Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila has told residents of a town held by rebels for more than a year that he wants an end to 20 years of conflict in the region.
He has spent the past week driving from Kisangani in a 70-car convoy, which got bogged down in the region’s bad roads.
He has ended his 930km- (575 mile) journey in Rutshuru, which was held by the M23 rebels for more than a year.
During his trip, he warned the region’s other militias to disarm.
He told a crowd of thousands of people that he wanted an end to conflict in the area, reports the AFP news agency.
“The war which has just finished, should be the last war,” he said.
This is Mr Kabila’s first visit to the troubled North Kivu province since the 2011 election campaign.
The mineral-rich area has been wracked by conflict for the past two decades but the defeat of the M23 has raised some hopes of a more stable future.
The Democratic Republic of Congo plans to raise its free stake in new mining projects to 15 percent from 5 percent, said Chantal Bashizi, the vice president of the commission revising the mining code.
The government has been in a dispute with companies for more than a year about changing the 2002 regulations, particularly over a proposal to increase the state’s share in new mining projects to 35 percent, Bashizi told the iPad mining conference in the capital Kinshasa yesterday.
“It was among the clauses that angered operators,” she said. “In the current structure we’ve lowered it from 35 percent to 15 percent.”
Congo’s government is seeking to increase revenue from the recent expansion of its mining industry. Mining and oil account for 32 percent of the country’s economic output, according to the central bank. The present rules were written at the tail end of a series of wars that decimated metal production and led to the sale of majority stakes in some of Congo’s biggest mines to private companies.
Last year, the Central African nation was the world’s eighth-largest producer of copper and the biggest producer of cobalt. Glencore Xstrata Plc, based in Baar, Switzerland, Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX), and London-based Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) were the country’s biggest copper exporters.
Proposed changes to the code include tripling the royalty on copper and cobalt to 6 percent, and cutting the amount of time that contract stability is guaranteed to five years from 10 years, Bashizi said in a separate interview.
- This is how the Congo supplies ‘conflict minerals’ to the IT world (Mining.com)
- The truth about gold mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Independent)
- Chinese mining industry contributes to abuses in Democratic Republic of the Congo (Amnesty)
- UN reports refugees from Congo war swelling (AP)
- Concerns rising over another Rwanda-Congo war (Press TV)
- DR Congo: Auditors criticise EU’s aid (BBC)
In the dusty, remote town of Dungu, in north eastern DR Congo, Sister Angelique Namaika works tirelessly to bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of previously abducted, raped and mutilated women from across the region.
Operating from the Centre for Reintegration and Development since 2003, the Roman Catholic nun has focused on rehabilitating women who have suffered horrific abuse at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has been operating in the nearby forests for the past three decades. In the small centre, she focuses on education and empowerment.
Using the surrounding fields, Sister Angelique has sold produce to townsfolk to help finance her literacy, cooking and sewing lessons at the centre, in the hope of creating a generation of women able to move past the trauma of their experience at the hands of the LRA.
Around 2.5 million people have been displaced in the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the DR Congo because of the relentless activities of the LRA.
In Dungu, 25,000 of the town’s 73,000 population have been displaced from nearby towns and villages.
Though Sister Angelique works with a few hundred women each day, in one of the world’s most under-reported areas, her work has not gone unnoticed.
On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) awarded Sister Angelique with the prestigious Nansen award for contributing to the well-being of refugees and displaced persons.
One of the stranger sights of the refugee crisis that followed the 1994 Rwandan genocide was of stretcher-bearers rushing the dying to medical tents, with men running alongside reciting Bible verses to the withering patients.
The bulk of the thousands of doctors and nurses struggling to save lives – as about 40,000 people died of cholera – were volunteers for the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The Bible readers were hired by the American televangelist and former religious right presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, and his aid organisation, Operation Blessing International.
But on Robertson’s US television station, the Christian Broadcasting Network, that reality was reversed, as he raised millions of dollars from loyal followers by claiming Operation Blessing was at the forefront of the international response to the biggest refugee crisis of the decade. It’s a claim he continues to make, even though an official investigation into Robertson’s operation in Virginia accused him of “fraudulent and deceptive” claims when he was running an almost non-existent aid operation.
“We brought the largest contingent of medicine into Goma in Zaire, at least the first and the largest,” Robertson said as recently as last year on his TV station.
Now a new documentary lays bare the extent of the misrepresentations of Operation Blessing’s activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, that it says continue to this day.
Mission Congo, by David Turner and Lara Zizic, opens at the Toronto film festival on Friday. It describes how claims about the scale of aid to Rwandan refugees were among a number of exaggerated or false assertions about the activities of Operation Blessing which pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in donations, much of it through Robertson’s televangelism. They include characterising a failed large-scale farming project as a huge success, and claims about providing schools and other infrastructure.
