Archive for May, 2011
Posted on May 12, 2011 - by Kambale Musavuli
On March 28, 2011, United States President Barack Obama spoke to the American people about Libya and why the United States (U.S.) must engage militarily as opposed to diplomatically. The U.S. , led by AFRICOM (the U.S. Military Command in Africa that enforces U.S. foreign policy), initiated the bombing of Libya ostensibly to enforce a United Nations (U.N.) mandated No-Fly Zone. The rationale for the U.S. intervention in Libya is to protect vulnerable civilians from mass slaughter by the Libyan regime.
One has to question why the U.S. has pursued a military path to “protect” civilians in Libya, especially considering that there is a far greater humanitarian crisis unfolding in the heart of Africa. The question generates greater concern when one considers that President Obama has had diplomatic tools at his disposal to help alleviate the human suffering in the Congo but has not used them.
For the past 14 years, more than 6 million Congolese have perished due to the ongoing conflict, which was triggered by U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda when they invaded Congo in 1996. As the world focuses on the Western Intervention in Libya under the guise of moral responsibility to protect the vulnerable, the global community must question the lack of action on the part of the U.S. and the coalition when it comes to the millions dead in the Congo.
On December 15, 2008, the U.N. published the Final Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo. This report documented, among other things, satellite phone records for members of one of the rebel groups responsible for destabilizing the Congo, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). The CNDP was in communication with the Rwandan Defense Force high military command and the Rwandan presidency.
Given the solid evidence of Rwanda’s complicity in support of the CNDP who was destabilizing the Congo, global pressure had begun to be applied but not from the U.S. or Great Britain. Sweden and Netherlands took the lead in applying pressure to Rwanda by withholding aid to the Rwandan government. This action played a key role in Rwanda placing under house arrest the rebel leader of the CNDP, Laurent Nkunda, and causing the rebel group to integrate into the Congolese army.
This diplomatic action showed the world that Rwanda is susceptible to outside pressure. Unfortunately, the U.S. and Great Britain did not apply any overt pressure. Instead of following the lead of Sweden and Netherlands, the U.S. pursued a backdoor deal that would result in a rapprochement between President Kabila and President Kagame while allowing Rwandan troops to enter Congolese soil once again. In essence the U.S. backed a personal back door deal as opposed to an institutional transparent approach, which would have better served the prospects for long-term peace and stability in the region.
The U.S. has a diplomatic tool at its disposal that can make a difference in the region, the Obama Law, Public Law 109-456. This law, written by Obama and enacted in December 2006, provides the U.S. with the force of law to hold accountable Congo’s neighbors that have been destabilizing the country since 1996. It received bipartisan support in the senate and was also co-sponsored by then-Senator Hillary Clinton. This law also calls for the appointment of a special envoy to the Great Lakes region and gives the Secretary of State the authority to withhold aid from neighboring countries that destabilize the Congo.
On October 26, 2007, U.S. President George Bush met with Congolese President Joseph Kabila in the White House. Then-Senator Obama released a statement reminding President Bush about his commitment to enforce the newly enacted U.S. law, Public Law 109-456, and stated that “It’s time the Administration stops ignoring the call by Congress to appoint a special envoy to the DRC, and strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force which is working to stabilize the eastern part of the Congo.”
Now that Barack Obama is President, neither he nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has taken steps to enforce this law. Unfortunately, President Obama has demonstrated the same lack of action on the Congo as his predecessor, George W. Bush.
The Obama Administration’s lack of resolve in implementing U.S. law as it relates to the Congo where the humanitarian crisis is far greater than in Libya, leads one to question why the double standard in applying the principle of the responsibility to protect, especially considering that the Congo situation does not require a military solution but rather robust diplomatic and political action.
The suspicion many analysts share is that the U.S. is quick to act against its enemies while providing cover for its allies, even if its allies are clearly culpable of committing mass atrocities, crimes against humanity, and possible genocide according to the recently published U.N. report called “UN Mapping Exercise Report”.
This report, released by The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on October 1, 2010, documents “the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003.” It also identifies countries “that could be held responsible for serious violations of human rights committed by their national armies during the period under consideration in the DRC, and in particular Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola.”
During President Obama’s visit to Ghana, he shared with the Africans that the U.S. will engage differently in Africa from previous administrations by supporting strong institutions and not strong men. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has yet to hold to this principle when it comes to Central Africa. It continues to support Central African strongmen, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda while the people of the region continue to suffer from an ongoing conflict and the plundering of their natural resources.
In the final analysis, if President Obama can implement a No-Fly Zone over Libya, surely, he can implement Public Law 109-456 and hold accountable U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda who are responsible for the destabilizing of the Congo and the region of the Great Lakes.
Pressure has been mounting against the U.S. Government as it remains inactive in implementing the Obama Law. Students organizing through “Congo Week” have made their priority demand to the Obama Administration the enforcement of Public Law 109-456. American Playwright Eve Ensler, along with her supporters, called for the enforcement of the Obama Law in June of 2010.
Last year, President Obama signed into law the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010” (Dodd-Frank Act). This new law, in its section 1502, requires companies to submit a new annual report and, in some cases, an independent private sector audit report, to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) if they are using conflict minerals that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country.
A multi-stakeholder group composed of companies, non-governmental organizations, socially responsible and faith-based investors submitted recommendations to the SEC asking, in addition to the new reporting requirement for companies, that the SEC coordinates with the State Department the implementation of the Obama Law to curb the violence and illicit trade of minerals in the Congo.
