Congo


Why is Obama sending troops to Uganda?

“Uganda’s proximity to the new country of South Sudan is key in the whole equation. … this whole area is prime real estate where the fierce battle between China and the Americans/Europeans plays out, centered on oil and minerals, all part of the Great 21st Century African Resource War.

… Uganda – and nearby eastern Congo – happens to hold fabulous quantities of, among others, diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite, uranium, iron ore, gypsum, beryllium, bismuth, chromium, lead, lithium, niobium and nickel. …

Uganda may hold … part of a recent, largest-ever on-shore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa. …Washington wants to make sure that all this oil will be exclusively available for the US and Europe.

The Obama administration insists the 100 special forces will be “advisers” – not combat troops. Think of Vietnam in the early 1960s; it started with “advisers” – and the rest is history.”

In fact US military trainers and advisors in Uganda is nothing new. They have been there partnering with Museveni and the UPDF since AFRICOM was formed and before. Below is one picture from 2009, and two from earlier this year, 2011. In October 2010, a year ago, AFRICOM asked for bids for non-personnel services to build a Special Ops base camp in Uganda (google cached version link) in an “austere environment”. The intention to send US soldiers to Uganda did not just happen, it has been underway for a number of years.

Whether or not they catch Kony, it will be a handy bit of on the job training for continued operations in Uganda, South Sudan, and the DRC. For civilians living in the region this escalates the threat of violence they face every day. Every attempt to capture or kill Kony has failed, and led to murderous rampages.

The most grievous and pervasive threat of terrorism in Africa is the threat to African civilians from their own militaries. The militarized US foreign policy, employing military training and partnering, makes this threat exponentially worse.

CAMP KASENYI, Uganda – Staff Sergeant Andre Amantine of the 2-18 Field Artillery Regiment out of Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, salutes Sergeant First Class Cary Adams-course Sergeant Major, during a 15-week Counter Terrorism Course, June 16, 2009, at Camp Kasenyi, Uganda. More than 100 Ugandan soldiers graduated from this CJTF-HOA-supported course, which covered topics such as individual movement techniques, troop landing procedures, land navigation, first aid, identifying improvised explosive devises, and more. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser)

SOROTI, Uganda – Uganda People’s Defence Forces soldiers from the 27th Infantry Battalion train on setting up a drop zone with U.S. soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, Georgia National Guard, at Drop Zone Red near Kapelebyong, Uganda, during Atlas Drop 11, April 14, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant 1st Class Brock Jones)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class Chad Drake, right, participates in platoon movement exercises, June 6, 2011, while members of the Ugandan People's Defence Force observe and give direction during an Advanced Combat Training course in Jinja. Drake visited four countries in the Horn of Africa with other cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy to participate in a cultural and military exchange to share best practices and understand regional affairs. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Wilson)

Pepe Escobar, quoted above, provides a comprehensive summary:

Obama, the king of Africa

“Anyone may be excused to see Uganda as Libya upside down – because that’s exactly what it is; the dictator in this case gets a good guy billing – one of “our bastards” – while the “rebels” have a pact with the devil. But is that all there is?

I got an urge to surge
The reality in Uganda is an absolute, murderous mess. As much as the LRA “rebels”, Museveni’s government (helped by Washington) has also perpetrated horrendous massacres against civilians. Kony may even be an amateur compared to Museveni – a sort of dictator for life who has just supervised the displacement and mass murder of at least 20,000 Ugandans on behalf of British corporations. Additionally, Museveni basically stole the Ugandan elections early this year.

Obama’s Uganda surge should be seen as a crucial exchange of favors with Museveni – who has sent thousands of Ugandan troops to the African Union (AU) force that is fighting the hardcore Islamist al-Shabaab in Somalia. So while Uganda fights a proxy war for the US in Somalia, Washington helps the dictator to get rid of the LRA “rebels”. No wonder the Pentagon is quite fond of Uganda; Museveni recently got $45 million in equipment, including four small drones.

The LRA – a ragged bunch of hardcore Christian fundamentalists – is based in northern Uganda but spread out between four countries, including the new South Sudan and Congo, in Central Africa. They carry no heavy weapons. They don’t stand a chance of destabilizing the Ugandan government – much less being a “national security” threat to the US. Bogeyman Kony may be in hiding somewhere along the immense Sudan-Congo border, with no more than 400 warriors left.

Uganda’s proximity to the new country of South Sudan is key in the whole equation. So far, for Northern Sudan the LRA has been a convenient, weaponized firewall against Western puppet Museveni. But most of all, this whole area is prime real estate where the fierce battle between China and the Americans/Europeans plays out, centered on oil and minerals, all part of the Great 21st Century African Resource War.

Any student of realpolitik knows the US doesn’t do “humanitarian” interventions per se. Africom’s surge parallels the real name of the game; precious minerals – and mining. Uganda – and nearby eastern Congo – happens to hold fabulous quantities of, among others, diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite, uranium, iron ore, gypsum, beryllium, bismuth, chromium, lead, lithium, niobium and nickel. Many among these are ultra-precious rare earth – of which China exercises a virtual monopoly.

The mineral rush in Africa is already one of the great resource wars of the 21st century.China is ahead, followed by companies from India, Australia, South Africa and Russia (which, for instance, has set up a fresh gold refinery in Kampala). The West is lagging behind. The name of the game for the US and the Europeans is to pull no punches to undermine China’s myriad commercial deals all across Africa.

Then there’s the inescapable Pipelineistan angle. Uganda may hold “several billion barrels of oil”, according to Heritage Oil’s Paul Atherton, part of a recent, largest-ever on-shore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa. That implies the construction of a $1.5 billion, 1,200 kilometer long pipeline to Kampala and the coast of Kenya. Then there’s another pipeline from “liberated” South Sudan. Washington wants to make sure that all this oil will be exclusively available for the US and Europe.

Obama, the King of Africa
The Obama administration insists the 100 special forces will be “advisers” – not combat troops. Think of Vietnam in the early 1960s; it started with “advisers” – and the rest is history. Now, the “advisers” are even expected to fan out from Uganda to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And it’s not even the first time this happens. George W Bush tried the same thing in 2008. It ended in unmitigated disaster because of – what else is new – corruption inside the Ugandan army. Kony was tipped off and escaped hours before an attack on his camp.

The official Washington spin hammers the fact that the LRA has “murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children”. Now compare it … to the thunderous silence of the Obama White House as racist eastern Libya “rebels” round up, harass, torture and even snuff out sub-Saharan Africans.

Africa has been fighting like forever against multiple strands of the great white genocidal slave master, aided and abetted by multiple strands of the subservient black dictator/kleptocrat – just to be presented in the early 21st century with an American president of direct African descent who has nothing better to offer than special forces, drones, a militarization surge and hypocrisy-laced “humanitarian” intervention.”

Escobar points out that Museveni’s UPDF has been responsible for a multitude of deaths, violence, and brutalities against Ugandans. As Escobar says, it is Libya upside down, this time the US supports the brutal dictator against the so called rebels. In addition to brutalities in Uganda, Museveni and Ugandan sponsored militias share responsibility for brutal war crimes in the Congo.

 

 

 

P. Okema Otika writes about Museveni’s crimes against Ugandans. 
Museveni and Kony Both Should Face War Crimes Tribunal

“To anyone who is unfamiliar with the war in Northern Uganda that started in 1986 when Museveni had just come to power, Museveni’s quest to prosecute Kony might sound like a sound idea coming from a responsible person. However, to those who have suffered through the years and experienced atrocities perpetrated by both the rebels and the Ugandan army, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), Museveni is just as criminal as the Kony he is trying to prosecute.

Since 1986, Museveni’s army has been known to commit some of the worst atrocities on the ethnic Acholi people who occupy the regions of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader. The UPDF, also formerly known as the National Resistance Army (NRA) became infamous for burning civilians alive in huts, killings, and the rapes of both women and men in what the Acholi called tek gungu. Tek Gungu referred to rape of men and women by Museveni’s soldiers who would force a man or woman to kneel down (gungu) before the rape is committed against the male or female victim. These rape incidents have been documented by Human Rights Watch and yet remain ignored by most so-called mainstream media. Museveni, despite his army’s atrocities remains a Western “darling.”

By 1990, Museveni had accomplished most of what he wanted; leaving tens of thousands of Acholi dead and thousands languishing in Luzira prison for alleged treason. All these are well documented and still remain fresh in the minds of the Acholi who had trusted Museveni and thought he would treat them as citizens of Uganda rather than his adversaries.

As if his terror was not enough, in 1996 Museveni declared a presidential order that stipulated that all local Acholi living in their homes in the villages be forcefully moved into concentration camps to be surrounded by government troops ostensibly to guard them against LRA rebels’ atrocities. Where else in the world but in Africa would the international community today stand for such gross violation of human rights?

Museveni’s troops immediately started beating up locals to run to the camps. They burnt down crops and houses of the locals so that they would not go back to their homes. The result was the creation of communal homelessness for over 500,000 people who up to now have no permanent home, and live in some of the worse human conditions in the world. Although Museveni prefers to call the camps “Protected Camps,” the locals who live there know it as a concentration camp in which terror reigns and individual freedoms don’t exist.

Government soldiers claiming to be guarding these camps are well known for their atrocities on the hapless civilians.They rape the women and have contributed to the increase in the rate of HIV/AIDS — now the highest in that region.

These are just few recorded incidents and yet the majority remained unreported. Similarly, the government is indiscriminately using its Helicopter Gunship and night-guided vision technology to try to spot and kill the LRA rebels. However, the majority of the unfortunate victims are innocent civilians.”

It needs to be repeated, the most grievous and pervasive threat of terrorism in Africa is the threat to African civilians from their own militaries.

Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire provides additional Ugandan perspective. She tells us both the CAR and DRC have asked Uganda’s UPDF to leave their countries. I am curious how that fits in with the renewed military initiative coming from the United States. The US has entered into agreements regarding the search for Kony with South Sudan, the CAR and the DRC.

Obama’s troops in Central Africa to fight LRA; will they deliver?

“Many Ugandans, through various social networks, have expressed skepticism over the 100 combat troops the US deployed to Uganda

The CAR government in December 2010 had asked the UPDF to leave but they are still present in one area. A friend who works in CAR once told me that when they were asking CAR civilians which militia groups are involved in the conflict, some wrote UPDF. This is because the ordinary people on the ground just see people in UPDF uniforms and have no clue who they are and what they are there to do.

The DRC government asked UPDF to leave, at first by May this year but later asked for a calendar showing their withdrawal. I have not heard of the details of this withdraw plan. In some incidents the Congolese Army, which has its own structural problems had clashes with UPDF in DRC which were largely unreported in the media.

One UPDF soldier who has been based in CAR told me early this year that fighting LRA was very difficult because “you have to do surveillance on a jungle bigger than the size of Uganda.”

A researcher in one of the few agencies that still work in Dungu told me that because of the wide area of operation of LRA we must recognize that “military intelligence is more important that military power. Aerial surveillance and ‘human’ intelligence is crucial” if LRA is to be dealt with. And as far we have seen over the years all the four government involved in the fight for LRA have not shown us they are capable of doing the needed surveillance work.

So the question is will this US deployment deliver?

What can 100 combat troops do? Will they deliver several other botched attacks or will they help end the conflict? Well at the end of the day, regional governments must be more willing and give LRA more attention than they have done in the last three years. DRC, South Sudan and CAR must work faster to pacify the lawless regions that have made it easy for LRA to operate for this long. Also the past has shown that focusing only on military intervention will not easily bring back rebels who were forced to carry out all these crimes in the first place.

Those who worry about foreign intervention must equally worry about the deaths and human rights violations that millions of people in the three countries face daily.

The worry is not that the Americans are here -because they have been here for some time. The question is, are they capable of delivering in a short time without staying in the region too long. If the American forces stay in the region too long this will have implications as the suspicions about their interest in oil in Uganda, South Sudan and DRC is already ripe.”

