Thursday, November 08, 2007

Civil Wars in Congo -- by Christopher Black

Civil Wars in Congo
by Christopher Black

The so-called Democratic Republic of Congo, formally Zaire, is central to the events of the last 15 years in the region. It is a country of vast size, as large as all of Western Europe, and is rich in resources. It contains large deposits of industrial diamonds, cobalt, copper, columbite-tantalite (or coltan, used to make micro-chips), gold, zinc, manganese, coal, cadmium, and germanium, used to make semi conductors. It has the largest forest reserves in Africa. Its hydroelectric generating potential would meet over half of Africa’s needs. The eastern province of Katanga contains large deposits of these minerals, and the region adjacent to Rwanda and Uganda in the northwest near Lake Kivu contains large deposits of natural gas. The DRC has one third of the world’s supply of diamonds, fifty per cent of its cobalt, eighty per cent of its coltan, and has huge deposits of uranium. Its mineral reserves are a vast treasure and the policies of the western powers, especially the United States of America since the 1960’s withdrawal of Belgium, aim to control those resources for the economic and strategic benefit of itself and its allies.

The DRC began its independence in 1961 with the murder of Patrice Lumumba by the Congolese leader Mobutu Sese Seko and his American and Belgian allies, which eliminated the threat of socialism in the region and resulted in the establishment of a one party capitalist dictatorship. His one party system of government by patronage was supported by the Americans until the 1990’s when the Americans decided to remove Mobutu from power. He had become unreliable and was supporting the Hutu forces fighting the US-backed Rwandan Patriotic Front that had invaded Rwanda and taken power there in 1994. In 1990 the “winds of change” coming from Eastern Europe had already affected Mobutu’s grip on power, and he was forced to change the constitution permitting opposition political parties. Prior to that, his Popular Movement of the Revolution party (MPR) controlled the country without opposition. He agreed to conduct multiparty elections and the Transitional Constitution Act of 1994 provided for the country’s conversion to a democratic government. However, Mobutu was very slow to act on these commitments and the west, particularly the United States, could not wait for or rely on the use of multiparty democracy to divide the country into the easily controlled parts they wished to create. There was too much money to be made, and there were strategic interests at stake. They decided to eliminate Mobutu more quickly—and more violently—than elections could.

The RPF-Uganda plot to murder the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on the night of April 6, 1994, supported by the USA, Britain, and Belgium, and using the UN forces in Rwanda, included a plan to murder President Mobutu and President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya as well[1]. The Americans hoped to destabilize all of central and eastern Africa for their benefit. However, both Mobutu and Moi were warned, probably by Major-General Kombe, chief of Tanzanian Army Intelligence, who had been at one of the meetings at which the murders were planned. So they did not attend the meeting in Dar Es Salaam arranged by President Museveni of Uganda to discuss problems with the Arusha Accords agreed to between the RPF and the Hutu government of Rwanda. The meeting had only one objective: getting the leaders of Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and Kenya on board the plane that was shot down by surface-to-air missiles launched by the RPF and others while landing in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Major General Kombe was later murdered by Tanzanian police when it was determined he was the source of the leak[2].

The United States and Britain, successful in having their proxy, the RPF, seize control of Rwanda, then supported the 1994-95 RPF offensive against the Rwandan government forces and the two million refugees who had fled into the Congo to escape the RPF advance. The RPF justified the invasion of the Congo by stating that they were hunting down the Hutu interahamwe militia and the Hutu armed forces supposedly responsible for the massacres of the Tutsi population in Rwanda. However the invasion’s real purpose was to kill as many Hutu troops as possible, to destroy the Rwandan government forces still resisting and to establish a foothold in the mineral-rich eastern provinces of the DRC. The RPF attacks on the Hutu refugee camps in Congo, in which thousands were killed, were assisted by the United States, using satellite and aircraft surveillance to determine the location of the Hutu camps. The information was then provided to the RPF. There were several reports of sightings of black US Special Forces soldiers operating and advising the RPF forces when they committed these massacres.