But some of the most damaging criticism of Robertson comes from former aid workers at Operation Blessing, who describe how mercy flights to save refugees were diverted hundreds of miles from the crisis to deliver equipment to a diamond mining concession run by the televangelist.
- Pat Robertson threatens documentary team over film that says his Africa charity is a fraud (Raw Story)
- Congo’s M23 rebels say they’re ready to disband, set conditions including return of refugees (AP)
- Congo’s Kabila opens national dialogue boycotted by opposition leader (Reuters)
- France arrests Congolese general for alleged 1999 massacre (Reuters)
- Africa’s deadliest war enters new phase in Congo (USA Today)
The Associated Press
More than 60,000 Congolese have fled to Uganda after a rebel attack on a town near the border in a continuing influx that is stretching humanitarian capacities, an aid group said Sunday.
The Uganda Red Cross has already registered 41,000 refugees and that 20,000 more are yet to go through that process, said spokeswoman Catherine Ntabadde.
‘‘Currently we are looking at about 65,000 people,’’ she said.
The refugees are entering Uganda though the frontier district of Bundibugyo and many have found temporary shelter on the campuses of three schools there, she said.
The refugee influx continues three days after a Ugandan-led rebel group attacked Kamango town and killed some people on Thursday, according to Ugandan military officials who are concerned the rebels are about to launch a major assault on Ugandan territory.
The UN prepares to go to war for the first time, with a 3,000-strong task force sent to fight rebels in the Congo ~ Daily Mail
by DANIEL MILLER
The Daily Mail
The UN is about to go to war for the first time in its history after the Security Council voted unanimously to intervene to fight rebels in the Congo.
Around 3,000 UN troops wearing the blue insignia, are being deployed to the central African nation which has been wracked by years of civil war and lawlessness.
The UN has led a 14-year-long peacekeeping in a bid to end the ethic conflict which was sparked by the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda when thousands of Hutus fled into the Congo to evade justice.
by Chris McGreal
‘Rwanda‘s president, Paul Kagame, has rejected accusations from Washington that he was supporting a rebel leader and accused war criminal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by challenging a senior US official to send a drone to kill the wanted man.
In an interview with the Observer Magazine, Kagame said that on a visit to Washington in March he came under pressure from the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Johnnie Carson, to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, leader of the M23 rebels, who was wanted by the international criminal court (ICC). The US administration was increasing pressure on Kagame following a UN report claiming to have uncovered evidence showing that the Rwandan military provided weapons and other support to Ntaganda, whose forces briefly seized control of the region’s main city, Goma.
“I told him: ‘Assistant secretary of state, you support [the UN peacekeeping force] in the Congo. Such a big force, so much money. Have you failed to use that force to arrest whoever you want to arrest in Congo? Now you are turning to me, you are turning to Rwanda?’” he said. “I said that, since you are used to sending drones and gunning people down, why don’t you send a drone and get rid of him and stop this nonsense? And he just laughed. I told him: ‘I’m serious’.”‘
by John Vandiver
Stars & Stripes
‘For U.S. diplomats and military officials who were involved in training a Congolese army unit, a troubling question loomed: Would the 391st Commando Battalion serve as protectors of the population or would they revert to acts of sexual violence once on the battlefield?
A United Nations report released this week indicates that their worst fears have been realized and that efforts at building up a Congolese unit of benevolent soldiers has failed. The report, issued Wednesday by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, accused members of the 391st Commando Battalion — which was trained by special forces troops assigned to U.S. Africa Command — and other Democratic Republic of Congo troops of engaging in a range of atrocities, including the mass rape of women and young girls in eastern Congo.’
The abuses by the soldiers were committed “in a systematic manner and with extreme violence,” according to the report. At least 102 women and 33 girls, reportedly as young as six, were victims of rape or other acts of sexual violence perpetrated by government soldiers, the report stated. The soldiers also were responsible for the arbitrary execution of at least two people and the widespread looting of villages, it said.’
The charity Save the Children says the majority of victims of rape and other sexual violence in many of the world’s conflict zones are children.
Its report is based on data and testimonies from several countries including Colombia, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Save the Children says programmes to stop such violence and help children recover are chronically underfunded.
by Pete Jones
[...] As ever with Congo, it is not just a simple tale of victims and villains. Sadala, who goes by the nom de guerre Morgan, and his “Mai Mai Morgan” gunmen are thought to have powerful supporters in the security forces who enable their lucrative illegal trade in ivory and smuggled gold. Some local people with an eye on the gold in the ground beneath their feet tacitly support Morgan, who improbably also likes to be called Chuck Norris.
