Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Implications of the United Nations' Calls for Broader Intervention in DRC

Implications of the United Nations' Calls for Broader Intervention in DRC

Fighting flares in the east amid reports of Rwandan invasion

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

News Analysis--In a recent statement from the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC), the possibility of a greater military presence under its auspices was raised. This announcement comes at a time when there has been an escalation of fighting in the eastern North and South Kivu provinces between rebel groups and the Congolese National Army.

U.N. special envoy Alan Doss reported to journalists on Oct. 3 that the request for a greater military presence was made during a closed session with the Security Council. The special envoy did not say how many additional troops were needed. There are currently 17,000 soldiers in the DRC, the largest so-called peacekeeping force in the world.

Despite a peace agreement signed in 2003, ending a five-year war between regional rebel groups backed by the neighboring U.S.-allied countries of Uganda and Rwanda, the aftermath of a 2006 election won by President Joseph Kabila, left two other political and military factions alienated from the central government.

Soon enough serious conflict erupted which has grown over
the last two years in the former Belgian colony which gained its independence in 1960. In early October the government of President Kabila reported to the United Nations Security Council that his administration had obtained photographs of Rwandan military forces inside DRC territory.

Although the Rwandan government has denied the allegation that its has crossed the border into North Kivu, 34 photographs which were turned over to Reuters press agency, purportedly shows weapons, Rwandan currency, a medical insurance card and a military satchel that bore the inscription "Rwanda Defence Force." (Reuters, Oct. 11).

In response to the photographs, the Congolese Ambassador to the United Nations, Atoki Ileka, forwarded a letter to the Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, the current president of the Security Council, confirming the Kabila government's concern that neighboring Rwanda was preparing for a major incursion into Congolese territory.

It has been reported that the rebel leader, General Laurent Nkunda, who is a renegade Congolese military officer, has received material assistance from the Rwandan government. Nkunda, who is of Tutsi nationality in eastern DRC, has accused the Congolese government with being allied with members of the Hutu nationality that were involved in the mass killings in Rwanda during 1994.

Nkunda's rebels, who call themselves the National Congress for the Defence of the People, are very active in eastern DRC. It is alleged that they wear Rwandan military uniforms and speak Kinyarwanda, a language used on both sides of the Congolese and Rwandan borders.

As a result of the recent fighting since Aug. 28, dozens of civilians have been reported killed and injured and some 10,000 have been internally displaced. In a recent statement from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the organization said that the humanitarian situation in North Kivu was rapidly deteriorating.

In a report from the Inter-Regional Information Network (IRIN) a United Nations affiliate: "The head of MSF in Goma, Axelle Delamotte Saint Pierre, said villagers in Rumangabo, Rubare and Rutshuru areas had been displaced and were now living with other families or in precarious conditions."

The IRIN report went on to state that: "Delamotte Saint Pierre said MSF had attended to some 90 injured people at the general hospital in Rutshuru. A local NGO official, Jerome Tanzi, said the villages of Katale, Bushenge, Kabaya, Nkokwe, Ntamugenga, Kazuba and Biruma had been emptied after the residents fled fighting between the army and the rebel group CNDP" headed by Laurent Nkunda.

On Oct. 9, the rebel group issued a statement claiming that it had captured a government military base at Rumangabo, 40 km (25 miles) north of the city of Goma. The United Nations Mission to Congo (MONUC) reported that dozens of Congolese soldiers were killed in the attack.

Kabila calls for national mobilization against rebels

On Oct. 11, President Joseph Kabila went on Congolese television and appealed to the people of eastern DRC to take up arms and defeat the rebel's under the control of Laurent Nkunda. Kabila, who took power after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila in 2001, was elected as president in a national poll held in 2006.

Kabila stated on Oct. 9 over Congolese television that: "Over and above any political divide, we must mobilise as one behind our armed forces and our elected representatives to preserve peace and the unity and territorial integrity of the country." He commended the efforts of the Congolese National Army saying that "despite their youth and the imponderables of an uncoventional war, have consistently resisted the enemy attacks with courage."

Kabila went on to say that "we thought a page had turned on this country's tumultuous history with the establishing of new institutions, the sound of boots is once again being heard in the east, with echoes in Ituri (a northern province) where brothers' blood is again being spilled."

