In solidarity with Abahlalibase Mjondolo (AbM) 4

Dearest Friends,

Like many people in South Africa and around the world, I am still stunned by what has been done to the people living at the Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban.

From 2005, AbM seems to have managed to overcome many obstacles, but, or so it seems, it has not been able (yet) to overcome the biggest one, namely appearing to be giving a lesson in emancipatory politics to the ANC.

Since assuming power, it seems that there are members of the ANC who seem to have forgotten the role played by ALL the people, but especially, the poorest of the poorest, in propelling the ANC to power. This forgetting could have lethal consequences, not just for the PoPs, but also for every citizen in South Africa and beyond. In the history of emancipatory politics, from slavery to today, the enslaved, the colonized, by definition, must never ever free themselves. Should they try and, worst of all, succeed, those in power shall quickly “put them back into their place”. In retribution, more often than not, this trespassing act, or so considered by those in power was followed by the most severe of punishments, preceded, if necessary, by torture. Since 2005, AbM has been giving lessons on emancipatory politics to a party in power which, directly or indirectly, claims to be the only one to know how to bring about emancipatory politics. Other historical examples are too numerous to list, but let us start with one of the most notorious:

Toussaint-L’Ouverture and the Africans of Santo Domingo of which AbM could claim to be a descendant since the poor of today are being treated like the slaves of the past. The sin of Toussaint and his comrade in arms was to succeed where the slave masters insisted they could not possibly do. For the slave masters, by definition, enslaved Africans could not possibly organize their own emancipation. For them, such a feat required the kind of intellect and organizational skills which the enslaved could simply not have, by virtue of being Africans and enslaved.

From the available information, it seems that the greatest sin of AbM has been to outsmart the ruling party in an area (politics) in which it considered itself unbeatable, unchallengeable. The behavior of the party clearly shows that some within the ANC felt that AbM had to be put back in its place. Ever since 2005, various methods have been tried and they have all failed. AbM and its leadership became more popular as some within the ANC became more agitated at not being able to outperform AbM in an arena the ANC considered to be its own turf. And to make matters worse, the AbM outdid the ANC using politics in a way the ANC has systematic failed to do, i.e. consult with the people all the time, not just at election time, and, all the time respond to the needs of the people, while treating them with the respect due to equals.

In Haiti, the success of the Africans was followed by withering punishment, individual and collective, and still unfolding to this day. It was crucial for the French state (and its allies) to do everything for Haiti never to be a functional state. As Peter Hallward showed in his book, the Africans were forced to pay compensation to those who lost their property (slaves and plantations). The payment took place from 1825 through 1946. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pointed out that that compensation money had to be restituted, France balked at paying back what had been calculated to amount to 20 billion Euros. Meanwhile, France had passed the Law Taubira, making slavery a Crime Against Humanity, but stipulating, at the same time, that such a recognition did not imply reparations. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide insisted that restitution was not reparation.

Those who have vowed to continue the fight started by the Africans more than 200 years ago are still being harassed and tortured as demonstrated by the current military occupation of Haiti by the UN, and the kidnapping of people like Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine simply because they keep calling for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (Pierre-Antoine was “disappeared” in Port-Au-Prince in August 2007).

Other examples are the Native Americans in all of the Americas, but, in particular, in the US. For having resisted the occupation and then the stealing of their land, the Native Americans have paid, and continue to pay a price difficult to imagine for anyone who has not visited any of the Reservations to which they have been restricted.

For now, let me stop here and bring out more examples later on.

Again dear members of AbahlalibaseMjondolo we shall never thank you enough for standing up for those of us who do not have your courage. Thank you for spelling out patiently, non violently, persistently the principles of emancipatory politics. Thank you for your prescriptions on the South African State. Thank you for your fidelity to humanity.

In solidarity,

Jacques Depelchin

What is ‘plunder’ in the Congo?

Posted from Women In and Beyond the Global

Who are the plunderers, and who are the restorers?

In the Congo, who are the plunderers? Sokari Ekine posed this question earlier this week, after having seen Grand Theft Congo. It’s a good question.

Grand Theft Congo tells the story of cassiterite, a mineral that serves as the base for tin. The value of cassiterite skyrocketed when the European Union outlawed lead and replaced lead with tin. Europe rises, and the eastern Congo sinks, literally. As Ekine notes, the minerals are mined by slave labor, but they are transported and purchased by a free market of local comptoirs, or trading houses, and distant corporations. Everyone turns a blind eye. But does this identify the plunderers? Who are the plunderers?

A recent Global Witness report, Faced with a gun, what can you do?: War and the militarisation of mining in eastern Congo, identifies seven military and other armed groups as those who are `plundering minerals’. These groups are a Rwandan Hutu armed group; Tutsi-led rebels backed by Rwanda; another group that allies with different sides at different times; various mai-mai groups in North and South Kivu, organized largely along ethnic lines; a Tutsi cadre; the Congolese national army; and demobilized combatants, especially former mai-mai. The mai-mai were originally local resistance forces opposed to the Rwandan invading armies and militias.

In this report, the term plunder is only used to describe the actions of regional military forces, Congolese or Rwandan. The report documents the comptoirs, or trading houses, that sell and export the minerals, through Rwanda and Burundi, to companies elsewhere, such as Thailand Smelting and Re?ning Corporation (THAISARCO), the world’s ?fth-largest tin-producing company, owned by British metals giant Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC); British company Afrimex; and several Belgian companies such as Trademet and Traxys. These then sell their materials to electronics and other industries. These companies all contribute to the violence, but they are not described as plundering. Why not?

The plunder of the Congo is presented as the Great Plunder, the Rape of the Congo. Some see the plundering as a system. Others argue that the plunder of natural resources can only take place in the context of super exploitation, forced labor, and carnage. For some, this carnage concerns sexual terrorism and militarized rape campaigns. Soldiers rape, commanders condone, women suffer, and the copper, diamonds, cassiterite, coltan keep on moving. And don’t forget the wood, the nickel, the land itself.

But what exactly does it mean, to plunder? “To rob (a place or person) of goods or valuables forcibly, typically in a time of war or civil disorder or in the course of a hostile incursion; to pillage, ransack; to rob systematically; to despoil.” Plunder is always military. In fact, it seems to have first appeared in English during either the Thirty Years’ War, when English soldiers were fighting in southern Germany, or earlier, when English soldiers were fighting in the Low Countries. It took root and effloresced in England during the English Civil War. Wars of empire or civil wars.

But the intricacies of plunder, and of the identity of the plunderers, go further. At its German or Dutch root, plunder meant “to rob of household furnishings.” Plundering involved the violent, militarized seizure of bed-clothes, clothing, baggage, rags, trash, everything. Plunder did not mean to take the most valuable but rather to ravage and ransack the most ordinary, the stuff of everyday life. Plundering is a violation of the most intimate, the trash and rags that comprise our days, that which we cherish most and which the market values least, and it always goes from house to house, from body to body.

The plunder of the Congo is the violent militarized seizure of the everyday, of the ordinary. Women. Men. Children. Forests. Land. Stuff. Even in the story of plunder, which should be their story, they have all been sacrificed to the story of markets, of mineral resources, armed forces, major corporations. They must be restored to the center of their own stories and the story of the Congo.

Who are the plunderers, and who are the restorers, the replenishers, the re-founders? There are the ones who are well known, such as conservationist René Ngongo who has worked with local growers to find ways of sustaining rather than devastating the rainforests of the Congo Basin and who has taken on the mining and logging industries. There’s Dr. Denis Mukwege, at Panzi Hospital of Bukavu, who has tended to survivors of sexual violence. Then there are the thousands, like the Director of Maison d’Écoute (Listening House), ‘whom I will call Rebecca Kamate”, local women and men whose names must be withheld, Congolese women and men who literally turn the swords that have been thrust into them into ploughshares. They are the ones “that have managed to maintain their integrity by not partaking in the plunder of the Congo”, and they too are numerous. Where is their story told, where is their documentary, where is their Congo?

