Commentary. Politics and the media do not focus on this large and, above all, very rich continent, but its riches are a source of exploitation, business and speculation that are better accomplished without witnesses.

An entire continent, ignored by the media

Truth. Everyone is committed to seeking it whenever we are faced with the murder of the “servants of the state” who have become “heroes.” Newspapers “open their eyes” towards Africa, but close them again immediately after the bodies are buried. It will be difficult to discover what really lay behind the ambush against the World Food Programme convoy.

The convoy was also transporting the Italian ambassador to the Congo, Luca Attanasio, and carabiniere Vittorio Iacovacci. There are a number of plausible hypotheses, which will never amount to anything. As in many other cases.

Politics and the media do not focus on this large and, above all, very rich continent, but its riches are a source of exploitation, business and speculation that are better accomplished without witnesses. In areas where conflicts are endemic and natural resources are plentiful, many contenders are using any means to fight their war.

And the Kivu region is one of these: it has some of the most precious minerals (such as coltan, cobalt and diamonds), an extremely fertile zone, the Virunga National Park, the largest in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a paradise for mountain gorillas, and Lake Kivu, which is over a methane field.

In this context, armed groups have sprung up and multiplied, including those formed by the Hutus who left Rwanda after the genocide against the Tutsis, without giving up the notion of taking control of the country, and the local branch of the Islamic State. These militias clash with the rangers who are protecting the park (six of them were killed in early January), the Armed Forces of the Congolese Republic and the blue helmets of the United Nations mission (MONUSCO).

This is the most important UN mission in Africa, with over 17,000 total personnel—both civilian and military 12,000)—established eleven years ago, in 2010, to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights activists and support the government of the Congo to stabilize and consolidate the peace. Set to end last December, the mission had been extended for a year, reducing its deployment, however to regions where “the threat posed by armed groups is no longer significant.”

On Monday morning, when the Italian ambassador was killed, he was in a car belonging to the UN mission. This fact raises many doubts about the ability of MONUSCO to protect civilians and humanitarian personnel, to assess the danger of the situation and to implement peacekeeping actions.

Was the ambush aimed at kidnapping or killing the members of the convoy? The dynamics of the event seems to point to a kidnapping attempt, also because kidnappings often occur in the area, even if mainly of local people, in order to extort money. The firefight with the rangers led to the dramatic outcome, and the intervention of government forces only managed to transport Luca Attanasio to the hospital in Goma, but not to save his life.

Kidnappings are certainly not the only means of income for armed groups, which, in a borderland like this region between Congo and Rwanda, can easily smuggle precious materials illegally extracted in the area.

It is not far-fetched to imagine that companies working in the region, for their “security,” are forced to make their contribution to the militias present.

But beyond all presuppositions, one thing is certain: in these situations of exacerbated conflict, the losers are the people who put themselves on the line, who are not content to condemn or stand by and watch, who choose to take a side—that of the population that is suffering, also through our fault.

It is an even more serious burden of guilt when we are facing a pandemic with uncertain outcomes, and around the world we are concerned only about how to divide the vaccines among Europeans or Westerners, leaving nothing to the people of the South.

Only China has gone there, certainly not out of altruism, but for an advantage that translates into widespread penetration of the African continent, rich in raw materials.

China has become an enemy for the West that is difficult to fight with the selfishness of the privileged.

Luca Attanasio spoke of his work as a “mission”; others spoke of “remaining human” in the face of barbarism.

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