Archive for the ‘The Writings’ Category
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 January 1, 2011 - by Kambale Musavuli
On this New Year’s day, the Congolese youth of America wish you a wonderful new year in 2011. May it be a prosperous and successful one that brings us closer to peace in our country.
I write to the youth, men and women, to remind you of the prophetic message of our elders who worked tirelessly and made the ultimate sacrifice for us to be called not only African, but also Congolese, united in the effort to rebuild the land of our ancestors.
When Patrice Lumumba sent his appeal to the Congolese youth in the 1960s, he realized that without the youth, the future of the Congo would not be guaranteed. Our youth long asleep, long exploited, he said, must understand their role as the vanguard of the peaceful revolution and the salvation of the Congo.
Living in the United States, we have been able to learn how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the age of 26, began his illustrious work for equality of the black man and woman here in the West. The same is true for our Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, age 34, who embarked upon the task of leading a country the size of Western Europe. We cannot forget our brother, Steve Biko in South Africa, who also fought against the apartheid regime by mobilizing the youth in his country and who was assassinated at age 30. I would not do justice to the history of our country if I did not invoke the name of Kimpa Vita, the young Dona Beatriz, who mobilized the Kongo people against the Portuguese invasion and lost her life in the process. She was only 21 when she was burned alive at the stake.
All these historic examples remind us that today we are also able to create a revival in our country. We can make the Congo a great world power. This will not be easy. We will have many difficulties, but our elders will be there for advice and wisdom. It is a duty we owe to our ancestors who, even till death, fought so that we would not lose our land. We in the diaspora are counting on you.
Rest assured that we, your brothers and sisters in the diaspora, and also the many people of goodwill around the world, from China, Canada, Japan, Australia, Belgium, the United States, and elsewhere, are here to provide you with support, moral as well as financial.
The awakening of the Congolese youth is paramount in achieving a new and prosperous future for not only the Congo but also Africa as a whole. The pride of being Congolese should compel us to toil day and night for peace as it will come only through our hands in synergy and unity among us in the Congo and the Awakened Diaspora.
Congolese Youth, the Great Congo of today is ours. This gift is not just hereditary, but also because millions of Congolese have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country since 1482. We must do everything in our power to assure that our beautiful Congo remains in the hands of the sons and daughters of the Congo.
Long live the Congolese Youth!
Long live the Democratic Republic of Congo!
Long live Africa and Africans!
Friends of the Congo
New York, USA
Posted on December 31, 2010 - by Kambale Musavuli
Message de Meilleurs vœux à la jeunesse Congolaise, 1er Janvier 2011
En ce jour de Nouvel An, la jeunesse Congolaise de l’Amérique vous souhaite une meilleure année 2011, prospère et fructueuse, nous rapprochant plus à la paix dans notre pays.
A cette jeunesse, tant masculine que féminine, je m’y adresse pour évoquer le message prophétique de nos aînés qui ont travaillé assidu jusqu’au sacrifice suprême pour que nous puissions aujourd’hui nous reconnaitre non seulement comme Africain, mais comme Congolais uni dans l’effort pour reconstruire la terre de nos ancêtres.
Quand Patrice Lumumba lança son appel à la jeunesse Congolaise dans les années 60, il avait compris que sans cette jeunesse, l’avenir du Congo ne serait garanti. Notre jeunesse longtemps endormie, longtemps exploitée, comme il le dit, doit comprendre son rôle qui est celui du porte-drapeau de la révolution pacifique et le salut du Congo.
Vivant aux Etats-Unis, nous avons pu apprendre comment Dr. Martin Luther King, à 26 ans, a commencé son illustre avancée pour l’égalité de l’homme noir ici en Occident. Le même est vrai pour notre premier ministre Patrice Lumumba qui, à 34 ans, avait eu la tache de diriger un pays en superficie égale à l’Europe occidentale. Nous ne pouvons pas oublier notre frère Steve Biko en Afrique du Sud qui s’est lui aussi battu contre le régime Apartheid en mobilisant les jeunes dans son pays, et fut assassiner à 30 ans. Je ne ferai pas justice à l’histoire de notre pays si je n’invoque pas le nom de Kimpa Vita, la jeune Dona Beatriz, qui a mobilisé les Congolais contre l’invasion des Portugais et y a laissé sa peau. Elle n’avait que 21 ans quand elle fut brulée vive.
Tous ces exemples sont pour nous rappeler qu’aujourd’hui, nous aussi sommes capables de créer un renouveau dans notre pays. Nous pouvons faire du Congo la grande puissance du monde. Cela ne sera pas facile. Nous aurons tant de difficultés, mais nos aînés seront là pour conseil et sagesse. C’est un devoir que nous avons pour nos ancêtres qui, jusqu’à la mort, se sont battu pour que nous ne perdions pas notre terre. Nous, dans la diaspora, comptons sur vous.
Sachez aujourd’hui que nous, vos frères et sœurs dans la diaspora, et aussi plusieurs personnes de bonne volonté dans le monde, de la Chine, au Canada, au Japon, en Australie, Belgique, en passant par les Etats-Unis, tous sont là pour le support tant morale qu’économique.
L’éveil de la jeunesse Congolaise est primordial pour un avenir nouveau et prospère pour non seulement le Congo, mais aussi l’Afrique entière. La fierté d’être Congolais doit nous interpeller à travailler jour et nuit, cette année 2011, pour la paix qui ne viendra que de nos mains en synergie et unité entre nous dans le Congo et la diaspora éveillée.
Jeunesse Congolaise, le Grand Congo d’aujourd’hui nous appartient. Cet acquis n’est pas juste héréditaire, mais aussi de destinée à cause des millions de Congolais qui ont coulé leur sang pour ce pays depuis 1482. Nous devons tout faire pour qu’on ne nous arrache pas notre Congo.
Vive la Jeunesse Congolaise!
Vive la République Démocratique du Congo!
