Once again, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is put into the headlines. Reigning President Joseph Kabila has postponed the new elections prescribed by the constitution of the country indefinitely. With the advice from the government center in Kinshasa, that at first reliable electoral registers had to be established, is indeed named a main point of the structural weakness in democracy, countries such as the Congo are suffering from. With this tactical connection, however, democratic elections in the Congo are deferred for ever and a day. Where are reliable electoral registers going to come from, in a giant country, where with a few dollars a register entry and a corresponding passport can be “generated”, if necessary also in a huge number of copies, as observers have already criticized in the past elections in the Congo? According to the will of its nomenclatura and its wire-pullers, “Le mal congolais”, therefore, continues to exist with all the suffering it entails to the population, especially in the eastern provinces. The latter has suffered from a permanent war for more than 20 years. One of many wars and at that a most cruel one for which many have nothing but a shrug of their shoulders. Since 1996, the Congolese permanent war, particularly striking the East, has cost millions of human lives, of these mostly civilians. In the affected areas, especially in the north and south of Kivu, every orderly life has departed since now. And the permanent guerilla persists, year by year. The civilian population continues (for 20 years!) to be at the mercy of the activities defying any description of belligerent hordes under changing names, while the UN, which would actually have to ensure the security of the civilian population and the compliance of the peace treaty of Sun City (from 2003!), is actively looking away. A hard fate for the affected population, after more than thirty years of Mobutu’s most sinister dictatorship. The first two articles in this newspaper on the recent history of the Congo1 being titled “Congo – Kleptocracy without End” have discussed the dramatic events since the Congolese Independence Day of June 30, 1960, its pre- and post-history, and the basis for Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship. The third article deals with the question why also the post-Mobutu Congo does not get any peace. This clearly demonstrates that the desire for raw materials is not the only evil the troubled country is still suffering from today. The Congolese tragedy must be seen in other contexts, also in geostrategic ones.
The second part of Mobutu’s longtime autocracy over the vast land of Congo-Zaïre (1964–1997) was fully marked by decay. The West, under the leadership of the US and their secret services, maintained indeed its traditional Congo policy, for which staunch anti-communist Mobutu was still a reliable strategic partner in the center of Africa, who guaranteed the coveted resources of copper, cobalt, uranium and coltan at dumping conditions. As long as the “enemies” of the West, then primarily the Communist Eastern bloc, were also Mobutu’s enemies, the world was in order for the Western powers. Therefore, it was accepted that Mobutu Sese Seko, the “great helmsman”, trampled human rights underfoot, and plundered the resources of his people. On sufferance of the West, a large portion of the revenues from Katanga’s copper and diamond mines ran into the dictator’s pocket, whose private ownership on basis of these hauls was estimated to be $ 8 billion (Strizek 2003, p. 110). In this area, overt Marxist regimes, or such which were active in “liberation movements”, as called by themselves, (Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola) threatened the geostrategic bastions of the West in Africa. The West was interested in the preservation of areas for deployment and support in favour of the pro-Western military opponents of these regimes or of militarily operating groups, especially in Angola and in southern Sudan. Under Mobutu the discreet and willing Congo had always guaranteed that. The Congo strategic base in the heart of southern Africa became even more important when the Bush administration declared Sudan (next to Iraq) to be the new “seat of evil” – and thus the Arab-militant fundamentalism as America’s new archenemy.2 It is well known that the American intelligence service had not only supported ambiguous figures such as Jonas Savimbi (Angola) or John Garang (South Sudan) for many years. In Uganda, when in the late 1980s Museveni won the long-standing struggle against Obote, being open towards the Eastern bloc, he became the “model boy” of the West. With its support, the “representative of the new Africa”, convenient to the West, copied Mobutu in two respects: through a strict one-party system and through the orientation of the country’s relations entirely to the West and its interests. Like Mobutu, the West turned a blind eye to Museveni’s one-party rule. It was simply too important for the West to have a solid foot in Musevenis Uganda and therefore in Central Africa, considering the emerging power vacuum in the neighboring Congo. Three years later, due to the collapse of the Communist Eastern bloc the cards were reshuffled also on the African continent. A vacuum in power in the geostrategically important space in the outback of the Great Horn of Africa was certainly inconceivable for the Western powers and the remaining “only world power” (Brzezinski)3.
