Friday, November 07, 2008

EU Ministers Call for Greater Diplomatic and Military Involvement in the Eastern DRC

EU Ministers Call for Greater Diplomatic and Military Involvement in Eastern DRC

EU, UK and US weigh deployment of western troops

by Abayomi Azikiwe,
Pan-African News Wire

There have been calls by the European Union for greater United Nations peacekeeping involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the collapse of governmental control in Goma, a strategic city in the eastern region of the country located in the North Kivu province.

On October 30, the Congolese army command in Goma broke down causing chaos within the city prompting the evacuation by tens of thousands of civilians who sought refuge in nearby towns and villages. After the abandonment of Goma by the Congolese army, the United Nations Mission to the Congo (MONUC) sent reinforcements to the area which surrounded the city.

Some 800 UN Peacekeeping troops attempted to block entry into the city by the rebel Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) headed by renegade general Laurent Nkunda. On Friday, October 31, the CNDP declared a unilateral ceasefire and offered to negotiate with the central government of President Joseph Kabila based in the capital of Kinshasha.

These developments in and around Goma have drawn the immediate response from the European nations of Britain and France. Reports surfaced that both of these imperialist states were willing to commit troops to eastern DRC under the auspices of the European Union in order to purportedly stabilize the security situation in the region.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic maneuvering from the UK, the European Union and the United States. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner visited Goma on November 1 to offer assistance in any negotiations aimed at ending the conflict.

Kouchner stated that his "visit was designed to make the French understand why despite so many efforts no peace has come. Why hundreds of thousands of people are forced into a horrific situation."

Also Britain's Minister for African Affairs, Mark Malloch-Brown, announced that the UK is prepared to deploy military forces as part of a EU mission to the DRC. The EU effort would be designed to bolster the peacekeeping role of MONUC.

"We have certainly got to have it as an option which is developed and on the table if we need it," Brown told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on November 2.

He also pointed out that "if everything else fails we cannot stand back and watch violence erupt." The MONUC forces in the DRC total 17,000 troops, yet only 6,000 are deployed in the eastern region where the fighting is taking place between the rebel forces and the Congolese government.

Brown said that "hopefully with some reinforcements, the U.N. force will be able to contain the situation."

Not to be outdone, the US State Department lended its voice to the chorus of imperialist nations calling for more military forces in the eastern DRC. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, said that the United Nations mission "does have the capability to support the civilian population, but certainly additional strength has been needed for some time."

Louis Michel, the EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, has proposed a U.N.-organized summit involving the DRC, Rwanda and other neighboring states in the region. Michel advanced the notion that such a summit could create the conditions for a "permanent solution" to the ongoing conflict in the eastern DRC.

On October 30, the United Nations Security Council passed a non-binding resolution condemning the escalating violence in the DRC. The 15-member body's statement opposed the offensive being carried out by the CNDP under the leadership of Nkunda. The resolution demanded "that it brings its operations to an end."

The Security Council resolution also expressed concern over the "reports of heavy weapons fire across the Democratic Republic of Congo-Rwanda border.

The escalation in fighting in eastern DRC has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the area. According to the French group Medecins Sans Frontieres (doctors without borders) it is "extremely concerned about the tens of thousands of people currently on the move, fleeing the fighting. The organization said that it was in "urgent need of clean water, basic items like blankets and shelter materials, and food."

By October 31, MSF reported that its units in Rutshuru hospital had already provided care to 83 people suffering from gunshot wounds.

Economic Interests for the Imperialist States

Despite its claims of humanitarian concern, the EU, UK and the United States all have considerable economic interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In previous articles, it has been pointed out that the DRC contains vast reservoirs of strategic minerals that are vitally important to various multi-national mining firms.

With its weak state and military forces, the DRC remains quite vunerable to rebel incursions as well as intervention by neighboring states that are backed by the United States.

The US-backed regime in Rwanda has intervened on numerous occasions in the DRC. There have been repeated reports that the CNDP rebels are acting on behalf of the Rwandan government. Nkunda fought with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) when it seized power in Kigali in 1994.

