringfence and quarantine the infected are especially looked at with scorn.

This makes containing the disease doubly difficult.

The absence of peace is by far the biggest cause of the DRC problems.

Congo is at war with itself because of the pervasive poverty among its people.

Countries with functional state institutions and less poverty seldom go on a civil war.

This is because everybody feels they have a lot to lose.

That collective sense of belonging is enough to make everyone want to succeed and preserve peace.

But where the state is dysfunctional such as is the case in the DRC, outbreak of a civil war is never far away.

Looting and sheer scale of disparities fill people with hatred and resentment.

These are the things that DRC should work to correct.

DRC clearly cannot achieve that lone.

They need assistance from outside.

The starting point should be African Union.

Sadly it looks like the African Union is nowhere to be seen.