by Ann Garrison
KPFA Weekend News broadcast Dec. 6, 2015
South Sudanese and Congolese refugees flee back and forth across the two countries’ border. Both peoples would be comfortable if their immense resources were used for their benefit.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Landau: South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are two of the world’s most resource rich and war-torn nations in the world. The U.N. Refugee Agency now reports that fighting between local armed groups and the South Sudanese army in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State has forced more than 4,000 South Sudanese to flee into a remote corner of the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The United Nations teams have registered 3,500 newly arrived refugees in areas near Congo’s South Sudanese border. They also report more than 1,200 Congolese who had taken refuge in South Sudan have fled back across the border, into the same remote northeastern Congolese territory. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: It took UNHCR teams several days to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s remote northeastern Dungu Territory from their headquarters more than 300 miles away. The country’s poor or nonexistent infrastructure makes it difficult to reach refugees and other endangered populations, but the teams have begun registering thousands of South Sudanese and Congolese refugees.
Ninety percent of the South Sudanese refugees are women and children, some of whom had walked for three days. Most are being sheltered by local families, including South Sudanese refugees from earlier conflicts.
The South Sudanese conflict that erupted in the country’s capital, Juba, two years ago has forced 2.3 million people to flee their homes, and 650,000 have crossed borders.
After nearly 20 years of war and conflict, beginning with the Rwandan and Ugandan invasions, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the highest population of internally displaced persons in the world, estimated at 2.7 million in 2014.
South Sudan and DR Congo are both immensely resource rich, with very low populations relative to their land mass and resource wealth, but both consistently rank among the poorest peoples in the world. Voice of America-Straight Talk Africa host Shaka Ssali has said that the 11 million South Sudanese people should all be comfortable.
Shaka Ssali: You have a country that is hugely enormous. Potentially very, very fertile territory. In fact a country that I have had the dubious privilege to overfly, and I can assure you it could in fact be the breadbasket of the Middle East.
You also have incredible mineral resources. We’re talking about oil here. We’re talking about gas. We’re talking about gold. We’re talking about everything. And when it comes to human beings, a country that is perhaps four or five times the size of Uganda, and Uganda is about 35 million human beings.
Can you imagine? You have very few people. And resources that in fact is more than enough to go around for everybody to be comfortable.
KPFA: The same can be said of the people of DR Congo, who are only 68 million people in an immensely resource rich nation two-thirds the size of Western Europe.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.