I have written about the Botched raid at the end of 2008 in greater detail: Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target. There was an earlier attempt to get Kony with US backing:

Hard Target

“The hunt for joseph kony has been marked by one spectacular failure after another. In 2006, in an unprecedented move, the United Nations mounted a covert operation to capture or kill him. A squad of U.S.-trained Guatemalan Special Ops soldiers set out into Congo’s Garamba National Park, a longtime LRA refuge and the scene of last year’s Operation Lightning Thunder. Trained in jungle warfare and accustomed to surviving in the bush for long stretches, the Guatemalans were equipped with M-16s and the latest special-operations technology. But they were no match for Kony and his child warriors. Makassa recalls the day the Guatemalans appeared. He had left Garamba park briefly to pick up food and supplies in southern Sudan, just across the border. On his way back he got a call: “The situation is bad. Unknown soldiers came to fight us. Hurry up and help us.” The caller described the unknown soldiers as muzungu—a Swahili word meaning “white man.”

By the time Makassa reached the scene, the battle was over. Five LRA soldiers had been killed. But not one of the Guatemalans had survived. The LRA fighters slaughtered them all and, according to one account, beheaded the commander. Some reports put the U.N. dead at eight; others say as many as 40 counterinsurgency troops may have died that morning. The LRA left the corpses in the jungle but took the weapons—including heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.

Kony was in southern Sudan at the time, far from the battle. Makassa called him with the news. “Kony was very happy,” Makassa recalls. “Kony likes fighting, he likes war.’”

DefenseTech writes: U.S. Sending “Combat Equipped” Troops to Africa

“In addition to Uganda, U.S. forces have permission from South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to operate on their territory while helping to hunt down the LRA.

The troops are likely special operations forces and their low numbers reflect the U.S.’ desire to avoid the appearance of neo-colonialism on the continent. The Pentagon routinely deploys forces to Africa to train local militaries … They’re usually sent in small numbers and are special ops troops, often dressed as civilians, who are trained in local languages and customs. Don’t forget all the combat equipped troops who live at Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti. Still, it’s very rare to hear about U.S. forces actively hunting bad guys in Africa. Even when we go after pirates and terrorists in Somalia we usually do it with AC-130 gunships and UAVs. If Americans to hit the ground its usually for the few minutes or hours it takes to kill or capture one of these guys.

In this case, the troops will be directly assisting with a manhunt despite the fact that the White House says they won’t be “engaging” in combat with LRA forces, unless of course, the LRA forces shoot first.”

From military.com news: US Sending Troops to Africa to Battle Insurgency

“The deployment drew support from Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican who has visited the region.

“I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by the LRA, and this will help end Kony’s heinous acts that have created a human rights crisis in Africa,” he said in a statement. “I have been fervently involved in trying to prevent further abductions and murders of Ugandan children, and today’s action offers hope that the end of the LRA is in sight.”

But Obama’s letter stressed the limited nature of the deployment.

“Our forces will provide information, advice and assistance to select partner nation forces,” it said. “Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will … not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”

In the comments sgtjmackinjersey writes about how Kony and the LRA really don’t have a political agenda:

“sgtjmackinjersey Oct 15, 2011 12:54:41 AM

… Robert Gersony, in a report funded by United States Embassy in Kampala in 1997, concluded that “the LRA has no political program or ideology, at least none that the local population has heard or can understand.”[31] The International Crisis Group has stated that “the LRA is not motivated by any identifiable political agenda, and its military strategy and tactics reflect this.”[32] IRIN comments that “the LRA remains one of the least understood rebel movements in the world, and its ideology, as far as it has one, is difficult to understand.”[26] UPDF Lt. Col. Shaban Bantariza has said that “you can’t tell whether they want political power. Its only aim is to terrorize and brutalize the civilian population and to loot their homes.””

James Inhofe has been one of the primary enablers of Museveni’s military excesses. As a senator, Inhofe is responsible for the US giving Museveni the dictator enormous amounts of US taxpayer money. Inhofe is a member of the religious cult The Family, which preaches, among other unchristian and undemocratic ideas, that men in positions of power are powerful because God wants them to have power. In other words, might makes right. Might makes right also appears to be the driving ideology of US foreign policy these days, perhaps the Obama doctrine at home and abroad.

AFRICOM has been wooing African journalists from a number of countries. It invited a number of Ugandan journalists to Stuttgart where General Hamm gave this interview which discussed Somalia and the issue of Kony and the LRA.

From Uganda’s Daily Monitor, and interview with General Hamm by Gerald Bareebe.

“After the passage of counter LRA legislation by the US Congress, the US has been helping UPDF with intelligence information regarding the whereabouts of Joseph Kony. How far have you gone with the hunt for Kony?

It’s not going as well as we hope it should be. There are some small successes but there are also some setbacks. So we have a lot of work yet to do in this regard. As you know, this is a hunt for one man with a small number of his followers in a very extensive geographic area. So it’s kind of tough.

It requires very precise information which can be provided by people from his area of operation or from his camp. Ugandans, the Congolese and others may be able to capture him, though the process may be longer than we may want. The US is committed to this because of the horrific atrocities Kony and his groups have committed.

I am encouraged by the commitment of Uganda and Congo to end this. The US role is to be supportive to the three primary countries involved in this and will facilitate the sharing of information by the parties. The USA will not have a leading role on the ground. Uganda, DRC, CAR and South Sudan have recognised that USA will support them to do this.

We have been training a battalion in Eastern Congo for this. It’s a very important mission for us. But we see the US doing a supporting role than a leading role. In my personal view, Kony cannot be brought to justice faster enough.

If anybody had a doubt that there is a real evil in our world, all they have to do is to look at what Joseph Kony has done and they will find out that evil exists in the name of Joseph Kony. The most important thing is that Kony has to be stopped. The preferred way to do this is to capture him and bring him to justice. There are those who would say that he should be killed. In my view he should be captured and be brought to justice but, if in the pursuit of that he is killed, I am not one who would shed many tears.”

I doubt General Hamm will shed any tears for the civilians killed either. They are just unfortunate collateral damage. The US is partnering with people who have caused enormous suffering in the region.  All the military organizations included are implicated in war crimes, particularly in the eastern Congo.  There is no reason to suppose things will improve.  There is no accountability built in to this action.   Kony is said to have made some friends in the region. There is also corruption always present. In 2008 Kony was tipped off by someone who knew about Operation Lightning Thunder.

And from comment #6 at MoA by b real

“public announcements like this cover operations already in progress that will eventually draw media attention at some point, esp considering uganda’s burgeoning oil industry. considering the last u.s. effort to kill kony failed so spectacularly, the military is re-adapting its existing policies of majority reliance on proxy, surrogate & merc forces in pursuing its own interests across africa. whereas only a handful of boots on the ground to assist in operations is proving ineffective in realizing larger objectives (namely resource “stabilization” and/or removal of resistance to political and commercial designs), utilization of more boots on the ground in actual fighting capacity appears to be the future. this correlates w/ africom getting a boot-in-the-door and the inevitable scope/mission creep that inevitably follows. for instance, as i said in another thread, don’t be surprised to see u.s. boots on the ground waging battle in somalia.

maybe 1,000 villagers were killed in the 2009 campaign – expect a higher body count from this next one”

The Acholi religous leaders feel the same about the military approach. Military attacks and reprisals only result in more bloodshed.

Response of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) to the ” Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009″

“Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative
Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative
Kitgum Office, Plot 121 Uhuru Drive, P.O. Box 185, Kitgum, Uganda
Pader Office, 1st Street, P.O. Box 50, Pader, Uganda
Gulu Office, Plot 16 Olya Road, P.O. Box 104, Gulu,Uganda
21st June 2009

For over two decades, war between the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda (GoU) has ravaged the region of north and northeastern Uganda causing great suffering among the civilian population. Over the last number of years, the conflict has unfortunately spread to the Southern Sudan, DR Congo and Central African Republic. While several methods have been employed to bring and end to the conflict, all have failed to reach their goal of realizing peace.

To address this issue the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009″ was introduced to the U.S. Senate on May 19th, 2009, detailing the way in which the United States wishes to engage with the conflict.

We the Acholi Religious Leaders Initiative (ARLPI) who have been tirelessly working to bring about sustainable peace and reconciliation throughout the region, wish to express our gratitude for the continued interest and support the U.S. has shown towards ending the suffering of those affected. Their support to initiatives such as the Juba Peace talks and the provision of humanitarian aid during the course of the conflict has not gone unnoticed. Such contributions have significantly improved the conditions in the region.

Of particular concern of bill however is Section 4: Requirement of a Regional Strategy for Disarming the LRA. This section implies that a military offensive may be immanent. The military option has been explored numerous times in the past, notably Operation North (1991), Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008-2009).

Experience shows that despite such attempts to end the conflict, only dialogue can be attributed to the relative calm experienced in Northern Uganda since July of 2006 Military strategies launched against the LRA have time and again led to severe reprisal attacks on the innocent civilian community as illustrated by the recent 900 civilian deaths during Operation Lightning Thunder.

Not only has the cost of the military option been expensive regarding the loss of human life, the financial implications of war are also immense. The large sums of money required to carry out war drain the resources needed to bring about development and reconstruction of affected areas.

In conclusion, we applaud the commitment of the bill to bring about stability and development in the region. However, we as the Acholi religious leaders whose primary concern is the preservation of human life, advocate for dialogue and other non-violent strategies to be employed so that long term sustainable peace may be realized. Let us learn from the past experiences where we have seen that violence only breeds more violence.

Sincerely,

Archbishop John Baptist Odama
Al Hajji Sheik Musa Khalil
Rt. Rev. Bishop Nelson Onono
Rt. Rev. Bishop Benjamin Ojwang
Rt. Rev. Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola II
Fr. Julius Orach
Bishop Sabino Odoki”

Here is the text of President Obama’s announcement:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 14, 2011
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
October 14, 2011
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)For more than two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men,women, and children in central Africa. The LRA continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security. Since 2008, the United States has supported regional military efforts to pursue the LRA and protect local communities. Even with some limited U.S. assistance, however, regional military efforts have thus far been unsuccessful in removing LRA leader Joseph Kony or his top commanders from the battlefield. In the Lord’s ResistanceArmy Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, Public Law 111-172, enacted May 24, 2010, the Congress also expressed support for increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability. In furtherance of the Congress’s stated policy, I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield. I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa. On October 12, the initial team of U.S. military personnel with appropriate combat equipment deployed to Uganda. During the next month, additional forces will deploy, including a second combat-equipped team and associated headquarters, communications, and logistics personnel. The total number of U.S. military personnel deploying for this mission is approximately 100. These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA. Our forces will provide information,advice, and assistance to select partner nation forces. Subject to the approval of each respective host nation, elements of these U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the CentralAfrican Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.The support provided by U.S. forces will enhance regional efforts against the LRA. However, although the U.S. forces arecombat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safetyof U.S. military personnel during their deployment. I have directed this deployment, which is in the nationalsecurity and foreign policy interests of the United States,pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreignrelations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. I am making this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congressfully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (PublicLaw 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA

To conclude, this bit of hiphop poetry from FURF1387 in the comments at the military.com article quoted above, is right on the mark:

FURF1387
Oct 15, 2011 10:35:44 AM
“100 here….100 there….100 a day to keep the barbarians at bay….100 a day reinforcing legions far away…the Republic at home begins to sway…unity oozes day by day…citizens won’t labor without circus & play…besides outsiders do the dirty work for much less pay… the empire spreads and melts away…AH, but that’s all a story from some ancient day…in some ol’ galaxy, far, far away…no need to fear…100 away..100 a day…100 there…100 HERE…no longer.”

 

________
________

 

Added February 14, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
DOD To Equip Uganda Forces In Bid To Destroy Rebel Forces

U.S. Africa Command is set to begin a new security assistance program in East Africa that aims to bolster the ability of Uganda’s military to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that for more than 20 years has terrorized civilians.

