As great as the tragedy is, it is compounded by competition between rival factions over the right to receive and distribute international aid. Congo has been torn apart by a civil war that has cost millions of lives. The Congolese Rally for Democracy controls most of the eastern part of the country, and its headquarters were located in Goma. Congo's government, the Democratic Republic of Congo, claims the sole right to represent and care for the people of Goma-despite the fact that the rebels have been in full control there since 1998.
Complicating matters still further is the government of neighboring Rwanda, which would like to secure the leadership of relief efforts for itself. "'Everyone is trying to make political mileage out of this,' says the head of one aid organization, speaking on the condition of anonymity. 'Each side is trying to bend the ear of the donor community, get their hands on the funds and raise their own status. There is a major catastrophe at hand, but the political leaders can't put aside their egotistical interests even for a second'" ("Politics Mar Congo Relief Efforts" by Danna Harman, The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 23, 2002).
The amount of money needed is staggering. Initial appeals from the UN were for $15 million-which would fund the cost of food, shelter and medicine for only about two weeks. Why is there such competition at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are in desperate need? In plain language, money is power. Being able to control multiple millions of dollars in international aid could well be the determining factor in who ultimately wins control over that part of the country. Additionally, there is the ever-present possibility that some of the aid money would find its way into the pockets of local administrators.
What a gross contrast to the intended purpose of government, to serve its citizens. The apostle Paul urged Roman Christians to think of governing authorities as servants of God, allowed by Him to be in office to do good for all citizens (Romans 13:1-4). Self-serving governing authorities are, unfortunately, all too common. From Jesus' comment about the general practice of His day, it's clear that the norm then was greed instead of giving: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them." He went on to urge Christians to understand the authority to govern in a different light, "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant" (Matthew 20:25-26).