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 US Africa Command, AFRICOM, is beginning to put together a US military base in the Seychelles.

US to Base Drones in Seychelles to Fight Piracy

The United States is planning to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles in the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks …
Dozens of American military and civilian personnel will also be based at the airport to oversee the Navy-led mission for the next several months.

MAHE ISLAND, Seychelles - Members of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3, show Seychelles Coast Guard divers how to conduct underwater searches during an exercise at the coast guard base on Mahe Island, Seychelles, August 5, 2009. Members of the EODMU-3 are currently deployed to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Trina Jeanjacques)

MAHE ISLAND, Seychelles - Members of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3, show Seychelles Coast Guard divers how to conduct underwater searches during an exercise at the coast guard base on Mahe Island, Seychelles, August 5, 2009. Members of the EODMU-3 are currently deployed to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Trina Jeanjacques

SEYCHELLES - Seychelles President James Michel (right) shakes hands with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa command, during Ward's visit to the island nation in August 2009. Michel and Ward engaged in discussions on security-related issues, including the strengthening of U.S. surveillance in collaboration with the Seychelles government to fight against piracy. (Photo courtesy of Seychelles, Office of the President)

SEYCHELLES - Seychelles President James Michel (right) shakes hands with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa command, during Ward's visit to the island nation in August 2009. Michel and Ward engaged in discussions on security-related issues, including the strengthening of U.S. surveillance in collaboration with the Seychelles government to fight against piracy. (Photo courtesy of Seychelles, Office of the President)

In addition to the Reaper UAVs, the U.S. military is also considering basing Navy P-3 Orion patrol aircraft in the Seychelles for a limited time. Like the Reaper, the Orion can survey a large region and help deter attacks.

As you can see from the picture above, the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 are doing training in the Seychelles. So it looks like they may be preparing for dives looking for explosive ordnance at some point. So far there is no indication Somali pirates have sunk any explosive ordinance, although US military contractors may have done so in Lake Victoria.

The leadership of the Seychelles seem pleased with the US presence.
US Navy steps up Seychelles piracy protection

The president of the Republic of Seychelles, James Michel, has hailed this week’s discussions with General William E. Ward, commander of US Africa Command(AFRICOM), as “extremely warm and fruitful.”
President James Michel has welcomed the announcement by the United States of America of its intention to operate surveillance assets, to include P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles in Seychelles.
The announcement follows in depth high-level discussions between the two countries on means of strengthening the security situation in the region, which builds on recently ratified provisions of the Status of Forces Agreement by the Seychelles National Assembly

“This new venture is both a concrete step in the fight against piracy and a symbol of the trust and understanding which exists between the governments of the Republic of Seychelles and the United States of America. We look forward to continually strengthening this partnership based on our mutual desire for peace and stability in the region,” the President stated following the meeting

A Status of Forces Agreement is one necessary preliminary for any basing activity. You can see the warm and fruitful meeting of General Ward and President Michel in the picture above.

A recent Ecoterra International SMCM update makes the point that the Seychelles are:

… a key transshipment point for poached tuna from the Indian Ocean to Japan.

Although much of the piracy in Somali waters is illegal and unregulated fishing, the international navies gathered in Somali waters seem disinclined to do anything to prevent this particularly profitable form of piracy.

From the Stars and Stripes: U.S. plans land-based UAV patrols to combat piracy

About 75 U.S. military personnel and civilians will be headed to the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks to set up the Reaper operations, which could start in October or November. U.S. Africa Command is calling the Navy-led mission Ocean Look.

The mission should last several months, with a Reaper airborne at all times, Crawley said. Details on exactly how long the UAVs would be in the Seychelles are still being worked out, he said.

The UAVs would not be armed.

“We will get it up and running and see for a few months if it is the right assets and location (for counterpiracy). It is a very strategic location

It is a very strategic location for a lot more than counterpiracy, which looks a bit like an afterthought in that sentence.

From the Seychelles Nation on August 12,

US surveillance plane visits Seychelles
As part of US support for Seychelles against piracy and other security threats, a P-3 Orion aircraft of the United States Africa Command arrives in Seychelles today.

The visit of this military plane is said by the US embassy in Port Louis, Mauritius, to be a further sign of the ongoing partnership between the people of the US and of Seychelles.

The P-3 Orion, a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft, has been the US Navy’s frontline, land-based maritime patrol aircraft since the 1960s.