Congress has lifted a hold it placed earlier this month on a Defense Department proposal to begin a new program to provide Ugandan defense forces with counterterrorism training and equipment, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory.

The project, part of a second batch of so-called Section 1206 security assistance programs drawn up by the Defense and State departments, is designed to “provide communications and intelligence training as well as communications and engineering equipment to improve Uganda’s ability to remove LRA leadership and fighters from the battlefield,” according to Gregory. The project has a price tag of $4.4 million, he said.

During testimony before Congress this spring, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of AFRICOM, singled out the Lord’s Resistance Army as a “scourge” and an example of a transnational extremist threat to security on the continent. “In order for Africa Command to reduce threats to our citizens and interests, both abroad and at home, we need to contribute to operations, programs and activities that help African states provide for their own security in a manner that is consistent with the rule of law and international norms,” Ham told the House Armed Services Committee on April 5.

In May 2010, the President Obama signed into law the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which required that the executive branch draw up a strategy to support multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the LRA, to apprehend or remove the LRA leader Joseph Kony, and to disarm and demobilize LRA fighters.

On Nov. 24, 2010, Obama transmitted the strategy to lawmakers with a letter explaining that it would guide “U.S. support across the region to mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.” The strategy consists of four objectives, one of which is to “apprehend or remove from the battlefield Joseph Kony and senior commanders.”

A State Department assessment on Uganda calls the Lord’s Resistance Army, which aims to overthrow the East African country’s government, “vicious and cult-like.” Between 1986 and 2006 the group is believed to have kidnapped thousands of children to serve as soldiers and slaves, according to the State Department. Its primary targets are civilians, especially women and children, according to a Congressional Research Service report. “Human rights abuses committed by the LRA include murder, mutilation, abduction of young women for sexual servitude, and kidnapping of children to become rebel fighters,” according to the State Department.

In 2005, the Ugandan forces drove the LRA out of the country. Since then, the rebel group has operated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic and is responsible for displacing nearly 2 million people, according to the State Department. For more than two years the governments of Uganda, Congo and Southern Sudan have waged joint military operations against the LRA in northeastern Congo.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon was cleared by Congress to spend as much as $123.3 million on similar projects in Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Uganda, Burundi, Oman, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives and the Philippines (DefenseAlert, July 19).

Those projects, along with the new Uganda security assistance effort and a first batch of 1206 efforts to enhance the capabilities of Eastern European nations preparing to deploy to Afghanistan begun in April, require $159.3 million, comprising nearly half of the available funds for such programs — which are very popular with combatant commanders — in this fiscal year.

The FY-11 Defense Authorization Act granted $350 million for Section 1206 projects, including $75 million for stability operations. Congress, which first authorized Section 1206 projects in FY-06, permits spending on these programs for two purposes: to enhance partner nations’ counterterrorism and stability operations and bolster foreign maritime security forces for counterterrorism. — Jason Sherman

According to JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association, in a study covering 2005-2007, Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the soldiers of the DRC, the FARDC, were responsible for 56% of rapes and crimes of sexual violence reviewed in the study. JAMA has just released a more extensive study: Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The new study lists the main perpetrators of crimes of sexual violence, but the FARDC and state military have disappeared from this list of perpetrators.  They are completely missing from the tables of results.

CAMP BASE, KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo - Lieutenant Colonel Pepe Tongawa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) commander of troops, awaits the beginning of the graduation ceremony for more than 750 DRC soldiers trained by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa as part of Operation Olympic Chase September 15, 2010. Operation Olympic Chase was a nine-month course designed to form a fully professional light infantry battalion with supporting medical and engineering elements. Instruction included small unit tactics, communications, medical care, HIV/AIDS prevention and humanitarian de-mining. Tongawa is the commander of the Kisangani military garrison. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Eric S. Elliott)

What happened between 2007 and the present? Have the DRC state military ceased entirely committing the crimes that caused the citizenry throughout the eastern DRC to fear them.

In October 2008 The United States stood up its Africa Command, which has begun partnerships and training with the FARDC, the DRC state military. The pictures included here are from recent training exercises in which the US Africa Command is training DRC soldiers, the same state military implicated in much of the massive sexual violence that has taken place in the Congo’s civil wars since 1995.

Did the FARDC stop committing rape and crimes of sexual violence? Or did the fact that they are now US allies cause them to disappear from the list of perpetrators in the JAMA report: Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. How did that work?

CAMP BASE, KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo †Charlie company of the newly designated 391st Commando Battalion parade before Congolese and U.S. dignitaries at the conclusion of the ceremony marking the end of their training by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa September 15, 2010. The battalion includes three light infantry companies and a headquarters element. The battalion was trained by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa as part of Operation Olympic Chase. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Clark)

Here is the portion of the table of results that lists the named perpetrators from the 2005-2007 study:

selection from JAMA table, click to enlarge enough to read

And here are the perpetrators as listed in the study from the August 4, 2010 issue of JAMA:

Prevalence of most active perpetrators of abuse:
Mai-Mai___________18.8
FDLR_____________11.3
FNI______________10.3
MLC______________7.8
Interahamwe_______5.7
UPC______________13.5
You will notice that these percentage add up to 67.4%
That means 32.6% of the perpetrators are not named or unknown. While I’m sure some percentage is unknown, I doubt it is as large as 32%. It also seems unlikely that the soldiers of the DRC have suddenly and completely stopped committing crimes that they have commonly committed in the past.
Why did the DRC state military disappear from the listed perpetrators of some of the worst abuses and sexual violence in Congo’s civil wars? It looks to me as if that information was omitted because they are now US allies. And it does not look good for the US to openly ally itself with the unimaginably brutal violence that has been taking place in the DRC since 1993.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo - Major General David R. Hogg, commander of U.S. Army Africa, arrives at the mass casualty event site, September 17, 2010, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hogg was greeted by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo military police and music battalion. (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant James D. Sims)

Is hiding this association and granting impunity those who commit gross abuses of law and human rights the best way to deal with the problem? Will pretending “our” side didn’t do this stop the crimes? The reason the crimes have continued and escalated is because of the almost complete impunity of the perpetrators. I don’t know why the FARDC was not listed among the perpetrators in the recent JAMA report. But it is difficult not t0 conclude that the US relationship with the FARDC, the DRC state military, has something to do with it.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice in early September following a meeting discussing recent incidents of mass rape in the DRC:

“From the U.S. point of view, we will take up the mantle of leadership… in ensuring that the perpetrators of the violence are held accountable, including through our efforts in the sanctions committee – to add them to the list that exists and to ensure that they are sanctioned,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after the meeting.

Over 500 rapes have now been confirmed in the North and South Kivu provinces since Jul. 30, with scores more unconfirmed and still others certainly unreported

For there to be peace and reconciliation, there must be truth. People must be able to both tell and hear what actually happened. Obscuring or skewing the description to omit certain parties or perpetrators will hide truth and encourage the impunity that permits and perpetuates this level of violence.  It is most certainly not holding people accountable.

KINSHASA, Congo - Residents of Kinshasa, Congo wait in line to receive medical and dental care at the Humanitarian Civic Action site, September 14, 2010. Approximately 2,000 residents were seen over a four-day period during MEDFLAG 10, a joint medical exercise between the U.S. military and the Congo armed forces which provided humanitarian assistance to the local people. (Photo by Staff Sergeant Kassidy Snyder, Illinois National Guard)

On October 1 the United Nations released: DRC: Mapping human rights violations 1993-2003.  Links to the full text PDF in French and English are available at the link.  The events described in this report are evil beyond imagining.
“Very few Congolese and foreign civilians living on the territory of the DRC managed to escape the violence, and were victims of murder, mutilation, rape, forced displacement, pillage, destruction of property or economic and social rights violations,” underlines the report.

Among those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide in the report are Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, three countries whose armed forces were involved in the different wars that racked the DRC between 1995 and 2003.

The Rwandan government, which had threatened to withdraw its troops serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Sudan if the report was published, characterised the document as dangerous. According to the country’s foreign affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo told the press, the report is “a moral and intellectual failure, and an insult to history.”

Rwanda, which suffered a genocide in 1994, refuses to accept that its army could be accused of having committed acts of genocide in eastern DRC just a few years later. The report’s methodology, with human rights officers drawing on meetings with more than 1,200 witnesses from across the country, and excluding incidents that could not be corroborated by at least two independent sources, cannot be easily dismissed.

Alan Stam, a political science professor at the University of Michigan in the United States, who has done extensive research on the Rwanda’s civil war violence and its aftermath in the Great Lakes region, believes the report will change how the government of Paul Kagame is perceived.

This is the largest, most systematic effort to catalogue the abuses that have taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to link them back to people [connected to] the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front].”

The events documented by the Mapping Project are well known he says, but the report presents them in a systematic way that INDICTS the perpetrators.

Stam says that President Kagame has been praised internationally for his role in ending the 1994 genocide and stabilising Rwanda since the RPF took control in 1994; and for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. In Stam’s view, Kagame and the RPF won the war rather than ending the genocide.

But human rights groups have accused his administration of suppressing independent media and his political opposition, most recently in elections held in August.

“History may look back at this as the tipping point in the international community’s perception of the Kagame government.”

Uganda rejected the report in an official communiqué released on Sep. 30, saying its findings are based simply on the statements by NGOs and that Kampala should have been consulted before publication.

Rwanda and Burundi have also rejected the report. Statements by their respective foreign affairs ministries said the United Nations was risking gains of integration and reconciliation in the heart of the Great Lakes region.

“Aside from its historical contribution to documenting these serious violations and fact-finding during this period, the ultimate purpose of this inventory is to provide the Congolese authorities with the elements they need to help them decide on the best approach to adopt to achieve justice for the many victims and fight widespread impunity for these crimes.”

As covered in the Black Agenda Report:

The pro-government Rwandan press has been busy attacking the researchers who drew up the report as part of a mapping project to pinpoint the sites of military actions and massacres of civilians in Congo and Rwanda. Rwanda’s media defenders have been especially frantic in their attacks on Christopher Black, [author of] “Who Was Behind the Rwandan Genocide?” … Mr. Black is also a lawyer for a Hutu general on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Based largely on the UN’s research into the times, places and victims of mass murder in Rwanda and Congo, Mr. Black concludes that Rwandan Tutsi rebels, attacking from Uganda, initiated the slaughter in Rwanda that left hundreds of thousands dead, and then invaded the neighboring Congo to exploit its mineral resources.

Black’s version of the conflict gives context to the UN’s report that Rwanda’s Tutsi army in the Congo slaughtered Hutu civilians, both Rwandan Hutu refugees and native Congolese Hutu. And he further charges that Uganda and Rwanda coordinated their invasion of the Congo with their military and political ally, the United States, for the benefit of multinational mining corporations.

Rwanda and Uganda are major active partners of the US Africa Command. 

U.S. and Democratic Republic of Congo representatives gathered February 17, 2010, at a military base outside of Kisangani in north-central DRC to mark the establishment of a light infantry battalion intended to be a model unit for the future of the Congolese military.

KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo - Congolese soldiers stand in formation during a ceremony marking the formation of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) Light Infantry Battalion's establishment, February 17, 2010. The battalionnâ€s soldiers will soon undergo 6-8 months of training as part of a U.S. government partnership with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by Nicole Dalrymple, U.S. Africa Command)

The train-and-equip mission, part of a long-term, multi-lateral U.S.-DRC partnership to promote security sector reform in the country, will assist the DRC government in its ongoing efforts to transform the Armed Forces of the DRC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, widely known as FARDC).

The training is intended to increase the ability of the Congolese army to conduct effective internal security operations as part of the FARDC’s rapid reaction plan, help preserve the territorial integrity of the DRC, and develop an army that is accountable to the Congolese people. This initiative also represents one aspect of a long-term, multiagency, international approach to promote a sustainable peace through the creation of a model unit in the FARDC.

