Two refugee crises should top the left's agenda in 2013, writes Vijay Prashad: Syria and the DRC. Part of our series of short contributions from writers and activists looking to the year ahead.
For the international Left, the two conjoint refugee crises, provoked by cynical geopolitical calculations, should be on the top of our agenda for 2013.
(1) Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.S. client state, Rwanda, encouraged the M23 rebel group to enter the DRC. This long-standing conflict between the DRC's neighbours to the east—mainly Rwanda and Uganda, both clients of the U.S.—and the DRC's own shaky (and corrupt) government has opened the door to exploitation by mining firms and other conglomerates and has led to the displacement of close to two million people. The UN's Refugee Agency (UNHCR) alone houses a minimum of 72,000 in its "spontaneous camps".
U.S. vetoes in the UN Security Council have allowed Rwanda and its front groups to operate with impunity. The international Left has not been sufficiently attentive to what is going on in eastern Congo. There is no solidarity campaign afoot, and very little noise made in left media about the outrage in the region. Apart from a few Congo-based groups and organisations like Friends of the Congo, this atrocity would be going on absent any attention.
(2) Syria. The situation in Syria is intolerable. The geopolitics has paralyzed the Left. Because the U.S. seems eager to see Assad go, there are some on the Left who believe that Assad is the better alternative. This is against the facts. The U.S., because of Israeli pressure, does not have a clear policy on Syria—it does not wish to see Assad go because he has been a very good border guard for Israel, and yet it cannot defend him in the face of the outrages of his regime and the mass support against him in Syria and in the Arab world in general. The Russians and Iranians on one side and the Gulf Arabs on the other are treating Syria as their playground. This is unconscionable.
Meanwhile, over a million are directly affected by the violence, with hundreds of thousands in a critical situation, with thousands in deplorable camps. The al-Zaatari camp is flooded, the Atmeh camp had to fight a fire as did the camp in Raqqa, children in Bab al-Salameh are jaundiced and cold... Misery is the campaign of the Syrians as they enter another winter with no provisions and no hope. At the very least, the international Left needs to offer its concrete solidarity with the Syrian refugees. This geopolitical crisis is not going to end soon. All the more reason to be engaged with the refugees, whose lives are lived on a fragile thread, woven by underfunded international agencies (such as the UN).
Vijay Prashad is George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College Connecticut. He is the author of, most recently, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (2013).