Dan Moshenberg,

Esdras Kambale, ministre de la Culture et des Arts, [DRC] veut dire merci à l’esclavage en réhabilitant les statues de Léopold I

Réveil-FM, lundi 17 août 2009 à 15:27 :: radio :: #480 :: rss.
Edras Kambale Bahekwa, le ministère de la Culture et des Arts, est à la recherche de financements pour réhabiliter les statues héritées de la colonisation belge qui ornaient autrefois Kinshasa, la capitale de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC), dont celles des rois Léopold II et Albert 1er ainsi que de l’explorateur Henry Morton Stanley.

“Nous cherchons à restaurer la mémoire collective du peuple congolais”, a affirmé M. Kambale, pour justifier cette démarche et confirmant en partie une information diffusée par l’agence congolaise de presse (ACP, officielle) le 13 aout 2009.

Selon Esdras kambale, son ministère est “en discussions” avec l’ambassade de Grande-Bretagne à Kinshasa pour obtenir un financement permettant de réinstaller la statue de l’explorateur britannique Henry Morton Stanley – qui a aidé, entre 1879 et 1884, le roi Léopold II à fonder l’Etat indépendant du Congo (EIC).

Cette statue repose actuellement, tout comme celles des deux souverains belges, aux musées nationaux de Kinshasa dans un état d’abandon. M. Kambale a ajouté que le gouvernement congolais serait preneur d’une aide belge afin de restaurer les statues de Léopold II et d’Albert 1er d’ici le 30 juin 2010, date du 50ème anniversaire de l’indépendance de l’ancienne colonie belge.

La nouvelle est réjouissante pour les Belges et Anglais esclavagistes-colonialistes, qu’en est-il des Congolais anti-esclavagistes et anti-colonialistes?

Le 50 ème anniversaire de l’indépendance (?) aiguise sans aucun doute les appétits gloutons, faut -il rappeler que cette période couvre de 1960-2010 et non pas la période antérieure du Congo, propriété personnelle de Léopold II?

N’est-ce pas ironique de faire trôner Léopold II, Albert I et Stanley sur les places à Kinshasa alors que la place des artistes au rond-point de la Victoire est à l’état de l’abandon, squatter par les containers de la police?

L’ancien premier vice-président de Modeste Mutinga à la fameuse Haute Autorité des Médias (HAM), est-il en manque d’idées pour valoriser et développer les patrimoines congolais et tenir compte des enjeux patrimoniaux par une politique culturelle claire?

Pourquoi ne pas créer un musée de l’histoire du Congo, dans lequel le passé comme le présent historique pourraient y être exposé, sans agression visuelle permanente et perpétuelle de Léopold II, Albert I et Stanley??

Est-il juste de remettre Léopold II, Albert I et Stanley sur leur trône, faisant plaisir aux ambassades de la Belgique et du Royaume-Uni, alors que la tombe de Kallé Jeef au cimetière de la Gombe à des herbes folles; que l’avenue Franco Lwambo Makiadi (ex-Bokassa) est dans un état piteux?

Kinshasa a-t-il des bibliothèques accessibles à tous? Pourquoi ne pas réhabiliter le marché de Bikeko à la gare centrale, l’éclairer pour permettre aux artistes de vendre leurs articles même la nuit?movie Going in Style 2017

Quels sont les patrimoines du Congo, aujourd’hui?

Esdras Kambale, le transfuge du mouvement rebelle RCD-ML de Mbusa Nyamwisi, devenu depuis membre à part entière de l’AMP, sait-il au moins qu’à Kisangani, ex-Stanleyville, dans la Province Orientale (Nord-Est), à 2.912 Km de Kinshasa, le socle sur lequel trônait, Stanley déboulonné, sert de borne fontaine publique à la population?
Nous attendons beaucoup d’Esdras Kambale, en tant que ministre de la Culture et des Arts pas nécessaire de sortir de la casse les monuments des esclavagistes pour qu’ils trônent dans les places publiques à Kinshasa. Wait and see.

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Court rules KZN mass eviction law unconstitutional

MAIL & GUARDIAN, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA Oct 14 2009 13:55 The Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that a law that would have allowed mass evictions in KwaZulu-Natal was unconstitutional.

“I conclude that Section 16 of the Slums Act is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid,” Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said.

“The appeal is upheld.”

The Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA, an association working for the improvement of living conditions of shack dwellers, had argued that certain provisions of the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act, 6 of 2007 were unconstitutional.

The high court dismissed its application, causing it to appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Mbhekiseni Mavuso, general secretary of the Rural Network, which is a member of Abahlali, welcomed the Constitutional Court ruling.

“We are very delighted because this proves that the Constitutional Court does have room for poor people,” Mavuso told Sapa.

“They were thinking because of 2010, they were just going to go out and evict people … but now poor people are protected.”

The association, with a 20 000-strong membership, argued the section of the Slums Act would have forced land owners to evict all shack dwellers by a certain date, regardless of whether they were willing to allow them to live on their land.

It also argued the definition of “slums” was too vague and open. — Sapa

Rape of the Congo

Adam Hochschild: New York Review of Books: Volume 56, Number 13 · August 13, 2009. As if eastern Congo had not already suffered enough, seven years ago Nature dealt it a stunning blow. The volcano whose blue-green bulk looms above the dusty, lakeside city of Goma, Mount Nyiragongo, erupted, sending a smoking river of lava several hundred yards wide through the center of town and sizzling into the waters of Lake Kivu. More than 10,000 homes were engulfed. Parts of the city, which is packed with displaced people, are still covered by a layer of purplish rock up to twelve feet thick.

Far greater destruction has come from more than a decade of a bewilderingly complex civil war in which millions have died. First, neighboring Uganda and Rwanda supported a rebel force under Laurent Kabila that overthrew longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. Soon after, Kabila fell out with his backers, and later Uganda and Rwanda fell out with each other. Before long, they and five other nearby nations had troops on Congo’s soil, in alliance either with the shaky national government in Kinshasa or with a mushrooming number of rival ethnic warlords, particularly here in the mineral-rich east. Those foreign soldiers are almost all gone now, but some fighting between the government and remaining rebel groups continues. For two weeks in June, I had the chance to observe the war’s effects, with the best of possible traveling companions: Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, whose reports have been an authoritative source of information on the country for years.

No one has been harder hit than Congo’s women, for almost all the warring factions have used rape as a calculated method of sowing terror. An hour and a half southwest of Goma on bone-jolting roads stand several low buildings of planks and adobe; small bleating goats wander about and a cooking fire burns on one dirt floor. There is no electricity. A sign reads Maison d’Écoute (Listening House). The office of the forty-two-year-old director, whom I will call Rebecca Kamate, extends from the side of one of the buildings; its other three walls are of thin green tarpaulin with a UNICEF emblem, through which daylight filters. The floor is gravel. Kamate pulls out a hand-written ledger to show to Anneke, her colleague Ida Sawyer, and me. Ruled columns spread across the page: date, name, age of the victim, and details—almost all are gang rapes, by three to five armed men. Since the center started, it has registered 5,973 cases of rape. The ages of the victims just since January range from two to sixty-five. On the ledger’s most recent page, the perpetrators listed include three different armed rebel groups—plus the Congolese national army.

“What pushed me into this work,” says Kamate, speaking softly in a mixture of Swahili and hesitant French, “is that I am also one who was raped.” This happened a decade ago; the rapists were from the now-defunct militia of a local warlord backed by Uganda. “Their main purpose was to kill my husband. They took everything. They cut up his body like you would cut up meat, with knives. He was alive. They began cutting off his fingers. Then they cut off his sex. They opened his stomach and took out his intestines. When they poked his heart, he died. They were holding a gun to my head.” She fought her captors, and shows a scar across the left side of her face that was the result. “They ordered me to collect all his body parts and to lie on top of them and there they raped me—twelve soldiers. I lost consciousness. Then I heard someone cry out in the next room and I realized they were raping my daughters.”