Vive l’Afrique et les Africains!
Les Amis du Congo (Friends of the Congo)
New York, Etats-Unis
Posted on June 2, 2010 - by Kambale Musavuli
Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time, may be more real and current than what the average person may know. The battle of Pandora is taking place right now in the Congo! Since 1996 a war has raged in the Congo to get access to resources vital for modern technology and global investors. Nearly six million Congolese have lost their lives, millions more have been displaced, hundreds of thousands of women have been systematically raped as a strategy of war, mass scale logging is taking place at an alarming rate in the second largest rainforest in the world, and an $80 billion plan is being pursued by the World Energy Council to dam the Congo River, ostensibly to provide electricity to Europe while the people are still in the dark. All the while, there is a deafening silence within the international community about the root causes of this 14-year-old war waged in the heart of Africa.
Ann Hornaday, in her December 18, 2009 article in the Washington Post, delves into Avatar’s historical connection with the Congo as she shows how Joseph Conrad’s Marlow is the Avatar corollary of James Cameron’s Jake Sully. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, we see the dehumanizing description of Congo natives as “mostly black and naked, [moving] about like ants” and “black shapes” remarkably similar to Cameron’s Avatar label of “fly-bitten savages” and “blue monkeys.”
Using computer animation and 3-D technology, Cameron takes us into a virtual world, where characters maintain humanness throughout this action-packed film. The three-dimensional experience of Avatar places the audience inside the plot. They witness in real time the resource exploitation of indigenous land at the expense of local populations in the name of profit for corporations and investors. Being sunk into the special effects, ordinary people fail to realize how they are also complicit in the destruction similar to that portrayed in the movie and leave the theater or their couch with a predominant sentiment in their mind: “This is a great movie!” Yet no global outrage, nor action, is taken by the viewers for a worldwide mobilization campaign to stop the real-life, current exploitation of the Congolese people.
This film creates space for a much-needed dialogue about what we are doing to our planet Earth. It illustrates how interconnected humans are and touches on issues from the environment to spirituality. It lays bare the connection between the dehumanization of native people and corporate greed whereby profit takes priority over people. To achieve their aim, corporations create chaos in order to access certain key resources at the expense of the indigenous people. Avatar addresses the most important of wars in the world today, yet it calls for a state of amnesia. Dots are left unconnected between the movie and what is happening right now in the heart of the African continent.
This is also the set of Congo’s plight. Congo is arguably the richest country on the planet in terms of natural resources. It is the storehouse of strategic and precious minerals that are vital to the functioning of modern society. Its minerals are key to the consumer electronics, technology, automotive, aerospace and military industries. Its diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, uranium, iron, tin, tungsten, and coltan (a compound mineral that is central to the functioning of our cell phones, laptops and other technology and electronic devices) are coveted from China to the United States. Its rainforest, being the second largest in the world after the Amazon, is vital to the fight against climate change as noted by Sun Sentinel, while American companies such as The Blattner Group are cutting the trees down day by day in the name of profit.
This geopolitical and geostrategic battle to control Congo’s vast mineral wealth is devastating for the entire continent of Africa. Bordered by nine African countries, Congo straddles the equator and is the fulcrum on which the entire continent swings. Whatever happens in the Congo affects the entire continent. As foreign governments and multinationals fight to exploit Congo’s resources, a second Congolese holocaust in just over a century is taking place. Because of these resources, the Congolese people have faced distinct challenges since its modern founding in 1885 at the Berlin Conference when Congo was given to King Leopold II of Belgium as his own personal property. The first Congolese holocaust transpired in the late 1800s when an estimated 10 to 15 million Congolese lost their lives due to the world’s appetite for rubber and ivory. The difference in present-day Congo is that it is primarily US allies Rwanda and Uganda who are carrying out the depopulation and control over Congolese land and resources.
The central question in the Congo, as in Avatar, is who is going to control the resources and for whose benefit? The answer to this question is evident in the very conflict that is the Congo: in the unsafe natural gas exploitation in Lake Kivu by American company Contour Global, mass displacement and environmental degradation of local indigenous people by Freeport McMoran, odious mining contracts by American companies such as OM Group, or the illegal logging and massive exploitation of plantation workers by The Blattner Group, to name a few.
In the midst of all of this exploitation, there is a trait worth mentioning that demonstrates the resiliency and self-determination of the Congolese people. For more than 400 years, the Congolese have been fighting for sovereignty over their land. They have lost many leaders such as Kimpa Vita, who was burned at the stake at age 21 with her infant son; she was accused of heresy by the Portuguese because she had organized the people in the Kongo kingdom to fight for the sovereignty of the land. Another notable freedom fighter is Simon Kimbangu, who spent more years in prison fighting Belgian colonialism than Nelson Mandela did while fighting apartheid. Congo also saw the rise of Lumpungu II, who spoke out about sovereignty of the land and was hanged in front of his people by Belgian colonial officials. Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, can never be forgotten as he fought to retain Congo’s resources for the benefit of the Congolese people in particular and Africa in general. As a result of Lumumba’s stance, within months of taking office he was assassinated by Belgium in cahoots with the United States, other western nations and local elites.
The Congolese youth have initiated a worldwide mobilization campaign in partnership with other young people around the world. The Jake Sullies of the Congo who have helped in the awakening of national consciousness for centuries have fortunately been Congolese. And though they have nearly all been brutally assassinated, the fight of the Congolese to control their own resources and determine their own affairs has not yet died. The spirit that lives in the Congolese youth who continue to rise up for change of their nation is immortal. As self-determination in the rebuilding of their country runs through their veins, their ancestors’ history becomes a reminder of the struggle now waged for centuries.