“There is complicity between [Morgan] and certain elements within the army,” said Jefferson Abdallah Pene Mbaka, the MP for Mambasa. “With the support of certain army authorities [Mai Mai Morgan] have increased their poaching activities. The sale of ivory is organised by these figures in the army.” Many people in the region believe soldiers have orders not to arrest Morgan.
Morgan’s principal targets are those who operate and police the Unesco-recognised world heritage site known as the Okapi wildlife reserve, or by its French acronym, RFO. The laws of the reserve forbid the hunting of endangered species, especially elephants and okapi, and the exploitation of its gold reserves.
by Ben Quinn
Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister was abducted and killed in a cold war operation run by British intelligence, according to remarks said to have been made by the woman who was leading the MI6 station in the central African country at the time.
A Labour peer has claimed that Baroness Park of Monmouth admitted to him a few months before she died in March 2010 that she arranged Patrice Lumumba’s killing in 1961 because of fears he would ally the newly democratic country with the Soviet Union.
In a letter to the London Review of Books, Lord Lea said the admission was made while he was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park, who had been consul and first secretary from 1959 to 1961 in Leopoldville, as the capital of Belgian Congo was known before it was later renamed as Kinshasa following independence.
He wrote: “I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. ‘We did,’ she replied, ‘I organised it’.”
Park, who was known by some as the “Queen of Spies” after four decades as one of Britain’s top female intelligence agents, is believed to have been sent by MI6 to the Belgian Congo in 1959 under an official diplomatic guise as the Belgians were on the point of being ousted from the country.
“We went on to discuss her contention that Lumumba would have handed over the whole lot to the Russians: the high-value Katangese uranium deposits as well as the diamonds and other important minerals largely located in the secessionist eastern state of Katanga,” added Lea, who wrote his letter in response to a review of a book by Calder Walton about British intelligence activities during the twilight of the British empire.
Doubts about the claim have been raised by historians and former officials, including a former senior British intelligence official who knew Park and told the Times: “It doesn’t sound like the sort of remark Daphne Park would make. She was never indiscreet. Also MI6 never had a licence to kill.”
Mystery has continued to surround the death of Lumumba, who was shot on 17 January 1961, although Belgian troops were known to have been involved.
Park met Lumumba, the African leader who was to become the short-lived prime minister of an independent Congo. After his successor took power, she was arrested and beaten by his supporters.
She was able to get herself released and sought local UN intervention, securing the release of Britons and other foreigners, for which she was appointed OBE in 1960.
The UN Security Council has unanimously approved the first-ever “offensive” UN peacekeeping brigade to battle rebels groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The force of more than 2,500 troops will operate under orders to “neutralise” and “disarm” armed groups in the resource-rich east of the huge country, according to the council’s resolution on Thursday.
The intervention brigade is unprecedented in UN peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate.
But the resolution states clearly that it would be established for one year “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent” to the principles of UN peacekeeping.
Surveillance drones will be used to monitor the DR Congo’s borders with neighbours accused of backing the rebels will be operating by July, according to UN officials.
The resolution, sponsored by France, the US and Togo, would give the brigade a mandate to operate “in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner” to ensure that armed groups cannot seriously threaten government authority or the security of civilians.
UN peacekeepers were unable to protect civilians from M23 rebels, whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces.
The resolution strongly condemns the continued presence of the M23 in the immediate vicinity of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, and its attempts to establish “an illegitimate parallel administration in North Kivu”.
It demands that the M23 and other armed groups, including those seeking the “liberation” of Rwanda and Uganda, immediately halt all violence and “permanently disband and lay down their arms”.
It also strongly condemns their continuing human rights abuses including summary executions, sexual and gender-based violence and large-scale recruitment and use of children.
The UN peace force in the Democratic Republic of Congo has issued an ultimatum to two units within the army over allegations of mass rape.
Unless swift legal action was taken against the accused soldiers before the end of March, the UN said it would stop working with their brigades.
In December, it said it had evidence of at least 126 rapes carried out by soldiers fleeing a rebel offensive.
Armed groups in eastern DR Congo often use rape as a weapon of war.
The region’s mineral riches have been plundered by numerous groups and countries over the past two decades.
“The security situation remains fragile, and demands urgent actions,” Ban said as he briefed the council on Tuesday.
The UN chief stated that the special force “will have the ability to conduct, with or without the FARDC (the Congolese army), offensive operations against all armed groups that threaten the peace in eastern DRC.”
“This enforcement capacity, which was initially called for by the regional actors, seeks to address the imminent threats to stability and will provide the most appropriate response to the active conflict environment in which the MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission) has been operating for several years,” he added.
Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.4 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.
Congolese government troops gave control of two key eastern towns back to the M23 rebel group to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing peace process, a spokesman for the military said Sunday.