Brigadier General Jean-Claude Kifwa, commander of FARDC’s 9th Region, spoke at the ceremony, saying he thought it was a sign of progress that a quick reaction force was being established in his region.

“I’d like to thank the authorities of my country for choosing Kisangani to be the center of quick reaction forces,” Kifwa said. “I think this is progress in the reform of our new army.” He said that the battalion’s main mission would be to protect the territorial borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congolese people and their goods.

KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo - Congolese Color Guard members take part in a ceremony marking the establishment of a Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) Light Infantry Battalion, February 17, 2010, in Kisangani. The battalion will be trained via a U.S. government partnership with the DRC. (Photo by Nicole Dalrymple, U.S. Africa Command)

Members of the newly formed light infantry battalion will undergo a 6-8 month training program at the Base Camp in Kisangani. The training will cover small unit tactics, food preparation, maintenance, medical care and first aid, logistics support, HIV/AIDS prevention and communications. Human rights considerations and the respect for human rights in military operations will be incorporated in each aspect of the training.

“The commanders, staff officers and noncommissioned officers who will lead this battalion began their training last year in Kinshasa,” Garvelink explained. He added that the battalion’s soldiers were all carefully selected by the FARDC to “ensure the highest caliber of trainees possible.”

U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM), via its Special Operations Command component, is providing on-the-ground oversight of the training program, which will be taught by U.S. military personnel and Department of State-hired contractors.

When asked about any possible hidden policy agenda of the United States in the Congo, Ambassador Garvelink answered, “The interest of the United States in the Congo is to see a democratic, representative government that takes care of its people and is at peace with its neighbors. That’s what our objective is.” (from africom.mil)

In February 2008 the US and UN organized a special training: U.S. Military Legal Experts Train DR Congo Military in Preventing, Prosecuting Sex Crimes. So far I have not heard of any significant successes resulting from this training.

Regarding the reasons for training an infantry battalion and the interest of the United States, Rick Rozoff points us to some timely information:

Earlier this month the Kenyan newspaper The East African divulged that “American legislators are pushing for a law that will see another phase of military action to apprehend Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.”

The news source added that the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Bill adopted by the U.S. Congress last year “requires the US government to develop a new multifaceted strategy” and as such the new bill under consideration “will not be the first time the US government is providing support to the Uganda army in fighting the LRA.

“The US has been backing the UPDF [Uganda People's Defence Force] with logistics and training to fight the rebel group.” [12]

Last month it was announced that the U.S. Africa Command has dispatched special forces to train 1,000 Congolese troops in the north and east of their nation, where Congo borders Uganda.

Former U.S. diplomat Daniel Simpson was quoted above as to what in part is Washington’s motive in pursuing a new war in and around Somalia: To test out AFRICOM ground and air forces in Djibouti for direct military action on the continent.

A United Press International report of March 10, placed under energy news, offered another explanation. In a feature titled “East Africa is next hot oil zone,” the news agency disclosed that “East Africa is emerging as the next oil boom following a big strike in Uganda’s Lake Albert Basin. Other oil and natural gas reserves have been found in Tanzania and Mozambique and exploration is under way in Ethiopia and even war-torn Somalia.”

The article added: “The discovery at Lake Albert, in the center of Africa between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is estimated to contain the equivalent of several billion barrels of oil. It is likely to be the biggest onshore field found south of the Sahara Desert in two decades.”

I wrote about oil and the LRA earlier in If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy. The comments include the Response of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) to the ” Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009″courtesy of Africa Focus. They conclude:

… we applaud the commitment of the bill to bring about stability and development in the region. However, we as the Acholi religious leaders whose primary concern is the preservation of human life, advocate for dialogue and other non-violent strategies to be employed so that long term sustainable peace may be realized. Let us learn from the past experiences where we have seen that violence only breeds more violence.

Given current US finances, it seems unlikely that the US is investing in training the Congo soldiers out of a selfless desire to see a democratic, representative government that takes care of its people and is at peace with its neighbors. That certainly has never been the case before in the DRC. And considering the role of US Africa Command protege Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the proxy army the US is training and arming in Rwanda, and Rwanda’s involvement in resource exploitation and political terrorism in Congo, US motives are at best unclear.

In 2008 Refugees International reported in U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement: Lessons from the Operational Level in Africa that the US:

… only plans to spend $5.5 million in 2009 [in Congo, compared to 49.65 million budgeted for Liberia] to help reform a 164,000-strong army in the DR Congo, a country with 65 million people where Africa’s “first world war” claimed the lives of over five million people.

… intelligence, judiciary, and prison agencies are sadly neglected. In the DR Congo, the State Department has played a very active role in facilitating dialogue among belligerents and is concerned about the humanitarian situation in the east, but the Defense Department is virtually ignoring the nation’s desperate need of military reform. As a result, an inadequately resourced security sector reform program has contributed to the Congolese army becoming a major source of insecurity for civilian communities.

It would be nice if the Congolese Army protected rather than preyed on the civilians they are supposed to protect. But I doubt the brief and limited training will make a significant difference, even if Human rights considerations and the respect for human rights in military operations will be incorporated in each aspect of the training. And I suspect human rights are more an afterthought than a goal.

Greed is the reason for the violence in the Congo. The violence is funded by the mining companies and all those, in many countries, who benefit from minerals and resource wealth extracted from the Congo. As a result of this violence, 1500 people die per day, 45000 die per month, 5.4 million have died in the last 10 years.

From the documentary Culture of Resistance two people who know the Congo tell us:

Maurice Carney -
The Congo is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II. Congo is a geological scandal because of the mineral wealth within its soil. The conflict is based on who is going to control the resources of the Congo.

Kambale Musavuli -
If one person is brutalized in front of everyone, by the time that ends, everyone in the area are going to take their baggage and leave the community.
They have been displaced.
That is the cheapest way to move the people. So there are two rapes taking place, the rape of the land and the rape of the people. And these two rapes are inextricably linked.

[The above added February 22, 2012]

The [Democratic Republic of the Congo's] significant mineral reserves coupled with corrupt management of the mining sector helped fuel the 1998-2003 civil war leading to the death of some 4 million people. Conflict and massive displacement continues in the eastern part of the country. (UN 2007)

Map of Coltan ore locations in the Eastern Congo, DRC (click to enlarge) -1-

What is Coltan?

Columbite-tantalite, coltan for short, is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of Congo. When refined, coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. These properties make it a vital element in creating capacitors, the electronic elements that control current flow inside miniature circuit boards. Tantalum capacitors are used in almost all cell phones, laptops, pagers and many other electronics. The profits from mining have fueled a brutal civil war and severely damaged the forest and wildlife.

Map of mineral deposits in the eastern Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -2-

For over a century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources. The greed for Congo’s wealth has been a principal driver of atrocities and conflict throughout Congo’s tortured history. In eastern Congo today, resources are financing multiple armed groups,many of whom use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and drive the local population away from mines and other areas that they wish to control.

Specifically, the conflict in eastern Congo – the deadliest since World War II – is fueled in significant part by a multi-million dollar trade in minerals. Armed groups generate an estimated $180 million each year by trading four main minerals: the ores that produce the metals tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. This money enables the armed groups to purchase large numbers of weapons and continue their campaign of brutal violence against civilians, with some of the worst abuses occurring in mining areas. These materials eventually wind up in electronic devices, such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers, including those sold here in the United States. Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain, American consumers continue to indirectly finance armed groups that regularly commit arocities and mass rape.
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

Map of sites of coltan and other mining exploitation in Kivu, Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -3-

You can see the geographical relationship between the mining, the mineral deposits, and the armed groups in these maps.

Map of four of the armed groups operating in the eastern Congo, Kivu North and South, the DRC, as of the end of 2007 (click to enlarge) -4-

The majority of the violence in the eastern Congo has been carried out in mineral-rich areas, by armed groups and military units on all sides of the conflict. This includes units of the Congolese armed forces, as well as the Rwandan rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, of FDLR, as well as an array of other militias.
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

These armed groups profit from the trade in two primary ways:

  • Controlling the mines, forcing miners to work in deadly conditions and paying them a pittance, an average of $1 to $5 per day.
  • Exacting bribes from transporters, local and international buyers, and border controls.

The armed groups trade in the 3T minerals – tin, tantalum, and tungsten, as well as gold:

Tin is used inside your cellphone and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards. Fifty-three percent of tin worldwide is used as a solder, the vast majority of which goes into electronics. Armed groups earn approximately $115 million per year from trading in tin.

Tantalum (often called “coltan”) is used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cll phones. A majority of the world’s tantalum – 65 to 80 percent – is used in elecronic products. Armed groups earn an estimated $12million per year from trading in tantalum.

Tungsten is used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate. Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo, with armed groups currently earning approximately $7 million annually.

Gold is used mainly in jewelry but is also a component in electronics. Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle, armed groups are earning approximately $50 million per year from gold.

Gold from Ituri, used in jewelry and electronic components (click to enlarge) -5-

For one comparison, the amount of gold that Uganda exports in relation to the amount of gold it produces, see the following chart* (click to enlarge):
chart comparing small amout of gold Uganda produces with the large amount it exports

Ethnic rivalries are often blamed for the violence in eastern Congo, but they are a tool rather than a cause. The main reason for the violence is:

greed, the primary cause of the so-called “second war,” which began in 1998. A number of “elite networks,” as defined by a hard-hitting U.N. report, comprising military commanders, political leaders, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs in Kigali, Kampala, and beyond, backed up by international mafias, plundered the resources of eastern Congo (coltan ore, diamonds, gold, hardwoods) and turned the region’s economy to their personal profit. To accomplish their aims, they had to resort continuously to force, but without betraying their true objectives. In the “second war,” Rwanda and Uganda masked their predatory intentions by clandestinely maintaining regular or irregular troops, and above all by fostering armed bands, organized along ethnic lines, forming and reforming according to the current needs of their masters. The battles among these bands have rarely led to major victories or defeats; the whole idea is to maintain insecurity and justify the militarization that enables the massive plundering. Amid all this, the local people have paid a terrible price.

According to the U.N. report, which was published nearly a year ago, the number of “excess deaths” in Congo directly attributable to the Rwandan and Ugandan occupation can be estimated at between 3 million and 3.5 million. This conflict has been the deadliest since World War II. … Finally, acts of sexual violence accompanying the carnage have been without precedent in their frequency, their systematic nature, their brutality, and the perversity of the way they’re planned and staged.

… In this hospital, the sexually assaulted victims are two or three times as numerous as civilians treated for gunshot wounds, and four or five times as numerous as wounded soldiers. These are very significant ratios concerning the victims of eastern Congo’s interrelated conflicts.

… in eastern Congo, rape—extremely violent rape—“is soldiers’ work,” one of the rapists told one of his victims.
from Congo: A Hell on Earth for Women

Out of this violence, looted minerals are transported both by land, air, and water.

Map of mineral transportation routes out of the Congo, DRC (click to enlarge) -6

Air routes of minerals taken from the Eastern Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -7-

From the eastern Congo the minerals are:
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

  • Transported through neighboring countries including Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.
  • Mainly shipped to East Asia, particularly to multinational smelting companies in Malaysia, Thailand, China, and India.
  • Once processed, bought by electronics manufacturing companies, turned into usable components such as capacitors, and added into the electronic devices.

The highest-selling devices with the 3T minerals are:
Cell phones and Blackberries * MP3 players * Digital cameras (also, TVs, computers, monitors)

Countries importing gold and 3T mineral ore from the Congo -8-

Crisis in Congo PDF cites the average annual wage of a civilian worker in the Congo as about $184 per year. It estimates the profits of the armed groups that trade in the Congo’s contraband minerals at $180,000,000 per year.

