Table of Content
I. Objectives 3
II. A Glance into DRC’s Complex Problems 3
II.a. DRC Debt and Vulture Funds· 4
II.b. Lord’s Resistance Army· 5
III. DRC Political Background 7
III.a From Laurent Kabila to Joseph Kabila 7
III.b President Joseph Kabila, what kind of leader? 8
IV. Impact of Rwanda-FDLR Conflict on Peace in DRC 10
V. Dealing with FDLR·· 11
V.a. Political Solution to FDLR· 12
VI. Rwandan Policy in DRC· 13
VI.a. CNDP Double Identity 14
VI.b. Nkunda and Unconditional Justice for his Victims· 14
VII. Operation Umoja Wetu 15
VIII. Operation Kimia II 16
IX. FARDC Reform, a Must 17
X. Western Responsibility in the Rwanda-Congo Conflict 19
X.a. U.S Policy in DRC 19
X.b. U.S Policy in Rwanda, its impact on DRC Conflict 22
XI. Conclusion· 24
XII. Endnotes 25
This paper has been written first and foremost for the purpose of advocating to the United States Government in favor of peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes region in general. In line with our mission to educate and advocate for a just U.S-Africa relationship, Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) wants to underscore once again the urgency of peace and stability in eastern Congo. This is undeniably the opinion of the affected Congolese people we continue to hear from and met during our recent research trip to the DRC. We discourage, denounce and oppose any U.S neo-colonialist policies in the Great Lakes, particularly in the DRC and Rwanda, and call for partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest.
II. A Glance into DRC’s Complex Problems
Challenges faced by the Congolese have internal and external causes. The proliferation of internal and foreign rebel groups on the Congolese territory as well as proxy wars are some of the security challenges. The demand for Congolese natural resources has never been a blessing, but a curse to the Congolese people. This is why Rwanda and Uganda officially and successfully invaded, occupied and exploited the Congo from 1996 to 2002 and unofficially continues on. Already three times this year, Angolan troops have deliberately occupied Congolese territories in the Bas-Congo province for border related disputes. Twice they occupied Sava Ina of Banzangungu territory and most recently occupied Kata Kangu and Kikwa Mbemba of Tshela territory. Two years ago they occupied 11 villages in Kahemba territory in the Bandundu province, but the government was able to diplomatically put off the tension.
The enduring insecurity in the North and South Kivu provinces continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The long list of the accused for the multiple crimes against the Congolese people include the foreign fighters from Rwanda, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) from Uganda and several Congolese rebel groups, namely Front Populaire Pour la Justice au Congo (FPJC), Cheka-Cheka, Force Republicaines Federalists (FRF), Allianace Patriotique pour un Congo Libre et Souverain (APCLS) just to name a few. Leah Chishugi, an advocate on behalf of rape victims in DR Congo told the BBC’s Network Africa the horrible story of one of her clients when she was attacked: “She begged the rebels to rape her children first and finish with her because she had HIV/Aids. But she was crying because they didn’t listen.” Her daughters were 14 and 12 years of age.1 Unfortunately, the Congolese army is also guilty of the same crimes including rape. Instead of protecting the people, they turn against them.
II.a The DRC Debt and the Vulture Funds
The DRC is one of the many poor nations whose debts have been sold by its creditors to other companies. These transactions are called Vulture Funds. Vulture Funds are investors who go after distressed sovereign debts of poor countries in the secondary credit market at a very low price, often pennies for the dollar, and then later sue these nations for the full amount of the loan. Currently a judgment in favor of the New York based Vulture Fund, FG Hemisphere and Associates has been pronounced by a Washington DC court for more or less $100 M which represents more than 1/3 of the original DRC’s debt2.
FG Hemisphere and Associates vs. the DRC
In 1980 and 1986, the late President Mobutu Sese Seko’s regime made deals with ENERGOINVEST, a company based in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina, to build a Hydroelectricity plant on the Ubangi River and also a High-Voltage electricity power line from Bukavu to Goma. In 2004, ENERGOINVEST sold the DRC’s defaulted debts to the Vulture Fund FG Hemisphere and Associates. The latter filed a lawsuit against the DRC in a Washington DC court to enforce payment which not only includes the full debt, but also interest, debt service fees, cost of the legal fees, and fines. When the DRC refused to disclose the location of its properties outside the country and other assets as requested by the court, FG Hemisphere filed a motion for civil-contempt which was granted. As a result, a $5,000 per week fine has been imposed upon the DRC since March 2009. This fine doubles every four weeks until it reaches $80,000 per week as long as the DRC has not complied with the court’s judgment. It is estimated that this fine represents about $4 million a year.
Vulture Funds, an Obstacle to poverty Reduction Efforts
Vulture Fund practices are an obstacle to poverty reduction effort through the debt cancellation campaign. Nations whose debt is canceled have the opportunity to use the forgiven amount to provide services to its citizens. Unfortunately Vulture Funds target these debts. It is a fact that since 1986 of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) that qualified for debt cancelation, 20 of these have been or are close to being sued by commercial creditors. Creditor friendly courts are particularly found in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, and the Caribbean. Between 1998 and 2003, the DRC has been sued by all of these countries.