Kiwanja and Rutshuru had been M23 strongholds since the group had taken control of them in July 2012. But following a split within the rebellion last week, the armed group had left the towns to reinforce positions against the new splinter, and another rebel group moved in. The military then secured the towns on Friday.
“We couldn’t leave the population alone, and we had to secure the area to make sure there were no crimes committed,” said Col. Olivier Hamuli, the military spokesman. He said they’ve since given control back to M23.
“Our troops left Rutshuru and Kiwanja to avoid taking a step back regarding the evolution of the negotiations in Kampala,” he said, adding that they are now only one kilometer (mile) from Kiwanja.
Government forces cannot take back M23 territory as negotiations as mediations are ongoing, according to an agreement reached in November at the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Uganda.
“The M23 signed an agreement with the ICGLR and the Congolese government after we took Goma in November. The government troops had to leave our territory because Rutshuru and Kiwanja are in our territory,”said Col. Vianney Kazarama, the spokesman for one of the M23 factions led by Gen. Sultani Makenga.
M23 is a rebellion allegedly backed by Rwanda and Uganda. In November, after eight months of sporadic fighting against the national army, the rebels took the strategic city of Goma, but withdrew two weeks later under international pressure.
Since then, negotiations between the M23 and the government have been held in Kampala, but no serious outcome has yet been announced.
The U.N. chief plans to send at least 2,500 troops to eastern Congo as a “peace enforcement” brigade to help protect civilians and prevent the M23 rebels from capturing cities and expanding their territory.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a news conference Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that “I am now in the process of discussing this matter with the Security Council members.”
The Security Council would have to approve the new force. Last week, the council’s president sent a letter to Ban giving the green light for deployment of unarmed surveillance drones for eastern Congo that would provide intelligence for the “peace enforcement” unit as well as the larger U.N. peacekeeping force.
On Sunday, Ban told African Union leaders that the U.N. plans to create what he called a “peace enforcement force” to cope with the threat of armed rebels. A U.N. staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Monday that the size of the force would be about 2,550 troops.
The Security Council wants to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO, which already has more than 17,700 peacekeepers, following last year’s takeover of many villages and towns by M23 rebels who briefly held the city of Goma before withdrawing in early December.
The U.N.’s MONUSCO force — the largest of the U.N.’s 15 far-flung peacekeeping operations — did little to protect tens of thousands of civilians, many of whom fled their homes.
by Glen Ford
A long-planned U.S. escalation of its military presence in Africa will soon get underway, with the permanent deployment of a 3,500-strong brigade. The heavy combat team will make itself at home in African bases in 35 countries. “This is a very different kind of invasion – more like an infiltration-in-force.”
2013 is the year the U.S. kicks off its wholesale military occupation of Africa. The escalation should come as no surprise, since the Army Times newspaper reported, back in June, that a U.S. brigade of at least 3,000 troops would become a permanent presence on the continent in the new year. On Christmas Eve, the Pentagon announced that 3,500 soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, in Fort Riley, Kansas, will be sent to Africa, supposedly to confront a threat from al-Qaida in Mali, where Islamists have seized the northern part of the country. But the 2nd Brigade is scheduled to hold more than 100 military exercises in 35 countries, most of which have no al-Qaida presence. So, although there is no doubt that the U.S. will be deeply involved in the impending military operation in Mali, the 2nd Brigade’s deployment is a much larger assignment, aimed at making all of Africa a theater of U.S. military operations.The situation in Mali is simply a convenient, after-the-fact rationale for a long-planned expansion of the U.S. military footprint in Africa.
The Pentagon’s larger purpose in placing an army brigade on roving duty all across the continent is to acclimate African commanders to hosting a permanent, large scale U.S. presence. This is a very different kind of invasion – more like an infiltration-in-force. The Pentagon’s strategy is designed to reinforce relationships that the U.S. Africa Command has been cultivating with African militaries since the establishment of AFRICOM during George Bush’s last year in office. As an infiltrating force, AFRICOM has been a phenomenal success.
Militarily speaking, the African Union has become an annex of the Pentagon. The AU’s biggest operation, in Somalia, is armed, financed and directed by the U.S. military and CIA. The 17,000 African troops on so-called peace-keeping duty in Somalia are, for all practical purposes, mercenaries for the Americans – although poorly paid ones. Ethiopian and Kenyan forces act as extensions of U.S. power in the East Africa. U.S. Special Forces roam the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic – ostensibly looking for the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony but, in reality, establishing a web of U.S. military infrastructures throughout center of the continent. Uganda and Rwanda keep the eastern Congo’s mineral riches safe for U.S. and European corporations – at the cost of 6 million Congolese lives. Their militaries are on the Pentagon’s payroll.
