East Congo – the perpetual humanitarian catastrophe continues

Part 1: The never-ending war targets mainly the civilian population

von Peter Küpfer

Before our very eyes yet another humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in East Congo. Many alarming reports from the region itself prove this. The matter-of-fact eyewitness account of an East Congolese priest who had joined villagers fleeing to the town of Goma, the supposedly safe haven (seeCurrent Concerns No 5 of 12 March 2024), is disturbing.
  So is the recent report of International Committee of the Red Cross general director Robert Mardini, who was so genuinely shocked by the desperate situation he saw when he visited International Red Cross facilities in the Congolese region of North Kivu that he came forward with a serious appeal to the international community: Do everything to stop the fighting! (seeCurrent Concerns No 6, 2024). What alarmed him most was the yet again dramatically intensified military situation. Right now, the region north of Goma is being shelled with heavy artillery. Civilians are among those being targeted. This is the main reason why hundreds of thousands of people are again desperately trying to run for their life and that of their children as domestic refugees. Parallels to the intolerable situation in Gaza are obvious.1
  Just like civilian populations in other crisis hotspots in the world people in East Congo have endured the humanitarian catastrophe of perpetual war for decades. Once again people are currently fleeing towards the region around Goma, a city near the border to Ruanda. The much-tested town has been under siege for more than two years now. For well-known reasons thousands of people keep seeking refuge, which the town can provide neither logistically nor militarily. Survivors just grab basics of their belongings which they carry on their heads and pour in never-ending columns of hundreds, sometimes thousands through unsecure areas, babies carried in wraps, all on foot, including severely wounded casualties and children. Some can’t even make it to Goma because of their injuries, hunger and exhaustion and end up in improvised refugee camps right and left along the bad connecting roads, protected from the rain sometimes only by thin plastic foils attached to some wood stakes sticked into the ground. But within the frontier town itself the situation is just as desperate. Our contact in Goma, a priest who has joined his parishioners from a distant village on their flight to the town, sends us a brief message with the following desperate words (there is no time for more): “The hope for peace is vanishing. The plight of the people, most of all the refugees – two huge camps are near-by – drives us into almost utter despair. And then the spiritual genocide, carefully set-up over a long time: Thousands of orphaned children have forgotten in the mean-time that there used to be things like ways to school.”

Alarm calls get ignored yet again

It is the second time already that the desperate priest mentions to us what is of deep concern to International Red Cross general director Mardini, too: All schools in the region have been transformed into improvised First Aid medical stations. For years there has been no regular school routine in North Kivu. Many children are abducted by the mercenaries and trained to become child soldiers. What is their future? And what is the future of a country whose children in their vast majority don´t know what “going to school” means?
  As Robert Mardini told the press after his visit to North Kivu, the crisis has escalated to a new stage by now. While in the long history of suffering of the East Congolese civilian population up to now, the fighting used to be carried out mainly between military personnel of the foreign mercenary groups and the usually hapless Congolese national army, now whole areas are indiscriminately shelled with heavy artillery. This is a breach of internationally binding laws of war, as Mardini stresses. The two hospitals in Goma and Bukavu (at the Southern tip of Lake Kivu) who have always worked at the brink of collapse, are now overwhelmed by severely wounded patients to an extent that they can’t cope much longer. Improvised tents are mushrooming there, too.
  Mardini urges the international community to at last insist on the adherence to the Geneva Conventions and demand that the military war parties protect the civilian population. As in Gaza, these binding conventions are cynically ignored and it seems to be impossible to this day in Eastern Congo as well (for 30
 years in this case!), to actually implement them. The actors behind the mercenary armies in this region have always been international superpowers and as long as the remains the case, the only possible conclusion is that the aim and purpose of the whole never-ending war is to clear the entire resource-rich East Congo of inhabitants altogether. Coltan, the resource everything is focussed on here, has been regarded by US intelligence circles as a “resource of strategic importance” since 1942. Is mafia-style murderous theft the only imaginable way to acquire such a resource in our times?

