Letters to the editor Mar 1 2010
in the Atlantic
Justice in Congo From the colonization projects of King Leopold II to the political assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese have endured uninterrupted foreign intrusion and internal instability. Adam Hochschild’s article, “The Trial of Thomas Lubanga” (December Atlantic), managed to capture the sense of confusion and dread that has marred this fragmented country. Much of Hochschild’s commentary is bleak. For instance, he acknowledges that “thousands of courtrooms would be needed to try everyone suspected of a war crime in Congo’s decade or more of fighting.” But he also shows how Lubanga’s trial is different from international tribunals of the past. Mass murderers like Peter Karim may have evaded justice this time around, but the International Criminal Court, by prosecuting Lubanga for enlisting child soldiers, has brought desperately needed attention to a ghastly trend in modern warfare. What captivated me most was the picture of the child soldier. Those bloodshot eyes reveal a combustible mélange of revolutionary defiance and irretrievably lost innocence. As I read the article, it dawned on me that the ICC exists for children like him.
George Cassidy Payne
Adam Hochschild replies:
George Cassidy Payne is right that a long history of intrusion by foreigners has added to Congo’s suffering. Those responsible for the past dozen years of bloodshed include not only local warlords like Peter Karim, but neighboring regimes who have backed them—Rwanda and Uganda, where eastern Congo is concerned—and wealthy nations like the United States who keep those countries afloat with aid money. Sweden and the Netherlands cut off aid to Rwanda after a United Nations report showed how much it had profited from Congo’s chaos, but the U.S. has so far failed to use its far greater leverage.