England, predominant world and colonial power until the Second World War, had gained a foothold especially in East Africa, and there it built up strong bridge piers. These were not only of economic importance, but also of strategically importance. With the control of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Great Horn of Africa (Gulf of Aden!), geostrategic important goals are mentioned, which had to interest also the new lords of the world, the “heirs” of the English Empire. Proven by comprehensive historical presentations, it is obvious, that it has long been the policy of the United Kingdom to create a belt of bases across Egypt, Djibouti, Somaliland, Kenya, the former Rhodesia, Zanzibar and especially South Africa from where the whole of eastern Africa down to the Cape could be controlled. In view of the new world-political conditions, in which the “single world power” calls Arab fundamentalism one of its main adversaries, and pursues increasingly aggressive policies against Russia, having emerged weakened from the Cold War, more presence and control in the East of the giant continent of Africa is crucial. Added to this are special interests. In the case of the Congo, these are, first of all, its coveted resources of rare raw materials essential for the new technologies. As long as the Belgians had the say in the Congo, corresponding deliveries and mining rights had been unproblematic. Mobutu had well understood that his political survival depended on his continued guarantee of the deal. The uranium, used for developing the prototype atomic bombs of the Americans and these bombs had been ignited over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, came from the Congo. Among today’s coveted raw materials from the Congo, besides the precious and rare metals and minerals, is the most coveted Coltan. Its occurrence is limited to a few mining sites worldwide. Newer communication technologies being applied with controlled missiles and drones, but also the production of mobile phones cannot manage without Coltan. In eastern Congo, it is frequently found and also ruthlessly mined. In most cases, under criminal circumstances – one of the essential explanations for the fact, that for twenty years there has been permanent warfare, despite of all peace treaties and UN missions. Covered by its turmoil and its lawless spaces the mafia bustle in the East Congois prevalent, firmly established there for twenty years, under the aegis of Uganda and Rwanda and with the knowledge of the West, of the Uno4, the EU and all its secret services: in tacit complicity.
Those circumstances and geo-strategic reorientations changed the initial situation for the West in Africa in many respects. The Soviet-dominated Eastern Bloc – a big competitor who tried to push the young African states into its arms by means of so-called liberation movements – had disappeared as a strategic centre of power. This also applied to the classic and increasingly defensive former colonial power France with its strong ties to North, West and Central Africa, and also to the Congo. For America the chance had come to get out of its marginal position in Africa and to strategically continue where England had to stop because of world political conditions: to rebuild and expand the East African economic and military axis, now under American dominance. On the strategy maps of the visionaries of superpower, that axis extends from Cairo to the Cape. American military officials and secret service forces in and around the American command centre “Africom” (based in the Federal Republic of Germany!) have already made a name for the middle part of this project: it is the project GHAI: “Greater Horn of Africa Initiative”. “Greater” because it does not only intend to bring the states and regions of the Horn of Africa under American influence, but also the surrounding areas, including Kenya and East Congo. In this geostrategically important long-term plan, the strategies against the “rogue states”, so named by America, have as much a place as the unconditional support of Israel and its foreign policy with its international emanations, as well as the choice to drop long-standing subservient but also unpredictable allies such as Saddam Hussein, Mohamar Gaddhafi, or Mobutu.
With that in mind, we must look back on the last few years of Mobutu’s autocracy. They coincide with the “new” Africa strategy outlined above. Mobutu was personally weakened in the last years of his regime. He no longer recognized what was really going on in his country, in particular the growing economic neglection and the impoverishment of entire regions as a consequence of the corruption conducted and lived by him and his followers. Even the dictator’s hesitant and soon again abolished attempts to make his regime more acceptable for the World Bank and its capital flows ostensibly called “democratisation measures” did not change anything.
