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October 30, 2008
Humanitarian crisis worsens in Congo

Michael J. Kavanagh of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting just returned from the battlegrounds of eastern Congo. He speaks with speaks with Martin Savidge about the roots of the ongoing conflict, the rebel demands and the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Yesterday, rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda called for a cease-fire and a day of relative calm hung over Congo. Today, Nkunda called for direct negotiations with the Congolese government.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by violence, UN peacekeepers admit they are overstretched and the Congolese army has fled from the rebels, abandoning civilians and UN forces.

See more of our ongoing coverage, including a previous interview with Michael, here.

Michael will answer viewer questions about his experience in the Congo and the country’s deteriorating situation.

Michael answered viewers’ questions on Congo here:  Q&A: History, rebels and crisis in eastern Congo.





Should the international community send troops to the region? It seems that condemnation from the UN security council hasn’t done enough and that there is more to be done than peace keeping.


NYT’s Jeffrey Gettleman calls Congo the linchpin of Africa. How do you see this crisis reverberating throughout Africa and the world?


If this is a Hutu/Tutsi conflict, spilling over from Rwanda, who is supplying each side with weapons and other resources? Is it confirmed that the DRC government is supporting one of the militias? Most often in Africa, extractive resources are being fought over. Is that a factor here?


I am trying to understand why the Congolese government would be supporting the Hutu militias.


This comment is addressed to the question of John Ferrante:

DR of Congo is a majority Christian country, with over 90% of the population following various denomination of Christianity, including the rebels. Muslims have nothing to do with this conflict. This conflict is a direct result of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Many of the Hutu militia involved in the genocide fled to Eastern Congo and have been operating from this base ever since, so the Tutsi rebels (supported by the Rwandan government) say they are in the Kivu providence in order to protect the Tutsi population in the state from the Hutu militias already there. It should be noted that the Hutu rebels are also supported by the government of DRC.


What are the conditions of the hospitals/medical centers like? Are they being ransacked as well? I imagine with the current health condition, it would be important for medical help to reach into the villages/homes. Is any of that going on?


We are caring for Ndjabuka, a young woman recently granted asylum from Bukavu, South Kivu, where The New York Times recently (10/18) reported that gang-rape of thousands of women has begun again.
Please give us your best available information regarding these two questions: Is sufficient food still available to families in South Kivu? And: Please estimate how much basic food costs have increased in South Kivu in recent months.
Anything you can tell us would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Who are the rebels? Are they primarily educated members of the middle class, like the mujaheddin in Afghanistan? Or are they victims of economic devastation?


I’ve read that one of the big issues being contended is a big deal to give China mineral access in return for transportation systems. Is this cause related to those of groups like MEND? Who benefits from the situation over there, and are the mobs being manipulated to anyone’s advantage?


These people have suffered so much and for so long. What can ordinary people here in the US do to give support? I read recently that the UN was likely to send 17,000 additional peacekeepers. I also read a conflicting report which seemed to indicate that the UN was not decisive. Will you be going back there soon? My heart goes out to these people. Mostly I would like to know how to be supportive. Thank you. dorothy alfred


Question: What is the involvement of Muslims in this conflict? Which of the protagonists are primariuly Muslim?


Please post your comments and questions for Michael Kavanagh here.

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