The never-ending war is waged
against the people of East Congo

Humanitarian hardship is unfortunately only one aspect of the permanent war in East Congo. The other one gets even less coverage in our media. This is the obviously criminal character of these military operations. The armed gangs, the number of which is estimated to be more than hundred by informed sources, fight each other, they fight against defence militias of the desperate population and most of them fight against the National Congolese army who have never been able to bring peace to the region.
  But there is one thing all these groups have in common, despite their often-poetic names which contain a lot of democracy, freedom and the like (but never peace!): cynical, sadistic and obviously purposeful cruelty aimed at the unarmed villages in the hills and their civilian populations. It entails the systematic annihilation of entire settlements and villages, often combined with slaughtering of the men, mass rapes of the women and killing of the children. These atrocities have occurred time and again over the last years in the settlements and villages.
  It is this perpetual terror of the gangs which turns the survivors of entire villages into refugees who just grab what they can carry and run for their lives. Because the so-called rebels fight mainly against the almost defenceless civilians – a scandal beyond comprehension.
  And this has been going on for more than thirty years, at various locations, with changing actors, with armed gangs operating under ever-changing aliases – but with always the same brutal conduct. This has been evidenced by tons of documents, many of them initiated, elaborated and registered by the UN. The minutely detailed reports, a whole panopticon of horrors by now, list locations, names of victims, often names of perpetrators, dates and particularities of the atrocious acts on thousands of pages.2
  Up to now the efforts of death-defyingly courageous witnesses and self-help groups, but also of knowledgeable experts and serious reporters have been to no avail. This explains the growing desperation of the people in the region. What hurts them most, is the unashamed way the world, especially the Western world, keeps turning a blind eye on their suffering, the shoulder-shrugging – the openly displayed indolence, as the scholarly term puts it. Indolence is the inability to feel empathy for suffering fellow human beings and the active commitment as a consequence. In the codes of law of so-called civilised countries, the failure to assist a person in danger is a felony. The international superpowers, including the Western community, who like to refer to their value system as high standard for the rest of the world but regularly fail to draw proper conclusions from their own values whenever it suits their interests, are guilty of this felony on a daily basis, both regarding Gaza and the East Congo.

… and is imported from abroad

Anybody who scrolls through Wikipedia or our mainstream quality press searching for information on these permanent new “Congo conflicts” will inevitably stumble on the term “rebels”. According to the rigged narrative of the lobbies and intelligence agencies involved, it has been “rebels” for thirty years, who chased out Mobutu in a blitzkrieg in 1997, “rebels” again in this twisted version who took up arms against the new overlords: “Kabila-père” (Laurent-Désiré Kabila, shot and killed soon afterwards by one of his own bodyguards) and then Kabila-son (Joseph Kabila, installed as successor after his death). Joseph Kabila stayed in office as unelected interim president until 2018, of a Congo which had been as rock-solid an US ally all the time as it had been under Mobutu. Both Kabilas (apparently father and son biologically, but they hardly ever met) had been military commanders of these «rebels» (i.e. Rwandan troops) and share responsibility for severe crimes against humanity and their cover-up.
  What kind of «rebellion» is this? Who rebels against whom here? As a matter of truth, it is a US textbook example of a pre-emptive regime change, claiming countless peoples’ lives. If it comes to the main supplier of strategic resources, there is no such thing as risk tolerance. With Mobutu’s health deteriorating and no certain successor being installed; question marks had started to pop up. Finally, after more than twenty years of the same script it’s “rebel groups” yet again who now massacre the East Congolese population. Taking the lead regarding cruelty and systematic destruction of the livelihood in East Congo is a terrorist group called “M23”. Why? Armed by whom? What for? In any case, the perpetrators of this gang are certainly no “rebels”, not even Congolese nationals apart from some collaborators. Neither is it a civil war what has been going on, day in and out, in this war theatre. As a matter of truth and fact these are foreign mercenaries, trained, armed and paid mainly by the neighbour state of Ruanda.3 The ethnicity aspect which the Rwandan party keeps talking about is merely a rather effective smoke grenade, thrown in-order to camouflage the real motives. Because the ethnic card played here is based on an inner-Rwandan problem which has been transplanted to East Congo in a web of lies. Recently the Congolese foreign minister has made this plain with a few courageous words. (see box)

