Sunday, June 15, 2008

When Police Are Criminals

Which is worse, the cure or the disease? The police or the criminals? One of the themes of Heart of Diamonds is how the good guys aren't always what they seem, nor are the righteous rebels always on the side of the angels.

While most eyes are on the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, unrest continues in the west. Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) has been agitating and fighting for independence since 1969 in the Bas Congo province. The group's motto, "To fight for the defence, the protection and the promotion of the rights and interest of the Kongo people throughout the world," reflects their intentions.

Since October, 2007, tensions have flared between BDK and the local authorities in several Bas Congo cities and villages, with a very real threat of loss of governmental control over several locations. At the end of February, 2008, the DRC government launched police operations to restore state authority in the province. The Rapid Intervention Force and the Integrated Police Unit were sent from Kinshasa to respond to BDK actions, which included murder, attacks and the taking over of state authority in certain areas the province.

A UN investigation concluded that at least 100 people, mainly BDK members, were killed during the operations launched by the Congolese National Police (PNC). The PNC went beyond their mandate to restore order, however, destroying more than 200 buildings (churches, houses of BDK members as well as houses of civilians with no links to the BDK) in several Bas Congo villages. There was looting reported as well.

More than 150 BDK members were arrested during the violence, and several of them were victims of torture or cruel and degrading treatment, according to the UN report.

Does BDK have a righteous cause? It's rather hard to justify given that it's based on a kingdom that hasn't effectively existed for probably two hundred years. On the other hand, was the PNC justified in destroying not just the rebels but the homes and churches of civilians as well? It seems to me that everyone involved is morally wrong in this situation--not unusual in the Congo.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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1 comment:

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