In northwest Africa, the 16 nations of the region’s economic community await the intervention of the United Nations – which really means the United States and France – to expel the Islamist forces from Mali. Militarily, the West Africans are totally dependent. But, more importantly, they show no political will to escape this dependency – especially after the demise of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
The creeping, continental U.S. expeditionary force, soon to be spearheaded by the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, will bunk down in African military bases throughout the continent, not as invaders, but as guests. Guests who pay the bills and provide the weapons for African armies whose mission has nothing to do with national independence and self-determination. Three generations after the beginnings of decolonization, the African soldier is once again bowing to the foreign master.
Almost two decades after the Clinton administration failed to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda, the United States is coming under harsh criticism for not moving forcefully in another African crisis marked by atrocities and brutal killings, this time in Rwanda’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have taken some of the blame, critics of the Obama administration’s Africa policy have focused on the role of Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and a leading contender to succeed Mrs. Clinton, in the administration’s failure to take action against the country they see as a major cause of the Congolese crisis, Rwanda.
Specifically, these critics — who include officials of human rights organizations and United Nations diplomats — say the administration has not put enough pressure on Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, to end his support for the rebel movement whose recent capture of the strategic city of Goma in Congo set off a national crisis in a country that has already lost more than three million people in more than a decade of fighting. Rwanda’s support is seen as vital to the rebel group, known as M23.
Support for Mr. Kagame and the Rwandan government has been a matter of American foreign policy since he led the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory over the incumbent government in July 1994, effectively ending the Rwandan genocide. But according to rights organizations and diplomats at the United Nations, Ms. Rice has been at the forefront of trying to shield the Rwandan government, and Mr. Kagame in particular, from international censure, even as several United Nations reports have laid the blame for the violence in Congo at Mr. Kagame’s door.
A senior administration official said Saturday that Ms. Rice was not freelancing, and that the American policy toward Rwanda and Congo was to work with all the countries in the area for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
Aides to Ms. Rice acknowledge that she is close to Mr. Kagame and that Mr. Kagame’s government was her client when she worked at Intellibridge, a strategic analysis firm in Washington. Ms. Rice, who served as the State Department’s top African affairs expert in the Clinton administration, worked at the firm with several other former Clinton administration officials, including David J. Rothkopf, who was an acting under secretary in the Commerce Department; Anthony Lake, Mr. Clinton’s national security adviser; and John M. Deutch, who was director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Payton Knopf, a spokesman for Ms. Rice, said: “Ambassador Rice’s brief consultancy at Intellibridge has had no impact on her work at the United Nations. She implements the agreed policy of the United States at the U.N.”
FULL ARTICLE @ THE NEW YORK TIMES
The last Congo war that ended in 2003 killed 5.4 million people, the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II. The killing was directly enabled by international silence over the issue; the war was ignored and the causes obscured because governments were backing groups involved in the fighting. Now a new Congo war has begun and the silence is, again, deafening.
President Obama seems not to have noticed a new war has broken out in the war-scarred Congo; he appears blind to the refugee crisis and the war crimes committed by the invading M23 militia against the democratically elected government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
But appearances can be deceiving. The U.S. government has their bloody hands all over this conflict, just as they did during the last Congo war when Bill Clinton was President. President Obama’s inaction is a conscious act of encouragement for the invaders, just as Clinton’s was. Instead of Obama denouncing the invasion and the approaching overthrow of a democratically elected government, silence becomes a very powerful action of intentional complicity on the side of the invaders.
Why would Obama do this? The invaders are armed and financed by Rwanda, a “strong ally” and puppet of the United States. The United Nations released a report conclusively proving that the Rwandan government is backing the rebels, but the U.S. government and U.S. media cartoonishly pretend that the issue is debatable.
The last Congo War that killed 5.4 million people was also the result of the U.S.-backed invading armies of Rwanda and Uganda, as explained in the excellently researched book “Africa’s World War,” by French journalist Gerard Prunier.
In fact, many of the same Rwandan war criminals involved in the last Congo War, such as Bosco Ntaganda, are in charge of the M23 militia and wanted for war crimes by the U.N. international criminal court. The current Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, is a “good friend” of the U.S. government and one of the most notorious war criminals on the planet, due to his leading roles in the Rwandan genocide and consequent Congo War.
A group of Congolese and Rwandan activists have been demanding that Kagame be tried for his key role in the Rwandan genocide.
As Prunier’s book explains, the Rwandan genocide was sparked by Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda — from U.S. ally Uganda. After Kagame took power in post-genocide Rwanda, he then informed the U.S. — during a trip to Washington D.C.— that he would be invading the Congo. Prunier quotes Kagame in Africa’s World War:
“I delivered a veiled warning [to the U.S.]: the failure of the international community to take action [against the Congo] would mean that Rwanda would take action… But their [the Clinton Administration’s] response was really no response at all” (pg 68).
