I haven’t read Jason Stearns book on the Congo yet. However, I have been following his blog for some time now. Yesterday he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper and I think he did a great job in extrapolating the different dynamics behind the conflict in the DRC.
Of course it is tragic that the only reason the Congo is on the radar at the moment is because of rape. As Stearns has argued in another piece n Foreign Policy, this kind of concern is anachronistic. There have been massacres and some may say genocide since 1997. Very few people have paid attention. So why is the attention coming at this time? Is rape more of a monstrous crime than murder? Howard French, a New York Times journalist and a Congo activist tries to answer this question in this YouTube interview.
What is remarkable about Stearns is his willingness to discuss the atrocities committed by Rwanda and I hope his book delves into this topic on a much broader level. However, his view that the DRC is ignored because it is difficult to identify heroes or villains is not convincing. Yes it is a complex story but so was Rwanda. The reason might be as Edward S. Herman and David Peterson have notice that , unlike Darfur or Iraq where the villains are enemies of the United States, in the DRC the villain is a western ally. This is what makes the story difficult to explain, especially to a western audience.
As for the rapes, I do think that the problem should be seen within the broader context of war. Focusing on the statistics of how many women are raped per second does not help that much. Congolese people are not raping machines and in times of peace, I doubt the problem would be this pronounced. The rapes are monstrous, no doubt. However, they are just but one aspect of the horrors perpetrated against the Congolese civilians.
Finally, it is nice that the Congo is gaining more media attention. Hopefully, this can help put the conflict to an end. And the United States can “stop giving Rwanda a blank check” to commit atrocities.