Rwanda and Uganda benefit most directly from the trade in contraband minerals from Congo. I have written about this previously in posts listed below. According to Crisis in Congo PDF, since January 2009 more that 900,000 people have had to flee their homes because of the violence. 7000 rapes have been reported, most rapes are not reported. Armed groups try to drive out local citizens and other armed groups. There are only 2 hospitals in all of eastern Congo that are able to perform surgury on fistula, a common result of the rapes. These rapes seem to fit the definition of genocidal rape, including:

… in genocide, rape is under control. It has become a tool, not an accident. In genocide, men rape in groups because they are ordered to or because they are systematically permitted to do so. It is calculated. The men rape not as individual men, but as members of their race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. They sexually assault women (and sometimes other men) of a particular group.

The goal in genocidal rape is not merely to hurt people. Much less is the goal simply to have sex. Group destruction is the goal. Sexual violence is not simply some ancillary tool to this goal. Indeed, because of the peculiar nature of rape and sexual torture, it is particularly suited to genocide. In war, the destructive effects of rape are largely beside the point. In genocide, the destruction is the point.

I am wary of the word genocide. I think in recent times it has been appropriated for political reasons, and thereby robbed of some meaning. What is happening to ordinary people living in the Eastern Congo is devastatingly painful to read about or contemplate, and I find it difficult to research or write about. Too much of it is happening because you and I enjoy our cellphones and other electronics.

For more detail on the violence against women there are quite a number of links on this page: women in conflict. It includes a video, and this article, Silence=Rape, which is hard to read but describes the problem. US demand for electronics helps fuel the problem. And the US isn’t helping, for example:
Congo’s Rape Epidemic Worsens During U.S.-Backed Military Operation
U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement: Lessons from the Operational Level in Africa

The training and weapons support the US provides to both Rwanda and Uganda, both active partners of the US Africa Command, is just more fuel for the violence in the Congo. This is even more questionable policy due to the profits and benefits US companies and consumers derive from the contraband minerals of the Congo.

________
Maps from:
L’économie minière au Kivu et ses implications régionales, PDF [Maps 1,6]
*Etude sur le rôle de l’exploitation des ressources naturelles dans l’alimentation et la perpétuation des crises de l’est de la RDC, PDF [Maps 2,3,4,5,7,8] see the Abstract
Both documents contain a great deal more information and more maps.
Check out a great powerpoint overview of coltan and the coltan trade with maps and photos PowerPoint by Dr. John Katunga of the Wilson Center.

________
Previous posts with related information and more links:
Paul Kagame, Warlord of Congo’s Wealth
DRC – Minerals, militaries, money and violence – part 2
DRC – Minerals, militaries, money and violence
Women in Rwanda and DRC – development vs military assistance
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy

Canada funding and profiting from Congo’s wars
And more in this category:
https://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/category/congo/

one of the most destructive wars in modern history has been going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s third-largest country. During the past eleven years millions of people have died, while armies from as many as nine different African countries fought with Congolese government forces and various rebel groups for control of land and natural resources.

Few realize that a main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda, along with several Congolese groups supported by Rwanda. (New York Review of Books)

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda addresses the UN (UN Photo/Mark Castro)

… some of Kagame’s greatest admirers are Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz. American evangelist Rick Warren considers him something of an inspiration and even Bill Gates has invested in what has been called Africa’s success story. Yes, Western liberals, reactionary evangelicals, and capitalist carpetbaggers alike tout Paul Kagame as the herald of a new, self-reliant African prosperity. (Pulse)

Africa’s World War is the most ambitious of several remarkable new books that reexamine the extraordinary tragedy of Congo and Central Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Along with René Lemarchand’s The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa and Thomas Turner’s The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality, Prunier’s Africa’s World War explores arguments that have circulated among scholars of sub-Saharan Africa for years. … In all three, the Kagame regime, and its allies in Central Africa, are portrayed not as heroes but rather as opportunists who use moral arguments to advance economic interests. And their supporters in the United States and Western Europe emerge as alternately complicit, gullible, or simply confused. For their part in bringing intractable conflict to a region that had known very little armed violence for nearly thirty years, all the parties—so these books argue—deserve blame, including the United States. (NYRB)

These books:

depict the forces of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front as steely, power-driven killers themselves.

Prunier calls the Kagame regime’s use of violence in that period “something that resembles neither the genocide nor uncontrolled revenge killings, but rather a policy of political control through terror.”

And it is that terrorism that continues in the Eastern Congo, ethnic cleansing, really political terrorism to move people out of the way of those acquiring the minerals. That is the reason for the murders and mutilations of Congo’s people, all genders, all ages and all ethnicities, and the overwhelming rapes and mutilations of women and children. These are political terror to move people out of the way of the mining interests. The US Africa Command is helping train and arm the Rwandan RDF. Keep in mind, as the quote above states, the: main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda.

KIGALI, Rwanda - General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (left of center), claps along to the spirited singing of Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) soldiers celebrating the conclusion of a live-fire demonstration at the RDF's Gabiro School of Infantry in Gabiro, Rwanda, April 21, 2009. The demonstration was part of a tour for a U.S. Africa Command delegation led by General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The Gabiro School is the RDF's primary facility for infantry, armor, artillery and engineering training of RDF officers and enlisted members. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Kenneth Fidler)

Most alarming is the integral role that Kigali has played in the Second Congolese War which has claimed upward of three million lives. The Rwandan government has been lending significant support to rebels within the Congo, especially in the mineral-rich north. There, the objective is widely considered to be securing the valuable resources of the region which have been trafficked through Rwanda during the conflict. While some press attention has been given to the horrendous plight of women in the area and the massive and mounting casualty figures, little connection seems to be drawn between Kagame and his complicit fans in Europe and North America.

Even The Economist took exception with his heavy-handed domestic policies and accused the new hero of Clinton and Blair as being more repressive than Robert Mugabe. (Pulse)

From the Financial Times:

It is likely that your mobile phone contains coltan mined in Congo’s east, the crucible of the conflict. It is unlikely this was exported by legitimate means. Only a fraction of revenues from the country’s prolific mineral exports are captured by the state.

Here is a map of the routes of coltan and other looted minerals out of the eastern Congo through Rwanda and Uganda to the Indian Ocean ports:

Map of routes of looted coltan and minerals (from INICA, click to enlarge)

________

Added 2/26 – There is much more information at this page:
The Real Authors of the Congo Crimes. Nkunda has been arrested but who will arrest Paul Kagame ?

________

Minerals supply chain from Raise hope for the Congo PDF, http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/files/pdf/crisis_in_congo.pdf

________

Pulse has an excellent bibliography, reproduced below:

(1) “Rwanda Rising: A New Model of Economic Development.” Fast Company, Wednesday, March 18, 2009. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/134/special-report-rwanda-rising.html
(2) This comes on the heels of reports that Rick Warren and his reactionary cohorts where involved with neighboring Uganda’s efforts to execute homosexuals. http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/11/rick-warren-silent-enabler-of-hatred.html
(3) This BBC report is from the end of the election when Twagiramungu called on Kagame to “accept freedom of speech and association and also to accept democracy.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3104092.stm
(4) Reporters Without Borders profile of Paul Kagame (http://www.rsf.org/en-predateur13640-Paul_Kagame_.html) and also a brief report on the issue of fees for free press (http://www.rsf.org/Government-to-demand-exorbitant.html).
(5) “A Flawed Hero”, The Economist, August 21, 2008
(6) The New York Review of Books printed an extensive article on the matter by Howard W. French in their September 24, 2009 issue (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23054). The UN has also issued annual reports on the Second Congo War every year which allude to the influence Kagame has played in the conflict.
(7) “Looted Wealth Fuels Congo Conflict”, Financial Times, November 30, 2009. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8ae76ab0-dde6-11de-b8e2-00144feabdc0.html

The New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.  Graph: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Two graphs, the New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. Graphs: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Julie Hollar has written a superb analysis of why the conflict in the Congo is ignored by the media; Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, When 5 million dead aren’t worth two stories a year. She covers when and why coverage was better, and what is going on now. I won’t repeat all she writes, it is well worth reading. Near the end she includes this paragraph:

Paying attention to the Congo would also mean reporting on the main factor fueling the conflict: the plunder of the country’s resources, which primarily benefits multinational corporations. The conflict areas of the Congo are rich with minerals like copper, tin, gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan, a mineral used for cell phones and other common electronic devices. Rebel groups who hold these areas sell off the minerals at cut-rate prices, using the profits to maintain power as big companies look the other way. As happened with conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone and Angola, activists are pushing for a mechanism to make corporations verify that they aren’t buying the Congo’s conflict minerals.

The GDP of both Rwanda and Uganda include minerals stolen from the Congo. So far both countries are rewarded for this theft by praise for their economic progress, and of course by the money these minerals bring. Too many people in too many countries are profiting from Congo’s wealth. Canada is the largest mining interest in the Congo, and funds a lot of the conflict. Mostly all parties are perfectly willing to see the conflict continue. Despite the massive number of deaths, the use of rape as a form of terrorism, used along with murder and dismemberment to threaten and depopulate areas, and the conscription of children as soldiers by all sides, most of the media coverage of the Congo conflict involves endangered gorillas or Angelina Jolie. Media coverage discounts and ignores the people of the Congo.

The Congo conflict is sometimes known as Africa’s world war. Here is a list from 2001 of many of the parties involved, from Natalie Ware at American University.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
    * Hutu Interhamwe militia – mostly from Rwanda and responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Former Hutu members of the Rwandan military – also responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Mai Mai – group of traditional Congolese local security forces
    These groups operate inside the DRC supporting the government “often as guerillas operating inside territory held by antigovernment forces” (U.S. State 2001)
  • Libya – provides arms and logistical support but no troops
  • North Korea – sent advisors to train government troops
  • Rwanda – supports Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Goma (RCD/Goma) and Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Bunia (RCD/Goma); majority Tutsi
  • Uganda – supports the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC); mainly non-Tutsi
  • Burundi – fights against various Hutu groups based in the DRC that are against the Tutsi-led Burundi government
  • Angola – supports the government of the DRC
  • Namibia – supports the government of the DRC
  • Zimbabwe – supports the government of the DRC
  • Sudan – supports the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF); Ugandan expatriates against the government of Uganda

The conflict in the DRC is often characterized as an ethnic conflict. It is a resource war. The various sides exploit ethnicity when it works to their advantage in the pursuit of mineral and other natural resources. All the groups engaged in fighting in the Congo engage in terrorism and conscript children.

China is missing from the above list, its presence has expanded greatly since 2001. The west is entirely missing from the list. Canada, the United States, the UK, countries of the EU, are all players in one form or another, and have been for some time. They are a huge market for the stolen mineral wealth of the Congo, and home base for the multinational corporations who fuel the plunder. Canada is the biggest player in mining. China is also heavily involved in mining in the Congo. The US is supplying a great deal of military training and arms transfers to Rwanda and Uganda, which extend their reach and power into the Congo.

kony-lra

Photo of Joseph Kony and leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, from a photo essay by Erin Baines taken in 2006. Kony is seated, front row, the second face from the right; lower left inset of some young LRA “soldiers”.

The Lord’s Resistance Army has plagued Uganda for 20 years. It is most notable for kidnapping children and turning them into LRA soldiers and slaves, and for its brutality towards civilians. It created a phenomenon in Northern Uganda called night commuters, children walking long distances to shelter in town overnight so they would not be kidnapped by the LRA.

AFRICOM, demonstrating its goal to “enhance the ability of each one of our African partners to provide for their own security”, helped plan and pay for a thoroughly botched attempt by the Ugandan Army to crush the LRA, Operation Lightning Thunder. According to the New York Times the LRA:

… had been hiding out in a Congolese national park, rebuffing efforts to sign a peace treaty. But the rebel leaders escaped, breaking their fighters into small groups that continue to ransack town after town in northeastern Congo, hacking, burning, shooting and clubbing to death anyone in their way. [map here]

The United States has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years, but its role in the operation has not been widely known. It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel.

The operation made no effort to warn or protect the civilan population although reprisals and civilian massacres are standard operating procedure for the LRA.

The LRA got word the attack was coming and fled, leaving empty campsites.