Frantz Fanon says that each generation must find its destiny, and when found, either betray it or fulfill it. The Congolese youth of today are fulfilling that destiny by breaking the silence both inside their country and globally. Just as in Pandora, the battle of Congo is the battle of humanity, especially given Congo’s importance in the fight against climate change, its large fresh water reserves, and mineral resources that are key to modern society. Being true agents of change, the youth are organizing events, winning the hearts and minds of people in their respective communities by sharing their personal stories and mobilizing support for Congolese on the ground. Youth groups inside Congo are organizing film festivals in eastern Congo where the conflict is more acute. Others are also doing their part in the education of young Congolese through history teach-ins.
Today, in the Congo, there is a new breed of Avatars. The Congolese youth are playing that role, as they are scattered around the world in countries that are fueling the war in their home country. Their mission is different than that of Jake Sully. Theirs is to win the hearts and minds of the citizens of these nations to pressure their country’s government and corporations to stop the plunder of Congo’s resources. With that diplomatic mission, we bear witness to a global movement in support of Congolese people energized by their youth in a quest to bring peace and stability to their home.
Ordinary people around the globe can play a critical role in bringing about change in the Congo. We all benefit from Congo’s wealth and have a responsibility to make sure we are not benefiting at the expense of the people. What is taking place in the Congo as we speak is a scar on the conscience of humanity. Congo’s problem is a worldwide problem, hence it demands a global response. The global movement in support of the Congo is as important today as the free South Africa movement was yesterday. We all must get involved by demanding that our leaders make Congo a priority, hold our corporations accountable and support Congolese institutions fighting for peace, justice and human dignity.
As Fanon presciently noted, “Let us be sure never to forget it; the fate of all of us is at stake in the Congo.”
Posted on December 14, 2009 - by Kambale Musavuli
Published on the Huffington Post.
As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, myriad Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo’s challenges than to resolve them.
The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR and other rebel groups while scant attention is paid to Uganda (which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo) and Rwanda (whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by UN reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials). Rwanda is the main transit point for illicit minerals coming from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group (FDLR, CNDP or others) transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda’s mining sector output grew 20% in 2008 from the year earlier due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country’s three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed. In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo’s minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach $200 million by 2010. Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes “having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure.
According to Global Witness’s 2009 report, Faced With A Gun What Can you Do, Congolese government statistics and reports by the Group of Experts and NGOs, Rwanda is one of the main conduits for illicit minerals leaving the Congo. It is amazing that the conflict mineral approach shout loudly about making sure that the trade in minerals does not benefit armed groups but the biggest armed beneficiary of Congo’s minerals is the Rwandan regime headed by Paul Kagame. Nonetheless, the conflict mineral approach is remarkably silent about Rwanda’s complicity in the fueling of the conflict in the Congo and the fleecing of Congo’s riches.
Advocates of the conflict mineral approach would be far more credible if they had ever called for any kind of pressure whatsoever on mining companies that are directly involved in either fueling the conflict or exploiting the Congolese people. The United Nations, The Congolese Parliament, Carter Center, Southern Africa Resource Watch and several other NGOs have documented corporations that have pilfered Congo’s wealth and contributed to the perpetuation of the conflict. Some of these companies include but are not limited to: Traxys, OM Group, Blattner Elwyn Group, Freeport McMoran, Eagle Wings/Trinitech, Lundin, Kemet, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Anvil Mining, and First Quantum.
The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration, is silent on the question of resource sovereignty which has been a central question in the geo-strategic battle for Congo’s mineral wealth. It was over this question of resource sovereignty that the West assassinated Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba and stifled the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people for over three decades by installing and backing the dictator Joseph Mobutu. In addition, the United States also backed the 1996 and 1998 invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda instead of supporting the non-violent, pro-democracy forces inside the Congo. Unfortunately and to the chagrin of the Congolese people, some of the strongest advocates of the conflict mineral approach are former Clinton administration officials who supported the invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. This may in part explains the militaristic underbelly of the conflict mineral approach, which has as its so-called second step a comprehensive counterinsurgency.
The focus on the east of Congo falls in line with the long-held obsession by some advocates in Washington who incessantly push for the balkanization of the Congo. Their focus on “Eastern Congo” is inadequate and does not fully take into account the nature and scope of the dynamics in the entire country. Political decisions in Kinshasa, the capital in the West, have a direct impact on the events that unfold in the East of Congo and are central to any durable solutions.
The central claim of the conflict mineral approach is to bring an end to the conflict; however, the conflict can plausibly be brought to an end much quicker through diplomatic and political means. The so-called blood mineral route is not the quickest way to end the conflict. We have already seen how quickly world pressure can work with the sidelining of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and the demobilization and/or rearranging of his CNDP rebel group in January 2009, as a result of global pressure placed on the CNDP’s sponsor Paul Kagame of Rwanda. More pressure needs to be placed on leaders such as Kagame and Museveni who have been at the root of the conflict since 1996. The FDLR can readily be pressured as well, especially with most of their political leadership residing in the West, however this should be done within a political framework, which brings all the players to the table as opposed to the current militaristic, dichotomous, good-guy bad-guy approach where the West sees Kagame and Museveni as the “good-guys” and everyone else as bad. The picture is far grayer than Black and White.
A robust political approach by the global community would entail the following prescriptions:
1. Join Sweden and Netherlands in pressuring Rwanda to be a partner for peace and a stabilizing presence in the region. The United States and Great Britain in particular should apply more pressure on their allies Rwanda and Uganda to the point of withholding aid if necessary.
2. Hold to account companies and individuals through sanctions trafficking in minerals whether with rebel groups or neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. Canada has chimed in as well but has been deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo. Canada must do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300.
3. Encourage world leaders to be more engaged diplomatically and place a higher priority on what is the deadliest conflict in the World since World War Two.
4. Reject the militarization of the Great Lakes region represented by AFRICOM, which has already resulted in the suffering of civilian population; the strengthening of authoritarian figures such as Uganda’s Museveni (in power since 1986) and Rwanda’s Kagame (won the 2003 “elections” with 95 percent of the vote); and the restriction of political space in their countries.