The daughters, the two oldest of four girls, were twelve and fifteen. Kamate spent some months in the hospital and temporarily lost her short-term memory. “When I got out I found these two daughters were pregnant. Then they explained. I fainted. After this, the family [of her husband] chased me away. They sold my house and land, because I had had no male children.” From time to time Kamate stops, her wide, worn face crinkles into a sob, and she dabs her eyes with a corner of her apron.

“Both girls tried to kill their children. I had to stop them. I had more difficulties. I was raped three more times when I went into the hills to look for other raped women.” Part of her work is to go to villages and talk to husbands and families, because rape survivors are so often shunned. In one recent case, for instance, a woman was kidnapped and held ten months as a sex slave by the FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda), the Hutu perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide and their followers, long the most intransigent rebel group here. After she returned to her village with a newborn baby, her husband agreed to take her back, but only if the baby were killed. Kamate intervened, and took in the child at the Listening House. Living here now are six women and seventeen children—some of whom keep scampering up to an opening in the tarpaulin to giggle and look.

At one point Kamate has to break off because a new victim walks in off the road, a forty-seven-year-old woman raped just three days ago by three Congolese army soldiers who barged into her house after she came home from church. For twenty minutes, Kamate takes down her story and then quickly sends her to a nearby clinic: if anti- retroviral drug treatment is begun within seventy-two hours of a rape, it can usually prevent HIV/AIDS.

The last time Kamate herself was raped was on January 22 of this year. The attackers, members of the CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple), a Tutsi-led rebel group that has since been integrated into the Congolese army in a new peace deal, were four soldiers who targeted her because they knew of the work she was doing. It is for fear of this happening again that she asks me not to use her real name. “After having raped me, they spat in my sex, then shoved a shoe up my vagina. When I arrived home I cried a lot and was at the point of killing myself.”

Unimaginably horrifying as ordeals like Kamate’s are, they are all too similar to what Congolese endured a century ago. Rape was then also considered the right of armies, and then, as now, was how brutalized and exploited soldiers took out their fury on people of even lower status: women. From 1885 to 1908, this territory was the personally owned colony of King Leopold II of Belgium, who pioneered a forced-labor system that was quickly copied in French, German, and Portuguese colonies nearby. His private army of black conscript soldiers under white officers would march into a village and hold the women hostage, to force the men to go into the rain forest for weeks at a time to harvest lucrative wild rubber. “The women taken during the last raid…are causing me no end of trouble,” a Belgian officer named Georges Bricusse wrote in his diary on November 22, 1895. “All the soldiers want one. The sentries who are supposed to watch them unchain the prettiest ones and rape them.”

Forced labor also continues today. The various armed groups routinely conscript villagers to carry their ammunition, collect water and firewood, and, on occasion, dig for gold. A 2007 survey of more than 2,600 people in eastern Congo found over 50 percent saying that they had been forced to carry loads or do other work against their will in the previous decade and a half. A few miles down the road from the Listening House, I meet one such person in a camp for people who have fled the fighting; several thousand of them are living here in makeshift shelters of grass thatch, the lucky ones with a tarpaulin over the top. The man is twenty-nine, in T-shirt and sandals, and, like Kamate, doesn’t want his real name used. He arrived two days ago from Remeka, a village a few days’ walk from here, that has changed hands several times in recent fighting between the FDLR and the national army. A fresh bandage covers his left eye.

Congolese army soldiers corralled him last week to be a porter. The troops then came under fire and “I took advantage of that to flee. I spent a night in the bush, and when I came back to the village I found the army had pillaged it, and everyone had fled. Other soldiers told me again to carry supplies. When I refused they took a bayonet and jabbed me in the eye.” He can see something out of the eye, but not clearly. Doctors don’t know if its sight will return. His wife and two children, aged two and eight, fled the village and he thinks they are still in the bush.

Where does such cruelty come from? Four problems, above all, drive Congo’s unrelenting bloodshed. One is long-standing antagonism between certain ethnic groups. A second is the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the two million or so people who flowed across Congo’s porous border in its aftermath: Hutu killers, innocent Hutu who feared retribution, and a mainly Tutsi army in pursuit, bent on vengeance. The third is a vast wealth in natural resources—gold, tungsten, diamonds, coltan (a key ingredient of computer chips), copper, and more—that gives ethnic warlords and their backers, especially Rwanda and Uganda, an additional incentive to fight. And, finally, this is the largest nation on earth—more than 65 million people in an area roughly as big as the United States east of the Mississippi—that has hardly any functioning national government. After Laurent Kabila was assassinated in 2001, his son Joseph took power in Kinshasa, and won an election in 2006, but his corrupt and disorganized regime provides few services, especially in the more distant parts of the country, such as Goma, which is more than one thousand miles east of the capital.

Evidence of the nation’s riches is everywhere. Battered Soviet-era Antonov cargo planes continually descend into Goma airport filled with tin ore from a big mine at Walikale, in the interior, now controlled by Congolese army officers. On a country road, a truckload of timber, stacked high, passes by, heading out of the rain forest toward the Ugandan border. And then one day in Goma, while I am walking with Anneke, Ida, and another foreigner, a man approaches and asks: Would we like to buy some uranium?

He is perhaps forty, with expensive-looking walking shoes. He claims to have had clients from South Africa, Europe, and Saudi Arabia. The uranium has been tested with Geiger counters, and it’s de bonne qualité! And safely packed: two kilos inside each seventeen-kilo radiation-proof container. The price? $1.5 million per container. But this is negotiable….

Also on all sides is evidence of the lack of a functioning government. This does not mean that there are no government officials; on the contrary, they are everywhere, and self-supporting. On rural roads where less than a dozen vehicles pass in an hour are clusters of yellow-shirted traffic police; we see three large trucks stopped at one, their drivers negotiating. On another road, when people on market day are wheeling bicycles piled high with charcoal and bananas, blue-uniformed police are stopping them to collect a “tax.”Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

There are even dilapidated court buildings in towns large and small, but, a lawyer tells us over dinner, with great feeling, “I’ve never, ever, seen a judge who wasn’t corrupt.” This is so routine, he and a colleague explain, that in civil disputes, the judge gets a percentage of the property value that the bribe-payer gains. People in such positions are then expected to send some of the take back up the line to those who appointed them; this is called renvoyer l’ascenseur—sending back the elevator. Being a judge in an area full of mining rights disputes is particularly lucrative. Other civil servants also earn extra: Goma is on the border with Rwanda, and one of the lawyers explains that the very hotel where we’re having dinner was built by a customs official. They point along the street to two more hotels owned by customs men.

Government as a system of organized theft goes back to King Leopold II, who made a fortune here equal to well over $1.1 billion in today’s money, chiefly in rubber and ivory. Then for fifty-two years this was a Belgian colony, run less rapaciously, but still mainly for the purpose—as with colonies almost everywhere—of extracting wealth for the mother country and its corporations. The grand tradition was continued by Mobutu Sese Seko, heavily backed by the United States as a cold war ally, who over three decades starting in 1965 amassed an estimated $4 billion, buying grand villas all over Europe (one, on the Riviera, was almost within sight of one of Leopold’s).

The dictator built palatial homes throughout Congo too, one of them in Goma. It is now the provincial governor’s office, and Kabila stays here when he’s in town: a sprawling red-brick mansion, whose green lawn, dotted with palms and other trees, rolls down to Lake Kivu. The floors are white marble, and a curving marble staircase leads up to Mobutu’s circular office, where there is a huge kitschy chandelier of hundreds of little glass balls. The initials M and B, for him and his second wife, Bobi Ladawa, are intertwined in gold, with many curlicues, on top of an inlaid wood desk and elsewhere throughout the house. Of the his-and-hers bathrooms, hers is the more spectacular, in pink marble with two sinks in the shape of shells, and a large Jacuzzi.