There is a bill before the United States Congress, H.R. 2932 “Stop Very Unscrupulous Loan Transfers from Underprivileged countries to Rich, Exploitive Funds Act” known also as “Stop Vulture Funds Act”3 as a effort to make sure that U.S courts are not used by vulture funds to profiteer from already impoverished nations.
II.b Lord’s Resistance Army
While the North and South Kivu provinces are threatened by FDLR and multiple other rebel groups, in the Oriental province – territories at the border with Uganda – the people face the same threats from the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In mid December 2008, armed forces from South Sudan, Congo and Uganda attempted to weaken if not eradicate the LRA in a U.S-sponsored joint military operation coded “Lightning Thunder”, but it failed when LRA fighters melted into Congo’s Garamba National Park. In retaliation to operation Lighting Thunder, the LRA killed 600 people on Christmas Day 2008. On January 16, 2009, 100 bodies were discovered in Tora, massacred by LRA. About 1200 have been killed and 1500 abducted according to the United Nations’ spokesperson Jean-Paul Dietrich. The violence continues with men, women and children being abducted and used as wives, porters and solders. About 220,000 people have been displaced since 2008.4 From its beginning in 1990’s, the LRA has not only been operating in Northern Ugandan and Northeastern Congo, but has equally terrorized people from South Sudan and the Central African Republic.5 After LRA leader Joseph Knoy’s defiance of the peace agreement of March 2008, the Ugandan government has turned to more military options while ignoring suggestions from Ugandan religious and traditional leaders to look more into indigenous mechanisms of restorative justice.
Any solution to LRA requires answering several questions: Why is LRA moving from Uganda to DRC and neighboring nations? Who supports LRA efforts? Who benefits from the existence of the LRA ? The Congolese government’s investment in military campaigns against the LRA is the longest route to an uncertain solution. The DRC should combine civilian protection with serious bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts to untangle all LRA connections that keep the LRA dangerously armed and unwilling to surrender and sign the peace agreement.
Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) is aware of the legislation S. 1067: Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which after minor changes from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is currently ready for the whole Senate for consideration. AFJN has been supportive of the bill but at the same time has been critical and against the military option embedded in the bill because of the danger to the population that a military strike represents
III. DRC Political Background
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation rich in human and natural resources, is now one of poorest nations in the world. The collapse of the DRC is in part to be blamed on past and present ineffective leadership from top to bottom in areas of governance, justice, sense of common good, patriotism, corruption and lack of respect of Congolese people. For 32 years, the late president Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga whose name means “the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and firm will to win went from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake,” and members of his political club, many of which are still in power today, looted the Congo on their watch and with the help of their western allies. “He amassed personal wealth estimated between $3 and $5 billion. Fortune magazine’s regular list of ‘the world’s richest people’ in 1987 included businessmen, kings, queens, and sultans, but not Mobutu. His name was reserved for another list entitled ‘The Wealth That Leaves No Tracks.’”6 After the assassination of President Laurent Kabila, Mobutu’s successor, Joseph Kabila, Laurent Kabila’s son took over, but change has yet to happen. Oppression, opposition to change, killing, stealing, embezzlement, rape, lack of freedom of opinion, tyranny and much more characterize the three regimes.
Misled for so long, the Congolese people have learned to operate in the informal sector because they have lost trust in Congolese laws. As under Mobutu and continuing up to the present, the law protects the powerful, the connected and prosecutes the powerless. It is hard to see positive achievements by any of the Congolese leaders due to their misdeeds, bad reputation, and errors that have plunged the country in deep social, political and economic problems.
III.a From Laurent Kabila to Joseph Kabila
The late President Laurent Kabila came to power by way of weapons in the face of the Rwandan invasion of the Congo in 1996. Once he became aware of the true goals of those who brought him to power (Rwanda, Uganda and western allies such as U.K and U.S), as well as the uncertainty of his own future, he chose to break away from Rwanda and Uganda in 1998. Consequently, they launched a new war against the Congo to remove Kabila from power. He fought back with a coalition of soldiers from Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. He was assassinated by one of his military staff on January 16, 2001. His entourage named his son Joseph Kabila his successor on January 26, 2001. As a result of peace negotiations in Sun City in South Africa Joseph Kabila led the transitional government as president with four vice presidents from armed groups Azarias Rubarwa of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), Jean Pierre Bemba, leader of the former rebel group Movement of the Liberation of Congo (MLC), Abdoulay Yerodia Ndombasi of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and Arthur Zaidi Ngoma from a unarmed civil society group. This deal brought a relative physical peace in other provinces except the North and the South Kivu. At the end of the transition in 2005, Joseph Kabila was democratically elected as president. For nearly three years, Congo has had democratic institutions, but regrettably the Congolese people handed the nation into the hands of a leadership that is not capable.
III.b President Joseph Kabila, what kind of leader?
The Congolese people hoped that the election of Joseph Kabila to the office of president would be a starting point to a new era. Had elections meant democracy, the Congolese people would not be struggling for their freedom of speech, human rights, and justice. Mid February 2009, South Kivu province elected-officials, in a live radio debate, tried to find out why the provincial government threatened to take off the air any radio or television signal that would air messages contradicting the joint military operation Rwanda-Congo that started on January 23, 2009. Let us assume that the joint military operations with Rwanda, Umoja Wetu Operation, was legal, meaning that President Kabila was not bound to inform other Congolese mandated institutions for approval, why then were people forbidden to express their disagreement? To the Congolese people, this is a familiar game. The era of dictatorship like Mobutu’s and all that it represents is back.