5. Demand of the Obama administration to be engaged differently from its current military-laden approach and to take the lead in pursuing an aggressive diplomatic path with an emphasis on pursuing a regional political framework that can lead to lasting peace and stability.
To learn more about the current crisis in the Congo, visit www.conflictminerals.org.
Posted on September 22, 2009 - by Kambale Musavuli
Published on the All Africa.com.
The challenges of Congo advocacy in the 21st century
One hundred years ago, a global outrage surrounding the death of an estimated ten million Congolese resulted in the end of King Leopold II of Belgium’s rule in the Congo. Ordinary people around the world from all walks of life stood at the side of the Congolese and demanded the end of the first recorded Congolese holocaust. A century later, the world finds itself facing the same issue where the Congolese people are subjected to unimaginable suffering.
Although advocacy for the Congo has a rich and illustrious tradition dating back to the dawn of the 20th century, contemporary advocacy is faced with unprecedented obstacles: corporate interests, humanitarian industry, geo-strategic battles, the devaluation of black lives, and media caricatures and misrepresentation of Africans.
In 1908, international advocacy resulted in Congo being taken from King Leopold II and given to the Belgian state as a colony. The ultimate aim of today’s advocacy is to see the Congo removed from the clutches of multi-national corporations, foreign governments, multi-lateral institutions, the humanitarian industry and local elites and placed in the hands of the people of the Congo. The challenge of 21st century advocacy is for the affairs of the Congo to be determined by the people of the Congo.
Challenges of the Congo
In his 1967 book Challenge of the Congo, Kwame Nkrumah noted that the struggle of the Congo is both an internal and external one. As we look at the Congo today, this has not fundamentally changed. A wide array of interests is aligned against the people of the Congo attaining true independence, liberty and human dignity.
US business interest in the Congo is focused primarily on the mining sector in resources such as: tin, gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, coltan, tungsten, uranium and many other natural resources. Minerals sought by US businesses are vital to the US aerospace, military, automobile, electronics and technology industries. For example, the Congressional Budget Office has reported that cobalt is vital to the US military and aerospace industries.
A number of U.S. companies such as OM Group, Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings and Kemet Electronics were listed in the 2002 UN report among companies accused of benefiting from the pilfering of Congo’s wealth. The report entitled, “Final report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo” exposed how these and other companies benefited from the conflict in the Congo and there is little doubt that they would prefer that as little attention as possible be brought to the Congo and their activities in the country.
It is practices by these companies and others from the West that led UNCHR chief, Antonio Guterres to say in an interview with the Financial Times that “the international community has systematically looted the Congo.”
Unfortunately the humanitarian industry has been trapped in the charity prism whereby Congo is viewed and approached almost strictly from the perspective of poverty, conflict, atrocities and depredation. Some of the effects of this approach is that the humanitarian industry is silent in the face of oppressive governments and often work in cahoots with the very corporations that are pilfering Congo’s wealth. Probably the most deleterious effect of this way of viewing Congo is the military prescription that these institutions lobby for in Washington, DC. They often support policies that prolong conflict, prioritize military option and in the final analysis serve the propaganda of belligerent U.S. allies (Rwanda & Uganda for example) as well as U.S. corporate foreign policy interests.
In the final analysis, the humanitarian industry functions more as an instrument of Western soft power than a genuine help to Africans in need. If they truly have the interests of the people of Africa and Congo at heart, their number one aim should be to put themselves out of business by calling for justice and not charity. When the people of Congo attain justice, charity will not be needed, hence no further need for these humanitarian institutions that breed dependency and prolong poverty.
Congo is a storehouse of geo-strategic minerals that are vital to the industrialization of great powers in the east, mainly China and the maintenance of western economic and military dominance, mainly the United States. China has invested $9 billion in the Congo in a mineral for infrastructure swap with the Congolese government. The United States has financed Freeport McMoran with nearly a half a billion dollars so that the American company can control what is considered to be the world’s richest deposits of copper and cobalt. The U.S. government has provided financial backing to Freeport in spite of the well-documented evidence that the contract between the American company and the Congolese government is odious and does not benefit the people of the country.
Congo will be the playground of Great Power interests for the foreseeable future. Its location, size and mineral wealth are far too valuable to be left alone. Hence, irrespective of the type of government put in place by the Congolese people, they will need a permanent third force to function to be allies of the people and serve as a check against Great power interests.
Devaluation of Black Lives
Nowhere else in the world could an estimated six million people perish in a twelve year period and there not be a global outcry than in Africa, especially the heart of Africa – Congo. The United Nations says the conflict in the Congo is the deadliest in the world since World War II. It prompted former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland to say that the Congo is “the killing fields of our generation.” Yet, the world community is silent. Doctors Without Borders has consistently reported over the past decade that Congo is one of the top ten most underreported stories. Unfortunately, the silence around the suffering in the Congo is due in part to the fact that Congolese are Black people or Africans. We live in a world where Black lives are undervalued and underappreciated. However, things do not have to remain this way. We can change the attitudes and beliefs that have the world trapped in a mindset that undervalues a fellow member of the human family.
The global community has an opportunity to break the Silence around the Congo and demonstrate that Black lives in the heart of Africa are as valuable as any other lives on the planet. In Breaking the Silence and raising our voices we will value not only the lives lost in the Congo but those living and future generations to come.
