The United States may pledge its support for Egypt and the Egyptian people and assert its desire to avoid intervening in Egypt’s affairs, but the American policy of nonintervention may be more accurately described as indifference regarding other African countries, particularly the beleaguered Republic of Congo.
USA Today reports President Obama’s assertion at a National Security Council meeting on Saturday that the United States did not support any particular Egyptian political party or group and was not working with specific political movements to dictate how Egypt’s transition should proceed, following the removal President Mohammed Morsi by the Egyptian military. He condemned the use of violence and reaffirmed the commitment of America to protect and advance the desires of the Egyptian people for “democracy, economy opportunity, and dignity.”
The United States has not used the same paternal guiding hand for the rest of Africa, especially Congo. The United States military continues to work with the Congolese armed forces in training, advising and capacity building in support of security assistance cooperation activities, said General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, during a visit to Kinshasa in 2009. (U.S. Africa Command)
But Congo does not have an army. What it has is a miscellany of militia gangs usually fighting each other for control of minerals.
Congo is governed by President Joseph Kabila, who became president in 2001 after the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
Laurent Kabila rose to power in 1996, when he led his “Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire” in an offensive against Congo. (Congo was called Zaire under former president Sese Seko Mobutu.) He took control within seven months, and declared himself President of the Republic in 1997. (BBC News)
Kabila’s accession to power was aided by ethnic Tutsis and the Rwandan army, under Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, as well as by the Ugandan government under Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Rwanda’s troops remained in Congo after the victory, ostensibly in an advisory capacity. In 1998, Kabila ordered all Rwandan troops to leave the country, and began to assert his independence. He was assassinated by one of his bodyguards in 2001.
Kagame took office in 2000 and remains the president today. In June 2006, the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch described serious violations of international humanitarian law. He suppresses freedom of the press and political dissent, and ruthlessly deals with anyone who poses the slightest political threat to the regime. (Wikipedia)
Museveni has been President of Uganda since 1986. In 1989, Amnesty International published a human rights report on Uganda, documenting gross human rights violations committed by the Ugandan National Resistance Army and its political wing, the Ugandan National Resistance Movement. In 2011, Civil Rights Watch sent a letter to Museveni, urging him to take action to stop human rights violations in Uganda.
Kagame initiated two wars against Congo in 1996 and 1998, purportedly to protect Rwandan security, but there are allegations that he also gained economic benefit by exploiting the mineral wealth of Congo, particularly eastern Congo.
Laurent Kabila was succeeded by his “son,” Joseph. It is common knowledge among Congolese that Joseph Kabila is not the son of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and not Congolese. He is Rwandan, and was placed into power by Rwanda, to look out for Rwandan interests.
He was re-elected in 2011, for a second term, notwithstanding the fact that a strong majority had voted for the opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi. Official observers from the Carter Center reported that returns from almost 2,000 polling stations, in areas where Tshisekedi was highly favored, had been lost and not included in the official results.
From 1998 to 2003, eight African nations fought on Congolese soil, killing millions of Congolese, forcing tens of thousands of children to become soldiers, and, subjecting two out of every three women to rape and other forms of sexual violence. (Global Post)
As many as 5.4 million people have been killed between 1996 and the present. The strife has been so devastating that it is sometimes called the “African World War.” The First and Second Congo Wars involved multiple foreign armies and investors, not only from Rwanda and Uganda, but also Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, Libya and Sudan. (World without Genocide)
Rwanda and Uganda continue to receive substantial monetary aid from the United States. The U.S. government has repeatedly acknowledged that its allies are funding armed groups in the Congo, yet the U.S. continues to arm, train, and finance both countries and to provide diplomatic and political cover for them. (allAfrica)
Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch observed in a New York Times commentary that the United States “has proven to be one of Kigali’s staunchest allies.” Kigali is the capital of Rwanda.
President Barack Obama’s trip to Africa included visits to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, but not to Congo. The President decried the victimization of Congo but did not mention Rwanda or Uganda by name. He used the term “Congo’s neighbors.” (allAfrica)
The United States condemns but does nothing. Its policy of laissez-faire and noninvasiveness in Egypt and elsewhere in Africa looks more like indifference to the suffering Congolese people.
By: Tom Ukinski