The president continued by pointing out that Nkunda's aim was "not to protect his ethnic community as he has always claimed but to divide the country to bring about the expansionism of a neighbouring territory," referring to Rwanda.

In addition to Kabila's statement on national television, the country's new Prime Minister, Adolphe Muzito, stated in an interview on Oct. 11 with Radio France Internationale, that he would soon visit the eastern regions to work towards bringing peace to the area.

Prime Minister Muzito said that the purpose of the visit was to "reinforce discipline and give the resources and control over them so that they are not used to attack anyone but to defend the country."

Conversely, Laurent Nkunda, the rebel leader, said in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interview on Oct. 8, that his forces would continue fighting against the central government based in the capital of Kinshasha. According to the BBC, Nkunda "called on all Congolese people to 'stand up' to the national government and said his rebel group would 'fight until the people are liberated.'"

On Oct. 10, the African Union Commissioner Jean Ping traveled to the DRC and met with leading Congolese governmental officials including President Kabila and members of parliament. He also held discussions with MONUC special envoy Alan Doss.

Ping said that "I have come to meet with Congolese authorities to understand the situation on the ground before putting forward solutions."

What's At Stake in Eastern DRC

Underlying the continuing conflict in the DRC is the vast mineral resources that exist in the eastern regions. The soil in the southeast and eastern areas as a whole, contain every mineral that is listed on the periodic resource tables with high levels of concentration. In a report issued by the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons in 2001, it states that as a result of rebel activity, almost 40 percent of the
natural resource wealth exist outside the control of the national government based in Kinshasha.

One source of mineral wealth is the large deposits of cooper which are found in a 140-mile by 30-mile area that extends from the Katanga region into neighboring Zambia. This area is known as the copper belt. During the period of the former US-backed leader Mobutu Sese Seko, the DRC was the fifth largest producer of copper in the world. In addition, it was considered the leading producer of cobalt and the second largest producer of industrial diamonds.

The production of copper and cobalt was carried out under a government-controlled mining firm, Gecamines, that was in essence dominated by western multi-national firms. Partnerships between the DRC government and multi-national firms have proven to be problematic due to the ongoing rebel activity in the mineral-producing areas.

For example a Washington Post fact sheet reported in 2001 that: "The Société du Terril de Lubumbashi (STL), a consortium consisting of 7s, a Belgian and a U.S. company have invested $120 million in a project aimed at extracting cobalt, copper and zinc oxide from the slag heap in Lubumbashi using the world's second largest electric oven. The new facility is expected to produce an alloy with cobalt content of between 15 — 22 percent."

In addition, "the exploitation of the Kolwezi slag heap by Congo Mineral Developments (CMD), a 50/50 joint venture between American Mineral Fields (AMZ) and AngloGold has also recently been extended for another year. And in April (2001), the government approved the new terms of the copper-cobalt tailings in a $350-million deal with AMZ."

However, rebel activity in these regions have led to the massive theft of the natural resources of the DRC. For example, the country is the largest producer of industrial diamonds but the illegal trade generates anywhere between $300-500 million per year.

Another important mineral that is found in abundance in this region is Coltan, which is utilized in cell phones. According to the Washington Post, another problem for the national government is "the theft of coltan, the new wonder mineral of which large deposits have been recently discovered and exploited in rebel held areas of North Kivu. Technological advances and increased global consumption, especially of high-tech manufactured goods, has turned coltan into one of the most sought after raw materials."

According to the Washington Post in regard to Coltan: "Its uses vary from making tantalum capacitors in cellphones, computers, game consoles, and camcorders to pharmaceuticals, chemicals and automotive industries. In a recently published UN sponsored report on the illegal exploitation of the DRC's natural resources and other forms of wealth, it was estimated that up to 100 tons a month of tantalum was exported by the Rwandan army. Likewise, Ugandan exports of the mineral rose from 2.5 tons in 1997 just before the war, to nearly 70 tons in 1999."

Historical Background to the Current Crisis

Congo, which was also known as Zaire (after 1971) under the rule of Mobutu Sese Seko between 1965-1997, as a result of its vast mineral wealth and hydro-electric potential, has for centuries been the coveted prize of the European imperialist nations as well as the United States.