Pathological Media Prism
The mainstream media has remained true to its creed when it comes to the Congo. They have presented the Congo as an internecine tribal conflict with no discernible beginning or hope of ending. The media’s coverage of the Congo has been presented through a narrow pathological prism, which leaves people of goodwill who really want to do something to help, hopeless, despondent and disempowered. If more stories were presented that clearly articulate the true nature of the conflict, that of a resource war and that there are major identifiable players in our own backyard that we can hold accountable, one would get a dramatically different response from consumers of the mainstream media. The few moments when Congo gets coverage, it is usually grossly distorted:
1. There is usually a white expert telling the world fantastic tales of why Congolese are “killing” each other
2. These experts are usually a part of the US foreign policy complex of think tanks, research institutions and humanitarian entities who recently conducted a “fly-by” in the Congo or elsewhere in Africa
3. One almost never sees a Congolese scholar, thinker, activist or intellectual articulating the issues of the Congo
4. The Congolese people are almost always presented as hapless and in need of saving by Western do-gooders, usually a Hollywood star
5. The U.S. policies and US Corporations who contribute to the fueling of the conflict are either obfuscated or left out all together
6. Finally, slain gorillas usually get more attention and sympathy and in depth analysis than the Congolese people
A global Congo movement is as important today as the Free South Africa or anti-apartheid movement was yesterday. Former South African president Thabo Mbeki presciently noted, “There cannot be a new Africa without a new Congo.”
Contrary to presentations by Western scholars and thinkers, the conflict in the Congo is not intractable. In fact, should the correct policies be implemented, the conflict can come to an abrupt end or at the least be mitigated. The two basic goals of today’s global movement in support of the people of the Congo are as follows:
1. To bring an end to the twelve-year resource war being waged on the backs of the Congolese people, particularly women and children
2. To make sure that the affairs of the Congo are determined by the people of the Congo so that they can determine how best to use their enormous resources for the benefit of their people and Africa at-large.
Pressure placed on aggressor nations (mainly US allies Rwanda and Uganda) by countries such as Sweden, Netherlands, and Canada, has resulted in some action by the United States, but not action that instigates peace and lasting stability. Global pressure must be mobilized to call for a diplomatic and political approach to ending the conflict as opposed to the military heavy policies favored by the U.S. government, think tanks and humanitarian institutions in Washington, DC.
There is a growing global grassroots movement around the Congo. Thanks to the Internet, the Congolese can speak to the world uncensored. Inside the Congo, Congolese are organizing teach-ins and rallies. We are seeing Congolese women staging sit-ins, Congolese artists using their talent to break the silence, and civil society rallying to reconstruct the Congo. Though this movement is not covered by the mainstream media, there is an emerging youth movement in countries such as New Zealand where high school students are boycotting usage of their cell phones, in Japan where students are organizing photo exhibits on their college campuses, and in America where students are building a global movement in support of people of the Congo. With their help, we have been able to connect with people around the world using social networking sites and utilizing video messages and podcasts to mobilize an otherwise unaware population.
In October of 2008, Friends of Congo along with its allies organized a week of awareness raising called Congo Week from October 19 – 25, where 35 countries and 150 university campuses participated. We will do the same again in October 2009 with Congo Week II (October 18 – 24, 2009).
As more people get involved, it is critical that the integrity of the movement be safeguarded. The last thing the people of the Congo need, is for the movement to be darfurized (objectify the people and empty the issue of cultural and historical context).
The integrity of the global movement will be maintained if the justice narrative is adhered to as opposed to the charity narrative that many humanitarian institutions are currently pushing. A justice narrative embodies the following elements:
1. Congolese and Africans would be seen as agents of their destiny
2. Political, social, economic and historical context would be central to the analyses and campaigns issued from a justice narrative.
3. The corporate forces wreaking havoc in the Congo would be exposed
4. The culpability of US based corporations and the historic destructive role of US foreign policy would be acknowledged and called on to make a radical departure from the status quo
5. Congolese would be given a global platform to articulate to the global community the true nature of the challenges faced by the people and prescriptions preferred by the people.
A driving force in our advocacy has been the famous quote by Frantz Fanon when he said “Let us be sure never to forget it; the fate of all of us is at stake in the Congo”.
Posted on February 19, 2009 - by Kambale Musavuli
Published on All Africa.com.
Since Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo in 1996, they have pursued a plan to appropriate the wealth of Eastern Congo either directly or through proxy forces. The December 2008 United Nations report is the latest in a series of U.N. reports dating from 2001 that clearly documents the systematic looting and appropriation of Congolese resources by Rwanda and Uganda, two of Washington and London’s staunchest allies in Africa.
However, in the wake of the December 2008 report, which clearly documents Rwanda’s support of destabilizing proxy forces inside the Congo, a series of stunning proposals and actions have been presented which all appear to be an attempt to cover up or bury the damning U.N. report on the latest expression of Rwanda’s aggression against the Congolese people.
The earliest proposal came from Herman Cohen, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs under George Herbert Walker Bush. He proposed that Rwanda be rewarded for its well documented looting of Congo’s wealth by being a part of a Central and/or East African free trade zone whereby Rwanda would keep its ill-gotten gains.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy would not be outdone; he also brought his proposal off the shelf, which argues for essentially the same scheme of rewarding Rwanda for its 12-year war booty from the Congo. Two elements are at the core of both proposals.
One is the legitimization of the economic annexation of the Congo by Rwanda, which for all intents and purposes represents the status quo. And two is basically the laying of the foundation for the balkanization of the Congo or the outright political annexation of Eastern Congo by Rwanda. Both Sarkozy and Cohen have moved with lightning speed past the Dec. 12, 2008, United Nations report to make proposals that avoid the core issues revealed in the report.
The U.N. report reaffirms what Congolese intellectuals, scholars and victims have been saying for over a decade in regard to Rwanda’s role as the main catalyst for the biblical scale death and misery in the Congo. The Ugandan and Rwandan invasions of 1996 and 1998 have triggered the deaths of nearly 6 million Congolese. The United Nations says it is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II.
The report “found evidence that the Rwandan authorities have been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment, and have sent officers and units from the Rwandan Defense Forces” to the DRC. The support is for the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, formerly led by self-proclaimed Gen. Laurent Nkunda.