When the Rwanda Government Forces and Hutu refugees fled into the Congo and regrouped in the refugee camps, many were disarmed and, although not forced back into Rwanda, were not provided any material support. Those forces were determined to continue the fight against the invading Tutsi and to try to take back power in Rwanda and restore the country to the majority Hutu people of Rwanda. Mobutu had helped the Hutu government repel previous invasions of Rwanda from Uganda by the RPF in 1990 and 1993. The Hutu forces posed a serious threat to the newly established Tutsi dictatorship in Rwanda and to Tutsi and, therefore, American and British hegemony in the region. This threat was realized when the Hutu forces launched a series of counterattacks against RPF forces in Rwanda, attacks often described in the western press as raids by “rebels”, “interahamwe” and “genocidaires”. The RPF and the USA wanted the camps eliminated but the support given to the Hutu forces by Mobutu, a fellow Bantu, compelled the RPF and the western powers to hasten his exit.

America turned to a long-time enemy of Mobutu’s to act as their tool in eliminating him. They selected Laurent Kabila, a long-time guerrilla fighter against Mobutu and a leftist, who, with western support, formed the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL)[3]. The armed forces of this alliance consisted mainly of Tutsi and Angolan troops. Britain and America arranged logistical and military support for Kabila and his men, and in less than a year from the beginning of preparations, Mobutu fled the country. On May 17, 1997, Laurent Kabila took power. Kabila succeeded in fighting his way to Kinshasa, the capital in the far west of the country, with only 47,000 men, because he had the popular support of the people, ever hopeful that Kabila would free them from the oppression and corruption of Mobutu. Kabila was seen by the people of the Congo as the only Congolese who had continued to fight Mobutu over the years. However his support from Uganda, Rwanda and the Tutsi regime in Burundi, as well as from Angola and the western powers, was crucial.

Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi had a hidden agenda in helping Kabila. They are poor and overpopulated countries. The Congo provides space and riches. Kabila had also agreed to pay them for their assistance in overthrowing Mobutu with mineral concessions in the east of the country. Western multinationals also gave their support to Kabila, vying against one another for contracts from Kabila and whetting their appetites in the scramble for the resources of the country. This was the real face of the “war of liberation”.

Peace did not last long once Kabila took power. It was followed on August 2, 1998, with a second war, this time to eliminate the liberator who had proved to be a man with whom they could not do business. Laurent Kabila was murdered only 14 months after ridding the country of Mobutu. He was murdered because he began to articulate the aspirations of his people and called on them to take their political and economic destiny into their own hands. He also tried to purge his government and military of the Tutsis who had helped him achieve power, but whom he distrusted, and he reneged on the agreements he had made with the Rwandans and Ugandans.

It became quickly apparent that Kabila had skilfully used the western powers to overthrow Mobutu, while letting them think they were using him. He had played their game when he could use them to gain power, but as soon as he had it he revealed his true intentions. This declaration of independence was perceived by the United States, Britain, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, as a betrayal. His nationalist stand immediately clashed with their economic and strategic interests. For example, he reviewed all the contracts he had signed with American, Canadian, South African, Belgian and Israeli mining companies when he was fighting against Mobutu. He also demanded that they pay in advance for decades of future profits they would make in order to generate funds for the reconstruction of basic social services and transportation infrastructure, and he refused to repay the debts incurred by the former regime with the IMF and World Bank, stating that the loan money had done nothing for the people of the Congo.

The war to eliminate Kabila began on August 2, 1998, in eastern Congo with a “rebellion” of the Congolese with Tutsi origins and sympathies and who were supported by the Tutsi regimes in Rwanda and Burundi, as well as their allies in Uganda. The two main rebel groups were the Rassemblement pour la Democratie, or RDC, and the Movement for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, or MLC, both backed by Rwanda and Uganda. He obtained the support of Zimbabwe, Chad, Namibia and Angola, and was able to resist the combined Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian armies. These allies managed to stop the Tutsi forces, and the war settled down into a stalemate with serious repercussions for the people of the region.

On July 10, 1999, under UN Security Council pressure, a cease-fire agreement was signed by all the warring parties at Lusaka, Zambia, which affected a cease-fire and also committed the warring parties to a transitional government in which they would all take part and in which the armed forces of all the parties would be integrated. Some Congolese saw this as a surrender by Kabila to the Tutsi he was reputed to have been close to in the past. However not much was done to implement the agreement, and some saw Kabila as trying to buy time to defend the country against the invaders.

On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated by a bodyguard linked to elements tied to the RPF and the CIA[4], and his son, Joseph Kabila, succeeded him. He continued some of his father’s policies and charged the Rwandans and Ugandans and their proxy “rebel” groups with the murder of his father, which they, of course, denied. However, he also made immediate visits to Britain, the United States, France and Germany, to talk to the leaders of those countries. He then removed the ministers appointed by his father, removed price controls, devalued the national currency, which badly affected the people, and began negotiations with the invading countries and their proxy “rebel” forces in eastern Congo.