A report on October 29 indicated that the Rwandan military was heavily involved in attacks on the Congolese army. The South African Press Association(SAPA) and the Associated Press(AP) wrote that: "Bombs, rockets and mortar shells exploded in eastern Congo on Wednesday, and the Congolese army claimed it came under attack by troops from neighboring Rwanda."

These same articles stated that: "The bombardments could be heard by journalists at an army camp in eastern Congo. Jeeps of officers sped along the road stopping to give instructions to soldiers toting rocket launchers and assault rifles."

Another Rwanda?

European leaders have sought to draw parallels between the current situation in eastern DRC and the genocidal violence that swept Rwanda during 1994. During this time period, the main groups, Tutsi and Hutu, fought for political control of the state. The Hutu dominated military carried out a campaign of systematic genocide leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from both groups.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the British public that the country could not stand by and allow another
"Rwanda" to take place inside the eastern DRC. Yet it has been reported that it is the Rwandan government which has supplied arms and logistical support to the CNDP rebels of Laurent Nkunda.

The nations of Rwanda and Burundi were colonized by Germany and later Belgium during the course of the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. The Hutu and Tutsi nationalities were divided and pitted against each other by the colonial powers.

At the time of independence in Rwanda, the colonial policy of divide-and-rule was reflected in the class divisions within society. The Tutsi were heavily represented in the civil service and other professional sectors of society. The Hutu were relegated to agricultural labor and military service.

The Belgians and French both had troops inside Rwanda during the genocide of 1994 under the banner of the United Nations. Yet there was no effort by either of these two military forces to intervene to stop the bloodletting that lasted for several months.

The United States and Britain financed the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) after it took control of the country in August of 1994. The US has continued to provide military assistance and encouraged the Rwandans, along with Uganda, to invade the DRC in 1998, a decision that lead to a five year regional war that resulted in the reported deaths of millions of Congolese between 1998-2003.

This war (1998-2003) brought in the progressive states of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia on the side of the Congolese government of Laurent Kabila, and Rwanda, Uganda, and to a lesser degree Burundi, whose military is dominated by the Tutsi, on the side of the rebel Congolese Democratic Rally (RCD) which was really a front for US-backed interests.

With the advent of colonialism, many nationalities and ethnic groups were divided through borders drawn up by the imperialist countries. In eastern DRC members of the Tutsi nationality have lived alongside their other Congolese citizens since the 18th century.

In a French Press Agency (AFP) and SAPA article published on October 30, it pointed out that: "From the 18th century Banyarwandas, communities of Rwandan Tutsi and Hutu origin, speaking kinyarwanda (Rwanda's official language), began to arrive. Tensions between the two groups have deepened over the last 20 years."

What Role for Anti-Imperialists?

Therefore, the legacy of colonialism and the continuing imperialist intervention has fueled the current divisions inside the eastern region of the DRC. Anti-imperialist forces throughout Africa and the world must closely examine the real motivations behind western threats of military intervention in the DRC.

The African Union, the continental organization that embodies representation from all independent states, must be encouraged to take the lead in resolving the current crisis inside the eastern region of the DRC. Any British, French, US and even United Nations involvement will only serve as a mechanism to maintain the strategic interests of the multi-national mining firms who make billions every year from the extraction of resources from the DRC.

In early October, the United States formally launched the Africa Command (AFRICOM) which has been met with widespread skepticism and rejection on the continent. As a result of this negative perception of US motivations in Africa, the European Union members states appear to be taking the lead in the proposed broader intervention in the eastern DRC.

However, any EU military deployment under the guise of boosting the effectiveness of MONUC, will surely take into consideration the strategic interests of the United States ruling class. If the EU is not able to make a firm decision about the character of its diplomatic and military involvement inside the DRC, the United States will surely step up and take a direct role in maintaining its economic interests in this mineral-rich African nation.
Abayomi Azikiwe has been closely following the current situation inside the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last several weeks. Previous articles can be read on the web site.

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