In an indescribably savage manner, the rebels then attacked several homesteads, axing, cutting, slitting throats and crushing skulls with wooden bats and axes. …

According to the president of the civil society of Dungu, Felicien Balani: “The LRA entered around midnight. They surprised the faithful of the church who were in a prayer vigil. They burned them in the church,” said Balani. …

“In Doruma, it was really awful. They had killed at least 300 people. We were in a village where there are only six survivors, all the others were killed,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, who coordinates the investigations on behalf of Human Rights Watch. …

After the massacre, the rebels “ate the Christmas feast the villagers had prepared, and then slept among the dead bodies before continuing on their trail of destruction and death” through another 12 villages.

In September 2007 Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said:

So we will not sit still and just let them live in Garamba Park and cultivate land and kill animals. … the US government is worried that a fresh regional war involving Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo could flare up …

According to Dr Frazer, the US government is ready to back co-ordinated military operations by the three countries to fend off rebel forces fighting any government while using a neighbouring country as a military base.

Dr Frazer also vowed that her government would not shy away from employing military means to end the activities of the “negative forces” if efforts to end conflicts through dialogue are not successful – yet another indicator of the new approach the US is taking on conflicts in the region.

Instead of providing stability or security the US and Uganda have succeeded in expanding the war against civilians in the DRC. That area of the DRC had been relatively peaceful before Operation Lightning Thunder. Now many thousands more are suffering. And the slaughter of civilians has not ended. The LRA continues its path of slaughter and devastation through villages in the Congo. Uganda appears to consider the operation a success:

“The operation has been a success in that it has left Joseph Kony naked,” State Minister for Defence Ruth Nankabirwa told IRIN.

“Because of the surprise nature of the attack, he fled from his camp empty-handed. He left behind everything, including food, equipment and other gadgets, so this has reduced his capacity,” she added.

AFRICOM along with its African military partner, Uganda, launched Operation Lightning Thunder. The result is their target, the rebel LRA, escaped untouched, around 900 civilians are dead, thousands raped, maimed, injured and their homes destroyed, hundreds of children conscripted, at least 100,000 displaced. Of those 100,000 people who have been displaced, it is estimated at least half of them are inaccessible to help. And any aid would be a magnet to the LRA as they continue to restock by murder and theft.

I wonder how the AFRICOM side of the military partnership sees this. Is the biggest problem the devastation they have helped create? or is it the bad publicity? In recent history African militaries rarely engage in military to military wars. Most wars are against the civilian population. America had many of these military partnerships with Africa during the Cold War, with horrifying results. As long as American foreign policy is military policy in Africa, as long as military to military partnerships are the goal, there will be many more equally horrifying attacks on civilians.

Canada's mining interests in Africa (click on picture to enlarge)

Canada's mining interests in Africa

From State of Mine:

Canada is a global mining giant. In fact, it is the world’s major force in mining, dominating the industry on every continent except Antarctica. Fifty-seven per cent of the world’s public mining companies list on the Toronto Stock Exchange, representing over 9990 mining projects world wide.

This giant is growing. In 2007, the TSE financed mining companies to the tune of $17 billion.

Supported by tax breaks and favourable legislation at home, and assisted by official development aid and diplomatic support abroad, mining companies have long found Canada to be *the* place to do business.

Mining, however, comes at an often devastating cost to communities that lie in its path. As resource prices rise, so do the stakes; conflict is escalating.

Canadian mining companies are heavily invested in Africa, and particularly in the DRC. Denis Tougis provides an overview of Canadian mining in Africa in Canada in Africa: The mining superpower.

Canada’s image as a moderate country and disinterested development partner in Africa is now thoroughly outdated.

Zahra Moloo describes some of the documented support for rebel groups and massacres by Canadian mining companies in Canada’s Contribution to Congo’s Wars:

The Congolese government surprised many when it announced early last year that it would be conducting a review of 63 mining contracts that were signed during the Second Congo War.

The review aimed to revisit the conditions under which mining concessions and contracts were granted during the bloodiest years of the conflict, which is also known as Africa’s World War, during which as many as 5.4 million people have been killed since 1998.

It is expected that the review will call for the re-negotiation of about 25 mining contracts and the possible cancellation of about 22 others. The release of the review was originally scheduled for October, but has been delayed since fighting broke out in the east of the country, displacing about half a million people.


The Second Congo War was fueled in large part by a scramble for resources. The war involved eight African states, multiple rebel groups and several very powerful multinational companies, among them Canadian companies. The war officially came to an end in 2003; conflict remains prevalent throughout the country; and according to the International Rescue Committee, 45,000 people die each month from war-related causes.

Moloo provides examples of Canadian mining companies’ involvement in funding and supporting the violence:

Anvil Mining employees were taken to Congolese courts
in June 2007 over allegations that they had provided logistical assistance and ground transportation to the Congolese Armed Forces during an assault on a fishing town called Kilwa in October 2004 in which 70 to 100 civilians were killed.

According to a report by MiningWatch Canada and Entraide Missionnaire, the company’s vehicles were used, among other things, to remove corpses in the aftermath of the assault.

Despite multiple eyewitness testimonies, the company employees were acquitted.

and …

The report revealed that in 2002, AngloGold Ashanti – a company partnered with Canada’s Barrick Gold – was negotiating with two rebel groups, the UPC (Hema Union des Patriotes Congolais) and the FNI (Front des Nationalists Integrationnistes) to have access to gold-abundant areas that were out of control of the central government in Kinshasa.

At the time, these rebel groups were carrying out massacres of civilians in the hundreds; The UPC killed about 800 civilians from late 2002 to early 2003, while the FNI forces killed some 500 civilians in May 2003 in a “48-day war.” In return for granting concessions to the company, the FNI were provided with logistical, transportation and housing assistance.

Moloo’s article was written this November. One has to wonder about the timing of the recent escalation of violence. What is the relationship between the October escalation of violence and the planned October release of the review of the mining contracts?

Moloo has also written an excellent history of mineral exploitation in the Congo: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Economic War: Investigating the Origin of Anonymous Commodities in the Global Capitalist System.

Mikhael Missakabo writes in Congo-Kinshasa: Footprints And Paradoxes of Canadian Mining:

According to Alain Denault, author of ‘Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique’, Canadian mining firms operating in Africa are involved in levels of abuse worse than those perpetrated by the former colonial empires.

Today, Canadian firms own in excess of $300 billion worth of assets in the DRC, most of it acquired through dodgy contracts signed with mining parastatals.

Approximately 60% of mining companies operating in Africa are Canadian-owned or funded with Canadian capital. Everywhere that mining takes place in Africa there are serious problems. These challenges are not only socio-economic. They are also ecological, and the impact on human rights. Obviously, Africa does not deserve that which is good for Canada, an attitude which seems to pervade the decisions and actions of companies operating in the continent.

One wonders why the legal and moral obligations that apply to mining companies in Canada are not applicable in the tropics. It is obvious that the mining companies’ primary objective is profit. But this should not preclude the respect for the engagement conditions of host countries. These companies largely resort to means that would be scarcely acceptable in Canada: rapacious financial practices, human rights violations, violations of ecological standards, stockpiling of undervalued resources. All of these place the future of Africa at risk.

Thousands of civilians fleeing to Goma to escape the fighting.

Thousands of civilians fleeing to Goma to escape the fighting.

UN agencies have stepped up efforts to assist those displaced by the violence.

UN agencies have stepped up efforts to assist those displaced by the violence.

Pictures from a photogallery at allafrica.com

Mahmood Mamdani asks:

And the politics around genocide is, when is the slaughter of civilians a genocide or not? Which particular slaughter is going to be named genocide, and which one is not going to be named genocide? …
the mass slaughter in Congo, which, in terms of numbers, is probably ten times what happened, what has been happening in Darfur.

and answers:

Well, I think that what’s happening is that genocide is being instrumentalized by the biggest power on the earth today, which is the United States. It is being instrumentalized in a way that mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends or its proxies are not being named as genocide.

On Friday Slate published an article about the war in the Congo: Five Million Dead and Counting – The disaster in Congo is all the more tragic because it was utterly avoidable. By Michael J. Kavanagh:

“There are only girls left in the schools in my village,” one 13-year-old boy told me. The day before, he and three friends had run from rebel soldiers who’d come to kidnap them.

There are now more than 1 million displaced people scattered throughout the province. In the last 10 years of fighting, more than 5 million people have died in the Congolese conflict—mostly civilians who haven’t had access to enough food or health care because of the fighting. And let’s be clear: That’s 5 million and counting.


Power-hungry Nkunda, his shameless Rwandan supporters, and the feckless Congolese government are primarily to blame. But the Rwandan and Congolese governments remain in power only because of the foreign powers that support them with enormous amounts of aid and diplomatic support. The failure of the United Nations and the international community—by which I mean the European Union, the United States, and the African Union—is massive.


It was no secret that the army was only willing and able to disarm the FDLR, their erstwhile allies against Nkunda, with support from the United Nations and the international community and with cooperation from the Rwandans themselves.

But exactly when it was needed most—exactly when they had the chance to put the legacy of the Rwandan genocide to rest—the support and cooperation and pressure from the international community never materialized.


Eastern Congo is a place of vast wealth in land and minerals, and all sides have their hands in the pot—or in the mines or forests or in the slaughterhouses. Rarely does any side negotiate in good faith, which is perhaps understandable after 14 years of war. But in the past, the parties involved have proved responsive to diplomatic and military pressure—if it’s credible.

Right now, it’s not.


The most obvious solution would be to send an EU rapid-reaction force to fill the security vacuum, but EU diplomats are dithering because—well, there’s no other way to say it: DRC is not a genuine priority. Instead, Angola is sending troops to fight alongside the Congolese army. Rwanda is essentially already fighting alongside Nkunda. And if, in a few weeks, Uganda and Zimbabwe join in as well, we can all party like it’s 1998-2003.

Over the years, many world leaders have made the trip to Rwanda to stand before the gravesites of genocide victims and apologize for their inaction in 1994. But if the worth of an apology is measured not in words but in actions, most of these apologies have been rubbish. True repentance for Rwanda has always meant ending the Congolese conflict—especially in the Kivus.

So far there is no sign of any country with genuine intention to end the conflict. And there is a lot of indication that more nations will get involved, or get more involved. The Slate article seems to say that the US and EU diplomats became tired of the peace process. Was it tiredness, or complacency with the status quo? After all, the coltan and other minerals are still coming out. The US and EU and others continue to profit from access. The current head of the U.N. mission in Congo, Alan Doss, is widely viewed as incompetent, maybe clueless would be as correct a description, not a choice calculated to achieve any positive result.

As long as there is this level of violence and unrest in the eastern Congo, It will be very difficult for the Chinese to mine copper or build the infrastructure projects they have promised in return for the copper. Is this result welcomed by the current US administration? The US has tended to treat China as a rival in African countries. Does the US see the current escalation of violence in the eastern DRC operating to its benefit? Rwanda, in sponsoring Nkunda, is the prime instigator of this current wave of violence. And Rwanda is a US ally, some might say client or proxy. As Mamdani said of the US, quoted above:

… mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends or its proxies are not being named as genocide.

"Parade" in Rumangabo directed by Nkunda's soldiersNkunda’s forces in Rumangabo

France 24 has been doing a good job of covering the recent violence in the DRC. The first third of their weekly video report deals with the DRC and is here, Fleeing North Kivu’s Combat Zone. There is also this video report, Leaders to meet as thousands flee fighting. In the first of these the usual “ethnic conflict” reasons are trotted out, but they also get to the conflict over natural resources.

The AP finally reports the conflict as being over minerals Mining for minerals fuels Congo conflict.

“Basically, the rebels control the mines. They are selling them to middlemen who sell them to the next buyer and it goes up the chain,” he said.