Originally designed as a long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol plane, the P-3C’s mission has evolved since the late 1990s to include surveillance either at sea or over land, where its long range and long loiter time have proved invaluable assets.

The P-3C has advanced submarine detection sensors such as directional frequency and ranging sonobuoys, and magnetic anomaly detection equipment.

The avionics system is integrated by a general purpose digital computer that supports all the tactical displays and monitors, automatically launches weapons and provides flight information to the pilots. The system also coordinates navigation information and accepts sensor data input for tactical display and storage.

This looks like the US is looking for a lot more than just Somalis in surface boats.
h/t to b real’s africa comments, August and September 2009 for much of this research.

And an IMG Press reports AFRICOM pitched their tents TO SEYCHELLES It reports much of the same information as above, but adds something about the money involved (via google translator Italian to English):

The U.S. military presence was requested by local government after the attacks of pirates against ships at sea, some among the islands. Last April, the President of Seychelles, James Michel, had interrupted an official visit to Japan after two national units had been seized off the Comoros islands. A few days later, the cruise ship MSC Melody “, en route from Durban (South Africa) to Genoa with over 1,000 passengers and 550 crew members, was approached by a pirate boat but was readily detected and blocked by a Spanish frigate. “Such incidents – said President Michel – are dangerous not only because they are acts of terrorism, but because it might push the cruise ship out of our territorial waters and seriously wounding the national tourism.”

The dependence of the country from foreign currency is total. Unable to think of any form of development or at least self-centered to a diversification of sources of economic input to the government authorities the defense of luxury tourism becomes vital, at the cost of accelerating the transfer of islands and islets to individuals and give way for the U.S. militarization of the archipelago. Already a year before the crisis linked to Somali pirates, the employment rate of the hotel industry had suffered a decline of 60-65 percent. In favor of the Seychelles is the International Monetary Fund intervened with an emergency loan, while the Paris Club has canceled 45% of a debt of 215 million.

An anti-pirates, the Seychelles have equipped their coastguards two modern fast boats. They also asked a number of countries to transfer their military units in defense of territorial waters. The legislative authority has already approved a pact of “military cooperation” with the U.S. military, while the Department of Defense has allocated $ 300,000 for the country in the 2008-2010 period of the training program “IMET International Military Educations and Training “. Military advisers and specialists of “Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA)”, the U.S. joint forces unit stationed in Djibouti, working alongside the local military since 2005. In May 2009, the men of Africom Command in Stuttgart have held a weekly cycle of conferences and meetings with local military and civilian authorities in view of “improving procedures for air traffic control” and a “strengthening of bilateral for security and intelligence and reduce criminal activity in the Indian Ocean. ” The next month, in the main ports of the Seychelles have made a long stop operating naval units of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, the multinational force set by the command of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain to patrol the waters of the Indian and Gulf of Aden. Alongside the military boats in the Seychelles work well for some time a ship of the Indian Navy helicopter carrier, armed with guns “Bofors” 40 mm .. Sixty French marines are aboard a dozen large vessels for tuna fishing in the waters of Seychelles that will remain until the end of October.

I think this provides a clue as to why the Seychelles allowed, and may have invited a US base. They need the money badly. Tourism has collapsed, probably due to the global economy as much or more than piracy. Supposedly this US military activity is only a temporary arrangement. But the base at Djibouti was supposed to be temporary, but is now digging in for permanent residence. And I wonder if the French marines may be protecting the tuna pirates.

Right now nobody is calling it a base, rather a temporary agreement. But it is clear that what is going on is preliminary to setting up more activities and more infrastructure. The Seychelles needs the income, and the US wants a base in that strategic location, and is putting up the money. But the US is not without competition, as b real points out:

… , the Seychelles archipelago is a valuable geostrategic Indian Ocean asset in the eyes of all the big players on global stage. China and India are currently wooing its government. Neocons and kin are worried about China challenging U.S. naval dominance & superpower status by utilizing this “”unsinkable aircraft carrier” in its line of communications w/ Africa:

Taking into account the fact that the Republic of Seychelles 110 Islands are scattered over a wide surface of the Western Indian Ocean, which includes a vital oil route and taking into account that important oil producing Nations are within rocket striking distance, the geo-political importance of Seychelles cannot be under-estimated.