Into the void of the world’s largest failed state has stepped a wide variety of organizations wanting to help. In Goma it sometimes seems as if every other vehicle on the deeply rutted streets is an SUV with a logo on the door: Oxfam, Action Contre la Faim, World Vision, Norwegian Refugee Council, HopeIn, and dozens more. Many also sport a window sticker: a red slash mark across a submachine gun and the legend NO ARMS/PAS D’ARMES. But the biggest foreign presence consists of people who do have arms: more than 17,000 United Nations troops and military observers. They are quickly visible in blue helmets, blue berets, blue baseball caps, or blue turbans worn by Sikh soldiers from India. Almost all are from poor countries, where UN peacekeeping is a big moneymaker for their armies. The wealthy nations, although they contribute a few higher-ranking officers and civilian specialists, have been generally loath to risk their soldiers’ lives in someone else’s civil war. However, they pay most of the cost. A plan that we have to join one Bangladeshi unit on patrol is scrubbed at the last minute because word comes that the ambassador of Japan—a major source of funds—is to visit the base the next day and all hands are needed to prepare.

The UN presence is a mixed story. Far better equipped and disciplined than the Congolese army, these troops have kept a bad situation from getting worse. Yet it is hopeless to expect so few soldiers to provide protection for most civilians in such a vast country. “How many troops would it really take to stop all the fighting here?” I ask one UN official, out of his office. “Oh, about 250,000,” he replies.

On the record, officers are brisk, upbeat, and bristling with acronyms. In the UN military headquarters in Bunia, the ragged, dirt-streets capital of the Ituri gold-mining district several hundred miles north of Goma, a cheerful Pakistani paratrooper colonel briefs us in a room filled with wall maps showing AORs (areas of responsibility) of battalions from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Morocco—Nepbat, Banbat, Pakbat, Morbat. Other troops in the area, he says, include Indonesians (who repair roads), Uruguayans (who patrol lakes and rivers), Guatemalans (special forces), South Africans (military police), and Indians (who fly helicopters). Tunisians and Egyptians are on the way. “Last week we carried out a heli-recce” of one trouble spot; when aid groups have trouble going somewhere, the UN gives them a “heli-insertion.”

One of the UN jobs here is to train the Congolese army, and this, too, he assures us, is on track. First thing on the agenda: training forward air controllers (puzzling, since Congo has virtually no air force). And how will they do this, given that few UN officers speak either French or any local language? Simple, they will find the English-speaking Congolese officers (although veteran aid workers here say they’ve rarely seen any). And what if forward air controlling is not their specialty? “We’re training the trainers!”

When speaking not for attribution, UN officials are far more somber. I talk to four more of them, military and civilian, African and European. All agree that the biggest single problem is the chaotic Congolese army itself, which numbers some 120,000 ill-trained men. On one country road, heading to a combat zone where one unit is relieving another, we see hundreds of soldiers in green fatigues, but not once a truck filled with troops. Carrying rifles or grenade launchers, the men are hitchhiking rides with passing cargo trucks and motorcycles. They wave at us, bringing hands to their mouths to beg for cigarettes. Beneath a piece of canvas strung between trees, a solitary sentry manning one checkpoint is sound asleep.

Top-heavy with colonels to begin with, the army has swollen mightily in recent years, since the price of a series of half-effective peace accords has been its absorption of an array of predatory warlords and their followers. Some two dozen different rebel groups signed a peace agreement with the government in Goma last year, for instance. Since then, one of the most notorious warlords, Bosco Ntaganda, known as “The Terminator” and under indictment by the International Criminal Court for conscripting child soldiers, made his own deal with Kinshasa and was appointed a general.

What can be done? The outside world has influence over the Congolese army, because we’re partly paying for it. The national government depends on aid money to make ends meet, depends on the UN force to retain control of the east, and sometimes even needs UN planes to transport its soldiers, for there is no drivable road from one side of the country to the other. At a bare minimum, the Western powers have leverage to pressure Congo into purging its army of thugs in senior positions—and could demand far more as well.

A curious, very limited kind of pressure is being applied. Underlying the army’s long-standing practice of looting civilian goods and food is that soldiers often don’t get paid. “The money comes from Kinshasa,” a UN official explains, “then goes to Kisangani”—a city three quarters of the way to the eastern border—”and by the time it gets down to company level there’s not much left.” To deal with this problem, the European Union has sent a fifty-five-man military mission here.

One member is Bob Arnst, a short, wiry man with a crew cut, who is a sergeant major in the Dutch army. He is stationed in Bunia, and talks about his work one evening in the UN’s café and recreation center, where a security guard at the gate has the job of keeping out local prostitutes.

“Everything is in cash. They bring the money in big packages, 120 by 80 by 20 centimeters. In great bricks. We’re expecting a convoy now. When the money arrives, they count it again, bill by bill.” Arnst and two French soldiers watch the count at the local army headquarters, after which paymasters from half a dozen battalions arrive in SUVs to collect the funds for their units. “Most of them [the paymasters] have very nice clothing. Once a colonel showed up with his bodyguard and I asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ And he said, ‘I’ve come to see where my money is.’ And I said, ‘It’s not your money.’”

In the days following, Arnst and his French colleagues visit Congolese battalions in the field, usually dropping in by surprise in a UN helicopter. “We ask soldiers, ‘Did you get your payment?’”

And if they didn’t? On three occasions in the last few months, entire units were not paid. Arnst reported each case to his EU superiors in Kinshasa, and a Dutch colonel applied pressure at the Ministry of Defense. Each time, the commander was forced to turn over the money to his troops—but was not arrested or disciplined.

The situation is worse in some outlying areas; Arnst cites the town of Dungu, in the north, where he believes some troops may not have been paid for four months. Food destined for soldiers sometimes disappears as well. “If they don’t have any money, they have a weapon, so…” his voice trails off. Furthermore, there isn’t a foolproof system to prevent commanders from pocketing pay for “ghost soldiers” who’ve deserted. Plus, he says, the pay is woeful to begin with: only about $40 per month, and another $8 for living expenses. Military families are “living in tents with holes in them. And if a soldier does get his money, he’s got no way to bring it to his family.” Hence families tend to follow military units around. The officers are little better off. “Last week a captain came to me and said, ‘Can you give me twenty dollars? Ten dollars?’”

From the dozen years of intermittent war, almost everyone has searing memories. Fabien Kakani, thirty-eight, for example, is a nurse at a Protestant mission hospital in the savannah town of Nyankunde, an hour southwest of Bunia. One day in 2002, militia from the Ngiti ethnic group, and an allied force, overran the hospital, burned its library of more than 10,000 books, and began killing an estimated three thousand people of other ethnicities—hospital staff, patients, and residents of the nearby town. “I was working in the ICU that day. I had just made the rounds with the doctor and we heard shots from the hill behind the hospital.” He points out the window. “We brought more patients in and locked ourselves in. Then they went to the maternity ward and the pediatric ward and I heard screams as they massacred people there. Throughout the night we heard shots. I was a Bira [a different ethnic group] and I knew they would be looking for me.”

The raiders then broke into the ICU, and Kakani and some seventy other people were tied up and marched to a room he shows us in another hospital building, which we pace out as being about ten by twenty-one feet. “We spent three days here. No food, no drink, we had to defecate and urinate on the floor. Children died because there was no milk in their mothers’ breasts. We were passing their dead bodies out the windows.”

So many people were killed at Nyankunde hospital alone that there was no time to dig graves; the bodies had to be thrown in pit latrines. And the leader of the Ngiti troops who carried out the massacre? He was Kakani’s brother-in law, who wanted to kill members of several rival groups, including the Bira, even though he was married to a Bira, Kakani’s sister. The commander of the allied militia force involved in the attack was not on the scene, but in close communication by radio, well aware of what his troops were doing. Following one of the incorporate-the-warlords peace agreements, he became Congo’s foreign minister. He is still in the cabinet today, in another position.

After two weeks my notebooks overflow with such stories. But looking at people I meet, even an entire encampment of young gold miners who are almost all ex-combatants, do I see those who look capable of killing hospital patients in their beds, gang-raping a woman like Rebecca Kamate, jabbing a young man’s eye with a bayonet? I do not. People are warm, friendly, their faces overflow with smiles; seeing a foreigner, everyone wants to stop, say ” Bonjour!” and shake hands, whether on a small town’s main street or on a forest path. I’ve never seen more enthusiastic hand-shakers. At night, when the electricity works, the warm air echoes with some of Africa’s best music. There is no shortage of ordinary acts of human kindness. When our car’s left front wheel goes sailing off to the side of a remote mountain road, leaving one end of the axle to gouge a long furrow in the dirt, the driver of a passing truck, piled teeteringly high with goods and then with people sitting on top, immediately stops and crawls under the car, using his jack in tandem with ours to solve the problem and get us on our way.