There are many signs that point to the wrong direction of Congolese democracy. Political opponents and human rights advocates have been jailed and tortured, which is how Kabila’s regime plans to undermine their efforts to free the Congolese people from years of bondage orchestrated by their leaders. A victim of President Kabila’s suppression of the opposition told Human Rights Watch, “[A]s they beat me with sticks and whips, the soldiers repeatedly shouted, ‘We will crush you! We will crush you!’ Then they threatened to kill me and others who opposed Kabila.”7 Mr. Golden Misabiko, President of the African Association for the Defense of Human Rights (Association Africaine de défense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO) in French, was arrested on July 24, 2009 by the intelligence services in the Katanga provincial capital, Lubumbashi for reporting on illegal and dangerous mining of Uranium. On July 28, 2009 the government’s minister of information, Lambert Mende, accused international human rights and environmental NGOs of attempting to undermine the government.”8 The same day and for the second time this year, Mende cut off the signal of French radio broadcast, RFI, for security reasons; he said.9 These examples are the tip of the iceberg, but clear evidence that among the most urgent needs of the Congolese people is freedom from a government that is abusing them, holding them captive by isolation and censoring what they can listen to and what they can say.
President Kabila understands that reform is overdue, but what that means, he and his team alone know. In his speech on the occasion of the 49th anniversary of the Congolese independence on June 30th, he said: “Today, justice is itself on the bench of the accused. …It is time for agents of justice to choose their camp: either serve or more martyrize a people already ravaged and tested by years of conflict and violence.” On July 14, 2009, he took action and sacked 165 judges to clean up the judiciary system.10 In August, he also signed six ordinances forcing 1,212 high ranking state officials into retirement and sacked 80 more.11 These decisions are purely political, meant to make people believe that he wants reform. Can Kabila deliver change while working with those who worked in former regimes, contributed nothing, and instead ruined the nation?
IV. Rwanda-FDLR Conflict: Impact on Peace in the DRC
Solving the Congo-Rwanda conflict is partially tied to a real understanding of Rwandan history. Like the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Front Patriotique Rwandais, RPF), the rebel group that brought Paul Kagame to power in 1994, the FDLR in the Congo is also the product of a set of chronic social, economic and political problems in Rwanda. At the core of this most urgent and deepest Rwandan problem is a history of years of tribalism made obvious in the past and today through exclusion in government and opportunities.
Thaddée Kwitonda describes it in these terms: “History did not teach us anything. The discrimination with which Tutsi dignitaries prevented Hutu children from being educated before 1959, deprived their parents rights to property to further impoverish them, exploited them by requiring them to work for free for the chiefs prevented them access to wealth and to paid employment, are the same methods used today by the dignitaries of the PPF for exactly the same goal: to crush more Rwandans of Hutu ethnicity through “legal” discrimination. Only children of survivors of the genocide (every Tutsi is considered a displaced survivor even if he was not in Rwanda during the Rwandan tragedy) are entitled to fees and school supplies, while orphans of Hutu ethnicity even if their parents were murdered during the Rwandan tragedy, are not eligible for assistance, even though all children are orphans of the same country, Rwanda”12 Hutu-Tusti wars, which have become a ritual, have always sent waves of refugees into the neighboring nations. The cost of hospitality has been enormous, particularly for the DRC and Burundi. The most recent refugee’s waves in DRC are of the Hutu who fled the 1990-1994 Hutu-Tutsi war, historically know as the Rwandan genocide.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group operating in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, are the remaining group of refugees from Rwanda who fled the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. They were attacked by Rwandan forces in 1996 in their camps in the Congo and many died while others were forced to return home. As an armed group, FDLR’s goal is to go back to Rwanda to take back the power they lost to the Tutsi regime of Paul Kagame, raise their profile so that the Hutu voices is not lost and gurantee that Rwanda does not return to the times when Hutus were just servants of the Tutsi.
V. Dealing with FDLR
Military pressure on the FDLR and calls for them to freely return to Rwanda are not the answer to the loss of thousands of Hutus slaughtered in Rwanda and in Congo from 1990 to 2002 under the leadership of Paul Kagame. The international community continues to turn a blind eye to the Kagame regime’s war crimes against the Hutu and focuses only on the genocide. This is the wrong way to deal with Rwanda’s problems. Kagame massacred Hutus in Wendji and Mbandaka in western DRC, Katale, Kahindo, Tingitingi in eastern Congo, among others place.13 In Rwanda he massacred Hutus in Kibeho, Nyakimane, Ruhengeri, Bugoyi, Kanama, just to name a few.14 The international community has failed to establish the truth about the killing of President Juvenale Habyarimana, the trigger of the genocide because President Paul Kagame is on the list of suspects. Also President Kagame’s massacre record includes Congolese civilians in Kasika, Makobola, Katogota, Lusende, Oso to name just a few.15 On the long list of issues that Hutu leadership wants addressed is their exclusion from power, economic opportunities, and land.16 Hutus did not like Tutsi monarchical system then and will not like it today. We cannot expect them to rest until they get their share of the Rwandan pie.