For more on drones over Africa see: Political Assassin Robots Flying In African Skies

A U.S. Special Forces soldier instructs Malian troops in counterterrorism tactics through a translator (right, in black turban) on the outskirts of Timbuktu. Photographs by Justin Bishop.

A U.S. Special Forces soldier instructs Malian troops in counterterrorism tactics through a translator (right, in black turban) on the outskirts of Timbuktu. Photographs by Justin Bishop (2007).

To understand AFRICOM, it is important to look at where the energy and where the money are focused.

In May b real wrote at Moon of Alabama:

… maintaining control of the perception of AFRICOM is very important in the initial stages of the new command. However, since the official public image of AFRICOM (”a new kind of command” combining humanitarian missions with the pentagon’s soft power capabilities to help Africans help themselves) hardly matches up with the command’s true mission (secure and guarantee U.S. access to vital energy sources and distribution channels while containing China’s growing superpower status), AFRICOM, and everyone involved in promoting it, will remain beset by their own contradictions and weaknesses.

An article at CNN reports:

Africom’s deputy for military operations, Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, said in a telephone interview Monday … “Our primary responsibility … is working with our African partners to help them build their security capacity” — mainly by training armies and peacekeepers. Moeller added that “a secure and stable Africa is very, very much in U.S. strategic interests.”

And from General Ward in another story:

“Our primary mission is to work with the nations of Africa and their organizations to assist them in increasing their capacity to provide for their own security,” Gen. William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, told reporters during the inauguration ceremony of AFRICOM.

And yet, Refugees International reports AFRICOM’s security budget is meager:

Currently, no funds are allocated for security sector and governance capacity-building for African nations. Instead, funding is being requested for Global War on Terror priorities.

[In Africa] Global War on Terror imperatives do not address the continent’s biggest needs for security assistance.

From CNN again:

Africans believe Africom is aimed at promoting America’s interests, not Africa’s,” said Wafula Okumu, a Kenyan analyst at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies.

Most Africans don’t trust their own militaries, which in places like Congo have turned weapons on their own people.

As is also decribed by Refugees International:

… the Defense Department is virtually ignoring the nation’s [Congo’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.

Refugees International also describes the funding imbalances that both drive and describe the militarization of US foreign policy:

Foreign assistance represents less than one percent of the federal budget, while defense spending is 20% … Between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of Official Development Assistance the Pentagon controlled exploded from 3.5% to nearly 22%, while the percentage controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) shrunk from 65% to 40%.

An article in HStoday (unintentionally) makes even more clear the contradictions in the role of the Africa command:

The CT [AFRICOM counterterrorism] officials told HSToday.us that Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-influenced Muslim jihadists in Africa are becoming an increasingly serious terrorist threat that has forced much greater attention to be focused on the region.
one of the Command’s fundamental roles is indeed counterterror intelligence and disruption operations.

Yet from the same article:

“in many parts of Africa it is perceived as the US bringing its war on terror to Africa. That is not what AFRICOM is about, but that is how it has been seen.”

Which is almost funny, considering the content of most of the article.

While long-term US strategic interests in Africa clearly are of concern and under the purview of AFRICOM, the more immediate problem for the US is Islamist terrorism, the CT officials told HSToday.us.

For the time being, AFRICOM will be based in Stuttgart, with covert intelligence operatives working out of US installations and front companies throughout Africa.

This last strikes me as nightmarishly bad foreign policy. It sounds like the US is replaying all the worst features of US foreign policy in Africa (and in Asia and Latin America) from the last 60 years. This is how you destabilize governments, with “disruption operations”.  It is not capacity building, it does not strengthen human security.  It is not partnering or peacekeeping.  It does not help refugees return home or economies develop.  It does not make things anywhere more secure and stable.  It promotes trade in contraband and the destabilizing movement of money across borders facilitating more trade in contraband.  As well as being destructive, covert disruption operations are not cheap, and they are not easy to justify in budget requests, which makes using and encouraging contraband for funding more attractive.

Contrast again the two statements above:

[In Africa] Global War on Terror imperatives do not address the continent’s biggest needs for security assistance.


… one of the Command’s fundamental roles is indeed counterterror intelligence and disruption operations … the more immediate problem for the US is Islamist terrorism …

The representatives of AFRICOM are telling the American and African public that AFRICOM is all about peacekeeping, capacity building, and security.   But the focus of the energy and funding for AFRICOM is all about counterterrorism, military development, psyops and disruptive covert operations.  The public narrative is lies and illusions.  The public narrative creates a false front and false face to those whose lives will be most seriously impacted.

