Response to WHAT ABOUT OTHER WARS? (2)


Current situation in Congo:

The main problem with Congo is getting an accurate picture of what's going on at any one time but economic plunder in a vacuum of anarchy seems to have been the motivation of most belligerent countries that took part. Although most of the armies, (Rwanda, Burundi, Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda), have pulled out, some like Rwanda and Uganda maintain battalions for "security" purposes. In Rwanda's case, Tutsi President Kagame is afraid that Hutu Interahamwe who fled after the genocide would come back and try and finish off the job. However, major efforts by the UN and Rwanda's Government have resulted in most of the ordinary Hutu's returning to Rwanda, to little or no reaction but there are a few die-hard Hutu extremists prepared to battle on. Uganda were told by the UN that they were permitted to have a 1,000 troops in the town of Bunia (close to their border) to keep militias and rebels apart but this has been condemned by Congo as an excuse for Ugandan backed rebels to fight with Rwandan backed rebels in a "proxy" war or a war within a war.

Therefore, the war in Congo works out on a number of levels inter-tribal (e.g. Lendu and Hema, leading to the 1,000 massacre earlier on in the month) inter-ethnic (rebel groups like the MLC and RCD, formed on ethnic and political affiliations) and inter-Nation (eight to ten mentioned above). A recent peace deal has halted the main conflagration (scramble for minerals) which pitted the armies of Rwanda and Uganda, devoted to overthrowing the Congolese regime, against the armies of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. These armies have mostly now left.

Brief history of Congo (from the BBC):

The history of DR Congo has been one of civil war and corruption. After independence in 1960, the country immediately faced an army mutiny and an attempt at secession by its mineral-rich province of Katanga. A year later, its prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was seized and killed by troops loyal to army chief Joseph Mobutu. In 1965 Mobutu seized power, later renaming the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko. He turned Zaire into a springboard for operations against Soviet-backed Angola and thereby ensured US backing. But he also made Zaire synonymous with corruption. After the Cold War, Zaire ceased to be of interest to the US. Thus, when in 1997 neighbouring Rwanda invaded it to flush out extremist Hutu militias, it gave a boost to the anti-Mobutu rebels, who quickly captured the capital, Kinshasa, installed Laurent Kabila as president and renamed the country DR Congo. Nonetheless, DR Congo's troubles continued. A rift between Kabila and his former allies sparked a new rebellion, backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe took Kabila's side, turning the country into a vast battleground. The government has no control over large parts of the country. I suppose that I should add the fact that before 1960, Congo was a Belgian colony following the 19th century carve up of Africa and was exploited particularly brutally for it's vast mineral and natural wealth. I read somewhere that elephant poachers, in the early 20th century, had to go all the way into Congo to find more elephants, after wiping out those in Tanzania and Kenya, and transport the ivory to Europe for snooker balls, pianos and chess sets.

The future for Congo:

The above history is probably fair enough except that it fails to mention CIA involvement in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and the installation and patronisation of Joseph Mobuto Sese Seko. The US, in the Cold War days, didn't like to admit that it assassinated whoever got in it's way, unlike today when current policy endorses the assassination of the likes of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Patrice Lumumba was quite an African hero, at the time, as he advocated "positive neutralism" which he defined as a return to African values and rejection of any imported ideology, including that of the Soviet Union. However, he had appealed to the Soviet Union for help against the Belgium army who had sent in troops to "protect it's citizens" from a secession in Katanga province that threatened to spread. He was perhaps regarded by the South Africans as "inflammatory" but the bottom line was that he won 90% of the local elections and led his party, the MNC, to victory and became Prime Minister. Why we should care about Congo now: The current situation can be stabilised. Congo has gone from an international conflict to inter-tribal and ethnic conflict but NOW is the time for the UN to get in there in large numbers to protect innocent civilians getting caught between the warring parties. The UN has a pathetic number of troops in the country and they're afraid to come out of their compounds and help local populations. More UN troops and bases must be sent to Congo immediately to provide security for the administration of aid to be successful. We all pay for the UN and should tell them in no uncertain terms that they get in and help innocents. Most of the rebel groups now would have little reason to want to fight UN troops because although villagers are easy targets they're not worth a fight over.

The bottom line on Congo:

The numbers of people who have lost their lives will never be known but is in apocalyptic numbers. They've had enough. Congolese visitors to a hotel I run in Dar-es-Salaam want to talk about Man United and why Mick McCarthy sent Roy Keane home in the world cup, they're fed up with fighting. Their vast country is a tragic mix of colonialism, greed, power, vacuums, inter tribal, ethnic and national rivalries but, if the UN get their act together NOW, it could stabilise or if they don't, descend back into the heart of darkness.

Created By: Charles Monroe