In the meantime, the FDLR is in Congo where it is committing crimes. Since 1996, the Congo has been speaking from a position of weakness in addressing the FDLR issue mainly because of its military defeat against the Rwandan army during its invasion of the Congo. Even after the international community had demanded that the Rwandan government withdraw its troops from the DRC in 2002, the Congolese government could not hold its ground against Rwanda’s new strategy of proxy war using CNDP rebel group. Is Rwanda interested in a solution to FDLR? Rwanda’s successful implementation of its occupation and exploitation policy in Congo increased its revenue to a hundred million American dollars in year 200017 and continued. Also, keeping some FDLR in the Congo enforces the Kigali regime politically. In fact, FDLR is among the networks through which Rwanda has been accessing DRC wealth. FDLR-controlled minerals are sold to networks that have markets in Rwanda.
If the Rwandan government is serious about ending FDLR’s power, it would stop these transactions from happening on its territory. In addition, if the European Union (E.U) and the U.S are serious about cutting off FDLR financial support, not only should they prohibit the use of uncertified minerals coming from eastern Congo war zones in their nations but they can also help discourage illegal transit of Congo’s resources into neighboring countries. The U.S Senator Brownback has introduced the bill S.891 – “Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009” as an attempt to build a multilateral effort to do just that. But the bill needs more robust measures against transgressors and in the end must be implemented.18 Similarly, the Congolese government should do its homework to regulate the mineral sector. Some of its officials including the army leaders are part of the illegal mineral sales network which they are supposed to be fighting as a strategy to end the war. The United Nations (U.N) reports and others have pointed to this problem many times. U.N report, S/2008/773, in its paragraphs 75, 78, 96, states that some certified dealers by minerals from FDLR. These are companies such as Groupe Olive, Etablissement Muyeye, MDM, World Mining Company (WMC) and Panju. They are the top exporters of cassiterite, coltan and wolframite from South Kivu, according to 2007 Government statistics.”19 The Congolese government must conduct an investigation and impose appropriate sanctions against those guilty in these criminal activities.
V.a. Political Solution to FDLR
FDLR’s original plan was never to remain in the Congo, but they are there now out of a need for a base from which to organize their victorious return to Rwanda. FDLR’s plan of terror against the Congolese people is political, strategic and financial. By terrorizing the Congolese people, they draw attention to their issue – pressuring the Rwandan government to agree to power sharing and justice for the killing of Hutus. The world has chosen to listen to the Rwandan story of Genocide, but has refused to listen of the story of the killing of Hutus. Both stories are equally important to each ethnic group and deserve equal attention for the sake of lasting peace in Rwanda.
The Rwandan president has been successful in rallying the world around the genocide story to the point that many Hutu are afraid to tell their own story. Kagame has been successful in making every Hutu carry the guilt of the 1994 genocide. Tutsi who dare to disagree with Paul Kagame’s policies are immediately labeled, charged and detained for genocide crime as well. The Gacaca system, a restorative traditional mechanism of justice dealing with genocide crimes in Rwanda, will not solve the crisis in Rwanda because it is highly politicized, but a genuine national reconciliation dialogue between Rwandans can. The international community, particularly the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and the Netherlands on whom Rwanda depends financially, should tie their foreign aid to a genuine peace and reconciliation project in Rwanda. Such a project should not be an effort to reward criminals, but to give innocent people who are in exile a chance to return home and punish those who are guilty.
For FDLR to return, more has to be done. However, it is important to note that according to MONUC’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration (DDRRR) section of ex-combatants, 12,468 Rwandan civilians and former fighters were repatriated to Rwanda up to August 25, 2009. Of this number, 9619 civilians were repatriated through the United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)…. According to the report, among the fighters, 23 were from the FDLR rebel group and 2 of the ex-politico-military CNDP. All the dependants were all affiliated with the FDLR.20 No report has ever mentioned how many FDLR dependents (women, elderly and children) have been killed during military operation against FDLR. Also, the fact that most of the repatriated are women and children tells us that the war against FDLR is far from over unless other incentives to get the fighters out of Congo are put on the table.
VI. Rwandan Policy in DRC
While the Rwandan government is pressing hard for the return of the Hutu refugees, it is planning to illegally release more of its citizens, specifically those from the Tutsi tribe, into North Kivu. U.N report, S/2009/253, paragraph 22, although not very specific, points to the first steps of the process toward this goal. The group of experts says that “Kinshasa and Kigali have been brokering meetings between prominent members of the political and business community in North Kivu, with discussions centering in part on the possibility of imposing a new governor in Goma who could better represent their respective interests. Some of the discussions have focused on the possibility of eventually splitting North Kivu into two provinces to achieve this. Those deliberations have involved political networks close to Désiré Kamanzi and Eugène Serufuli, a former governor in North Kivu, although the group understands that political figures closer to General Nkunda are now involved in some negotiations.” 21 Also, already through CNDP, Rwanda was able to infiltrate the Congolese army and has people in provincial and state level positions as a result of the Congolese government and CNDP agreement in Goma on January 23.22
Plans of massive illegal migration of Rwandan citizens, mostly in North Kivu, is of great concern for peace. On August 16, 2009, 40 traditional leaders met representatives of the U.N. peacekeeping mission (MONUC) in Goma to express their concerns about the return of Congolese refugees living in Rwanda. They said that “…we must proceed by identification. Instead of identifying people in Rwanda, we as chiefs at the next meeting, we will submit the exact figures. This way we will have helped UNHCR to identify refugees.”23 This was after leaders from Rwanda, DRC and the UNCHR met in Goma on August 14, 2009 to discuss ways refugees from both nations can return. It is estimated that about 52,000 Congolese refugees live in Rwanda and 100,000 Rwandan refugees are in the DRC according to UNCHR 2008 census.24
Aware of the scramble for resources, Rwanda would do anything to take advantage of the weakness of the Congolese leadership to take as many steps possible toward Rwandan plans to acquire land control at least, and a review of Congo-Rwanda boarders and political influence in eastern Congo at best. Many Rwandans acquired Congolese identifications cards during the 2005 presidential election and many more will do the same if the 2011 presidential elections are held. The electoral identification is, according to the Congolese foreign minister’s communiqué number N°130.07/0040/2009 a proof of citizenship and can be used to get a Congolese passport, a privilege that those who illegally got their identification now have. Congo must enforce its immigration laws.