The report also shows that the CNDP is sheltering a war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court, Gen. Jean Bosco Ntaganda. The CNDP has used Rwanda as a rear base for fundraising meetings and bank accounts, and Uganda is once more implicated as Nkunda has met regularly with embassies in both Kigali and Kampala.
Also, Uganda is accepting illegal CNDP immigration papers. Earlier U.N. reports said that Kagame and Museveni are the mafia dons of Congo’s exploitation. This has not changed in any substantive way.
The report implicates Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a close advisor to Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda. Rujugiro is the founder of the Rwandan Investment Group. This is not the first time he has been named by the United Nations as one of the individuals contributing to the conflict in the Congo.
In April 2001, he was identified as Tibere Rujigiro in the U.N. Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as one of the figures illegally exploiting Congo’s wealth. His implication this time comes in financial contributions to CNDP and appropriation of land.
This brings to light the organizations he is a part of, which include but are not limited to the Rwanda Development Board, the Rwandan Investment Group, of which he is the founder, and Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council. They have members as notable as Rev. Rick Warren, business tycoon Joe Ritchie, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Scott Ford of Alltell, Dr. Clet Niyikiza of GlaxoSmithKline, former U.S. president Bill Clinton and many more.
These connections provide some insight into why Rwanda has been able to commit and support remarkable atrocities in the Congo without receiving even a reprimand in spite of the fact that two European courts have charged their top leadership with war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is only recently that two European nations, Sweden and the Netherlands, have decided to withhold aid from Rwanda as a result of their aggression against the Congolese people.
The report shows that the Congolese soldiers have also given support to the FDLR and other armed groups to fight against the aggression of Rwanda’s CNDP proxy. One important distinction must be made in this regard. It appears that the FDLR support comes more from individual Congolese soldiers as opposed to overall government support.
The Congolese government is not supporting the FDLR in incursions into Rwanda; however, the Rwandan government is in fact supporting rebel groups inside Congo. The Congolese population is the victim of the CNDP, FDLR and the Congolese military.
The United Nations report is a predictable outgrowth of previous reports produced by the U.N. since 2001. It reflects the continued appropriation of the land, theft of Congo’s resources, and continuous human rights abuses caused by Rwanda and Uganda. An apparent aim of these spasms is to create facts on the ground – land appropriation, theft of cattle and other assets – to consolidate CNDP/Rwandan economic integration into Rwanda.
Herman Cohen’s “Can Africa Trade Its Way to Peace?” in the New York Times reflects the disastrous policies that favor profits over people. In his article, the former lobbyist for Mobutu and Kabila’s government in the United States and former assistant secretary of state for Africa from 1989 to 1993 argues, “Having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.”
He adds, “The normal flow of trade from eastern Congo is to Indian Ocean ports rather than the Atlantic Ocean, which is more than a thousand miles away.” Continuing his argument, he believes that “the free movement of people would empty the refugee camps and would allow the densely populated countries of Rwanda and Burundi to supply needed labor to Congo and Tanzania.”
Cohen’s first mistake in providing solutions to the conflict is to look at the conflict as a humanitarian crisis that can be solved by economic means. Uganda and Rwanda are the aggressors. Aggressors should not define for the Congo what is best, but rather it is for the Congo to define what it has to offer to its neighbor.
A lasting solution is to stop the silent annexation of Eastern Congo. The International Court of Justice has already weighed in on this matter when it ruled in 2005 that Congo is entitled to $10 billion in reparations due to Uganda’s looting of Congo’s natural resources and the commission of human rights abuses in the Congo. It would have in all likelihood ruled in the same fashion against Rwanda; however, Rwanda claimed to be outside the jurisdiction of the court.
The United States and Great Britain’s implication is becoming very clear. These two great powers consider Rwanda and Uganda their staunch allies and, some would argue, client states. These two countries have received millions of dollars of military aid, which in turn they use in Congo to cause destruction and death.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame is a former student at the U.S. military training base Fort Leavenworth and Yoweri Museveni’s son, Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, graduated from the same U.S. military college in the summer of 2008. Both the United States and Great Britain should follow the lead of the Dutch and Swedish governments, who have suspended their financial support to Rwanda.
With U.S. and British taxpayers’ support, we now see an estimated 6 million people dead in Congo, hundreds of thousands of women systematically raped as an instrument of war and millions displaced.
A political solution will resolve the crisis, and part of that requires pressure on Rwanda in spite of Rwanda’s recent so-called “house arrest” of Laurent Nkunda. African institutions such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union are primed to be more engaged in the Congo issue. Considering Congo’s importance to Africa, it is remarkable that they have been so anemic in regard to the Congo crisis for so long.
Rwanda’s leader, Paul Kagame, cannot feel as secure or be as arrogant as he has been in the past. One of his top aides was arrested in Germany as a result of warrants issued by a French court and there is almost global consensus that pressure must be put on him to cease his support of the destabilization of the Congo and its resultant humanitarian catastrophe.
In addition to pressure on Kagame, the global community should support the following policies:
1. Initiate an international tribunal on the Congo.
2. Work with the Congolese to implement a national reconciliation process; this could be a part of the international tribunal.
3. Work with the Congolese to assure that those who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity are brought to justice.
4. Hold accountable corporations that are benefiting from the suffering and deaths in the Congo.
5. Make the resolution of the Congo crisis a top international priority.
Living is a right, not a privilege, and Congolese deaths must be honored by due process of the law. As the implication of the many parties in this conflict becomes clear, we should start firmly acknowledging that the conflict is a resource war waged by U.S. and British allies.
We call upon people of good will once again to advocate for the Congolese by following the prescriptions we have been outlining to end the conflict and start the new path to peace, harmony and an end to the exploitation of Congo’s wealth and devastation of its peoples.
Posted on January 17, 2009 - by Kambale Musavuli
Published on the San Francisco Bay View. Speech delivered Jan. 17 in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States.