What turns such people into rapists, sadists, killers? Greed, fear, demagogic leaders and their claim that such violence is necessary for self-defense, seeing everyone around you doing the same thing—and the fact that the rest of the world pays tragically little attention to one of the great humanitarian catastrophes of our time. But even the worst brutality can also draw out the good in people, as in the way Kamate has devoted her life to other raped women. In Goma, I saw people with pickaxes laboriously hewing the lava that had flooded their city into football-sized chunks with flattened sides, then using these, with mortar, to build the walls of new homes. Can this devastated country as a whole use the very experience of its suffering to build something new and durable? I hope so, but I fear it will be a long time in coming.

—July 15, 2009

Après le diamant, l’or, le coltan…La guerre du “nickel” en RDC

Le Potentiel, Kinshasa, 12-Oct-2009: La République démocratique du Congo n’est pas encore sortie du tunnel. Après la guerre économique sur fond du commerce illégal du diamant, de l’or, de la cassitérite, du bois… c’est maintenant le tour du pétrole et surtout du « nickel ». Dans la partie orientale de la RDC, précisément en Ituri, on vient de découvrir du « nickel » à l’état pur. Ce minerai fait déjà courir de nombreux acquéreurs de tous bords. Ce qui explique cette « résistance » à la paix, ces hésitations à ne pas maîtriser les criminels de la LRA, cette armée du Seigneur composée des rebelles ougandais.

« Ganga latina ». Les Congolais doivent désormais s’habituer à ces mots et à ce vocabulaire qui entreront sûrement dans le langage des conflits en RDC si jamais toutes les dispositions ne sont pas prises pour arrêter la boulimie des « faiseurs de guerre et de paix ». Selon le Père Sergio de la congrégation des « Missionnaires Comboniens », il s’agit d’une montagne dans la partie Est de la Province Orientale, précisément dans le périmètre qui regroupe les villes de Dungu, Faradje, Bunia. C’est dans cette montagne que l’on vient de découvrir du « nickel » à l’état pur.

« Une grande guerre est en gestation. N’oubliez pas le pétrole, n’oubliez pas le bois, n’oubliez pas la « ganga latina », cette montagne où l’on a récemment découvert du nickel, presqu’à l’état pur ». Ce sont les déclarations du Père Sergio reprises dans le reportage réalisé par Colette Braeckman du Journal Le Soir, paraissant en Belgique.

Avant toute chose, retenons que le « nickel », est un minerai. Mieux, un élément métallique qui entre dans la composition de nombreux alliages, notamment des aciers inoxydables. En d’autres termes, le nickel demeure un métal précieux qui intervient dans la fabrication des métaux devrant intervenir tant dans le domaine de la construction, des ponts et chaussées, le secteur automobile, ustentiles de ménage… bref, dans l’industrie lourde et légère. Un métal à l’image du « coltan » qui remplit des fonctions diverses dans le domaine spatial et de la téléphonie cellulaire. Or, le « nickel » se trouve justement dans cette montagne, « Ganga latina », à l’état pur. Traité, il donnera d’autres dérivés utiles.

A Faradje, Gungu, Bunia, on perçoit déjà la ruée des « chercheurs des pépites ». L’une des raisons qui explique que la neutralisation des éléments de la LRA tire en longueur Car, sous prétexte de combattre la LRA avec les opérations « Coup de tonnerre et Rudia », la prospection se poursuit, loin de tout contrôle. Il n’est pas exclu que l’exploitation clandestine de ce minerai ait déjà commencé. Le père combonien ne prêche surtout pas dans le désert. Il sait ce qu’il dit. Tant il est vrai que la zone reste encore hypermilitarisée avec plusieurs armées : celles de la RDC, de l’Ouganda et du Sud Soudan. La sous – région est également infestée par de nombreux groupes armés et milices : LRA, FPI, FPJC… et tant d’autres.


Mais avant le « nickel », le « pétrole du Lac Albert » suscite déjà de nombreuses polémiques et controverses, c’est selon, entre la RDC et l’Ouganda. Des incidents ont déjà eu lieu avec mort d’hommes, de part et d’autre de ces deux pays.

Cependant, le « pétrole » du Lac Albert est une question de vie ou de mort pour l’Ouganda. Raison pour laquelle les autorités ougandaises usent de tous les prétextes pour exercer une pression sur la RDC, allant jusqu’ à envoyer leurs troupes au Congo pour des raisons sécuritaires Aussi, tant qu’ il ne sera pas institué une « Zone d’intérêts communs » pour l’exploitation commune de cette ressource pétrolière, et que les frontières lacustres n’ auront pas été clairement confirmées conformément à la charte de l’ ONU et de l’ Union africaine, il faut s’armer pour gérer de nombreux incidents de tous genres. Et si cette situation perdure, une « guerre n’est pas du tout à exclure ». Il n y a qu’à se tourner vers le passé pour écarter toute attitude naïve. Le panel des experts de l’ONU sur le pillage des ressources congolaises est édifiant à ce sujet.

D’autre part, il nous revient que le « métal jaune », entendez l’ or, s’annonce sous des perspectives heureuses. Les cours sont à la hausse et que la partie orientale, celle de l’Ituri, accuse une réserve évaluée à 22 milliards USD.

Devant ces perspectives heureuses, les sociétés aurifères, à savoir AngloGold Ashanti et Randgold ont décidé « de s’associer pour exploiter les mines d’or de l’ Ituri ». Elles n’ont pas tort.

John MacGloin, un analyste d’exploitation minière dans la société d’expertise londonienne Arhutnot Securitie Ltd, est formel : « Si vous souhaitez conserver votre position, vous vous devez d’aller chercher dans les lieux, comme le Congo, parce que c’est là que les gisements sont très riches ».

Ce potentiel explique cette situation d’insécurité en Ituri. Des groupes armés et milices servent d’écran à des investisseurs d’opérette, des criminels économiques sans foi ni loi qui profitent de la crise politique en RDC pour tirer les marrons du feu afin de s’enrichir. Entre-temps, des groupes armés, comme la LRA, se constituent une « véritable économie de guerre » qui leur permet de résister et de rejeter chaque fois des offres de la paix.

Mais en réalité, face à la « crise financière » qui sévit dans le monde, pour résister, de nombreux pays s’appuient maintenant sur l’ « économie réelle ». Ils vont à la conquête de nouveaux espaces économiques pour contrôler le « pétrole, le diamant, l’or, le coltan, le bois, l’eau… », bref les matières premières.

Pierre Conesa, dans son article prophétique intitulé « Y a-t-il un risque américain pour l’Europe ? » est précis : « Au-delà des menaces désormais classiques (prolifération et terrorisme), certains des principaux scénarios de guerre dans l’ avenir sont soit des actions militaires uni-latérales (comme celle qu’ont décidée les Etats-Unis en Irak) soit un (ou des ) conflit(s) pour le contrôle des ressources rares ».

C’est ce qui se passe exactement en République démocratique du Congo depuis plus d’une décennie, réflètant justement cette prédilection. Les autorités congolaises doivent savoir lire les signes des temps pour éviter que la génération future les accuse de « complices ».


La déclaration du Père Sergio constitue un véritable cri d’alerte. Une sonnette d’alarme pour que les responsables congolais, à tous les niveaux, prennent leurs responsabilités. Une fois de plus, ce « calotin » ne prêche nullement dans le désert en parlant « d’une grande guerre en gestation ». Tant que celle-ci sera sous-tendue par des enjeux économiques, les « faiseurs de guerre » qui ne sont nullement des enfants de choeur, useront de tous les sortilèges pour déstabiliser le pays de manière à continuer à le piller, avec l’aide de leurs hommes de main.

