Major conflict could become a regional war

Over the past week or so we have all seen a major conflict erupt that includes a devastating human toll. This is a conflict that has a long history and which, despite the efforts of mediators and peacekeepers, has not found a solution. It is a regionalized conflict and threatens to draw those countries and others into a regional war. As I write this, reports are in about the cities and towns being bombed, and about a ground war which has resulted in rebels taking over a city and its airport.

Wait, rebels? airport? Weren’t you talking about Gaza?

I’m talking about Goma, of course, and not Gaza. And Goma has made its way–marginally–into the news. But, as noted at AlertNet (and the Guardian), a key difference between the conflicts is the amount of attention each receives. In both conflicts, war weary residents of the affected areas are suffering. In Israel and Gaza, there is the uncertainty about where the next rocket will land. In Goma, there is the uncertainty of who will control the territory where you live. For the later, it is easier to flee and they have fled but the toll is still there. The LA Times reports a reasonable estimate of 60,000 people fleeing in the past few days. It is definitely reasonable to question the UN’s mandate which, like so often in peacekeeping situations, keeps them from intervening in substantive ways.

For those of you who haven’t heard much about the conflict in Goma, a good resource is the International Crisis Group. One of their recent posts discusses steps needed to avoid a regional war (the DRC and Rwanda are the main state actors, but Uganda, Burundi, and others in the region had direct interests at play.

On twitter, you may want to follow Gabriel Gatehouse (@ggatehouse), a BBC correspondent who is there; and Laura Seay (@texasinafrica), an academic familiar with the region and conflict. Jason Stearns’ blog, Congo Siasa, is another useful source for commentary (http://congosiasa.blogspot.com/).