In international diplomacy speak, such a lack of response — to a threat of military invasion — acts as a glaring diplomatic green light. The same blinding green light is now being offered by Obama to the exact same war criminals as they again invade the Congo.
But why again? The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s current President, Joseph Kabila, helped lead the military invasion during the last Congo war. As a good stooge, he delivered Congo’s immense mining and oil wealth to multi-national corporations. But then his puppet strings started to fray.
Kabila later distanced himself from U.S. puppets Rwanda and Uganda, not to mention the U.S. dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The IMF, for example, warned Kabila against a strategic infrastructural and development aid package with China, but Kabila shrugged them off. The Economist explains:
“…[The Congo] appears to have gained the upper hand in a row with foreign donors over a mining and infrastructure package worth $9 billion that was agreed a year ago with China. The IMF objected to it, on the ground that it would saddle Congo with a massive new debt, so [the IMF] is delaying forgiveness of most of the $10 billion-plus that Congo already owes.”
This act instantly transformed Kabila from an unreliable friend to an enemy. The U.S. and China have been madly scrambling for Africa’s immense wealth of raw materials, and Kabila’s new alliance with China was too much for the U.S. to bear.
Kabila further inflamed his former allies by demanding that the international corporations exploiting the Congo’s precious metals have their super-profit contracts re-negotiated, so that the country might actually receive some benefit from its riches.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to 80 percent of the world’s cobalt, an extremely precious mineral needed to construct many modern technologies, including weaponry, cell phones, and computers. The DRC is possibly the most mineral/resource rich country in the world — overflowing with everything from diamonds to oil — though its people are among the world’s poorest, due to generations of corporate plunder of its wealth.
Now, a new war is underway and the U.N. is literally sitting on their hands. There are 17,500 U.N. peacekeepers in the DRC, not to mention U.S. Special Forces. The invading M23 militia has 3,000 fighters. What was the U.N.’s response to the invasion? The New York Times reports:
“United Nations officials have said that they did not have the numbers to beat back the rebels and that they were worried about collateral damage, but many Congolese have rendered their own verdict. On Wednesday, rioters in Bunia, north of Goma, ransacked the houses of United Nations’ personnel.”
If Obama and/or the U.N. made one public statement about militarily defending the elected Congolese government against invasion, the M23 militia would have never acted.
Human Rights Watch and other groups have correctly labeled the M23’s commanders as responsible for “ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killings, abductions and torture.”
But at the U.N. the Obama administration has been actively protecting this group. The New York Times continues:
“Some human rights groups say that Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations and a leading contender to be President Obama’s next secretary of state, has been far too soft on Rwanda, which is a close American ally and whose president, Paul Kagame, has known Ms. Rice for years. The activists have accused her of watering down language in a Security Council resolution that would have mentioned Rwanda’s links to the [M23] rebels and say she also tried to block the publication of part of a [U.N.] report that detailed Rwanda’s covert support for the M23.”
It’s likely that the Obama administration will jump into action as soon as his M23 allies complete their military objective of regime change, and re-open the Congo’s military wealth to U.S. corporations to profit from. There are currently talks occurring in U.S.-puppet Uganda between the M23 and the Congo government. It is unlikely that these talks will produce much of a result unless Kabila stands down and allows the M23 and its Rwandan backers to take over the country. The M23 knows it’s in an excellent bargaining position, given the silence of the U.N. and the United States government.
If the war drags on, expect more international silence. Expect more massacres and ethnic cleansing too, and expect the still-recovering people of the Congo to be re-tossed into massive refugee camps where they can again expect militia-sponsored killings, rape, starvation, and the various barbarisms that have accompanied this especially brutal war, a brutality that grows most viciously in environments of silence.
Rwandan support for rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo may be more widespread than previously believed, the BBC has found.
Kigali has already rejected UN accusations that it is backing the M23 rebel group which recently captured the strategic eastern city of Goma.
Two ex-rebel fighters told the BBC they were offered money from Rwanda to set up a new front further south.
More than 500,000 people have fled seven months of fighting in the east.
Rwanda has previously backed armed groups in eastern DR Congo as a way of fighting Hutu militias who fled there after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people died.
The M23, who like Rwanda’s leaders are mostly ethnic Tutsis, has also denied it is funded by Rwanda.
By Justin Podur @ Socialist Project
Rebels, called the M23, have taken Goma, the main city of North Kivu, one of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s eastern provinces. Their plan is to march to Bukavu, the main city of South Kivu, and from there, they say, across the massive country to Kinshasa, the Congo’s capital.