La situation est tellement si préoccupante qu’elle a été portée à l’autel du Synode de paix à Rome. En effet, dans une déclaration lue à cet effet, Mgr François Xavier Maroy Rusengo, archevêque de Bukavu, a annoncé son départ de Rome pour regagner Bukavu devant la « grave situation au Sud-Kivu ». Auparavant, il a été rendu publique la déclaration des « Missionnaires Comboniens » de plusieurs continents qui viennent de manifester leur solidarité avec les populations du Nord-Kivu, du Sud-Kivu et de la Province Orientale de la RDC. Ils dénoncent la tragique situation dan laquelle vivent les populations congolaises et condamnent avec véhémence la « grande destruction » commise par la LRA et les FDLR. Ils se sont adressés à l’ONU et au Parlement européen pour leur demander d’assumer leurs responsabilités en allant au secours des populations congolaises en danger pour leur apporter assistance. « Il faut mettre toute la pression nécessaire sur les gouvernements occidentaux pour qu’ils agissent et arrêtent cette catastrophe qui est en train de dévaster le nord-est du Congo. Ce qui est déplorable, c’est que ces abus et cette tragédie sont en train de se réaliser sous les yeux de ceux qui devraient protéger la population civile », souligne cette déclaration qui vient de faire allusion à la présence inefficace de la MONUC.

Les Missionnaires comboniens ont vu juste. Car, les revenus de cette «guerre économique » profitent avant tout aux gouvernements occidentaux, et non au peuple congolais, lesquels gouvernements opèrent à travers leurs multinationales. Faut-il attendre que cette « nouvelle guerre en gestation » éclate pour continuer à compter les morts en RDC ? Cynique.

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Kagame’s Hidden War in the Congo

Howard W. French: The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 14 · September 24, 2009

Although it has been strangely ignored in the Western press, one of the most destructive wars in modern history has been going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s third-largest country.

Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe
by Gérard Prunier
Oxford University Press, 529 pp., $27.95

The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa
by René Lemarchand
University of Pennsylvania Press, 327 pp., $59.95

The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality
by Thomas Turner
Zed Books, 243 pp., $32.95 (paper)

Although it has been strangely ignored in the Western press, one of the most destructive wars in modern history has been going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s third-largest country. During the past eleven years millions of people have died, while armies from as many as nine different African countries fought with Congolese government forces and various rebel groups for control of land and natural resources. Much of the fighting has taken place in regions of northeastern and eastern Congo that are rich in minerals such as gold, diamonds, tin, and coltan, which is used in manufacturing electronics.

Few realize that a main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda, along with several Congolese groups supported by Rwanda. The reason for this involvement, according to Rwandan president Paul Kagame, is the continued threat to Rwanda posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia that includes remnants of the army that carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Until now, the US and other Western powers have generally supported Kagame diplomatically. And in January, Congo president Joseph Kabila, whose weak government has long had limited influence in the eastern part of the country, entered a surprise agreement with Kagame to allow Rwandan forces back into eastern Congo to fight the FDLR. But the extent of the Hutu threat to Rwanda is much debated, and observers note that Rwandan-backed forces have themselves been responsible for much of the violence in eastern Congo over the years.

Rwanda’s intervention in Congo began in 1996. Two years earlier, Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had invaded Rwanda from neighboring Uganda, defeating the government in Kigali and ending the genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. As Kagame installed a minority Tutsi regime in Rwanda, some two million Hutu refugees fled to UN-run camps, mostly in Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces. These provinces, which occupy an area of about 48,000 square miles—slightly larger than the state of Pennsylvania—are situated along Congo’s eastern border with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi and together have a population of more than five million people. In addition to containing rich deposits of minerals, North and South Kivu have, since the precolonial era, been subject to large waves of migration by people from Rwanda, including both Hutus and Tutsis. In recent decades these Rwandans have competed with more established residents for control of land.

Following Kagame’s consolidation of power in Rwanda, a large invasion force of Rwandan Tutsis arrived in North and South Kivu to pursue Hutu militants and to launch a war against the three-decade-long dictatorship of Congo (then known as Zaire) by Mobutu Sese Seko, whom they claimed was giving refuge to the leaders of the genocide. With Rwandan and Ugandan support, a new regime led by Laurent Kabila was installed in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital. But after Kabila ordered the Rwandan troops to leave in 1998, Kagame responded with a new and even larger invasion of the country.

Kabila’s hold on power was saved at this point by Angola and Zimbabwe, which rushed troops into Congo to repel the Rwandan invaders. Angola was motivated by fears that Congolese territory would be used as a rear base by the longtime Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, following the renewed outbreak of that country’s civil war. Zimbabwe appears to have been drawn by promises of access to Congolese minerals. The protracted and inconclusive conflict that followed has become what Gérard Prunier, in the title of his sprawling book, calls “Africa’s World War,” a catastrophic decade of violence that has led to a staggering 5.4 million deaths, far more than any war anywhere since World War II.[1] It also has resulted in one of the largest—and least followed—UN interventions in the world, involving nearly 20,000 UN soldiers from over forty countries.

Throughout this conflict, Rwanda—a small, densely populated country with few natural resources of its own—has pursued Congo’s enormous mineral wealth. Initially, the Rwandan Patriotic Front was directly operating mining businesses in Congo, according to UN investigators; more recently, Rwanda has attempted to maintain control of regions of eastern Congo through various proxy armies. Among these, none has been more lethal than the militia led by Laurent Nkunda, Congo’s most notorious warlord, whose record of violence in eastern Congo includes destroying entire villages, committing mass rapes, and causing hundreds of thousands of Congolese to flee their homes.

Nkunda is a Congolese Tutsi who is believed to have fought in both the Rwandan civil war and the subsequent war against Mobutu. In 2002, he was dispatched by the Rwandan government to Kisangani—an inland city in eastern Congo whose nearby gold mines have been fought over by Ugandan and Rwandan-backed forces. Nkunda committed numerous atrocities there, including the massacre of some 160 people, according to Human Rights Watch. In 2004, Nkunda declined a military appointment by Congo’s transitional government, choosing instead to back a Tutsi insurgency in North Kivu near the Rwandan border. He claimed that his actions were aimed at preventing an impending genocide of Tutsis in Congo. Most observers say that these claims were groundless.

Nkunda’s insurgency was put down, but clashes between his rebels, government forces, and other groups continued to foster ethnic tensions in eastern Congo, including widespread sexual violence against women; in 2005, the UN estimated that some 45,000 women were raped in South Kivu alone.[2] And in the fall of 2008, Nkunda—apparently with Kagame’s encouragement—led a new offensive of Tutsi rebels in North Kivu that uprooted about 200,000 civilians and threatened to capture the city of Goma, near the Rwandan border.

In January 2009, however, the Rwandan government made a surprise decision to arrest Nkunda. Kagame’s willingness to move against Nkunda appears to stem, in part, from increasing international scrutiny of Rwanda’s meddling in eastern Congo. The arrest took place just after the release of a UN report documenting Rwanda’s close ties to the warlord, and concluding that he was being used to advance Rwanda’s economic interests in Congo’s eastern hinterlands. The report stated that Rwandan authorities had “been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment, and have sent officers and units from the Rwandan Defense Forces,” while giving Nkunda access to Rwandan bank accounts and allowing him to launch attacks on the Congolese army from Rwandan soil.

Following Nkunda’s arrest, Congo president Joseph Kabila agreed to allow Rwandan forces to conduct a five-week joint military operation in eastern Congo against Hutu rebels.[3] But attacks against civilians have increased precipitously since the joint operation, and with Hutu and Tutsi militias still active it remains unclear whether there will be a lasting peace between Rwanda and Congo.

