MAC: Mines and Communities

A Balkanized Congo

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

A Balkanized Congo

Mobutu's unlimited greed was his undoing. As long as he shared the looting with U.S., Belgian, French, British, Dutch and other Western corporations which dominated the Zairian economy, the U.S. supported him. But, as one observer put it, "when he kept too much for himself-and became an embarrassment-the U.S. was ready to see him overthrown." In October 1996, the Rwandan army along with Ugandan troops invaded Zaire and by May 1997 had taken over the country and forced Mobutu to flee. To give the invasion the cover of a local rebellion, the Tutsi Rwandan forces called themselves the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) and recruited Laurent Kabila, an exiled Congolese Marxist opponent of Mobutu's, as a figurehead leader. As the Wall Street Journal put it, "Many Africans [concluded that] the Zairian rebellion was the brainchild of Washington from the very start." Rwanda and Uganda are the U.S.' "staunchest allies in the region." Paul Kagame, the Rwandan leader, was trained at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. U.S. Special Forces had been training the Rwandan army since 1994 in counterinsurgency, combat and psychological operations. This included instructions about fighting in Zaire. Rwandan soldiers were also trained at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (U.S.), in July-August 1996 (just before the invasion), in land navigation, rifle marksmanship, patrolling and small-unit leadership.

Also in August 1996, Kagame visited Washington to discuss his
concerns about Hutu refugee camps in eastern Zaire with U.S. officials. The Hutus are the majority ethnic group in Rwanda (85%) while Tutsis make up the minority (15%). In April 1994, the Hutu government had unleashed a genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and 50,000 Hutus in 89 days. Kagame's Tutsi rebel force, the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) then invaded Rwanda from Uganda and took power. A million Hutus fled to eastern Zaire. Kagame considered the Hutu refugee camps a "dangerous threat to his regime" because Hutu militia who had carried out the genocide were amongst the civilians. As one observer put it, "it was clear to the U.S....that Kagame was prepared to act and that this was certainly in the U.S. government's interest."

Once the Rwandans had installed Kabila in power, his relations with
them quickly deteriorated. In July 1998, Kabila expelled Rwandan and Ugandan forces from the Congo. He cited as his reasons a failed
assassination attempt against him and the Rwandan army's killings of Hutu refugees. On August 2, Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo and occupied its eastern half where they remain today having set up surrogate "rebel" armies called Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma-created by Rwanda) and Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC-created by Uganda). Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia sent their armies to support Kabila and Burundi joined the Rwandans and Ugandans. Thus began "Africa's First World War" involving seven armies, which has killed 2.5 million people and further devastated a country crushed by more than a century of Western domination.

This domination is being continued through Washington's use of
Rwanda and Uganda to partition the Congo and loot its resources. The U.S. backed the Rwandan/Ugandan invasion of the Congo and according to Human Rights Watch apparently justified it. The Washington Post has reported that U.S. soldiers were sighted in the company of Rwandan troops in the Congo on July 23 and 24, 1998. At the start of hostilities, the U.S. reacted with "a remarkable silence." When a statement was issued it explained that the invasion was intended to counter genocide and blamed the Congolese government for failing to deal with border security. Susan Rice, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, told Congress that the U.S. "fully understands their [Rwanda and Uganda's] legitimate security interests in countering insurgent attacks from Congolese soil." Rice added that foreign intervention in the Congo was "unacceptable" but Washington declined to call for the immediate withdrawal of its close allies, the Rwandan and Ugandan forces, which it has trained, armed and financed. If foreign intervention really was unacceptable, the U.S. could have ended it by cutting off its considerable military and economic support for Rwanda and Uganda and sanctioning the countries. Instead, Rice pressed for a ceasefire in place and pressured Kabila into signing the Lusaka Accord which treated the conflict as a civil war and called for a step-by-step withdrawal of foreign troops (in 180 days) rather than an immediate one. The result is a partitioned Congo with Rwanda and Uganda still occupying the eastern half having ignored all deadlines for leaving. The ceasefire is regularly violated. Kabila accepted the Lusaka Accord only because of the implicit U.S. threat that "refusal would be met by even greater assistance to the rebels and the potential dismantling of the entire country." This message was dramatically reinforced on January 17, 2001, when Laurent Kabila himself was assassinated on the same day that Lumumba had been, forty years ago. Joseph Kabila, Laurent's son, took over as President. Thus the U.S. has ensured continued Western dominance of the Congo by destroying the country itself as it existed when Mobutu was overthrown. Just as in the Berlin Conference of 1885, the West is again redrawing the Congo's boundaries and this process is once more accompanied by plunder and large-scale killing.

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