The situation at hand will refuel the already existing land disputes, but it can be avoided. First, the Congolese must make sure they denounce anyone who has acquired Congolese identity unlawfully. Independently from the Rwandan government and in collaboration with the Congolese government, the UNHCR must carefully identify Congolese refugees living in Rwanda before they return to Congo. The Congo should set up an effective identification of its citizens in collaboration with traditional leaders who likely know who lived where and when. The absence of such process constitutes a security issue for the Congo.
VI.a. CNDP Double Identity
The existence of an armed wing of National Congress of the Defense of the People (CNDP), the presence of Rwandan citizens in CNDP ranks who now are already wearing the Congolese army’s uniform, some in government, and CNDP ties with Rwanda is a threat to security, peace and stability in Congo. The January 23, 2009 CNDP-Congo agreement to disarm did not happen fully. Instead, the integration of CNDP forces into the Congolese army has generated more problems than anticipated by the government. The latest report of the United Nations’ group of experts, S/2009/253, in paragraphs 33 and 34 states that weapon stock handed in represents by CNDP is a small percentage of the arms stock held it had in 2008.. Furthermore, the same U.N report, in paragraph 37 identified the FARDC 231st Brigade in Ngungu at that time under the control of Lieutenant Colonel Innocent Zimurinda as mostly made of Rwandan citizens. Jean Bosco Ntaganda a former number one chief officer of CNDP forces, not only is a deputy commandant in FARDC, but also continues to command CNDP armed wing.” 25
VI.b. Nkunda and Unconditional Justice for his victims
On January 23, 2009, the Rwandan government was obliged to remove Laurent Nkunda from the leadership of CNDP and told the world that he was arrested. His extradition to D.R. Congo, as agreed upon before he was fired by Rwanda, is still in process and he is to this day under house arrest Rwanda. The truth is that the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, is trying to protect at all cost his longtime friend, Luarent Nkunda from answering to his crimes. The Rwandan government has said that it does not want to extradite him to Congo, but to a neutral nation because Congo (unlike Rwanda) has not abolished the death penalty. On one hand, the conclusion of a meeting between the justice ministers of the two nations on May 5, 2009 showed that there are judicial problems to be settled. On the other hand, there is the option to send Nkunda into exile. This was an option that many peace negotiators, including the United States, were pleading Nkunda to consider in 2007, but because he knew the power of his patron he refused the so called offer.26 This was purely a political game. Such a decision serves Rwandan interests and denies justice to Nkunda’s victims.
VII. Operation Umoja Wetu
Operation Umoja Wetu – carried out by a coalition of troops from Rwanda and D.R. Congo against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is the result of strong diplomatic pressure on the Rwandan government from the Netherlands and Swedish governments. In fact, when the report of the United Nations experts S/2008/773 exposed once again Rwanda’s involvement in the conflict in the DRC, the two nations openly decided to withhold their financial support to Rwanda as a pressure strategy to get the Rwandan army to withdrawn from the Congo. Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, in an official press release said that “Sweden is taking the UN report very seriously and has stopped the payment of budget support to Rwanda.”27 Soon after, Nkunda was fired from CNDP leadership and the deal of a joint military operation was made as a compromise between Rwanda and Congo. On February 25, 2009, an official ceremony to end the joint military operation Umoja Wetu took place in the city of Goma.
Umoja Wetu clearly failed because the FDLR still is as strong as it was before. Shortly after February 25, the FDLR were back in their former positions and moved into many new areas, raping, looting, and killing innocent Congolese civilians. They attacked Masisi, Lubero, Rutshuru, and Walikale territories in North Kivu and Kalehe, Shabunda, Mwenga, Kabare and many more territories in South Kivu. On May 22, they ambushed a vehicle in the Kahuzi Beiga National Park killing 10 people and wounding 8. In Mulongwe, on May 24 they burned 70 houses. Today they are active in Walikale and Nyamiliama among other places. The Congolese government’s failure to protect civilians prior to launching the attack has resulted in many civilian deaths. Although the U.N peacekeepers have been supporting the operation, it is imperative that the international community use diplomacy to deal with the FDLR threat to Rwanda and Congo.