Furthermore, thirty-five Congressmen, sixteen Senators, Actor Ben Affleck, The Dear Hillary Campaign, a collection of human rights organizations and socially responsible investor groups, and thousands of American voters have also called on President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton to start implementing PL 109-456 with an appointment of a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, which is Section 107 of the Law.
Friends of the Congo maintains that the appointment of a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, as one of the steps to the full enforcement of the Obama Law, should embody the spirit of President Obama’s July 2009 speech where he calls for a shift in U.S. policy to one that supports strong institutions as opposed to its practice of supporting strongmen throughout Africa.
Lend your voice to the effort of bringing an end to the crisis in the Congo, the deadliest conflict since World War II, by signing the petition to appoint a special envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Posted on May 8, 2011 - by Kambale Musavuli
On this day, Mother’s Day, there are so many things I can say or write about my mother. I can speak of how my mother finished her college dissertation while pregnant with me, her last child. She always shared with us how tough it was to stay focus and committed to going to college while working to support the household and making sure that my two eldest siblings were ok too, all the while being pregnant.
I can speak of how my mother raised three children by herself in Congo… the nights when she had to be a dad and mom during the military uprising in the early 90s, and during the first Rwandan-Ugandan war in the Congo in 1996. I can also speak about her commitment that she made to her children about making sure we all were in school and had food in the house no matter the financial hardship. As a child, I witnessed how our house furnitures and her Sunday’s best- clothes were sold in the market just to make sure that tuition was paid (Yes, in the Congo, education is not free and the best schools in Kinshasa have really high tuition rates).
I can’t forget how she challenged us as her children to think, read, and be able to make analysis of political situation… I still remember the Paris Match magazine she will bring home for us to read, or her spending extra hours after work to make sure our homework was done…
Yes, she instill in me the passion I have today to not only push for excellence, but to know what is wrong with the elite life and how to help people from all backgrounds… Even one year, though I was able to go to schools such as Flamboyants, Petits-Anges, and Malula in Kinshasa (some decent schools in Kinshasa), she made sure for one year, I was able to attend a school called Petits-Bois, right in Kinseso, a neighborhood that could be considered as the ghetto of the ghettoes in Kinshasa (capital city of the Congo).
What I learned going there was invaluable. I saw how less fortunate kids than me were as smart as my former classmates in other schools, yet they did not have the same type of access to materials for their studies nor did they not have the same opportunities than the most fortunate ones.
Mom, as I call her, made me who I am today… Without her, I am sure I would not be the man I am today as cliché as it may sound.
For that Mom, I thank you for enduring the 9 months… and even more years later… to make sure that I contribute positively to this earth.
This is so true to many mothers in the Congo… the mothers in the East of the Congo are always on my mind. Every day, I think about how they live. Can you imagine living in constant fear of being brutalized by armed men? For my New York friends, think about living in the state of mind you had on September 11 2001 when you did not know what was going on… and take that feeling spread over 14 years… These strong Congolese women wake up every morning with that fear of the unknown and yet walk out their front door with their head high…
Knowing their strength, I can only spend this day not just honoring my mother, but all my Congolese mothers, who, when faced with adversity, they always rise up with strength and power.
To all my Congolese mothers, thank you for all you are doing… and us your children, will make it right very soon! “Our Time Will Come!”
Here is a poem dedicated to all the mothers on this day… a poem by Camara Laye
To My Mother
Black woman, African woman, O mother, I think of you …
O Dâman, O mother,
who carried me on your back, who nursed me,
who governed by first steps,
who opened my eyes to the beauties of the world, I think of you …
Woman of the fields, woman of the rivers, woman of the great river, O
mother, I think of you …
O Dâman, O mother, who wiped my tears,
who cheered up my heart,
who patiently dealt with my caprices,
how I would love to still be near you.
Simple woman, woman of resignation, O mother, I think of you.
O Dâman, Dâman of the great family of blacksmiths, my thoughts are
always of you, they accompany me with every step,
O Dâman, my mother, how I would love to still feel your warmth,
to be your child that is close to you …
Black woman, African woman, O mother, thank you; thank you for all
that you have done for me, your son, so far away yet so close to you!
A ma mère (French)
Femme noire, femme africaine, ô toi ma mère je pense à toi…
Ô Dâman, ô ma mère, toi qui me
portas sur le dos, toi qui m’allaitas,
toi qui gouvernas mes premiers pas,
toi qui la première m’ouvris les yeux
aux prodiges de la terre, je pense à toi…
Femme des champs, femme des rivières, femme du grand fleuve,
ô toi, ma mère, je pense à toi…
Ô toi Dâman, ô ma mère, toi qui
essuyais mes larmes, toi qui me
réjouissais le coeur, toi qui,
patiemment supportais mes caprices,
comme j’aimerais encore être près de toi, être enfant près de toi…
Ô Dâman, Dâman de la grande
famille des forgerons, ma pensée
toujours se tourne vers toi, la tienne
à chaque pas m’accompagne, ô
Dâman, ma mère, comme j’aimerais
encore être dans ta chaleur, être
enfant près de toi…
Femme noire, femme africaine, ô
toi, ma mère, merci ; merci pour tout
ce que tu fis pour moi, ton fils, si
loin, si près de toi !