On May 4, 2001, continuing the negotiations started in Lusaka, he met with “rebel” leaders, once again in Lusaka, and signed a declaration citing 14 basic principles that would form the basis of an “Inter-Congolese National Dialogue”. After the UN Security Council passed resolutions condemning the war and calling for the invading states to withdraw their forces, further negotiations were conducted, and on April 18, 2002, the RDC entered into a power-sharing deal with the MLC. The other groups refused to sign it and formed an alliance to continue the “national dialogue”. On July 5, 2003, a transitional government was formed in which Kabila agreed to share power with 4 vice-presidents, three of them allied with Tutsi-backed “rebel” groups. The Security Council set up its UN Mission in Congo, known as MONUC, supposedly to try to keep the peace between the parties. It now has 10,000 observers, and military personnel there are permitted to use force if necessary to disarm the factions. However, force has been mainly used to disarm the Rwandan Hutu and Burundian Hutu resistance groups located in the Congo and cited by Rwanda as its convenient excuse for being in the country. This has failed, as the Hutu resistance groups continue to fight for majority rights in Rwanda and Burundi; and this can only be accomplished by breaking the hegemony of the Tutsi and their supporters in the region. MONUC is seen by many Congolese as sympathetic to the “rebels” and their supporters, and there have been attacks on its personnel by civilians protesting its presence in the country.

The agreements reached have not been fulfilled, and there are constant provocations against the DRC by “rebel” groups and the Rwandan government, which, despite the agreements, use all manner of excuses and provocations to start the war again.

To date the war continues with open fighting or threats of fighting. It is a war of aggression against the Democratic Republic of Congo carried out by Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, and logistically supported and financed by the United States, Britain and several multinational companies. There have been many toothless Security Council resolutions condemning this aggression, while recognizing the legitimate role of Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola, in helping the Congo defend itself against this aggression.

In April 2001, a UN Panel of Experts confirmed that the reasons given by Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, for maintaining their troops deep in Congolese territory are lies. Their report details that these forces are not there, as they claim, to defend their own borders against incursions by the Hutu resistance. They could do that at their borders without entering Congolese territory. They are there solely because they are systematically looting the region of its flora and fauna, and its mineral resources, alongside American, Canadian, British and South African companies, several of which use mercenaries to protect their theft and to murder any the people of the region who try to stop them.

It is estimated that more than 3 million people have been killed by the invading forces since 1996. The invading forces have killed each other as well when they have fallen to fighting over territory they each control. Three times fighting has broken out in the city of Kisangani between the forces of Rwanda and Uganda and their local proxies, killing thousands of civilians and destroying the city, a city which is a long distance from the Rwanda-Uganda borders they claim to be defending.

It is by plundering eastern Congo through this war and occupation that Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda have managed to develop in the last few years and meet their obligations under IMF and World Bank guidelines. The rest of their money comes from subsidies from Britain and the United States. They are, in fact, Anglo-American client states established and supported in the region to cement Anglo-American hegemony over the region and to keep the French out.

American policy in Central Africa rests on the two pillars of military aid and theft of resources. The military aid programmes of the USA, planned by the Special Operations Command and the Defence Intelligence Agency, have been overt and covert. They use both uniformed forces and mercenaries. Sources in the region consistently report the existence of a large US military base near Cyangugu, Rwanda, near the border with Congo, used in training RPF forces and providing logistical support for their operations in Congo, as well as a US base in the Bugusera region, reported on by BBC journalist Nick Gordon.

American policy in the region has been consistent: to promote destabilization. The continued turmoil permits unscrupulous mining companies to take advantage of the strife to steal diamonds, gold, copper, platinum and other precious metals.

Some of these companies have close links to both mercenary, or “private contracting” companies, and America’s and Britain’s top political leadership. America Mineral Fields, a company that helped back Laurent Kabila’s drive for power, is headquartered in Arkansas and its major stockholders includeclose associates of President Clinton. One of the major goals of one of the “rebel” groups fighting the Kabila government, the RCD, is the restoration of mining concessions for Barrick Gold, Inc., of Canada, whose advisory board includes President Bush I and Clinton’s confidant Vernon Jordan. The role of DeBeers is notorious. These companies stoke the flames of war, and each benefits from the de facto partition of the country into four zones of political control. At first they exploited the gold and diamonds, but now they have turned their attentions to a valuable black sand called columbite-tantalite (coltan) which is a key material in computer chips and therefore considered a strategic mineral.