The Mobutu regime had always been supported and subsidized by France, Belgium, Britain, Germany and the United States. Congo's initial contact with western nations took place during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The Portuguese colonialists established trade, diplomatic and religious ties with the pre-colonial kingdoms of Alphonso I and Diogo between 1506 and 1565. Catholicism had penetrated and taken root through the reign Alphonso I and continued as a major cultural force for centuries.

Congo became the subject of an international conference in Brussels, Belgium in 1876 that was convened by King Leopold II. The purported reason for the conference was to foster cooperative multi-national efforts aimed at the scientific exploration of the Congo area as well as enforce the abolition of the slave trade in Central Africa.

Another ostensible objective of the gathering was to promote and develop commerce between European nations through the systematic exploitation of the resources of this territory. However, the magnitude of potential wealth present in this section of Central Africa prevented the harmonious resolution of how this country would be "explored" and subsequently looted of its natural raw materials.

As a result of these conflicts, King Leopold II set out to rapidly control and extract wealth from the area on his own absent of any official governmental recognition from the state of Belgium. In the aftermath of the ill-fated conference on the Congo in Brussels, Leopold II hired Henry Morton Stanley to return to the area with a mandate to negotiate treaties with the traditional leaders over the exploration of excavation of mineral resources.

According to African historian Joseph E. Harris: "This chain of events, set in motion by King Leopold's efforts to carve out an empire in the Congo, represented a culmination of years of efforts by missionaries, explorers, merchants, and others to map out and assess various areas in Africa.

"Indeed, the Congo events dramatized and climaxed the conflicting interests of Portugal, France, and Britain, and led to the convening of the Berlin Conference in 1884-85. At the conference, the powers agreed that traders and missionaries of all countries should have free access to the African interior, that the slave trade should be abolished and that European morality should be brought to Africans.

"It was also agreed that the Congo and Niger Rivers should be open to all nationals. But more important than that was the stipulation that no new European colonies would be recognized unless they were effectively occupied, which meant that European officials had to establish visible and effective power in the areas claimed." (Harris, Africans and Their History, 1972).

The western European proclamation related to the abolition of slavery was merely designed to replace one form of exploitation and oppression with another more rational and profitable system, i.e., classical colonialism. Prior to 1908, the Congo was known as the Free State and was controlled personally by Leopold II and his functionaries.

The administrative structure of the colony represented an alliance between the Church, the Monarchy and large-scale business enterprises. The King sought to maximize the economic exploitation of the territory by organizing massive slave labor camps heavily policed by royal and business overseers who enforced astronomical quotas of ivory and rubber collection on Africans displaced by mining production.

Those Africans who did not meet the ivory and rubber quotas were subjected to beatings, torture, mutilation and execution by the Belgian administrators. Between 8 and 10 million Africans perished during the initial onslaught of Belgian imperialism between 1876 and 1908. (Thomas Kanza, The Rise and Fall of Patrice Lumumba, 1991).

The Emergence and Sabotage of the Independence Struggle

After 1908, the Monarchy in Belgium relinquished personal control over the Congo colony and allowed the administration of the territory to be controlled by civil servants and business elements. Resistance emerged and grew during the course of the early and middle twentieth century. By the late 1950s, when liberation movements began to gain strength on the African continent, the masses in Congo demanded national independence from Belgium.

Patrice Lumumba emerged as a national figure in Congolese political life during the mid-1950s when he headed several associations in the city where he grew up, Stanleyville, in the Orientale Province. As chairman of the Association des Evolues, the colonial authorities began to consider him a dangerous threat to the status quo.

During this same period, Lumumba cultivated contacts and alliances among the more progressive elements within the European settler community who opposed the policies of the colonial regime. Some of his European friends had connections within the Belgian Socialist-Liberal Coalition government which came to power in Brussels in the national elections of 1954.

By 1958, Lumumba had ganied significant political experience and notoriety within the colonial capital of Leopoldville. That same year, he created a nationalist party known as the Mouvement National Conglais (MNC), which was in favor of a non-ethnic approach to the African struggle for independence.