VIII. Operation Kimia II
On May 28th, the Congolese army, with the support of the United Nation’s peace keeping mission in DRC (MONUC), launched another military operation, Kimia II, against FDLR. Kimia II is first a response of the Congolese government to the call for help from the victims of the FDLR retaliation from Umoja Wetu. Second, it is a political action to satisfy the Rwandan government’s pressure on the Congolese government to keep the FDLR away from its borders, a promise the Congolese negotiators made to Rwanda for taking Nkunda out of CNDP leadership and the reintegration of CNDP into FARDC. Kimia II is different from Umoja Wetu in that instead of using openly Rwandan forces, the latter are disguised as former CNDP forces and are officially deployed to do what Rwanda has been doing illegally and forcefully in Congo. The difference this time around is that they are working for Rwanda with Congo’s blessing and using Congolese finances and equipment.
The presence of Rwandan citizens’ infiltration in the Congolese army leads one to question some of the incidences of crimes against civilians which are attributed to FDLR. It has been a Rwandan strategy to carry out attacks against Congolese civilian as a way to discredit the FDLR and keep its cases against them very strong. No one doubts that FDLR continues to victimize civilians, but we cannot rule out the fact that some of these attacks are orchestrated by the Rwandan government.
In cases where FDLR involvement is ruled out, the blame is put on the Congolese army because, first the Congolese army has a bad reputation and second Rwandan soldiers carrying out these crimes are officially wearing the Congolese army uniform which they legally got through CNDP forces integration in the Congolese National Army (FARDC). Now that the U.N has confirmed infiltration of Rwandan citizens into the Congolese army, the Congo must demand that Rwanda provide their names so that they can be repatriated to Rwanda.
IX. FARDC Reform, a Must
The Congolese government has drastically failed to take care of the Congolese national army (FARDC). These men and women, some who truly desire to serve their nation with honor continue to suffer from lack of good leadership capable of organizing them and leading them toward becoming the overdue and needed effective republican national army. Some of them who are on the frontline against FDLR in North and South Kivu have not been paid for months. Often they organize a mutiny to demand their rights, but the system is corrupt and disorganized.28 On June 15, 2009 soldiers of the 18th integrated brigade protested by shooting in the air in the village Kisharo (North-Kivu) asking for their salaries which they have not seen for 6 months. Four people were killed and many women raped in this incident.
Countrywide, soldiers’ families live in unbelievably poor conditions. Some live in the open at airports. For example, soldiers and their families live in an unfinished complex with no doors and emergency toilets in their front doors in Himbi/Goma right in front of the house of late president Mobutu Sese Seko now provincial government offices. In different localities such as Kibumba, Rutshuru, Nyamilima, and Masisi just to name a few, soldiers and families are seen on the move carrying their small mattresses and kitchen utensils to their new location.29 During Mobutu regime, there were military bases for soldiers’ families, but they have been destroyed by the war.
The FARDC also face numerous charges for crimes. In cities and countryside, upon meeting a Congolese soldier, especially at night, you feel uneasy because you may be encountering a thief and a dangerous enemy. They coerce people into giving them their belongings particularly cell phones; they carry out robberies at gun point at night, rape, kill and torture. In places where they are deployed to fight against FDLR, they cause more insecurity. As an excuse to get money, they accuse and detain people falsely of collaborating with FDLR. Such practice has increased where Rwandan nationals who have been integrated in the Congolese army are deployed. Not only do they burn homes, but also they are killing traditional chiefs as part of a plan for land control. This practice was previously used when Rwanda invaded Congo in 1996. They are the ones who killed Mwami Ndeze Ndabishoboye in Goma.
FARDC reform must include ending corruption. The war has been a time of prosperity for those with management position in the army. Wages destined to soldiers are put into businesses for several months to generate profit before it is given to those under their command. They collect a small percentage of each soldier’s pay or through fictitious listings of soldiers they collect full wages. They sell military rations and let soldiers live off the people where they are deployed. Officials create private security guards. Disguised with FARDC uniforms, they are assigned to provide private security to citizens who need it. The officer collects the salary and pays the private security guard. Once introduced into this illegal business they take it a step further by becoming thieves in the neighborhoods and carry out armed robberies. Also, within the Congolese army, many are appointed as private security guards to primarily make money for their commandants. This is a preferred assignment because there is certainty of pay and a good alternative to deployment to the frontline.
X. Western Role in the Rwanda-Congo Conflict
The wars that started in Rwanda from 1990 and in Congo from 1996 are not simply the result of power struggle in Rwanda that was carried over into Congo, but also a Western struggle for power and influence in Central Africa. Those who paid for the war that ended up in genocide in Rwanda paid for the invasion of the Congo as well. In a blog posting, “The impact of British proxy wars in the African Great Lakes Region”, Centre for Africa Political Advocacy says:
The British relentless and long running battle to become the sole player and gain new grounds of influence in the francophone African Great Lakes Region has led to the expulsion of other traditional players from the region or strained diplomatic relations between the countries of the region and their traditional friends. These new tensions are even encouraged by the British using a variety of political and economic maneuvers…The British obsession for the English Language expansion has become a tyranny that has led to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, dictatorial regimes, human rights violations, mass killings, destruction of families, communities and cultures, permanent refugees and displaced persons in the African Great Lakes region.30
President Kagame banned French related institutions such as NGOs, schools, businesses, RFI, language and French cultural center or replaced them by the British institutions. Education, administration and businesses which used to be in French, are transitioning to English language. Kagame’s plan is partially nothing other than a legal way of marginalizing generations of Rwandans mostly Hutu whose skills were acquired in French.