Africa’s World War is the most ambitious of several remarkable new books that reexamine the extraordinary tragedy of Congo and Central Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Along with René Lemarchand’s The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa and Thomas Turner’s The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality, Prunier’s Africa’s World War explores arguments that have circulated among scholars of sub-Saharan Africa for years. Prunier himself, who is an East Africa specialist at the University of Paris, has previously written a highly regarded account of the genocide. But these books will surprise many whose knowledge of the region is based on popular accounts of the genocide and its aftermath. In all three, the Kagame regime, and its allies in Central Africa, are portrayed not as heroes but rather as opportunists who use moral arguments to advance economic interests. And their supporters in the United States and Western Europe emerge as alternately complicit, gullible, or simply confused. For their part in bringing intractable conflict to a region that had known very little armed violence for nearly thirty years, all the parties—so these books argue—deserve blame, including the United States.

The concentrated evil of the methodical Hutu slaughter of Tutsis in 1994 is widely known. For many it has long been understood as a grim, if fairly simple, morality play: the Hutus were extremist killers, while the Tutsis of the RPF are portrayed as avenging angels, who swooped in from their bases in Uganda to stop the genocide. But Lemarchand and Prunier show that the story was far more complicated. They both depict the forces of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front as steely, power-driven killers themselves.

“When the genocide did start, saving Tutsi civilians was not a priority,” Prunier writes. “Worse, one of the most questionable of the RPF ideologues coolly declared in September 1994 that the ‘interior’ Tutsi”—those who had remained in Rwanda and not gone into exile in Uganda years earlier—”deserved what happened to them ‘because they did not want to flee as they were getting rich doing business'” with the former Hutu regime. He also notes that the RPF “unambiguously opposed” all talk of a foreign intervention, however unlikely, to stop the genocide, apparently because such intervention could have prevented Kagame from taking full power.

Moreover, slaughter during the one hundred days of genocide was not the monopoly of the Hutus, as is widely believed. Both Lemarchand and Prunier recount the work of RPF teams that roamed the countryside methodically exterminating ordinary, unarmed Hutu villagers.[4] This sort of killing, rarely mentioned in press accounts of the genocide, continued well after the war was over. For example, on April 22, 1995, units of the new national army surrounded the Kibeho refugee camp in south Rwanda, where about 150,000 Hutu refugees stood huddled shoulder to shoulder, and opened fire on the crowd with rifles and with 60mm mortars.[5] According to Prunier, a thirty- two-member team of the Australian Medical Corps had counted 4,200 corpses at the camp before being stopped by the Rwandan army. Prunier calls the Kagame regime’s use of violence in that period “something that resembles neither the genocide nor uncontrolled revenge killings, but rather a policy of political control through terror.”

Some commentators in the United States have viewed Kagame as a sort of African Konrad Adenauer, crediting him with bringing stability and rapid economic growth to war-torn Rwanda, while running an administration considered to be one of the more efficient in Africa. In the nine years he has led the country (after serving as interim president, he won an election to a seven-year term in 2003), he has also gotten attention for the reconciliation process he has imposed on villages throughout Rwanda.

Firmly opposed to such views, the three authors reviewed here characterize Kagame’s regime as more closely resembling a minority ethnic autocracy. In a recent interview, Prunier dismissed the recently much-touted reconciliation efforts, calling post-genocide Rwanda “a very well-managed ethnic, social, and economic dictatorship.” True reconciliation, he said, “hinges on cash, social benefits, jobs, property rights, equality in front of the courts, and educational opportunities,” all of which are heavily stacked against the roughly 85 percent of the population that is Hutu, a problem that in Prunier’s view presages more conflict in the future. In his book, Lemarchand, an emeritus professor at the University of Florida who has done decades of fieldwork in the region, observes that Hutus have been largely excluded from important positions of power in Kagame’s Rwanda, and that the state’s military and security forces are pervasive. “The political decisions with the gravest consequences for the nation…are undertaken by the RPF’s Tutsi leadership, not by the political establishment,” he writes.

Those concerns are shared by human rights groups, which have documented the suppression of dissent in Rwanda.Freedom House ranked Rwanda 183 out of 195 countries in press freedom in 2008, while Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also described the Rwandan government as imposing harsh and arbitrary justice—including long-term incarceration without trial and life sentences in solitary confinement. Other Western observers and human rights activists have noted that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has never properly investigated atrocities committed by Tutsis. In June, more than seventy scholars from North American and European universities wrote an open letter to the UN secretary-general, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressing “grave concern at the ongoing failure” of the tribunal to bring “indictments against those soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rwanda in 1994,” and warning that this omission may cause the tribunal “to be dismissed as ‘victor’s justice.'”

On the question of Rwanda’s principal motive for seeking to control or destabilize eastern Congo, the books broadly agree: Kagame and his government want, as Lemarchand writes, “continued access to the Congo’s economic wealth.” Lemarchand says that within Congo itself the FDLR poses a “clear and present danger to Tutsi and other communities.” Like Prunier, though, he concludes that the threat the Hutu group poses to Rwanda’s own security is “vastly exaggerated,” noting that its fighters “are no match” for Rwandan and Rwanda-backed forces amounting to “70,000 men under arms and a sophisticated military arsenal, consisting of armored personnel carriers (APCs), tanks, and helicopters.”

Thomas Turner draws parallels between the exploitation of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda and the brutal late-nineteenth-century regime of King Leopold of Belgium, whose thirst for empire drove his acquisition of what became known as the Congo Free State. Citing a 2001 United Nations investigation of the conflict, Turner concludes:

Resource extraction from eastern Congo, occupied by Uganda and Rwanda until recently, would seem to constitute “pure” pillage…. Much as in Free State days, the Congo was financing the occupation of a portion of its own territory. Unlike Free State days, none of the proceeds of this pillage were being reinvested.

According to a 2005 report on the Rwandan economy by the South African Institute for Security Studies, Rwanda’s officially recorded coltan production soared nearly tenfold between 1999 and 2001, from 147 tons to 1,300 tons, surpassing revenues from the country’s main traditional exports, tea and coffee, for the first time. “Part of the increase in production is due to the opening of new mines in Rwanda,” the report said. “However, the increase is primarily due to the fraudulent re-export of coltan of Congolese origin.”

When Rwanda moved to invade Mobutu’s Zaire in 1996, Prunier says, the country’s administration “was so rotten that the brush of a hand could cause it to collapse.” Since the 1960s, Congo had remained relatively stable by virtue of a confluence of circumstances, which suddenly no longer held. After backing the wrong side during the Rwandan genocide, France had lost its will or interest in playing its longtime part as regional patron to several client regimes. Following the removal of Mobutu, who often did the bidding of Western powers, there was no longer any clear regional strongman to mediate disputes. The allegiance of African states to the idea of permanently fixed borders, which had held firm since independence, was being challenged. And finally, the vacuum created by Mobutu’s overthrow unleashed fierce competition for Congolese coltan and other resources and led to what Turner calls the “militarization of commerce” by both foreign governments and rebel groups.

In allowing the Rwandan invasion of Zaire, the United States had two very different goals. The most immediate was the clearing of over one million Hutu refugees from UN camps near the Rwandan border, which had become bases for vengeful elements of the defeated Hutu army and Interahamwe militia, the agents of the Rwandan genocide. In Prunier’s telling:

When Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice came back from her first trip to the Great Lakes region [of East Africa], a member of her staff said, “Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the US] have to do is look the other way.”

The gist of Prunier’s anecdote is correct, except that participants have confirmed to me that it was Rice herself who spoke these words.

In fact, getting the Hutu militia out of the UN camps was rapidly achieved in November 1996 by shelling them from Rwandan territory. Thereafter, the war against Mobutu dominated international headlines, overshadowing a secret Rwanda campaign that targeted for slaughter the Hutu populations that had fled into Congo. Here again, Washington provided vital cover.

At the time, the American ambassador to Congo, Daniel Howard Simpson, told me flatly that the fleeing Hutus were “the bad guys.”[6] One of the worst massacres by Kagame’s Tutsi forces took place at the Tingi-Tingi refugee camp in northeastern Congo, which by 1997 contained over 100,000 Hutu refugees. But on January 21, 1997, Robert E. Gribbin, Simpson’s counterpart in Rwanda, cabled Washington with the following advice:

We should pull out of Tingi-Tingi and stop feeding the killers who will run away to look for other sustenance, leaving their hostages behind…. If we do not we will be trading the children in Tingi-Tingi for the children who will be killed and orphaned in Rwanda.