Lumumba's international exposure during the All-African People's Conference (AAPC) in Accra, Ghana, held during December of 1958, under the direction of the-then Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah and Bureau of African Affairs director, George Padmore, brought the MNC leader to the attention of the Pan-African movement.

In the aftermath of the AAPC inaugural meeting, Lumumba gained the support of freedom loving forces throughout the continent and the progressive world community of public opinion. On January 4, 1959, rebellions erupted throughout the Belgian Congo, after a mass meeting was held by the MNC-Lumumba in the capital of Leopoldville.

The rapidity with which the transformation of political life swept the country was a phenomena that captured the attention of the international community. After a series of negotiations, the La Loi Fondamentale sur les Structures de Congo was ratified by the Belgian Senate with the signature of King Baudouin.

When elections were held inside the country between May 11-25, 1960, Lumumba's party won a majority of seats within the National Assembly. On June 24, 1960, a unity government was formed with Lumumba as Prime Minister and Kasavubu of ABAKO, a regionally-based ethnic oriented party, as Head of State.

The country was proclaimed independent on June 30, 1960. Two weeks after the ostensible transferal of power from Belgium to the Lumumba-Kasavubu government, mutinies and rebellions were occuring throughout Congo. Initially the problems within the Force Publique (Belgian colonial para-military police) were caused by the dashed expectations of the African rank-and-file members for an immediate improvement in pay and promotion comparable with their exclusively European officer corps.

In addition, the secessionist parties such as CONAKAT and MNC-Kalonji began a campaign of separation from the central government. On July 11, Tshombe declared the mineral rich region of Katanga independent of the Republic of Congo headed by Patrice Lumumba. Belgian troops stationed in the region served as the decisive factor in maintaining the illegal Katanga rebellion for many months.

Tshombe requested and received the assistance of the-then settler-colonial regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa, who provided extensive battalions of military troops. In response to this provocation, Lumumba requested the intervention of the United Nations in order to re-establish a modicum of civil authority inside the country.

However, this decision on the part of the Congolese leader proved to be his ultimate undoing politically. After the arrival of United Nations forces in Congo in mid-July of 1960, the Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, objectively sided with the political forces domestically and internationally who were in opposition to the policies of Patrice Lumumba.

With the failure of the UN directed military forces to prevent the effective collapse of the post-independence government, Lumumba publicly appealed to the Soviet Union for material assistance.

Even though Lumumba traveled to the United States twice during 1960 in order to explain his position to the American government and the UN, he was targeted by the State Department for liquidation at the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In a 1975 Congressional hearing chaired by Idaho Senator Frank Church, one former National Security Agency (NSA) staffer, Robert Johnson, testified about a high level meeting between President Eisenhower and top-ranking intelligence officers where a decision was made to assassinate Patrice Lumumba.

When Kasavubu publicly broke with the governing coalition and dismissed Lumumba from the Congolese government on September 5, 1960, the stage was set for the eventual kidnapping and execution of the Prime Minister by the forces of Mobutu and Tshombe with the full backing of the US and other colonial powers.

Mobutu had initially made a bid for political power in mid-September 1960 by announcing that he was neutralizing all political leaders in the country. Lumumba, along with two of his colleagues, Maurice Mpolo, the Minister of Youth and Sports, and Joseph Okoto, President of the Senate, were brutally murdered on January 17, 1961 in Elizabethville, the capital of Katanga.

International outrage against his murder was felt throughout the continent and the world. In the US at the United Nations headquarters, African Americans violently disrupted the proceedings of this world body, blaming it for the murder of the Congolese leader.

Lessons for United Nations Involvement Today

With the announcement by the United Nations Mission to Congo (MONUC) that it is desirous for greater military invovlement inside the DRC, the history of western involvement in this country must be considered. During the collapse of the Mobutu regime in 1996-97, a broad-based coalition known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for Liberation (ADFL) was formed under the leadership of the late former President Laurent Kabila.

Kabila, who had fought alongside the Lumumbaist forces during the early and mid-1960s, after the murder of the country's first Prime Minister in 1961, later formed the Congolese People's Revolutionary Party, which advanced a socialist solution to the post-colonial problem of the DRC. Kabila's role is cited in several historical accounts of the 1960s, when revolutionary Cuba had sent a brigade of fighters to the country in an ill-fated effort to assist in the overthrow of the pro-western government.