X.a.U.S Policy in DRC
The U.S is one of the nations that helped make President Mobutu the tyrant he was, used him for its own gains and dumped him when he no longer was useful. Also, the U.S has never come clean about its involvement in the death of Congo’s first primer minister Patrice Lumumba. The Washington Post reported that “classified U.S. government documents, including a chronology of covert actions approved by a National Security Council (NSC) subgroup, … reveal U.S. involvement in – and significant responsibility for – the death of Lumumba, who was mistakenly seen by the Eisenhower administration as an African Fidel Castro.”31
U.S policy toward the Congo has been a burden more than a benefit for the Congolese people. It sponsored the invasion war to remove Mobutu from power, a war that claimed directly and indirectly about 6 million Congolese lives and has led to a severe rape phenomenon as never seen before anywhere at any time. At a hearing in the U.S House of Representatives organized by the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives, Wayne Madsen gave a more detailed analysis of the U.S involvement in the invasion of the DRC. He told Congress,
The military aid programs of the United States, largely planned and administered by the U.S. Special Operations Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency, have been both overt and covert. … America’s early support for Laurent Kabila, which was aided by U.S. allies in Rwanda and Uganda, had less to do with getting rid of the Mobutu regime than it did in opening up Congo’s vast mineral riches to North American based mining companies…. It is beyond time for Congress and the Administration to seriously examine the role of the U.S. in the genocide and civil wars of central Africa,…At the very least, the United States, as the world’s leading democracy, owes Africa at least the example of a critical self-inspection.32
Former U.S administration’s policies in the Congo were centered on U.S interest, a typical pattern of neo-colonialism. Today, U.S. interest in the Congo remains strongly tied to the extraction of natural resources… Is President Barack Obama’s administration likely going to change course?
The recent trip of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Congo was said to be a beginning of a new chapter in Congo-US relations. Clinton’s message on August 10, 2009, while she was in Kinshasa, was received with skepticism and widely debated in the Congolese community. “We wish to work with people for a better future and not with people who refer to the past,” she said. On the Congolese popular online forum, Hunterland, Eddy Momat wrote,
[I]s Mrs. Clinton asking us to forget the death of Lumumba, the coup of November 24, 1965, the death of Moses Tshombe, Mulele, Matanda and others? Is she asking us to forget how the late President Laurent Desire Kabila came to power or the current President Joseph Kabila? Is she asking us to forget the war imposed upon the Congo for over 10 years? Is she asking the Congolese to forget the plundering of their natural resources?…. [I]t is a cynical statement because Mrs. Clinton knows the role that the U.S. government plays in the Congo currently. The Secretary of State also knows the role that her husband, former President Clinton played in the Congo. She knows the role of U.S. multinationals in the Congolese tragedy.33
Is the U.S truly interested in the development, peace, stability and justice in the DRC? Based on historical facts, U.S policy in the Congo raises many questions and will continue to do so until proven otherwise. Clinton’s promise of $17 million assistance to victims of rape might help them get well, but if U.S policies do not change simultaneously, those being treated will be the victims of rape again during the next wave of neighboring nations’ proxy war or foreign and local rebel groups. The 17 million is just a portion of what the U.S would pay in damage to the Congolese people in the court of law for its involvement in the invasion of the Congo in 1996 and U.S corporations’ participation in plundering of Congolese resources.
A real new page in DRC-US relations must include bringing solutions to external core causes of the Congolese problems. The U.S must first review its military training in the Great Lakes. This is a selfish enterprise that benefits only the U.S in terms of arms sales, political and military influence and protection of its economic interest. On the long list of what the Congo and Africa needs today, arms for war are the last and peace is the first. U.S Militarism guarantees neither peace nor prosperity. The U.S should invest in diplomacy, conflict prevention and restorative justice which brings about true reconciliation.
U.S policy recommendation to the Congolese government includes ending the culture of impunity, reform of the judiciary system, civil society strengthening, human rights promotion and economic development. It is important to mention that these are the very areas that the West strike to weaken African states as they attempt to strengthen themselves and become influential. In his inaugural address and his speech in Ghana, President Obama tried to walk away from western responsibility in African tragedy, but evidence is more eloquent than his words.
It is important to note that there has been slow movement in calling for action in favor of the Congolese people in Washington. There is the bill Obama introduced as a Senator, S. 2125 “Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006” introduced in December 2006 and signed into law (public law 109-456) by President George Bush on December 22, 2006.34 We still need to see the difference it makes. Also in June, Republican Scoot Garret from New Jersey introduced in the House of Representative the bill “H.Res. 542 Condemning the ongoing attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which have affected innocent civilians in Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and for other purposes.” 35 Senator Samuel Brownback, a Republican from Kansas introduced on April 23, the bill S.891 “Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009” as a U.S effort to get multilateral support to end the illegal and abuses related to war zone mineral from the Congo. He specifically suggests that there be “a plan to assist the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and other governments in the region in establishing and effectively implementing the necessary frameworks and institutions to formalize and improve transparency in the trade of columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, wolframite, and gold.”36
Finally, on July 13, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, asked her to develop a plan for civilian protection, address conflict economy, and security reform.37 Hearings have been held on the same issue, but they all have fallen short in addressing the source of the Congolese problem – western neo-colonial policies and Congolese neighbors particularly Rwanda and Uganda. One of the strategies to keep the Congo down has been consistently denying the Congolese people to have relevant and intelligent leaders. Instead they have supported those who are committed to serving their interests to the detriment of the Congolese people. Consequently, the Congolese leadership is equally guilty in the misery of the Congo because they serve those who maintain them in power instead of serving the people.