A geographical note is in order. The DRC’s principal cities are part of greater urban areas that cross international borders. Look at the capital, Kinshasa, on a map, and you will see Brazzaville, the capital of the other Congo, right next to it. Goma, which the rebels currently control, borders the Rwandan city of Gisenyi.
Bukavu, which the M23 rebels threaten to go to next, borders the Rwandan city of Cyangugu.
The geographical note should be accompanied by an historical note. This military pattern, of a rebellion seizing Goma, then Bukavu, then marching west deeper into the DRC, has happened before. It happened in 1996, when the rebels, who called themselves the AFDL, overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko. The AFDL was militarily and politically subordinate to the Rwandan army, and had help from the Ugandan army as well. They were successful. Mobutu was ousted, Laurent Kabila was installed, and the country was renamed from Zaire to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Splitting the DRC
The same pattern repeated itself in 1998, when the rebels, then called the RCD, took Goma and attempted to get rid of Laurent Kabila. The RCD, like the AFDL, was a creation and an instrument of Rwanda and Uganda. The RCD was not as successful as the AFDL: it was stalemated when Laurent Kabila got military help from Angola and Zimbabwe. The RCD split, with Rwandan and Ugandan controlled factions coming to blows over the spoils of the Congo.
But even though they did not get to impose their will nationally, the Rwandan-sponsored militia groups (the spawn of the RCD) did impose their will in the east. They continued to control the mines, they continued to effectively occupy and rule the Kivus, and eventually, they were incorporated into the Congolese Army through processes called brassage and mixage.
There are nuances to this story, but it can be summarized in one phrase: the eastern Congo is under Rwandan control, and has been since 1996. The DRC’s government has tried, since 1998, to re-assert control over the Kivus, and the warfare in the east is over control: of the land, of the people, and of course, of the mines.
Rwanda, of course, denies that it has anything to do with these rebels. But a look at one of M23′s commanders, Bosco ‘The Terminator’ Ntaganda, is indicative. Ntaganda was born in Rwanda, and fought in the Rwandan civil war of 1990, on the side of victorious RPF that took over Rwanda in 1994. When Rwanda invaded the Congo along with its creation, the AFDL, Ntaganda was there, and he stayed. He was part of two other Congolese armed groups, both of which opposed the Congolese government: The Union of Congolese Patriots in Ituri, and the CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People), before he joined the M23. Every group Ntaganda has been a part of has committed amply documented war crimes and crimes against humanity. The CNDP, like M23, is abundantly documented to have been supported by Rwanda.
Ntaganda is indicative, but not unique. An examination of other leaders of Congolese rebellions, like James Kabarebe and Laurent Nkunda, reveals similar career paths: from the Rwandan army, into Congolese rebel armies, and sometimes back and forth.
The rebels are supported by Rwanda, but Rwanda is a small country and the DRC is a huge one. Why is Rwanda able to do so much to its giant neighbour? The Rwandan army has been particularly well-organized since the 1990s, and the country’s President, Paul Kagame, is a favourite of the U.S. (where he went to military school). Kagame’s Rwanda has always looked for military solutions to political problems, because of its disproportionate strength in that arena. Rwanda has also had important diplomatic support from the U.S. and the UK, although a few other European countries have withdrawn diplomatic support and aid after exposures of Rwanda’s violent role in the eastern Congo.
Since October 18, Rwanda has been on the United Nations Security Council, which probably provides more diplomatic cover for crimes than it does additional scrutiny, but Rwanda is vulnerable politically. Where it is not dependent on stolen Congolese wealth, it is dependent on international aid – as well as the crucial military and diplomatic support from the United States. A few weeks before this rebel offensive, on October 25, a group of gunmen attempted to assassinate one of the eastern Congo’s most visible activists, Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has done important medical work in Bukavu and important work raising the profile of the DRC and those who are behind the war in the east at the United Nations and other international forums. In every phase of Rwanda’s ‘rebellions’ over the past decades, Congolese and international activists and journalists have been targeted. If these ‘rebellions’ had the effect of exposing the Rwandan occupation of the east, if Rwanda’s own sponsors were unable to control the information about the war in the Congo, Rwanda could be forced to stand down and allow the Congolese a space to breathe, and rebuild. •
Justin Podur visited Bukavu in 2009 and 2011. Justin is the author of Haiti’s New Dictatorship (Pluto Press 2012) and maintains a blog at killingtrain.com where this article first appeared.
The political leader of the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo said Tuesday the group would only withdraw from Goma if the government meets its demands, despite earlier announcing that it would pull out of the key eastern city.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in a hotel in Goma Tuesday, M23 political chief Jean-Marie Runiga said the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must dissolve the country’s election commission before a withdrawal could be considered.
