Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Blood Cows"??

You heard that right: bovines are the latest "conflict resource" to accurse the African continent. According to CSMonitor:

"Warring rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo are stealing and selling livestock to finance a conflict sparked by spillover from the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 were killed.

Vast and volatile, the Democratic Republic of Congo has long suffered from conflicts fought over its reserves of gold, copper, uranium, and coltan, a mineral needed in cellphones and other electronics. For years, armed groups have sought control over mines and forests, their acquisitions of wealth fueling cycles of violence. Cattle may sound less glamorous than precious metals, but they're accessible.

"It's just like the mining resources," says Alpha Sow, head of the local office of the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC). "Part of this money goes to buy munitions."
OK, good luck trying to "securitize" that cause. It didn't work with coltan, it didn't work with timber; even "blood diamonds" didn't catch on in the public consciousness without a major movie (who is going to pay $9 USD to watch "Blood Cows"?) and only then because of a successful marketing campaign that appealed to US consumers.

Since most US beef is not raised in the DRC, it's not clear what purchase this trope will have on galvanizing attention to the Congo. What this news story shows is the inventiveness of militias in the Great Lakes region and the likelihood that any crackdown on a specific "conflict resource" will simply evince substitution effects. The unanswered question is what if anything the international communtiy can / ought to do.

Plus, exactly what does it say about the US media that it takes a story like this to be "news," when the regional war in Africa's Great Lakes region took 5,400,000 lives by August 2007, involves at least nine African nations, thousands of child combatants and shows no signs of abating? In comparison to the media blitz over the Russo-Georgian "war" (which may not even count by social science standards) this is appalling.

1 comment:

LFC said...

I recall that Time did a cover story on the DRC/Great Lakes region war a few years back. WP, NYT and a few other outlets have made occasional efforts also. But generally, I agree that the U.S. media have not paid it enough attention.

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