The United States, through its spokesperson, Walter Kannsteiner, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, has called for the division of the Great Lakes region into Tutsi and Hutu states through “relocation” and has stated that the break-up of the Congo is “inevitable”. Kannsteiner previously worked at the Department of Defence on a Task Force on Strategic Minerals. The coltan supplies in the Congo arguably make it as important to the United States as the Persian Gulf.

The war in Congo is a western syndicated proxy war, and like Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia and Sudan, it is war-as-cover for the rapid and unrestricted extraction of raw materials and the oppression of the local people. Besides Barrick, American Mineral Fields, Lonhro, a company connected with the British crown, an Israeli general has been awarded a mining concession near Bunia in the northwest of the country. The wars have also generated a massive ivory-poaching trade.

The “rebel” forces, of which there are several, are mere proxies of the Rwandans and Ugandans. Without genuine political, economic, and social policies that can appeal to the people, they are little more than organized crime syndicates. The major arms supplies for these rebels and the parent armies come from Britain and the United States, mainly through Entebbe. American troops are based in several places in the region and have formed a Mobile Training Team advising regional insurgents. This team is made up of black US marines. Israel also supports these countries. Israeli military personnel, alongside Americans, have helped the Tutsi dictator of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, track down and murder Hutus in the Congo. South Africa, knee deep in hypocrisy, also helps the rebel and parent forces. It too is interested in the riches of the Congo, and the interest of DeBeers in the diamond fields cannot be forgotten. This economic interest accounts for Mandela’s opposition to the presence of troops from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola in Congo to fight the Tutsi and Ugandan invaders.

The threat of war continues in the DRC. In the latter part of 2004, “rebel” groups have accused the DRC forces of attacking Tutsis in the east of the country and have used that as an excuse to attack DRC forces, of which, under the Lusaka Accords, they are technically a part. It is accepted that the rebel groups themselves are instigating the troubles in order to bargain for power and position. This situation is particularly worrying, as the unity of the country was jeopardized in 2006 by the political fight between Joseph Kabila and former pro-Ugandan leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

In any case, it’s obvious that the people of the DRC can never have peace and the right to control their own destiny and resources until the United States, Britain and its allies stop sponsoring the Rwandan, Burundian and Ugandan armies and their proxy forces inside the country. However, it is evident that the United States regards the DRC as a strategic asset it must control in order to maintain its hegemony in the world, and the United Nations is its tool in the region, just as it is elsewhere. However, as in Iraq, the people of the Congo will continue to resist and suffer for years to come.

Chris Black


[1] Bruguière report and the opinion of former general secretary of the UN Boutros Boutros-Ghali on that subject

[2] Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999, Mellon Press, 1999. Robin Philpot, Ca ne s'est pas passe comme ca a Kigali, Les Intouchables, Montreal, 2003. Testimony of Wayne Madsen, Executive Intelligence Review, July 26, 2002, Testimony of Uwe Friesecke, Executive Intelligence Review, July 26, 2002, Honore Ngbanda Nzambo, Crimes Organises en Afrique Centrale-Revelations sur les Reseaux Rwandais et Occidentaux, Editions Duboioris, Paris, 2004 (this recent book by the head of Mobutu's head of state security is explosive especially as it recounts the last meeting between Mobutu and President Habyarimana of Rwanda who told Mobutu that the Americans told him he was a dead man if he did not cede power to the RPF and that they wanted Mobutu on the plane that was shot down killing Habyarimana). Also see Cynthia McKinney,Chairperson, Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights Committee on International Relations, US Congress, April and May 2001

[3] Sources : Cynthia McKinney's hearings as above, Wayne Madsen as above (both book and testimony) Uwe Friesecke as above, Media Coverage of the Congo Invasion, Antoine Roger Lokongo, http:www//
Profits For The West—Rape, Massacres and Slavery For the Rest, How the Western High Tech Mania is Fuelling Both the Wars and the Illegal Exploitation of Natural and Mineral Resources of the Democratic republic of Congo, Antoine Roger Lokongo, Congo Panorama,, Book by Honore Nzambo, as above (op.cit).

[4] Mckinney Hearings, Madsen, testimony and book, Uwe Freisecke, testimony as above Antoine Roger Lokongo, Honore Nzambo op.cit.


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