For many years, especially since 1994:

Both Rwanda and Uganda provide arms and training to their respective rebel allies and have set up extensive links to facilitate the exploitation of mineral resources.  …

The illegal mining has been a huge windfall for Rwanda and Uganda. The two countries have very few mineral reserves of their own. But since they began extracting the DRC’s resources, their mineral exports have increased dramatically.

… The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have knowingly contributed to the war effort. The international lending institutions praised both Rwanda and Uganda for increasing their gross domestic product (GDP), which resulted from the illegal mining of DRC resources.

So it Rwanda has very little incentive to promote or make peace in the DRC, and plenty of incentive to keep the conflict going. Getting out of the DRC would mean a downturn of Rwandan GDP.

As Paul Rusesabagina says, “Nkunda is on a mission“. His mission is to maintain control of the illegal mining and its profits for the benefit of Rwanda.

Another question asked on France 24 is what is the relationship between this sudden increase in violence, and Chinese plans for mining and building infrastructure in the eastern Congo.

The violence and potential for more violence is greater than ever, as France 24 reported via Uruguay on November 1.

The rebels troops led by ethnic Tutsi warlord Laurent Nkunda “are backed by tanks” and “artillery” from Rwanda, according to Uruguayan military commander Jorge Rosales, who is overseeing the peacekeeping troops.

Rosales said it was “not easy to identify rebel forces,” but indicated that there is “high probability that troops from Rwanda are operating in the area.”

The rebels have also recently attacked camps for people displaced by the conflict, UN officials reported.

“These (rebel) troops are backed by tanks, something that General Nkunda had not had until now,” said Rosales.

Uruguayan peacekeeping troops have been attacked with “artillery fire,” and, Rosales said, “Nkunda has also not had artillery” until now.

Some 629 Uruguayan peacekeepers are in Goma, along with 700 peacekeepers from India.

Rebel forces are within two kilometers (1.6 miles) from the UN peacekeepers, eight kilometers north of Goma, said Montevideo.

The peacekeeping forces are in the DRC working secure the area and protect civilians, as well as United Nations personnel and facilities.

I saw another video report on France 24. I can’t find the link, but it interviewed one of Nkunda’s staff who was claiming we are just here to protect… and that the people were joyful to see them. It also showed footage of a celebratory demonstration of “support” that local people were forced to make by Nkunda’s soldiers.  (The photo above may be from that.)  You could tell by the expressions on people’s faces that nobody was happy to be there.

It sounds like Rwanda is pouring more and heavier arms into the DRC. Who is paying for these tanks and artillery? They were not there before now. Keep in mind Rwanda has been a big recipient of US military aid for the “War on Terror”. In the DRC it is the War of Terror.

Laurent Nkunda (inset) and captured "terrorists"

Laurent Nkunda (inset) and defeated "terrorists"

Rwanda is a key partner in the US “War on Terror”. But the US is looking for coltan, and other precious mineral resources, not terrorists, and the coltan and other resources are located in the Congo DRC, not in Rwanda. Coltan is critical to cell phones. The reason that people are being displaced in the DRC is because the US, and its clients in Rwanda and Uganda want the resources in the DRC. The destruction of villages, and the brutal and pervasive use of rape, is terrorism used to depopulate areas and preserve access to precious coltan and other natural resources. This terrorism is barely known in the US, even though the US helps fund it. The sale of DRC natural resources benefits the elites of Rwanda and Uganda, and powerful players in the United States.

The really main important things that people should know that is the war in the Congo is directly connected to the United States …

From an interview with Kambale Musavuli at Democracy Now

the root cause of the conflict in the Congo is the scramble for Congo’s mineral resources … the strife is not more so of an ethnic strife, but more so of the scramble for Congo’s mineral resources.

The rapes are a direct result of the war. We’re seeing it—the latest spasm that we’re seeing right now has been going on since ’96. The rapes, the murders, they all are being done as a way of mass displacement, if you have to put it in the context. As one person is brutalized in a community, the people in the neighborhood will be afraid, and that will cause them to be displaced. As you mentioned, we have about 1.5 million people internally displaced in the Congo. As this strategy has been used in the eastern part, we’re seeing masses of people being displaced from the villages, from the cities, simply because they live in a area rich of minerals. Now we’re seeing it very clearly, The Virunga Park was taken over yesterday, simply because there are resources that Laurent Nkunda exploit into the Virunga Park.

So, to end the rape, you must end the conflict. And to end the conflict, you must stop the resource exploitation of the Congo … we do know that Rwanda is supporting proxy forces in the eastern part of the Congo. And we can use such people who have Kagame’s ear, such as Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Cindy McCain, Rick Warren, to put pressure on Kagame to make sure that not—we do not see another nearly six million people dying in the eastern part of the Congo …

The US has paid at least $7 million to Rwanda in military assistance this year.

Just before Bush visited Rwanda in 2008, Bahati Ntama Jacques and Beth Tuckey wrote:

Will the leader of the most powerful country in the world have the courage to discuss Rwanda’s negative role in peace and economic development in the DRC? Will Bush castigate Kagame for not providing the political space for Hutus to return to Rwanda? This is not likely because of the strategic value of coltan, a metallic ore extracted from Central Africa, without which cell phones, computers, and other technologies cannot be made.

From 1996-2003, the Congolese people suffered a great deal from two wars that pitted Rwanda and its allies against the DRC. A recent report from the International Rescue Committee estimates that 5.5 million Congolese have died as a result of this conflict. According to Inter Press Service journalist Tito Dragon, “to control coltan mines that was the principal, if not the only, motivation behind the U.S.-backed 1998 occupation of part of DRC territory by Rwanda and Uganda.” In fact, in 2004, after a three-year investigation, a UN Panel of Experts implicated three major U.S. companies (Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, and OM Group) for fueling war in DRC by collaborating with rebel groups trafficking coltan. In spite of major human rights violations, Bush administration assistance to Rwanda continues today largely due to Kagame’s willingness to be engaged in the so called War on Terror.

From an interview with Paul Rusesabagina:

PR: … And there was no infrastructure in the Congo, so everything was fleeing the Congo by Rwanda. That was very well known. Smuggling minerals, smuggling coffee… Rwanda was producing more coffee than Congo… If you planted coffee over the whole country of Rwanda, you cannot have produced what we were selling outside. That was smuggling.

KHS: So, the Congo pillage is still going on by Rwanda
PR: So, it is as I told you. That is why General Nkunda is there. Nkunda is on a mission.
KHS: His mission is to make sure the raw materials keep coming into Rwanda
PR: And also that Kagame controls Eastern Congo And he does.

The picture of gorillas at the top of this post comes from this report:

Rebels in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo have attacked and are now occupying the headquarters of Virunga National Park’s gorilla sanctuary. News is coming in that the forces of renegade general Laurent Nkunda are vandalizing the area, and are keeping the rangers trapped.

Sometimes it is easier to think about horrors on the small scale, as with the gorillas rather than the great numbers of people whose lives are being devastated. In some estimates 1.5 million people have been displaced just by the recent fighting. They are subjected to unimaginable brutality, and have lost homes, possessions and family. The press continues to portray the violence in the eastern DRC as ethnic conflict arising from the massacres in Rwanda in 1994. But that avoids mention of the true root cause, the scramble for resources. The ethnic issues could be resolved if it did not pay some people to keep them festering.

Right now the BBC is reporting thousands of people displaced. They have posted some current video here.

And there is also this report on the current situation:

The fighting had started on Sunday [Oct 26] when Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (NCDP) launched a major offensive in eastern North Kivu province.

Late on Tuesday Nkunda’s men claimed to have taken a town near Goma, the provincial capital.

… “There are at least 850,000 internally displaced people from North Kivu province, and that was before the latest wave of fighting started in August. We’re talking of another 250,000 displaced since.

“If the UN is forced to withdraw from North Kivu, you’re talking about nearly a million displaced Congolese, with basically no protection from what are about about a dozen armed groups in North Kivu.”

Those groups are brutal, ruthless, and well supplied with arms. The more they can terrorize and drive the population out, the better they can control the resources. The people at the top of the militias get a percentage of profits. Many of the soldiers are children, whose experience in life is almost entirely violence. The soldiers doing the fighting live off what they can take from the people they terrorize. Nobody should have to live this way, neither terrorists nor terrorized. And none of us should be paying to facilitate this violence.

Added Oct 30:
For some additional perspective here are some further words from Kambale Musavuli from this article:

… [Every month] 45,000 people continue to die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and that the scale of devastation seen in Darfur happens in the Congo every five and a half months.

In reality, the source of the conflict in Congo for most of its history has been the scramble for its enormous wealth, not the internecine, ethnic bloodletting more commonly blamed. In the late 1990s, Congo was invaded twice by Rwanda and Uganda with the backing and support of the United States, as documented in the 2001 congressional hearings held by Representatives Cynthia McKinney and Tom Tancredo. It was these invasions that unleashed the tremendous suffering that exists in Congo today.

Nicolas Postal/EPA

Child soldiers from the Mai-Mai militia guard the headquarters of their leader in Kisharu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photograph: Nicolas Postal/EPA

In the Eastern DRC Laurent Nkunda, mentioned in the previous post, Part 1 of DRC- Minerals, militaries, money and violence, is the leader of the Tutsi militia. There are also Hutu militias, one of the largest of which is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The Guardian has a couple of image galleries of the people displaced by the violence in the eastern DRC, here and here. All of these militias conscript and indoctrinate child soldiers. From Chris McGreal in the Guardian:

… the extremist Hutu rebels who control large areas of eastern Congo and are among the most important causes of the conflict there that has claimed an estimated five million lives or more over the past decade and continues to kill about 45,000 people each month in Congo through the effects of war – principally starvation and disease.


While the rank and file of the FDLR survives by plundering, their leaders are involved in altogether more lucrative ventures. A 2007 World Bank-funded study estimates that the FDLR leadership makes millions of dollars a year from taking over mines in parts of North Kivu, such as Masisi and Walikale, or from those doing the hard labour through levying “taxes” of gold, coltan, diamonds and other minerals on mine owners.

The study estimates that the FDLR controls half of the mineral trade in the Kivus outside of the main towns, and oversees the smuggling of gold and diamonds for sale in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Burundi. It is not alone in this. The Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundi armies, as well as warlords and militias, have also carved up the mineral plunder and smuggling rackets.

You can read the entire account of the FDLR with pictures here at the Guardian.

Also as mentioned in the previous post, the World Bank and the IMF have praised both Rwanda and Uganda for increasing their gross domestic product from illegal mining of DRC resources. Both the World Bank and the IMF know neither Rwanda or Uganda has these mineral resources in their own countries. Such praise, and the accompanying financial incentives exacerbate the violence and exploitation.

The violence that erupted last week may be cooling down. Alan Doss, who represents the UN in the DRC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

says calm has returned to Rutshuru in the country’s volatile North Kivu province following last week’s clashes between Government forces and armed rebel groups. … The clashes that broke out on 28 August between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and the National Congress for People’s Defense, known by its French acronym CNDP, was some of the worst fighting since a peace deal was signed by the parties in January.

But there is a new player in town. The Chinese have come into the DRC in a big way with contracts to extract copper and cobalt, and in return build roads, railroads, clinics, schools, and two universities. This 20 minute video from the BBC describes the huge copper and cobalt mine they plan to exploit, and the network of roads, rail, schools and clinics the Chinese have promised to build in return. So far the Chinese seem to be very image conscious. However, this 12 minute BBC video from Zambia describes the Zambian public as highly disillusioned with the Chinese presence, particularly labor practices and safety issues, and Zambians say the Chinese management purposely ran the large clothing factory into the ground so it would not be competitive with subsidized textiles from China. China is doing the same thing the EU and US have been doing, destroy African markets by dumping subsidized goods. And the Zambians say promised schools and training never materialized.

Below is the map from the BBC video on China in the DRC with all the infrastructure promised in the Chinese contract for copper and cobalt in the DRC. The large icons are the promised universities. The second map is the same, but just shows the roads and rail promised.