Runiga’s demands included the opening of national negotiations with Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila and a call to ensure the freedom of movement of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.
A veteran Congolese politician and former prime minister, Tshisekedi lost the 2011 presidential election to Kabila. Since the election, which international observers said lacked credibility and transparency, Tshisekedi has been under unofficial house arrest.
“The withdrawal, yes. If Kabila agrees to our demands then we’ll go quickly,” Runiga told reporters in Goma, a city which the rebels captured last week.
At first, the latest awful news from the Democratic Republic of Congo sounds like just another installment of an ongoing saga common in the Western media, “Vicious African Tribal Factions Hate Each Other.” Several thousand armed predators who call themselves the M23 Movement and are inappropriately described as “rebels” have just seized control of Goma, a regional capital, and the renewed fighting is adding to a death toll that has already risen above 5 million since the Second Congo War started in 1998.
Most mainstream Western press reports are treating the upsurge in violence as a purely local or regional dispute, and the conflict may seem incomprehensible to outsiders. In fact, the tragedy is by no means a merely African affair. The outbreak of fighting is also the result of a colossal failure by US foreign policy–makers dating back to the mid-1990s, aided and abetted by an ill-led United Nations peacekeeping force that stood by as the M23 seized Goma.
Rwanda borders DR Congo to the east, and is deeply implicated in the renewed fighting. Two UN investigations this year have already found that Rwanda is sustaining the M23 force; the most recent UN report, in October, charges that M23 is actually ultimately commanded by Rwanda’s defense minister, James Kabarebe. Observers in Goma are reporting that M23 is armed with sophisticated weapons, including 120-millimeter mortars and night-vision goggles, which the group could not have acquired on its own.
But ever since Bill Clinton’s presidency, American officials have been mesmerized by the post-genocide leader of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. Over the past three administrations, US leaders, along with certain American journalists, have repeatedly and consistently overlooked or made excuses for Rwandan crimes.
The United Nations wants to use drones for the first time to monitor fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where Rwanda has been accused of aiding rebels, officials said Friday.
Peacekeeping chiefs have been in contact with the governments of DR Congo and of Rwanda about the sensitive move, which could set a precedent that would worry some United Nations members, diplomats said.
Rwanda itself was one of the first to register concerns. Olivier Nduhungirehe, first counselor for Rwanda’s UN mission, said: “This is controversial, not all countries agree with this.”
UN leaders are looking for ways to strengthen the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the “M23″ guerrillas have taken over much of mineral-rich North Kivu province.
UN experts say Rwanda and Uganda have sent troops and arms across the border. Both strongly deny the allegations.
Ugandan officials on Wednesday dismissed allegations in a United Nations report that Uganda supports rebels in eastern Congo, saying the claims are intended to undermine efforts by regional leaders to stem violence in the central African country.
Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Okello Oryem said the claims were made “in bad faith and intended to cause mischief.”
“It’s a heap of rubbish,” said Oryem, whose ministry received a copy of the U.N. experts’ report, which has been leaked. “It’s malicious and it’s intended to undermine the efforts of Uganda to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
James Mugume, the permanent secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the report accuses Uganda of actively supporting the M23 rebels in eastern Congo, whose mutiny has caused more than 200,000 villagers in the province of North Kivu to flee their homes.
The allegations come as Uganda is leading a regional effort to resolve Congo’s rebel crisis by deploying a peace-enforcement force in eastern Congo. The regional effort, called the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), has recently held a series of meetings in which a “natural international force” of 4,000 troops contributed by regional governments would be sent to police eastern Congo. But the force has not yet been deployed, as it lacks funding and its mandate is not clear.
Oryem said the regional efforts have exposed the unreliability of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Congo. He said there had been a “lull in the violence” since the ICGLR started meeting over the Congo crisis, even though the well-armed rebels still control a huge part of eastern Congo.
“They want to sabotage our efforts,” Oryem said, referring to the U.N. “They have been there and they failed.”
The U.N. maintains nearly 20,000 troops in eastern Congo, the largest peacekeeping force in the world.
Security forces from Democratic Republic of Congo and Bahrain among other have been receiving training at the UK’s elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on British taxpayers’ money despite human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings and torture, genocide and crimes against humanity, said the media reports.
The UK government has also been engaged in training Saudi Arabia’s National Guards, a military regiment loyal to the despotic Saudi royal family, who were deployed in Bahrain last year to help Bahraini regime’s troops in their brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protests.
Bahrain, a tiny Persian Gulf island state, has been the scene of anti-regime protests since February last year and scores of people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the Saudi-backed crackdown on the protests.
Britain is providing support including military logistics, advanced command and staff courses and strategic intelligence to these countries, which are the scene of some of the world’s most serious mass atrocities.