Da The Guardian del 16/02/2006
Originale su http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1710563,00.html

Africa's forgotten crises

di Simon Tisdall

In Africa everything is bigger. Since the second intifada began in 2000 approximately 4,480 Palestinians and Israelis have died - but that is equivalent to a long weekend in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where, the UN says, 1,200 people are dying every day from war-related causes. Since 1997, nearly 4 million have died, their passing relatively unremarked and unreported.

Hurricane Katrina temporarily displaced tens of thousands in the southern US last summer amid worldwide media coverage. In Sudan, about 2 million civilians remain homeless three years after the Darfur conflict ignited. Almost unnoticed, their numbers rose by 30,000 in January due to renewed militia depredations.

In Congo and Sudan the international community's efforts to do better gathered pace this week. But the vast scale of the countries' problems, coupled with doubts about the developed world's commitment to resolving them, does not encourage optimism, says Tom Cargill, of the Africa programme of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

"The west can try to force the pace although in the end it's up to the people on the ground," said Mr Cargill. "But there is often a lack of political will to make the difficult decisions."

One such decision looms for the EU, which has been asked to send troops to support UN peacekeepers ahead of Congo's first democratic elections, due by June. The process is seen as critical to the country's stabilisation following the 1997-2003 war. But fighting is continuing in North Kivu and elsewhere in eastern Congo. "In Katanga province, tens of thousands of people have been displaced by sustained violence and atrocities," the UN reported this week.

Brussels co-launched a $680m (£389m) UN appeal on Monday to fund pre-election projects such as water, food and shelter for returning refugees. Calling Congo a "forgotten crisis", Britain pledged $100m in new aid. But when it comes to deploying troops, EU countries are hesitating and some, such as Belgium, the former colonial power, have refused.

Yet improved security is a pre-condition for progress, analysts say. "If the Congo is to have any hope of peace and development, security sector reform is the vital issue," said Caty Clement, of the independent International Crisis Group. "Everything else, from elections to humanitarian assistance to economic activity, depends on establishing a secure environment." The EU should expand its support for army and police reform, an ICG report urged.

The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, tried to gee up peace-making in Darfur, on a visit this week to Abuja, Nigeria, where Sudan's government is locked in long-running talks with rebel groups. The global community would do all it could, he assured delegates, but "what it now wants to see is an end to the haggling and posturing and the start of real action by you to put Darfur back together". He brandished various carrots and sticks. But Mr Cargill said Sudan's problems, often unresponsive to outside prodding, might prove so again - making it once again a matter of political will.

The UN requested American assistance this week for a planned peacekeeping force in Darfur. But any such force will not deploy for at least a year. And despite condemning the situation there as genocide, the US has already said it will not risk its troops. In Africa, even betrayals are bigger.

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