The aim is the undisturbed
exploitation of the resources

The war that has been kept going for thirty years now by anonymous guerrilla groups in East Congo reveals one of its major purposes more and more clearly: it is the permanent expulsion of the indigenous Congolese population. These people are unlucky enough to just going on with their daily routines of agriculture and sheep-keeping as their ancestors had done, in an area stuffed with rare, strategically important resources the whole world is craving for today. No longer is it just gold, diamonds, copper and uranium that have already claimed so much blood in the long-suffering Congo – today the issue in the border regions of Congo with Ruanda and Uganda is mainly coltan, lithium and cobalt.  These extremely rare resources are indispensable for high-tech products both in civilian and arms industries. Without them there is no production of mobile phones, no space travel, no high-tech communication, no car batteries and no guided missiles.
  And there is another mystery solved as soon as one gets a glimpse of a natural resource distribution map of East Africa. The tiny state of Ruanda, once poor as a church mouse, has become one of the top coltan and (since 1997) diamond suppliers in the world. And that without any mines of either coltan, gold, diamonds, lithium or cobalt on its territory. Rwanda’s coffers have been filled by the raids for Congolese natural resources since the so-called “rebel wars in East Congo”. In-order to cover-up Ruanda’s real role in this lawless self-service outlet of strategic natural resources for the warlords, their government and their Western friends (in Europe mainly the EU) keep reiterating the old war lie that Ruanda had to keep up arms to fight off revanchist elements still militarily threatening Ruanda and aiming for genocide against the ethnic Tutsi (after thirty years!), although the Tutsi elites have had a firm grip of power in Ruanda since 1994. Almost everything in this narrative is twisted in a classical war lie, as recent history shows if it is analysed without bias.4 The proof will be subject of the second part of this article.
  So the provisional summary is a sad one. As Pope Francis put it during his visit of several days in Congo last year, many people have died in East Congo for thirty years, entirely ignored by the Western world. They are victimised cynically and sacrificed for Western profit and exploitation. One year ago already, as he did recently regarding Ukraine, the Pope emphasised that there is only way towards peace, namely honest negotiations of all problems, respecting all of those who are afflicted by the human and material catastrophe.  •

1 see recent issues of Current Concerns (CC): After the elections in the Democratic Republik of Congo. CC No 4, 27 February 2024; Report from CongoCC No 5, 12 March 2024; Democratic Republic of Congo/IKRK. Humanitarian catastrophe escalates, CC No 6, 26 March 2024)
2 Historically correcting analyses: Ruzibiza, Abdul Joshua. Rwanda. L’shistoire secrète, Paris (Editions du Panama) 2005; Rever, Judi. In praise of blood. The crimes of the Rwandian Patriotic Front, Canada (Vintage Canada) 2020 (reprint), ISBN 978-0345812100; Onana, Charles. Holocauste au Congo. L’omertà de la communauté internationale, Paris (Editions de l’Artilleur) 2023, ISBN 978-2-81001-145-2
3 see remark 2
4 see remark 2. Apart from the literature cited this document which has remained “inconsequential” since the start of the conflict is very revealing. It is a detailed UN report about the crimes against Congolese civilians committed by armed forces under non-Congolese command, titled “Report Mapping”, download at UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Democratic Republic of the Congo Mapping Exercise of 2010.

The Security Council addresses the security and humanitarian crises in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

“The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) condemned recent attacks by the Rwandan Defence Forces/M23 coalition, including the bombing of Goma International Airport, as State crimes and violations of international law.  “The Security Council should take note of this aggression,” he stressed. Turning to the fabricated arguments by Rwanda, he stated that Rwanda and FDLR are allies working to exploit the mineral resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Therefore, he requested the Security Council and the African Union to create and deploy an ad hoc mechanism in North Kivu to identify and expel them from Congolese territory.  Moreover, Rwanda interfered in the internal affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo by opposing the deployment of MONUSCO and SADC.
  Pointing to Kigali’s support for rebel groups like M23 – “Rwanda’s armed wing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” – he spotlighted its role in undermining efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the broader Great Lakes Region, including by blocking the Nairobi and Luanda processes.  Against this backdrop, he urged the Council to demand Rwanda immediately withdraw its troops from his country’s territory and to cease all support for M23”.

Source: United Nations, Security Council, meetings coverage of 20 February 2024

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