There was a grim half-truth to Gribbin’s assessment. The Hutu fighters traveling amid the refugees were often able to avoid engagement with their Tutsi pursuers by fleeing westward into the Congolese rain forest. The genuine refugees, who by UNHCR’s estimate accounted for 93 percent of the Hutus in flight, could not. The best evidence suggests that they died by the scores of thousands in their flight across Congo, in what Lemarchand calls “a genocide of attrition.” Prunier estimates the number killed in this manner at 300,000.[7]

In August 1997, the UN began to investigate Tutsi killings of Hutu civilians and, as Turner recounts, “a preliminary report identified forty massacre sites.” But the investigators were stonewalled by Kabila’s Congo government—then still backed by Rwanda—and received little support from Washington. Roberto Garreton, a Chilean human rights lawyer who headed the UN investigation, was barred from the Rwandan capital of Kigali and his team was largely kept from the field in Congo. Garreton later wrote:

One cannot of course ignore the presence of persons guilty of genocide, soldiers and militia members, among the refugees…. It is nevertheless unacceptable to claim that more than one million people, including large numbers of children, should be collectively designated as persons guilty of genocide and liable to execution without trial.

Rwanda’s designs on eastern Congo were further helped by the Clinton administration’s interest in promoting a group of men it called the New African Leaders, including the heads of state of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Rwanda. As Clinton officials saw it, these New Leaders were sympathetic and businesslike, drawn together by such desirable goals as overthrowing Mobutu, by antagonism toward the Islamist government of Sudan, which shares a border with northeast Congo, and by talk of rethinking Africa’s hitherto sacrosanct borders, as a means of creating more viable states.

Then Assistant Secretary of State Rice touted the New Leaders as pursuing “African solutions to African problems.” In 1999, Marina Ottaway, the influential Africa expert of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Senate Subcommittee on Africa:

Many of the states that emerged from the colonial period have ceased to exist in practice…. The problem is to create functioning states, either by re-dividing territory or by creating new institutional arrangements such as decentralized federations or even confederations.

In fact, the favored group of African leaders were also authoritarian figures with military backgrounds, all of whom had scorned democratic elections. According to Turner, support for the New Leaders “apparently meant that the USA and Britain should continue to aid Rwanda and Uganda as they ‘found solutions’ by carving up Congo.”

As in the case of the Rwandan genocide, Lemarchand suggests, the policies of the United States and other Western powers toward the conflict in Congo have been misguided in part out of ignorance of Central Africa’s complicated twentieth-century history. Episodes of appalling violence in this region have occurred periodically at least since 1959, and cannot be remedied without first understanding their deeper causes. As Lemarchand writes:

From the days of the Hutu revolution in Rwanda [in 1959–1962] to the invasion of the “refugee warriors” from Uganda [under Kagame’s leadership] in 1994, from the huge exodus of Hutu from Burundi in 1972 to the “cleansing” of Hutu refugee camps in 1996–97, the pattern that emerges again and again is one in which refugee populations serve as the vehicles through which ethnic identities are mobilized and manipulated, host communities preyed upon, and external resources extracted.

Some will always quibble with where to begin this story, whether with colonial favoritism for the Tutsis by Belgium in the first half of the twentieth century, or with Brussels’s flip-flop in 1959 in favor of the Hutus on the eve of Rwandan independence, which led to the anti-Tutsi pogroms that sent Kagame’s family and those of so many others of his RPF comrades into exile in Uganda. These events in turn had far-reaching effects on Rwanda’s small neighbor Burundi, a German and later Belgian colony that gained independence in 1962 and, like Rwanda, has a large Hutu majority and Tutsi minority. In 1972, an extremist Tutsi regime there, driven by a fear of being overthrown, carried out the first genocide since the Holocaust, killing 300,000 Hutus.

In the West, the Burundi genocide is scarcely remembered, but its consequences live on in the region. Terrorized Hutus streamed out of Burundi into Rwanda, helping to set Rwanda onto a path of Hutu extremism, and priming it for its own genocide two decades later. The final instigator of the Rwandan tragedy was the mysterious shooting down of a presidential plane on April 6, 1994, which killed presidents Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaramyira of Burundi, who were both Hutu. This precipitated the horrific massacre of Rwandan Tutsis, but also a broader Hutu–Tutsi conflict, which by 1996 had begun to tear apart large swaths of eastern Congo.

The events that have followed Rwanda’s arrest of the warlord Nkunda in January of this year suggest that Congo and Rwanda have finally found reasons to sue for peace. Congo’s weak government and corrupt army are powerless to fight Rwanda or its proxies, and there is desperate need to rebuild the state from scratch. Rwanda, meanwhile, is seeking to placate important European aid donors, who account for as much as half of Rwanda’s annual budget and who, for the first time since its initial invasion of Congo in 1996, are asking difficult questions about its behavior there.

As part of the deal that gave Rwandan forces another chance to fight Hutu militias in eastern Congo last spring, Kagame agreed to withdraw Rwanda’s support for the Tutsi insurgency in eastern Congo while at the same time pressing Congolese Tutsis to integrate into Congo’s national army. Kagame hopes now to find a legal means to sustain Rwanda’s economic hold on eastern Congo, for example by promoting civilian business interests in the area. These are often run by ex-military officers or people with close ties to the Rwandan armed forces. In interviews, both Prunier and Lemarchand say that the direct plunder of resources by the Rwandan military has ceased, but that a large “subterranean” trade in minerals has continued through corrupt Congolese politicians and local militias.

For its part, the United States has begun to acknowledge the scale of the problem in eastern Congo. In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a two-day visit to the country, during which she described the conflict as driven by “exploitation of natural resources” and announced a $17 million program to help women who have been raped in the fighting.

Notwithstanding these developments, the conflict in the east has been surging again, as the UN-backed Congolese army pursues a new campaign against Hutu rebels.[8] It is hard to dispute Lemarchand’s logic. Without addressing the problems of exclusion and participation, whether in a Rwanda ruled by a small Tutsi minority or in heavily armed eastern Congo, where contending ethnic groups want to get hold of the region’s spoils, it will be impossible to end this catastrophe.

—August 25, 2009

[1]According to the International Rescue Committee, whose epidemiological studies in Congo use methodology similar to that of studies it has carried out in Iraq and elsewhere.

[2]See Adam Hochschild’s account in these pages, “Rape of the Congo,” August 13, 2009.

[3]Nearly simultaneous permission was granted to Uganda and South Sudan to send their forces into Congolese territory to pursue factions of the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of Africa’s most vicious rebel groups.

[4]Reports of RPF killings first surfaced, briefly, in a 1994 report by a UN investigator, Robert Gersony, who concluded that RPF insurgents had murdered between 25,000 and 45,000 people. Under pressure from the United States, the Gersony report was never released.

[5]In his recent book, Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda, Thomas Odom, a former US military attaché to Kigali, writes that the Kibeho massacre did not undermine US support for the Rwandan government. “The bottom line was a difficult operation had gone bad, and people had died. I put the casualties at around two thousand,” he wrote. “Yet the United States did not suspend foreign assistance—just barely restarted—as did the Belgians, the Dutch, and the European Union. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Vince Kern passed word to me that our report had saved the day.” See Journey into Darkness (Texas A&M University Press, 2005), pp. 229–230.

[6]Howard W. French, A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa (Knopf, 2004), p. 142.

[7]In his self-published manuscript on the events, In the Aftermath of Genocide: The US Role in Rwanda (iUniverse, 2005), Gribbin discounts this number, writing that “some would die in fighting, some would succumb to their terrible living conditions and to abuses by rebel forces, but 300,000 killed? Never.” Nonetheless Gribbin acknowledges that serious efforts at investigation were blocked.

[8]See Stephanie McCrummen, “A Conflict’s Deadly Ripple Effects,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2009.