Forty-eight years ago, on this 17th day of January, the first freely elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Emery Lumumba, was brutally murdered by the United States, Belgium and certain local elites because he wanted the resources of the Congo to benefit the Congolese people. He, as a public servant to his people, fought day in and day out to bring the Congolese people independence from Belgium.
On this day we commemorate him, we need to always remember that he gave his life for us to have a better future than he had. His legacy lives and his bullet-proof ideas still resonate in our generation. As I speak to you today, the underlying reason of his murder still remains the central question for the conflict in the Congo since 1996: The underlying issue is who is going to control Congo’s wealth and for whose benefit.
To those of you who may not know what is taking place in the Congo, I would like to tell you that Congo is bleeding and dying a thousand deaths. The Congo is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, where nearly 6 million people have died since 1996 – half of them children under the age of 5 – and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, all as a result of the scramble for Congo’s wealth.
The United Nations says it is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II. Yet, Doctors Without Borders say that it is one of the most under-reported stories of our time. The media is silent, the government is silent and the world is silent.
Why is the world silent? “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” says Dr. Martin Luther King. He goes on to say, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is a scar on the human conscience to know what is happening in the Congo and do nothing about it.
It is up to all of us to help the children of the Congo who live in a refugee camp for months, sometimes years, just because the world needs the resources of the Congo. As Che Guevara stated years ago, “The Congo problem is a world problem.”
As Gaza receives the media attention due to the unthinkable tragedy taking place there, we shall not forget that immeasurable tragedies are taking place in the Congo – with 45,000 people dying every month just for the blings of our lives and the rings of our phones.
What can we all do to work with our brave brothers and sisters in the Congo waging a fight for peace and human dignity?
I will start with you, my Congolese brothers, sisters and elders. I want you to remember what Lumumba said before his death in his last letter to his wife, “that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that it expects for each Congolese to accomplish the sacred task of reconstruction of our independence and our sovereignty; for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.” A greater sacrifice on the part of Congolese is needed for the
What sacrifices are we willing to make so that our brothers and sisters in Congo can live peacefully as we do in America? What kind of sacrifices are we making so that our Congolese children can go to school as they do here, so that our young mothers are not widowed, so that our sisters are not raped, so that our brothers are not joining militias because there is no better option, so that people do not go hungry in the most fertile land in Africa? What sacrifices are we willing to make so that our Congolese families can live in dignity, as we do here? WHAT SACRIFICE ARE WE MAKING!
We are the ones who will rebuild our beautiful country. We need you in every sector of life. The world will help us, but they won’t fight for our country. The world would put pressure on their governments but will not elect our leaders in 2011. The world will advocate for us but will not reform our political system for us.
We must sacrifice our time to the Congo, our life if necessary. Some of us are Congolese Americans and should pressure the American government by lobbying day in and day out to alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters at home. Some of us work for hospitals and could help in sending medical supplies to many clinics that need it at home. Some even own companies, and they could help in any way possible.
Our people on the ground need your help. Always remember our origin. They can take you out of the Congo, but they cannot take Congo out of you. We need to support our people at home. The future of the Congo is bright, as I can see in the eyes of students and people I meet all over the country.
Fifth graders at Kipp DC: Will Academy, a middle school in Washington, D.C., raised $800 in one day for the movement after a presentation about the conflict taking place in the Congo. The Avonside Girls’ High School students mobilized their whole school to join the international cell-out (cell phone usage boycott) and had a public relations firm help them to get the word out on the war in Congo in their community.
Not to forget my beloved Aggies, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University students, who went around the campus and collected 1,200 student signatures and the endorsement of more than 40 student organizations’ presidents so that our university would join the Break the Silence Movement and receive an official letter of recognition from the chancellor of the university.
Through all my travels, I’ve met so many compassionate people from all races and faiths. And all of them were ready to support the Congolese people. To all of you who are here on this cold day, remember that Congo needs you. As Dr. King explained: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The forces against the Congo are tremendous. We want you to join the global movement to break the silence around the atrocities taking place in the Congo. We hope that this new wind can be TODAY what the Free South Africa movement was yesterday. Bring your talents, your ideas, your skills to help us support the Congolese people.
Call your local leaders, radio stations, inform your professors in your universities, talk with Congolese as they try to find healing from this suffering. Let people in your network know about the Congo.
Just imagine Congo’s spectacular potential, which ranges from its fauna and flora to its untapped reserves of resources. It is a storehouse of strategic minerals we use in our daily lives. Sixty-four percent of the world’s reserves of coltan are found in the Congo. It is a part of the second largest rainforest in the world behind the Amazon. It has the hydro capacity to provide electricity for the entire African continent, southern Europe and parts of the Middle East. It could feed the entire world through 2050.
Did you know that the oldest mathematical artifact was found in the Congo? It is called the Ishango bones and is about 22,000 years old.
All the potential of the Congo can be realized with unity, dedication and the submission of individual and personal aspirations to the collective will. We ask that you BREAK THE SILENCE in your daily lives and support us in our quest to bring about fundamental changes in the Congo.
Lumumba stated, “We are not alone. Africa, Asia and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese.” I hope you will stay engaged in our quest to bring peace and stability in our Congo and finally start rebuilding our country and help it rise like a phoenix.
When the Congo won independence in 1960, Lumumba pointed the way: “Together, my brothers, my sisters, we are going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity and greatness.”
Thank you, God bless you, God bless the Congo!
Posted on December 8, 2008 - by Kambale Musavuli
Published on San Francisco Bay View.
Although the New York Times did not reveal the whole truth in Jeffrey Gettleman’s piece, “Rwanda Stirs Deadly Brew of Trouble in the Congo,” it no doubt laid the foundation for a more honest dialogue about the resource war in the Congo, which has resulted in dying and suffering of holocaust proportions.