Truth eventually comes out. Let us hope some people are paying attention. In his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (Ward testimony – PDF) General Ward:

. . . devoted only 15 seconds of his four-and-a-half minute opening remarks to a possible humanitarian role.

From Ward’s testimony:

AFRICOM’s theater strategy will be based on the principle of Active Security. Active Security is defined as a persistent and sustained level of effort oriented on security assistance programs that prevent conflict and foster continued dialogue and development.

Societies require security to flourish, for security provides the foundation for political, diplomatic, and economic development, which is essential to building long-term stability. AFRICOM will contribute to this goal by employing a wide range of tools at its disposal–from conducting security cooperation activities to prosecuting combat operations–to promote security.

In 1988, while pouring arms into Africa, and initiating policies that continue to destabilize the continent, Ronald Reagan said:

Too often security assistance is portrayed as a tradeoff against support for development. In Africa, this distinction is particularly ill-founded. Our security assistance programs promote a stable political and economic environment that permits the exercise of individual choice and the development of human talent. Without that environment, sustained development is not possible.

Ward is delivering the exact same message as Reagan. It was dead wrong then, it is dead wrong now. And it will be equally effective in arming the continent and increasing conflicts, and equally ineffective in promoting genuine stability and development. This is the last thing African countries need, the last thing that any country needs. Most are trying to move away from military government and trying to develop infrastructure and business.

Following the money, the US is increasing arms sales and transfers to Africa:

AFRICOM will take over the implementation of a growing and truly frightening array of military, security cooperation, and security assistance programs conducted either by the State Department or by the Defense Department (DoD). Through these programs, the United States provided more than $240 million worth of military equipment and training to African countries in FY 2006 and more than $500 million worth in FY 2007.

And for the coming year, diplomacy has become part of the militarized approach, with even more money being reqested both by the Department of Defense and the Department of State for military growth and activity:

For Fiscal Year 2009 (which begins on 1 October 2008), the Bush administration is asking Congress to approve the delivery of some $500 million worth of military equipment and training to Africa (including both sub-Saharan Africa and north Africa) in the budget request for the State Department for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.

The administration is also asking for up to $400 million for deliveries of equipment and training for Africa funded through the Defense Department budget and another $400 million to establish the headquarters for the Pentagon’s new Africa Command (Africom).

The State Department budget request includes funding for major new arms deliveries and increased military training to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda. It will be channeled through a variety of programs, including a number of new programs initiated by the Bush administration as part of the “Global War on Terrorism.” These include the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership, the East African Regional Security Initiative, and the Anti-Terrorism Assistance program. The U.S. government is also expected to license up to $100 million worth of private commercial sales of military and police equipment through the State Department’s Direct Commercial Sales program in FY 2009.

And the State Department wants to spend $1 billion on mercenaries, private military contractors for Africa, a further disaster. The State Department is acting as an arm of the Defense Department, at the expense of genuine diplomacy and assistance. Any “humanitarian” assistance will support the military mission. All sign of US government development assistance outside the military mission is gone.

This is disastrously bad policy. Not only does it hurt the African countries targeted. It does tremendous damage to the United States and to Brand America, once highly regarded in Africa.

h/t to b real for links and information

General Ward testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 13th. What struck me about the testimony is how much it appeared that the US military is undertaking to become a shadow government for all of Africa. This would certainly be in keeping with the current doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance.

In his testimony, working with “partners” sounds like creating compliant client states. There is no evidence AFRICOM is planning to treat sovereign nations as equal sovereign nations based on his testimony. Although he pays lip service to what the African “partners” determine that they want, it is clear that there will be a great deal of behind the scenes manipulation.

Here are two excerpts. This week is jammed with deadlines, but I’ll be back with more later.

Through persistent, sustained engagement focused on building partner security capacity, supporting humanitarian assistance efforts, and providing crisis response, AFRICOM will promote a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign and national security policy.

. . .

Through persistent engagement with our African partners and integration of this kind of USG-wide expertise into our structure, AFRICOM will improve support to U.S. policy objectives in Africa.

3/17 – I was in a hurry last night and forgot to put in the link for Ward testimony – PDF .