X.b. U.S Policy in Rwanda and its impact in the Conflict in DRC
To secure U.S interest in the Great Lakes, its strategy has been unconditional support to President Paul Kagame’s regime at the cost of Rwanda’s recovery from the tragedy of the genocide and peace in the Congo. U.S tactic includes ignoring facts such as the massacres of Hutus, Paul Kagame’s responsibility of the killing of President Juvenal Habyarimana, a clear coup that triggered the genocide and finally the undemocratic regime of Kagame. As long as the international community, the U.S in particular, continues to ignore Hutu’s cry for justice and the need for true reconciliation in Rwanda, we can predict that FRDL will not put down its weapons and more killing of innocent people is inevitable. This also means the continuous instability in eastern Congo.
The U.S military training and equipping program in Rwanda in addition to financial aid enabled Rwanda to carry out attacks in Congo. It also supports the Kagame regime insuring an authoritarian and exclusionary regime that favors the Tutsi tribe over the Hutus. This was the approach that colonizers of Rwanda put in place and unfortunately resulted in a chronic hatred between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, multiple episodes of ethnic violence (1959, 1962, 1990-1994) and genocide in 1994. Rwandan military participation in the U.S Iraq war as part of the “civilian” mission should not undermine the responsibility of the U.S to make sure its allies are accountable at home. The U.S government’s blind eye to human rights violations, political freedom, freedom of speech in Rwanda in addition to Rwanda’s government involvement in destabilization of the Congolese state is nothing more than the application of the neo-colonial policies that Africa is subject to from superpowers in view of better exploiting them.
Those who care about Rwanda’s peace and prosperity should first realize that the war between Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the Hutu rebel group FDLR is now fought on the Congolese territory only because FDLR has not yet been strong enough to take it back to Rwanda. Some of FDRL’s strongest weapons are time, courage and patience. Also, they acknowledge that it took Tutsi in exile three decades to regain power in Rwanda. Former Rwandan President Juvenale Habyarimana’s allies such as France and Belgium made him believe that Tutsi people were not coming back from exile. So, he ignored the most urgent and required work in Rwanda which was to reconcile all Rwanda, but he built the nation on Hutu power. Under Habyarimana there were signs of prosperity in Rwanda and the world sang songs of victory as they are doing for Kagame today. So, as the Tutsi return crushed Habyarimana’s regime, it is likely that Hutu return will end Kagme or his successor’s kingdom if nothing is done to integrate Hutu’s in all that Rwanda’s is about. If the scars of Hutu-Tusti violence of 1959 and 1962 were still fresh and raw in 1990 when the Tutsi attacked Habyarimana’s regime and unfortunately led to the genocide in 1994, it is likely that the Hutu will strike sometime soon if nothing is done about their grievances. Only a political solution negotiated by both the Rwandan government and the FDLR can put Rwanda back on the path of lasting peace. However, Kagame has refused to listen. “ ‘They say, ‘talk to the FDLR’, but which one? Moderates? If they were moderates they would have returned home,’ President Paul Kagame said” 38
U.S policy in the Rwanda and Congo should deal with such attitude. Paul Kagame should be forced to settle for a political solution to the issue of FDLR instead of a military one and continue excluding the Hutus. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was predictable based on Rwandan history, the rise of Ugandan President Museveni to power and western search for influence and resources in the Great Lakes region, but the voice of the prophets was ignored. Our hope is that this time someone is or will listen.
The Congolese government bears the primary responsibility for finding answers to Congolese problems. An effective and responsible government is key to peace and stability of the Congo. The international community and the U.S in particular, through the United Nations and individually, have the potential to positively change the dynamic in the region by adopting constructive and objective policies in DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Rwandan interference in the DRC should not be ignored anymore. Through the policy of noninterference and economic cooperation, Congo’s neighbors in the east can play a role in finding a solution to the enduring crisis in Congo.
A solution to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Lord Resistance Army (LRA) is a must for peace in RDC. The Rwandan government’s refusal to dialogue with the FDLR and hold a dialogue between all Rwandans does not guarantee peace in neither in DRC nor in Rwanda and the region in general. Inter-Rwandan dialogue can allow Rwanda to recover from the genocide and reset its clock to lasting peace and prosperity. Also, it is in the best interest of all the nations affected by the LRA that the Ugandan government actively engages the LRA in a peaceful disarmament.
It is the expectation of the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) that the United States of America under the Obama administration change previous administrations’ policies in the Great Lakes. Such change must consist in more diplomacy and development, democracy promotion, good governance, restorative justice, the strengthening of civil society, support human rights and rule of law instead of militarism and superpower struggle for influence in the region. American interests in the Great Lakes region must be transparent, rooted in mutual respect and based on partnership.
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