By Milton Allimadi
The violent plundering of Congo’s immense riches which began under King Leopold of the Belgians continues by outsiders as the world watches and even acquiesces to the criminal attacks.
The slaughter of women and children — the mass rapes of even infants are viewed merely as collateral damage. Today the theft is committed by Rwanda and Uganda through their proxy mercenary army called M23 which has reportedly committed war crimes.
The United Nations in a report released last week says M23’s chain of command leads to Rwanda’s minister of defense, Gen. James Kabehere, who of course reports to the president Gen. Paul Kagame. The report says the command chain passes through Rwanda’s military chief of staff Charles Kayonga and that it involves Gen. Jacques Nziza permanent secretary in the defense ministry and Gen. Jacques Nziza who provides strategic advice and oversees logistical support.
The nominal M23 leaders on the ground, Bosco Ntaganda, already indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Sultani Makenga, all report to the real commanders in Rwanda and in Uganda the UN report shows.
In Uganda, the UN report says, M23 reports to Uganda’s Presidential Advisor on Military Affairs Gen. Salim Saleh, who is also brother to his boss, President Yoweri K. Museveni; M23 also reports to Uganda’s national police commander Gen. Kale Kayihura.
Just days before the release of the UN report implicating the military leadership of Rwanda and Uganda, they ordered their proxy army to attack and seize the Congo city of Goma as a cynical negotiating ploy. M23 cleared their path to Goma with artillery fire; heavy weapons which presumably they were able to conceal in the bush and not acquire from Rwanda?
The UN has a 17,000-strong peace-keeping force in Congo yet this army stood by and allowed M23 to seize Goma. The UN army said its mandate is to protect Congo’s civilians and not to engage forces such as M23. How then would the UN protect civilians?
M23’s atrocities against civilians, including massacres and rapes, have been well-documented by Human Rights Watch, which has also called on the U.S. to be more forceful in publicly denouncing the atrocities and calling for sanctions against Rwanda and Uganda.
Yet Congo is so weak that today the negotiations to resolve the crisis is cynically being held in Uganda, whose ruler Gen. Museveni, is one of the masterminds of M23. So in the short run, at least, Gen. Kagame and Gen. Museveni have accomplished their goal. Both believe that even after instigating the attack on Goma by the M23 army, by acting as if they are reining an independent army, they will make it difficult for the United Nations to indict Rwanda’s and Uganda’s leadership.
When Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor backed marauding brutal militias during Sierra Leone’s civil war he was later indicted, arrested and tried by an international Special court. Taylor was convicted this April and in May was sentenced to a 50 year term. The evidence gathered against the political and military leadership of Rwanda’s and Uganda’s direct support of M23 is even much more stronger.
Will cynical politics and deal making once again prevail? Will the world once again watch as innocent Congo is violently dismembered by outsiders?
King Leopold’s agents may have murdered as many as 10 million Congolese in his quest for wealth from rubber supplied by enslaved laborers and the outside world, led by a few people initially showed outrage.
The Congo abuses were so terrible that even Mark Twain joined the global outcry. The eventual solution was ironic and even cynical; control of Congo was transferred from Leopold to the Belgian government. Instead of continuing as Leopold’s personal property, Congo became a Belgian colony.
Congo’s independence in 1960 was very short-lived. Belgium, covetous of the mineral wealth it had become accustomed to, helped engineer the collapse of Patrice Lumumba’s government. Lumumba himself was murdered in 1961 when he was handed over by Mobutu to his rival Moise Tshombe of Katanga province who was backed by Belgian paratroopers. At the time there was also a United Nations force in the Congo and this army stood by and allowed Congo to be dismembered.
Congo was run to the ground by kleptocrat Mobutu for almost 40 years. The dictator sold himself to the West as a bulwark against the alleged spread of communism in Central Africa and won support from successive U.S. administrations.
Mobutu was overthrown after Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo in 1997. After installing Laurent Kabila as leader Rwanda and Uganda began plundering Congo’s wealth. Kabila was weak and without his own army so his first military chief of staff was James Kabehere who is today’s defense minister in Rwanda. When Kabila tried to eject Rwandan and Ugandan influence, Gen. Kagame and Gen. Museveni had their armies invade again.
Kabila would have been quickly overthrown had the armies of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) not come to his aid. Kabila was eventually assassinated. He was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila.
In the ensuing years there have been several United Nations reports documenting atrocities by Rwanda and Uganda in Congo. In 2005 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda liable for what amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity in Congo, including massacres, mass rapes and theft of resources.
When the International Criminal Court started an investigation Gen. Museveni lobbied to stop it; according to an article in The Wall Street Journal on June 8, 2006 Museveni even asked then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to block the investigation.
In 2010 a United Nation‘s document called the “mapping report” detailed atrocities by Rwanda’s army in Congo. As Human Rights Watch wrote at the time: “One of the most controversial passages of the report concerns crimes committed by Rwandan troops. The UN report raises the question of whether some might be classified ‘crimes of genocide.'”
Rwanda, as has become routine, rejected the findings of that report as well.
We are now in 2012. For how long will the outside world allow Congolese women and children to be murdered for greed and profits? For how long will the world allow Congo to be dismembered and plundered? For how long will the world be complicit in the crimes against Congo by allowing the perpetrators, established by the UN to be military and political leadership in Rwanda and Uganda to get away?
The women and children of Congo are watching.
“Speaking Truth To Empower.”