From 1990 onwards a so-called “National Dialogue” (“consultations populaires”) had been superficially pursued, and that dialogue revealed serious grievances, despite the careful management of the government. A twice-convened and then canceled “Sovereign National Conference” (1991–1992) did not lead to any decisive reform steps. In addition, the aging dictator´s health discomforted him. For years he had left the government business more and more to his camarilla and secluded himself in his private home in his home village, Gbadolite. Meanwhile, a toothless so-called transitional parliament with deputies handpicked by the dictator was working on a new constitution. Its competencies were as questionable as its composition.
This “dialogue”, dishonestly conducted by Mobutu, was supposed to lead to an opening, but it could not refute the growing pressure from below, from the population itself, which had passed from the first murmur into an unmistakable rumbling. The Christian churches also played their part in the strengthening of a renewed Congolese national and democratic self-consciousness. They had long lent an open ear to the concerns of the population and their demand for humane/decent conditions and genuine democratisation, and supported them in their courageous advocacy for the dignity of all Congolese.5
All these factors made the Western intelligence services, especially those of the Atlantic Alliance, agree in the 1990s: Mobutu is no longer sustainable! The only question was who could be the new reliable “partner“ of the new Africa policy of the West.
The whole world was astonished when, just twenty years ago, in late autumn 1996, it suddenly became clear that a military alliance of “rebels” against Mobutu had formed in the east of Congo, an alliance determined to force the dictator to abdicate by military means. Already from a geographical point of view, the project seemed to be foolhardy, not to mention its military boldness. The observers were even more astonished when they learned that a well-trained, modernly armed and obviously battle-tested army was hiding behind the melodious name, but never heared before, AFDL (Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo) rushing in a Blitzkrieg from victory to victory. Within a very short time they brought the great cities of the West, and in July 1997 also the capital Kinshasa, into their power, virtually without a fight. And most of all one was astonished about her commander-in-chief, whose name had hardly been heard by any Africa’s connoisseur: a certain Laurent Désiré Kabila. The French-Cameroonian journalist Charles Onana has revealed the background of this happening in various books that have been researched with great care. Not only did he rely on reports of eyewitnesses, human rights groups and reports on the severely attested serious war crimes committed by the AFDL troops in the two recent Congo wars (1996/97 and 1998–2003) and the FPR (Front Patriotique Rwandais). He also had access to the American archives, including those of the intelligence services. The explanations concerning the background of the two wars and the ongoing crisis in East Congo, are commented on here and in the end part, are in particular based on his book “Ces Tueurs Tutsi” published in French by the French publisher “Editions Duboiris” in French. Onana’s statements are confirmed by papers, reports, documents and publications by historians and political scientists, among others the work of the exil-Congolese historian Stanislas Bucyalimwe Mararo. They all are subject to the same fate as Stanislas Bucyalimwe’s contribution to this year’s September talks about “courage to take a moral stance” once again emphasized: It is the veil imposed by the new rulers in Kigali on the sad truth in East Congo, a sort of stubborn Omertà, which is at least as efficient as the “classic” of the Italian Mafia. Not only is it exactly observed by the Western governments, but also by the opinion-making media. Western media consumers know everything, but don´t know one thing: what has really happened under the current title known here as the “Congolese liberation war” in the eastern part of Congo after the re-conquest of power by the Rwandan Tutsis in 1994 under the present president Paul Kagamé. It is really beyond any imagination.