DRC map with infrastructure projects promised by the Chinese

DRC map with infrastructure projects promised by the Chinese

DRC roads and rail line promised by the Chinese contract

DRC roads and rail line promised by the Chinese contract

In the map the roads run north and south, along the eastern side of the DRC. The rail line runs from east to west.

IF China actually builds the roads, rail, and actually builds schools and the two univeristies called for in the contract with the DRC, that would be quite remarkable and provide a long overdue genuine step to positive development. It would also provide a positive challenge to the west. Mostly the west, when it noticed at all, has bemoaned the fact that people are killing and raping in the DRC, but ignored the ongoing western role in subsidizing and encouraging this violence.

And how will the west react to this Chinese presence? As you can see, the road network is north and south, up and down the mineral rich eastern DRC, and the rail, west to southeast, can take minerals to the coast. Will the US and other foreign business and governments who are profiting from the current situation in the DRC allow the Chinese to build this infrastructure without interference?

Section of a PDF map of the Great Lakes region, one of many maps available at ecoi.net, click on map to enlarge.

The Washington Post recently featured an article on how women are becoming successful entrepreneurs in Rwanda.

“We have overwhelming evidence from almost all the developing regions of the world that [investment in] women make better economics,” said Winnie Byanyima, director of the United Nations Development Program’s gender team.


For the worst of reasons, Rwanda became a testing ground for such theories after the 1994 genocide.

As both female and male survivors sought to rebuild coffee plantations with financial and technical assistance from international organizations, Maraba’s women, most trying their hands at the business of farming for the first time, were by far the faster students. They showed more willingness than men, officials here said, to embrace new techniques aimed at improving quality and profit. Now, Maraba’s female farmers are outdoing their male counterparts in both, numbering about half of all farmers in the village’s coffee cooperative but producing 90 percent of its finest quality beans for export.

The march of female entrepreneurialism, playing out here and across Rwanda in industries from agribusiness to tourism, has proved to be a windfall for efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women more than men invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children’s education, officials here said.

It speaks to a seismic shift in gender economics in Rwanda’s post-genocide society, one that is altering the way younger generations of males view their mothers and sisters while offering a powerful lesson for other developing nations struggling to rebuild from the ashes of conflict.

“Rwanda’s economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the backs of our women,” said Agnes Matilda Kalibata, minister of state in charge of agriculture. “Bringing women out of the home and fields has been essential to our rebuilding. In that process, Rwanda has changed forever. . . . We are becoming a nation that understands that there are huge financial benefits to equality.”

“I think that now, boys and girls are different than they were,” said Eric Muhire, a junior in high school. “Today, woman are in business; before, if a woman had some money, she would have to give it to the man. They could not compete against a man. But now, they are competing and doing better.”

This is a very positive and encouraging article. A lot of this was done by the use of micro loans. I hope that this trend continues in Rwanda, moving toward full participation by all citizens in the economy of the nation.

Right across the border, in North Kivu in the DRC, things are a lot uglier. Sexual violence continues on a scale that is unimaginable. Some have called it femicide, it is not just a matter of rape, in the Congo there is a medical term for it – vaginal destruction.

Dr Mukwege and others have said time and time again that the current saga of the Congo has been going on for more than a decade.

The sordid saga ebbs and flows. But it was brought back into sudden, vivid public notoriety by Eve Ensler’s trip to the Congo in July/August 2007, her visit to the Panzi hospital, her interviews with the women survivors of rape, and her visceral piece of writing in Glamour magazine which began with the words ‘I have just returned from Hell’

From Women left for dead – and the man who’s saving them by Eve Ensler:

Before I went to the Congo, I’d spent the past 10 years working on V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. I’d traveled to the rape mines of the world, places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti, where rape has been used as a tool of war. But nothing I ever experienced felt as ghastly, terrifying and complete as the sexual torture and attempted destruction of the female species here. It is not too strong to call this a femicide, to say that the future of the Congo’s women is in serious jeopardy.

Dr. Mukwege has been fighting an heroic battle to save bodies and lives. But the odds are impossible, and not improving.

Stephen Lewis argues that the level of rape and sexual violence in the Congo is an act of criminal international misogyny, sustained by the indifference of nation states and the delinquency of the United Nations.

… suffice to say that in the vast historical panorama of violence against women there is a level of demonic dementia plumbed in the Congo that has seldom, if ever, been reached before.That’s the peg on which I want to hang these remarks. I want to set out an argument that essentially says that what’s happening in the Congo is an act of criminal international misogyny, sustained by the indifference of nation states and the delinquency of the United Nations.

Stephen Lewis goes on to say that even with the attention the violence in the Eastern Congo is beginning to receive, the recent peace commitment drafted by the UN hardly mentioned rape and sexual violence, and the amnesty provisions are a license to continue this violence without fear of accountability.

The same positive techniques that are rebuilding the economy in Rwanda can work in the Congo. In fact, they are already at work. But in places like North Kivu there isn’t a chance until the violence stops. Nevertheless, there are small efforts all around:

Chingwell Mutombu has created First Step Initiative (FSI), a microfinance organization setup for women in Democratic Republic of Congo. And she is just one of many working to improve conditions at home. She says:

My inspiration comes from the women I saw growing up. The concept of microfinancing is not new to African countries. They have been doing it for centuries. It is similar to when the community gathers money and gives it to one person to do business, and when the person is done with the money they give it to the next person. FSI was started to continue in that type of practice but through microfinancing which is more formal.

She gets a repayment rate of 95-98%, but there is far more need than resources. Most all microfinancing efforts in the DRC are headquartered in or near Kinshasha, although much of the need is out in the provinces among the villages.

But the violence and displacement in the Eastern Congo makes development of any kind next to impossible. To US and international business, the place is made of money:


The DRC holds 80% of the world’s coltan reserves, more than 60% of the world’s cobalt, and the world’s largest supply of high-grade copper.

These minerals are vital to maintaining U.S. military dominance, economic prosperity, and consumer satisfaction. Because the United States does not have a domestic supply of many essential minerals, the U.S. government identifies sources of strategic minerals, particularly in Third World countries, then encourages U.S. corporations to invest in and facilitate production of the needed materials. Historically, the DRC (formerly Zaire) has been an important source of strategic minerals for the United States. In the mid-1960s, the U.S. government installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, which ensured U.S. access to those minerals for more than 30 years.

U.S. military aid has contributed significantly to the crisis. During the Cold War, the U.S. government shipped $400 million in arms and training to Mobutu. After Mobutu was overthrown, the Clinton administration transferred its military allegiance to Rwanda and Uganda, although even the U.S. State Department has accused both countries of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. During his historic visit to Africa in 1998, President Clinton praised Presidents Kagame and Musevini as leaders of the “African Renaissance,” just a few months before they launched their deadly invasion of the DRC with U.S. weapons and training. The United States is not the only culprit; many other countries, including France, Serbia, North Korea, China, and Belgium, share responsibility. But the U.S. presence has helped to open networks and supply lines, providing an increased number of arms to the region.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have knowingly contributed to the war effort. The international lending institutions praised both Rwanda and Uganda for increasing their gross domestic product (GDP), which resulted from the illegal mining of DRC resources. Although the IMF and World Bank were aware that the rise in GDP coincided with the DRC war, and that it was derived from exports of natural resources that neither country normally produced, they nonetheless touted both nations as economic success stories.

As noted above, the United States bears a fair amount of responsibility for the ongoing violence in the DRC. In Central Africa’s Great Lakes Region:

Today, President George W. Bush supports corrupt, illegitimate regimes that will either cooperate in the Global War on Terror, provide U.S. companies access to vital natural resources, or both. If history is any indication, this infusion of wealth and military training is likely to be disastrous for the people of Africa.

As Kagame hosts President Bush this week, (February 21, 2008) Rwanda continues incursions across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with support from the U.S. government.

From 1996-2003, the Congolese people suffered a great deal from two wars that pitted Rwanda and its allies against the DRC. A recent report from the International Rescue Committee estimates that 5.5 million Congolese have died as a result of this conflict. According to Inter Press Service journalist Tito Dragon, “to control coltan mines that was the principal, if not the only, motivation behind the U.S.-backed 1998 occupation of part of DRC territory by Rwanda and Uganda.” In fact, in 2004, after a three-year investigation, a UN Panel of Experts implicated three major U.S. companies (Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, and OM Group) for fueling war in DRC by collaborating with rebel groups trafficking coltan. In spite of major human rights violations, Bush administration assistance to Rwanda continues today largely due to Kagame’s willingness to be engaged in the so called War on Terror.

So who and what is the War on Terror fighting? The following, which has been repeated many thousands of times in the eastern Congo, certainly meets the definition of terrorism. From the conversations with Dr. Mukwege as reported by Eve Ensler:

Most doctors, teachers and lawyers fled the Congo after the wars started. It never occurred to Dr. Mukwege to leave his people at their most desperate hour.

He first became aware of the epidemic of rape in 1996. “I saw women who had been raped in an extremely barbaric way,” he recalls. “First, the women were raped in front of their children, their husbands and neighbors. Second, the rapes were done by many men at the same time. Third, not only were the women raped, but their vaginas were mutilated with guns and sticks. These situations show that sex was being used as a weapon that is cheap.

“When rape is done in front of your family,” he continues, “it destroys everyone. I have seen men suffer who watched their wives raped; they are not mentally stable anymore. The children are in even worse condition. Most of the time, when a woman suffers this much violence, she is not able to bear children afterward. Clearly these rapes are not done to satisfy any sexual desire but to destroy the soul. The whole family and community are broken.”

The US is funding this terrorism, rather than fighting it.

Although Kagame publicly denies any direct involvement, Rwandans acknowledge that their president funds renegade General Laurent Nkunda’s militia in the DRC – a militia whose primary purpose appears to be to keep Hutu rebels away from the Rwandan border. UN peacekeepers accuse Nkunda’s Tutsi faction of some of the worst human rights abuses of any rebel group currently operating in the eastern region.

Bush knows that Rwanda’s involvement in the armed conflict in the DRC delays peace in eastern Congo, but he continues to authorize military aid to Rwanda. In 2007, the United States armed and trained Rwandan soldiers with $7.2 million from the U.S. defense program Africa Contingent Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) and $260,000 from the International Military and Education (IMET) program. At the same time, the United States is involved in facilitating peace talks between Rwanda and the DRC and the various rebel groups operating in eastern Congo. Not only does arming Rwanda contradict the peace process, but it also delays the recovery of Rwanda from its 1994 genocide.

During the Cold War, the United States provided military aid to African countries to counter communism. Many of those countries – Somalia, Sudan, and the DRC – have now become hotspots of violence and economic chaos. It is no surprise that lending arms and financial support to corrupt dictators and human rights abusers contributes to destabilization, but still the U.S. government has yet to learn its lesson. Today, the rationale for providing military aid to countries like Rwanda is to counter terrorism; the methods and outcomes will likely be the same as they were in the Cold War era.

The Department of Defense argues that training and equipping African military forces will bring greater stability and legitimacy to African governments. This argument for professionalizing militaries was also made during the Cold War to support a policy that ultimately failed. Yet the same justification is being used to mask U.S. corporate interests in Africa’s vast resources.

For “anti-terrorism” read corporate welfare, at the expense of the citizens of Africa’s Great Lakes region, and ultimately, the citizens of the United States. Note in the Rwanda story at the beginning of this post, the military is conspicuously absent from the stories of development success. As long as the US leads its engagement with its military, the women, and all the citizens of the DRC will continue to suffer brutal terrorism. Only by leading with diplomacy and seeking political solutions will the US actually help rather than cause more harm. As Bahati Ntama Jacques points out:

Most countries have vehemently rejected the creation and implementation of a new U.S. military command for Africa (AFRICOM) and expanding the U.S. military footprint in Africa. Shifting U.S. policy away from defense toward human security, development, and diplomacy is the best path to long-term peace in the Great Lakes region and throughout Africa.

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