Monday, November 24, 2008

Crisis in the Congo: Questions and Answers on the Conflict


Break the Silence by Supporting the FOTC Friendship Campaign!


Questions and Answers: Congo Conflict

What is the source of the conflict in the Congo?

The source of the conflict in the Congo is the scramble to control Congo’s vast natural wealth of gold, diamonds, coltan, copper, cobalt, uranium, tin and many other precious and strategic minerals. Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathaai says “these wars when you look at them, they are all about resources and who is going to control them.”

Is this an ethnic conflict between so-called Hutus and Tutsis?

No. It is a resource war. Ethnicity is being used as a pretext to access and control Congo’s natural resources. Former Chief of the UNHCR famously warned in an interview he gave to the Financial Times of London, that “we must not forget that the international community has systematically looted the Congo.”

Exactly where is the crisis taking place?

The crisis is taking place in the Great Lakes region of Africa, primarily in the East of the Congo.

Is it true that Rwanda invaded the Congo?

Yes! Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo twice, first in 1996 and again in 1998. These invasions unleashed the mass deaths and suffering that we see in the Congo today. It is estimated that nearly six million people have died as a result of the invasions of Congo. In addition, hundreds of thousands of women have been systematically raped as a tool of war to displace entire communities and demoralize the population.

Rwanda says that the Hutu rebels who participated in the 1994 atrocities in Rwanda are the cause for their repeated intervention in the Congo. Are they not justified in crossing Congo’s borders to chase down these negative forces?

Those who participated in the 1994 atrocities should be brought to justice. However, the way Rwanda has gone about this undertaking has had a devastating impact on the Congolese population. There can be no justification for the suffering that Rwanda has unleashed on the Congolese people. Moreover, Rwanda occupied Eastern Congo both directly and indirectly from 1996 – 2002 and was not able to thwart the Hutu rebels. In fact, their most virulent battle inside the Congo during this period was against their long-time ally, Uganda over resource rich land. Eugène Bakama Bope’s article provides in depth analysis on this matter. Also, Johann Hari’s article in the London Independent provides further insight into this question.

Rwanda has accused the Congolese government of working with the Hutus who participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, is this true?

Yes, the Congolese government has worked with the Hutus inside the Congo and should be reprimanded for such collaboration. However, there are no good guys in this conflict. The Rwandan government has also collaborated with the Hutus by recycling Hutu prisoners into the Congo. No hands are clean in this affair. One common denominator however, irrespective of who has worked with the Hutus is that the Congolese people continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, especially the women and the children and this must be stopped.

How many Hutu rebels are in the Congo and are all of them genocide perpetrators as Rwanda Claims?

There are approximately 6,000 Hutu rebels in the Congo. They have been there since 1994, hence some were born in Congo and had nothing to do with the 1994 events. They are not all genocide perpetrators as is commonly portrayed. In fact, UN representative to the Congo responds directly to this question in a presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. In essence, he stated that Rwanda has not been cooperative when asked to provide a list of those Hutus implicated in the 1994 atrocities in the Congo. Also, consult Professor Filip Reyntgens and Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch for more in depth analysis on this matter.

Rwanda claims that its troops have not been in Congo in recent years; is this true?

Human Rights Watch in a recent press release responds to this question directly. They note “High-ranking Rwandan authorities deny that they are giving any assistance to Nkunda, but Human Rights Watch has evidence that Nkunda recruits hundreds of his most experienced troops within Rwanda, many of them demobilized soldiers from the battle-hardened Rwandan army. Although exact numbers are not known, the fact that some 200 Rwandans have left Nkunda’s ranks over the past 18 months to enter a UN-run demobilization program for repatriation to Rwanda provides some idea of the scale of this problem.”

Has the International community levied any sanctions or punishment of Rwanda due to its aggression against the Congo?

Attempts have been made but with little success. Earlier in 2008, Spain's criminal court presided over by Judge Fernando Andreu issued arrest warrants against 40 Rwandan military officers, accusing them of committing genocide, terrorism and crimes against humanity between 1994 and 2000. The Congolese government brought cases against both Rwanda and Uganda in the International Court of Justice but the court only ruled against Uganda saying that Congo is entitled to $10 billion in reparations from Uganda because of its human rights abuses in the Congo and the looting of Congo’s resources. The court could NOT rule against Rwanda because Rwanda is not party to the International Court of Justice.

Like their ally the United States, they have refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. There is little doubt that the court would have ruled against Rwanda, particularly seeing that they have been far more implicated in the Congo than Uganda. Click here to see the four United Nations studies done from 2001- 2003, clearly documenting Rwanda’s systematic looting and commission of human rights abuses in the Congo.

Has the United States or other Western powers been involved in this conflict in any way?

Yes! Rwanda and Uganda are allies of the United States, some would even say they are client states to US and British interests. Both countries receive financial and military aid from the United States, World Bank and other Western institutions. This aid has continued unabated even during the invasions of the Congo. During a Congressional Hearing in 2001 held by Congresspersons Tom Tancredo and Cynthia McKinney, it was documented by experts under oath that the US provided military aid to Rwanda during its first invasion of Congo in 1996.

What can be done to resolve the crisis in the Congo?

Plenty can be done to resolve the crisis. It is important to understand that the best solution to the conflict is a political solution NOT a military one. The Economist has offered policy prescriptions that can lead to an immediate cessation of the conflict. The source of Congo’s conflict is found in Kigali, Rwanda with President Paul Kagame. Maximum pressure must be brought to bear on Paul Kagame to cease his repeated aggression against the people of the Congo. Political space must be created in Rwanda for the Rwandan Hutus to return and participate in the political life of that country.

What can the average person do?

The average person can do several things right now to contribute to bringing an end to the conflict:
1. Let as many people as possible know about what is going on. The Congolese people need to know that the world is in support of their quest for peace and stability.
2. Contact your local media and encourage them to cover the issue in an in depth manner.
3. Demand that your national leaders engage in a diplomatic offensive to address the immediate crisis and assure that displaced populations get immediate aid. Also, send letters of concern asking for sustained involvement to the United Nations, European Union and The United States government as well as the Rwandan Embassy in Washington, DC.
4. Stay engaged on this issue until it is resolved. Become a part of the global movement to Break the Silence around the Congo.

Why the Congo Matters

Do you own a diamond ring, gold jewelry, cell phone, computer, xbox, play station, gameboy, stereo, DVD player, television, kitchen appliances or any other electronic device? Do you find it intolerable that almost 6 million lives have been needlessly lost in the heart of Africa since 1996? If you answer yes to these questions, you should be concerned about the Congo.
History of the Congo

The Congo literally and figuratively sits in the heart of Africa bordered by nine countries. It has a rich history stretching back as far as 20,000 BC.

Congolese have suffered some of the most brutal rule in modern history. In spite of the tremendous suffering of the Congolese, more than any other African country, Congo has the potential to turn the African continent around and usher in a renaissance.

No comments: