Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hollow Apologies

It strikes me as incredibly ironic and sad that on the very day Canada's Governor General was in Rwanda apologizing for our failure to act on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, our parliament is debating whether or not we should be sending peacekeepers into the Democratic Republic of Congo to deal with the rising levels of violence in that country.

Said Michaelle Jean today: “The world's failure to respond adequately to the genocide is a failure in which Canada – as part of the international community – readily acknowledges its fair share of responsibility." My fear is that the same lack of response Canada and the international community displayed sixteen years ago is about to rear its ugly head again in Congo.

Apologies aside, did we learn nothing from the Rwandan debacle? Are we willing once again to Shake Hands With the Devil as retired general Romeo Delaire so poignantly described the situation in Rwanda? We're not talking about stepping into the middle of another country's civil war or military conflict. No, this is an attempt to pursue peace between warring factions who use rape, mutilation, and murder against civilians - mostly women and children - in an effort to gain control of a terrorized citizenry who mostly just want the violence to end.

I've read a lot of comments on the Globe & Mail website saying in effect, that if all the Africans just want to kill each other off, we should let them. Tell that to the woman who has had her life threatened and her daughter raped simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These types of conflicts always take their greatest toll on the innocent, on those who simply want to live their lives in peace away from the evils of war and violence. I spoke with a wonderful woman from Kenya yesterday who was the victim of this kind of violence. I dare anyone to say, "I don't care", after hearing her story. It's easy to say we shouldn't get involved from the comfort of our living rooms in Canada but not so easy when you realize a nine or ten year old has had her innocence taken forever in the name of the revolution.

We can't abandon people and countries simply because the situation looks bleak. The situation in Ireland looked equally bleak until the Good Friday Accord put an end to decades of sectarian violence. Is there any reason why that can't happen in Congo as well? Be it mortars or machetes, there is always reason to work for peace, even if that peace requires a external nudge forward every once in a while.

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