Kabila, who had formed an alliance with the Rwandan and Ugandan governments during the war of 1996-97 that overthrew Mobutu, later broke with the governments in Kigali and Kampala. The US, which politically supported the Ugandan and Rwandan states, encouraged a military intervention to topple Kabila in 1998.

In response to this imperialist effort, the progressive governments of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia acting on behalf of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), sent in tens of thousands of troops to repel the western-backed invasion. These efforts by the SADC forces resulted in a military stalemate that eventually created the conditions for a negotiated settlement in 2003. During this period, it has been estimated that 3-4 million Congolese lost their lives.

In regard to the recent upsurge in fighting since late September, the Inter-regional Information Network (IRIN) has reported that: "More than 150,000 people have been driven from their homes in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over the past two months by fighting on two fronts, with dissident Congolese and Ugandan rebels, the United Nations refugee agency reported."

As long as the western imperialist countries continue to utilize the Democratic Republic of Congo as a source for strategic minerals, the country will be subjected to renegade rebel incursions that are instigated by multi-national corporations. The African Union, which is also a focal point for imperialist interference, must struggle to develop an independent foreign policy that upholds the right of its member-states to self-determination and sovereignty.

The solution to the problems in the DRC requires the intensification of the struggle to resolve the post-colonial crisis in Africa and throughout the world. Despite national independence, the imperialist nations and the multi-national corporations are continuing to seek dominance through the manipulation of various sectors of the population. As long as political instability can be maintained in the DRC and other regions of the continent, it will provide a rationale for the western nations to militarily intervene directly or under the guise of the United Nations and puppet neo-colonial states.

Anti-imperialist forces inside the United States and the western capitalist countries must study the history and contemporary situation inside the DRC. When the historical development of the country is taken into consideration, it becomes quite obvious that a political solution to underdevelopment and the failure of capitalist economic methods can only come about through a total break with neo-liberal policies that are promoted by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other western-based financial institutions.

Only a non-capitalist path toward development can create the conditions for genuine national independence and economic liberation. The solutions to the Congolese national question will inevitably come from the African people themselves with the assistance of other anti-imperialists and socialist forces throughout the region and the world.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. He has studied the history and current situation inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for many years.

1 comment:

MJPC BLOG said...

MJPC blames the Congolese Government for the Deteriorating Situation in East Congo(DRC)

"There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in a lawless eastern Congo for six months"

Following the deteriorating situation in east Congo, the MJPC called today for the Congolese Government to urgently pay the salaries to thousands of soldiers who have not been paid for over six months in eastern Congo, take swift action to enforce the International Criminal Court's (ICC) warrant against Bosco Ntaganda and to hold accountable perpetrators of sexual violence against women for their acts.

"Failing to hold accountable individuals who commit war crimes and crimes against humunity continues to be the leading cause of widespread and systematic sexual violence acts against girls and women in the easten Congo" said Makuba Sekombo, Community Affairs Director of the Mobilization for Justice and Peace in the DR Congo (MJPC).

Mr. Sekombo again criticized the government of Congo for not only the continuing failure to protect women and young girls from sexual violence, but also for "encouraging conditions that create opportunities for sexual violence to occur". "There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in a lawless eastern Congo for six months" said Sekombo.

The MJPC has also renewed its call for the Congolese government to take urgent needed action to end human rights abuses in east Congo, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure reparation for the victims of sexual violence.

The MJPC has been urging the Congolese government to compensate the victims of sexual violence in order to also help combat impunity in eastern part of Congo where sexual violence against women and children has been widely used as weapon of war for more than decade. The MJPC online petition calling for for help to put pressure on Congolese Government to compensate victims of sexual siolence in Eastern DRC can be signed at

About MJPC
MJPC works to add a voice in advocating for justice and peace in the DRC particulary in the east of DRC where thousands innocent civilian including children and women continue to suffer massive human rights violations while armed groups responsible for these crimes go unpunished

For more information about the MJPC and its activities, visit or call Makuba Sekombo @ 1-408-8063-644 or e-mail: The online petition calling on the Congolese Government to put urgently in place a comprehensive program of compensation for the victims of sexual violence in eastern Congo can be signed at