It is only a matter of time before the New York Times and other mainstream media get to the root of the matter that both French and Spanish courts have already broached regarding Paul Kagame and Rwanda’s destructive actions in the Central African region. Even the International Court of Justice has weighed in on Rwanda’s partner in crime in the Congo: Uganda and its leader Yoweri Museveni, another staunch British and U.S. ally.
In 2005, the court ruled that the Congo is entitled to $10 billion in reparations from Uganda because of the human rights abuses it committed in the Congo and the looting of Congo’s resources. There is very little doubt that the court would have issued a similar ruling against Rwanda, especially considering that Rwanda is even more implicated in the Congo, but the court lacked jurisdiction in the case brought to it by the Congo against Rwanda.
The New York Times and other media should consider asking people such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Rick Warren, Bill Gates, Howard Schultz, Andrew Young, Cindy McCain and others why they have been silent about the atrocities in the Congo, when they are known to have the ear of Rwanda’s leader Paul Kagame.
All of these individuals have an historic opportunity to use their notoriety, access and standing in the world to play a key role in ending what U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls one of the worst tragedies of our time or what former U.N. official Jan Egeland calls “the killing fields of our generation.” Can they really continue to remain silent about the Congo and travel the world as paragons of morality and human decency when they have the ear of someone who unleashed what the United Nations says is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II?
Considering how vital Congo is to modern society and the world’s fight against climate change – Congo is a part of the second largest rainforest in the world – Congo’s issues are not just Congolese or African issues but are world issues and they demand frank and honest engagement and responses from world leaders.
The best way the West can contribute to bringing an end to the conflict is not an intervention force but rather real intervention diplomacy. Western nations can take their cue from the Economist when it notes: “Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is best placed to rein in Gen. Nkunda’s men, and must be pressed to do so, with the threat of aid withheld if he does not. In the long run, he must also make political space in Rwanda for the Hutu rebel forces who maraud through eastern Congo and give Gen. Nkunda a pretext for his depredations.”
The former Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, military student Paul Kagame is not destabilizing the Congo on his own. He certainly has the backing of the United States and British taxpayers, as Timothy Reid laid out while at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, when he published “Killing Them Softly: Has Foreign Aid to Rwanda and Uganda Contributed to the Humanitarian Tragedy in the DRC” in the Africa Policy Journal, Spring 2006, Vol. 1.
Maybe, just maybe, finally, we can have frank and honest talks about the Congo, put an end to the tremendous suffering and set my country on a path to peace and stability. We are hopeful that the Obama administration, if it will not listen to what Friends of Congo have been articulating for the longest, will at least in this case listen to the New York Times or the Economist and craft policies based on a sound assessment of the situation.
I have articulated our policy prescriptions in an article published by thedailyvoice.com and sfbayview.com entitled “Congo in crisis: What President Obama can do to right past wrongs in U.S. policy.”
Posted on November 25, 2008 - by Kambale Musavuli
Published on Pambazuka News. Article was co-written with Maurice Carney, Executive Director of Friends of the Congo.
Saturday, November 15, 2008 marked the 100-year anniversary of the removal of the Congo from King Leopold II of Belgium as his own personal property. Global outrage of the King’s brutal rule resulted in his losing the Congo treasure trove on November 15, 1908.
Leopold II accumulated spectacular wealth for himself and the Belgian state during his 23-year dominion (1885 – 1908) over the Congo. During this period an estimated 10 million Congolese lost their lives while Leopold systematically looted the Congo of its rubber and ivory riches. Congo was handed over to Belgium who ruled as a colonial power from 1908 to 1960. Congo finally got its independence on June 30, 1960 when Patrice Emery Lumumba, its first democratically elected prime minister took office. Unfortunately, the western powers, primarily the United States and Belgium could not allow a fiercely independent African to consolidate his power over such a geo-strategic prize as the Congo. He was removed from power in a western backed coup within weeks and assassinated on January 17, 1961. Belgium apologized for its role in Lumumba’s assassination in 2002 and the US still downplays its role in Lumumba’s assassination. The US replaced Lumumba with the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and backed him until he was overthrown in 1997. The overthrow of Mobutu unleashed an ongoing resource war that has caused deep strife and unbearable suffering for the Congolese people, particularly the women and the children. It is estimated that Congo has lost nearly six million people since the 1996 invasion by Rwanda and Uganda with support from the United States and other Western nations.
A century later, Congo is at another crossroads. In spite of the advances in technology and the shrinking of the world, it is curious that there is such silence around the suffering of the Congolese people due to the exploitation of powerful corporate and foreign forces beyond its people’s immediate control. Unlike the early 1900s, remarkably, today there are few if any voices the likes of Mark Twain who wrote King Leopold’s Soliloquy, Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness (PDF) (Often misread as Congo or Africa being dark but he was referring to the dark hearts of the exploiters of the Congo), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame who wrote Crime in the Congo. The Congo Reform movement that drew from the work of African Americans such as William Sheppard and George Washington Williams and led by European figures such as Robert Casement and E.D. Morel gave birth to the modern international human rights movement.
One hundred years later we are again calling on the global community to be at the side of the Congolese. This time, there is one fundamental difference, the Congolese are agents in this narrative and the call this time is not a hand-over to a colonial power or neo-colonial institutions but rather to the people of the Congo.
The clarion call is for the combating of the forces (local elites and rebels, foreign governments, foreign corporations, and multi-lateral institutions) that have the Congolese people in a death trap. The charity prism of the humanitarian industry is not the answer. It only perpetuates dependency and disempowerment. Should Congo be truly liberated, the Darfurization (emptying of agency from the afflicted people) of the global movement in support of the Congo must be avoided at all cost. Congolese must be agents rather than objects in the pursuit of the control of their land and their lives. The sovereignty of the people and control and ownership of the riches of their land is the fundamental human right for which we must advocate. It is a call not only for the Congo but the entire African continent.
Become a part of the global movement to Break the Silence as the Congolese pursue true sovereignty and liberty.