Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kenya Summit on the DRC Conflict Fails to Resolve Crisis

Kenya Summit on the DRC Conflict Fails to Resolve Crisis

Fighting in eastern DRC continues while imperialist states weigh intervention

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

A two-day regional summit on the raging conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was held in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Seven African states sent representatives to the meeting which was designed to develop a plan to bring peace and stability to the North Kivu area where fierce clashes between the Congolese military (FARDC) and the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) has resulted in the displacement of thousands of people.

Some of the leading political personalities attending the summit in Nairobi included: President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, the current chair of the African Union (AU), President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, President Paul Kgame of Rwanda, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo and former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, who has been appointed as the United Nations Special Envoy to the DRC.

The leader of the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), former general Laurent Nkunda, was not invited to the meeting. He later issued a statement condemning the talks as irrelevant since they excluded his organization which has attacked numerous cities in the North Kivu region of the country.

Renegade General Nkunda claims that he is defending the Tutsi people in the eastern DRC from attacks leveled against them by former Hutu militias who carried out the genocidal attacks in Rwanda during 1994. Many of these militia members fled to the DRC after the seizure of power by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in August of 1994.

In addition to the African leaders, there was representation from the United Nations through the presence of the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Also envoys from the European Union and the United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, were present in Nairobi.

During the course of the summit, African leaders criticized the United Nations peacekeeping forces inside the DRC for their failure to secure the safety of the civilian population in the eastern region of the country. Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon admitted that the 17,000-member forces known as MONUC were "stretched to the limit."

At the conclusion of the summit in Nairobi, a communique was issued stating that regional states should send military forces if necessary and "not stand by to witness incessant and destructive acts of violence by armed groups against innocent people."

The 14-state Southern African Development Community (SADC), which the DRC is a member, pledged troops to help in stabilizing the situation in the eastern region of the country. According to the Reuters press agency on November 9, "Tomaz Salamao, executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said in a statement the group would also send military advisers to the Democratic Republic of Congo and would not stand by and watch the situation deteriorate."

Rebel attacks continue creating a humanitarian crisis

Since the resumption of fighting in the eastern DRC in August, it has been reported by humanitarian agencies that approximately 250,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. The French-based Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) have warned of the potential for a cholera epidemic resulting from the conditions existing in makeshift camps for internally displaced persons.

The Agence France Press (AFP) reported on November 9 that, "There are many displaced people in the zone who live under very bad sanitary conditions. All the risk factors are there for an explosion of a major epidemic," said MSF's local emergency programme coordinator Megan Hunter.

New Front Opened Amid Reports of Angolan Troop Movements

It was reported on November 9 that new fighting had erupted between the Congolese army (FARDC) and rebel CNDP forces on the border between Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu provinces at Ngungu. These clashes also included fighting between the pro-government Mai Mai militias and the rebel CNDP.

According to a report published on November 9 by the AFP, "The clashes on the borders of the two provinces of Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu started before dawn and prompted the flight of thousands of people, the United Nations said.

At the same time there are increasing reports that neighboring Angola has sent troops into the DRC to defend the government of President Joseph Kabila. The AFP said on November 9 in relation to the presence of Angolan troops in the DRC that, "For the moment, there aren't any, but the Angolan position without any doubt is to support Congo, Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said at an emergency summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), called to consider the unrest in the DR Congo and the political standoff in Zimbabwe."

In response to these reports of Angolan military involvement in the DRC in support of the Kabila government, the rebel CNDP issued a statement in opposition to these developments. According to the rebel organization, which is supported by neighboring Rwanda, "Angolan troops in eastern DR Congo could spread violence throughout the region."

"It would risk setting the Great Lakes region on fire," said Bertrand Bisimwa, a CNDP spokesman. "It demonstrates the government's willingness to involve former international warmongers in the current crisis."

Angola was one of the countries, along with Zimbabwe and Namibia, that deployed troops between 1998-2003 to repel that US-backed invasion by Rwanda and Uganda that was aimed at toppling the central government in Kinshasha.

Unidentified sources within the Angolan delegation at the regional SADC summit in Johannesburg told the AFP on November 9 that: "There are no Angolan troops in the DRC."

However, UN spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich had previously denied the presence of foreign troops in the DRC, but did say there was "military cooperation" between Congo and Angola.

"There are perhaps Angolan (military) instructors in the country," he said on November 9.

Will the U.S. Elections Change Foreign Policy Towards Africa?

The election of Senator Barack Obama as President-Elect of the United States has been met with great jubilation on the African continent. Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, enjoys widespread support throughout the region. In Kenya, the government declared November 6 as a national holiday to celebrate the overwhelming victory of Obama.

Nonetheless, over the last century or more, the driving force of United States foreign policy in Africa has been the quest for strategic mineral resources and oil. The U.S. played an important role in the economic underdevelopment of Congo during the period of colonialism.

When the former Belgian Congo became independent in 1960, the Eisenhower administration set out to assassinate the first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, a revolutionary leader who enjoyed massive support throughout the country. After Lumumba's overthrow and murder in January 1961, the U.S. played an integral role in preventing the progressive and revolutionary forces in the country from retaking power.

Today, there has been no indication of a fundamental change in U.S. imperialist foreign policy imperatives towards Africa. Even under an Obama administration, if the U.S. government attempts to depeen its direct military intervention in the DRC or other countries in Africa, they will met with fierce resistance on the part of the masses of people.
Abayomi Azikiwe has written extensively on the current situation inside the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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