Onanas investigations bring light into the above questions. They show without any doubt: the events in the eastern Congo, the long-standing festering problem of refugees and its “solution” in the Eastern Congo. While the Eastern Congo was occupied by troops, mainly under the direction of the Rwandan Tutsi extremists following Paul Kagamé, the illegal plunderings of its resources by Rwanda, with all the unbearable consequences for the local civilian population went on. These were not simply the result of Mobutu’s weakness. These were events to be seen in a world-political context. They were prepared long beforehand, and had an impact depth only the Great Powers could achieve. Today the Great Power is known, who directed the two recent wars in the Congo (1996/97 and 1998–2003), and handed the Congo – a giant on clay feet – over to the arbitrariness of the Tutsi extremists, today undisputedly reigning in Kigali. The choice to put Mobutu’s power on the military map came from the US. Likewise, the decision to have the so-called “rebellion war” of the AFDL carried out against Mobutu came not from Uganda, but from Rwanda under the military and logistical leadership of the battle-hardened Tutsi extremists of the FPR (Front Patriotique Rwandais). The fact that the choice of the new flagship fell on Laurent Désiré Kabila is a story ot its own. This and the catastrophic consequences for Eastern Congo, still affecting it today, are taken up in the terminal part of this series. The here described incidents and testimonies show that this choice was at least as questionable than the one to hand over the Congo to the then little known colonel Mobutu. In its impact on the Congolese population it was even more unacceptable.
1 Current Concerns No. 32/33 from 31 December 2015 and No 6 from 22 March 2016
2 See also Strizek, 2003, pp. 115-126
3 cf. the publications of Stanislas Bucyalimwe Mararo in the Annex
4 In order to plunder the East-African mines, in particular the Coltan mines, there are now several comprehensive UN reports covering the illegal activity under the military patronage of Rwanda and guerrilla armies (under changing fantasy names like CNDP or M23) naming their protectionists and profiteers, among others, that of UN Special Rapporteur Roberto Garreton. They have shown little effect so far.
5 The attitude of the Catholic Church, which had long been campaining the cause of human rights and human dignity in the Congo, is made clear by a memorandum of the Congolese bishops. In this epistle to the shepherds, published at the time of the “opening”, the Congolese bishops argue strongly for a multi-party system, against the support of the dictatorship by national and international high finance, as well as abandoning of the native “nepotism” that had led the country in a deep crisis (Mémorandum des évêques zaïrois au chef de l’Etat, zit. in: Malu-Malu, Jean-Jacques Arthur. Le Congo Kinshasa, Paris 2002, éd. Karthala, pp. 190
Bucyalimwe Mararo, Stanislas. “Le Nord-Kivu au coeur de la crise congolaise.” In: Reyntjens, Filip et Marysse, Stefaan (éd.). L’Afrique des Grands Lacs. Annuaire 2000–2001, Paris (L’Harmattan) 2001, p. 153–185
et “L’Est de la République Démocratique du Congo. Dix Ans de Transitions conflictuelles (1996–2006)”, ib., Annuaire 2005/2006, p. 261–285
Malu-Malu, Jean-Jacques Arthur. Le Congo Kinshasa. Paris 2002, éd. Karthala
Onana, Charles. Ces tueurs Tutsi. Au coeur de la tragédie congolaise, Paris (éditions Duboiris) 2009, ISBN 978-2-916872-08-7
Strizek, Helmut. Kongo/Zaïre-Ruanda-Burundi – Stabilität durch erneute Militärherrschaft? Studie zur “neuen Ordnung” in Zentralafrika. Munich/Cologne/London (Weltforum Verlag) 1998; ISBN 3-8039-0479-X
pk. The term refers to a political form of rule which lives on robbing its own people systematically. Mobutus’s more than thirty-years dictatorship is a model of this form of dictatorship. The natural resources of the country were exploited at favourable conditions and left to western buyers to privileged conditions. The regular inflowing money from the mining rights was passed to the private (foreign) accounts of the dictator’s family and to those who were devoted to him and thus deprived of its natural flow. It was therefore lacking for investments in the public interest of the state and was systematically and in many respects withdrawn from those who generated it under intolerable conditions. A look at the current Congo shows that nothing important has changed, on the contrary.
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