By Shamus Cooke
26 November, 2012
The last Congo war that ended in 2003 killed 5.4 million people, the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II. The killing was directly enabled by international silence over the issue; the war was ignored and the causes obscured because governments were backing groups involved in the fighting. Now a new Congo war has begun and the silence is, again, deafening.
President Obama seems not to have noticed a new war has broken out in the war-scarred Congo; he appears blind to the refugee crisis and the war crimes committed by the invading M23 militia against the democratically elected government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
But appearances can be deceiving. The U.S. government has their bloody hands all over this conflict, just as they did during the last Congo war when Bill Clinton was President. President Obama’s inaction is a conscious act of encouragement for the invaders, just as Clinton’s was. Instead of Obama denouncing the invasion and the approaching overthrow of a democratically elected government, silence becomes a very powerful action of intentional complicity on the side of the invaders.
Why would Obama do this? The invaders are armed and financed by Rwanda, a “strong ally” and puppet of the United States. The United Nations released a report conclusively proving that the Rwandan government is backing the rebels, but the U.S. government and U.S. media cartoonishly pretend that the issue is debatable.
The last Congo War that killed 5.4 million people was also the result of the U.S.-backed invading armies of Rwanda and Uganda, as explained in the excellently researched book “Africa’s World War,” by French journalist Gerard Prunier.
In fact, many of the same Rwandan war criminals involved in the last Congo War, such as Bosco Ntaganda, are in charge of the M23 militia and wanted for war crimes by the U.N. international criminal court. The current Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, is a “good friend” of the U.S. government and one of the most notorious war criminals on the planet, due to his leading roles in the Rwandan genocide and consequent Congo War.
A group of Congolese and Rwandan activists have been demanding that Kagame be tried for his key role in the Rwandan genocide.
As Prunier’s book explains, the Rwandan genocide was sparked by Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda — from U.S. ally Uganda. After Kagame took power in post-genocide Rwanda, he then informed the U.S. — during a trip to Washington D.C. — that he would be invading the Congo. Prunier quotes Kagame in Africa’s World War:
“I delivered a veiled warning [to the U.S.]: the failure of the international community to take action [against the Congo] would mean that Rwanda would take action… But their [the Clinton Administration’s] response was really no response at all” (pg 68).
In international diplomacy speak, such a lack of response — to a threat of military invasion — acts as a glaring diplomatic green light.
The same blinding green light is now being offered by Obama to the exact same war criminals as they again invade the Congo.
But why again? The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s current President, Joseph Kabila, helped lead the military invasion during the last Congo war. As a good stooge, he delivered Congo’s immense mining and oil wealth to multi-national corporations. But then his puppet strings started to fray.
Kabila later distanced himself from U.S. puppets Rwanda and Uganda, not to mention the U.S. dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The IMF, for example, warned Kabila against a strategic infrastructural and development aid package with China, but Kabila shrugged them off. The Economist explains:
“…[The Congo] appears to have gained the upper hand in a row with foreign donors over a mining and infrastructure package worth $9 billion that was agreed a year ago with China. The IMF objected to it, on the ground that it would saddle Congo with a massive new debt, so [the IMF] is delaying forgiveness of most of the $10 billion-plus that Congo already owes.”
This act instantly transformed Kabila from an unreliable friend to an enemy. The U.S. and China have been madly scrambling for Africa’s immense wealth of raw materials, and Kabila’s new alliance with China was too much for the U.S. to bear.
Kabila further inflamed his former allies by demanding that the international corporations exploiting the Congo’s precious metals have their super-profit contracts re-negotiated, so that the country might actually receive some benefit from its riches.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to 80 percent of the world’s cobalt, an extremely precious mineral needed to construct many modern technologies, including weaponry, cell phones, and computers. The DRC is possibly the most mineral/resource rich country in the world — overflowing with everything from diamonds to oil — though its people are among the world’s poorest, due to generations of corporate plunder of its wealth.
Now, a new war is underway and the U.N. is literally sitting on their hands. There are 17,500 U.N. peacekeepers in the DRC, not to mention U.S. Special Forces. The invading M23 militia has 3,000 fighters. What was the U.N.’s response to the invasion? The New York Times reports:
“United Nations officials have said that they did not have the numbers to beat back the rebels and that they were worried about collateral damage, but many Congolese have rendered their own verdict. On Wednesday, rioters in Bunia, north of Goma, ransacked the houses of United Nations’ personnel.”
If Obama and/or the U.N. made one public statement about militarily defending the elected Congolese government against invasion, the M23 militia would have never acted.
Human Rights Watch and other groups have correctly labeled the M23’s commanders as responsible for “ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killings, abductions and torture.”
But at the U.N. the Obama administration has been actively protecting this group. The New York Times continues:
“Some human rights groups say that Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations and a leading contender to be President Obama’s next secretary of state, has been far too soft on Rwanda, which is a close American ally and whose president, Paul Kagame, has known Ms. Rice for years. The activists have accused her of watering down language in a Security Council resolution that would have mentioned Rwanda’s links to the [M23] rebels and say she also tried to block the publication of part of a [U.N.] report that detailed Rwanda’s covert support for the M23.”
It’s likely that the Obama administration will jump into action as soon as his M23 allies complete their military objective of regime change, and re-open the Congo’s military wealth to U.S. corporations to profit from. There are currently talks occurring in U.S.-puppet Uganda between the M23 and the Congo government. It is unlikely that these talks will produce much of a result unless Kabila stands down and allows the M23 and its Rwandan backers to take over the country. The M23 knows it’s in an excellent bargaining position, given the silence of the U.N. and the United States government.
If the war drags on, expect more international silence. Expect more massacres and ethnic cleansing too, and expect the still-recovering people of the Congo to be re-tossed into massive refugee camps where they can again expect militia-sponsored killings, rape, starvation, and the various barbarisms that have accompanied this especially brutal war, a brutality that grows most viciously in environments of silence.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org) He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org