Perhaps, to a western audience, the most familiar image of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is that evoked by Captain Marlow Kurtz’s final dying shriek, “Oh the horror, the horror!” closing Joseph Conrad’s nineteenth century novel A Heart of Darkness. Over one hundred years later, the Congo remains enigmatic and terrifying-a primordial jungle-the “Other” by which the west can assure its own civility and enlightenment in comparison. Few westerners seek a different understanding; rather, their opinions are justified by a selective media coverage alternating images of hopeless violence and corruption with periods of heavy silence. Indeed, despite being one of the largest, most populous, and most resource-rich African nations, the violent turmoil occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the last fifteen years has been largely ignored by both western media and aid organizations. In the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the eastern Congo absorbed a mass exodus of Rwandan Hutu interahamwe extremists and civilian refugees. Over the following years, the Rwandan presence in the Congo not only precipitated multiple regime changes in Kinshasa, but it also initiated a horrific series of human rights atrocities and brought ethnic cleansing into the Congo on a scale that is still largely unknown. Over five million people have been killed as a result of combatant violence, deteriorating humanitarian conditions, and general anarchy. It is difficult to describe the exact nature of the ongoing conflict, which has involved over ten African countries and has been subjected to western interference as well. Yet the ambiguity of cause and effect does not reproduce the racist narrative of “savage” fatalism embodied by Kurtz’s Congo, despite the western media’s voyeuristic reports of the “Other’s” violence. Likewise, deferring to a superimposed Tutsi victimization narrative resulting from Rwanda’s tragic genocide in 1994 is disingenuous, as its rigid allocation of innocence and guilt along ethnic lines obscures the complexity of later events. Rather, an examination of the broader geo-political environment is necessary to understand fully both how and why this devastating loss of life could take place on such a large scale over so many years. While a thorough and holistic analysis of the Congo Wars’ many actors and crimes is far beyond the scope of this paper, I will specifically place the beginning events of the Congo wars in the context of dying Cold War politics and the expansion of neo-liberal capitalism under President Bill Clinton’s administration. Even though African leaders share the burden of guilt, ultimately, this horrific phase in Congolese history reflects the continuation of western political and economic oppression in the Congo, particularly as achieved through the manipulation of leaders and militias from neighboring Uganda and Rwanda.
With arbitrary borders drawn by foreign hands and its first national “government” directed from abroad, the Congolese state has, from its inception, been a western invention specifically designed to generate economic profit and political leverage in the imperialist west. In an ironic foreshadowing, King Leopold of Belgium first gained control over the territory now called the Congo through a diplomatic camouflage. Honorary president of the European Abolitionist Association Internationale Africaine, Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja explains how Leopold, “used his great cunning…in disguising his colonial enterprise as a humanitarian venture for scientific research and economic development in Central Africa.”1 Compounding this irony is the fact that the United States was the world’s first country to legitimize Leopold’s claim to rule, through an 1884 Senate resolution.2 Thus from the very first, U.S. policy endorsed western dominion in the Congo, undermining Congolese rights of sovereignty and self-determination. Under Leopold’s rule, the African subjects were forced to pillage their own land and collect ivory and rubber to enrich their oppressor. This “abolitionist” monarch’s forced labor system was so harsh it halved the Congolese population. Adam Hochschild has estimated that in colonialism’s early years, approximately 10 million Congolese residents died in what was Africa’s first genocide.3 Yet, not once did the U.S. government intervene in Leopold’s Congo, even though African American citizens were among the first to expose and proliferate knowledge of the Belgian administration’s extensive and atrocious crimes against its Congolese subjects.4 Thus these two political precedents, opposition to Congolese autonomy and refusal to obstruct genocide, together provide the essential political framework that was applied by the U.S. in the Congo time and again and also eerily describe what would become the U.S. agency in the Congo Wars.
During the Congolese struggle for independence, the United States took an active role in preventing the installation of a democratic system. When the Belgian colonial administration finally officially withdrew in 1960, Patrice Lumumba was elected prime minister in what remains Congo’s most honest and democratic election. Still globally revered as a great pan-African thinker and leader, Lumumba’s leftist and anti-imperialist beliefs made him the target of a CIA assassination plot directly authorized by President Eisenhower.5 The assassination of Lumumba in 1961, though ultimately not carried out by an American citizen, marked Africa’s induction into Cold War geo-politics. The U.S. policy of containment favored the installation of “strong man” African rulers, as democratic candidates close to the people were feared to be subversive, sympathetic to the Soviet Union, and an obstacle to western economic exploitation. The U.S. found its ideal “strong man” in Mobutu Sese Seko. The United States played an instrumental role in Mobutu’s rise to power and intervened numerous times to ensure his protracted rule. T. K. Biaya and Omasombo Tshonda explain that,
The institutional switchover to the establishment of an authoritarian regime…reflected growing American influence in Zaire…and American thinking regarding the kinds of political regimes suitable for Third World countries within the framework of the effort to forestall the emergence of regimes hostile to Western penetration and influence… Zaire was well suited to serve as an African prototype for the domino theory and the application of counter-insurgency doctrines .6
That U.S. Cold War ideology would find “suitable” a kleptocratic dictator who systematically decimated his country’s economy with 32 years worth of looting and brutal repression of all reform movements proves that the superpower was concerned not with the rights and freedoms of Congolese citizens, but rather with its own global hegemony and access to neo-colonialist exploitation of the Congo’s resources. In return for U.S. political, financial, and military aid, Mobutu allowed his state to become the U.S. proxy for other Cold War era interventions, most notably in neighboring Angola. 7 There has been much documentation detailing both the broadcasted and covert alliances between Mobutu and U.S. presidents, ranking diplomats, and military officers, and it is certain that countless other dubious agreements and transactions have yet to be exposed. A calculation made by Roger Morris estimates that Mobutu received approximately 150 million dollars from the CIA in the first decade of his rule.8 While this quantity was probably not all intended for his personal enrichment, it demonstrates the lengths taken by the United States to ensure the compliance of its client state in the Congo. Over the years, the international community’s increased alarm over the human rights abuses, the economic chaos, and the failing health environment in the Congo resulted in only nominal U.S. rebuke of Mobutu. Instead, Mobutu acted as the keystone in America’s African foreign policy for years, and he enjoyed an elevated status among other African rulers and leaders as late as his 1988 visit to Washington where he became the first foreign head of state received at the White House during George H. W. Bush’s presidency.9
However much Mobutu may have enjoyed and exploited his privileged status during the era of Cold War geopolitics, the dissolution of the Soviet Union ushered in a new variation of U.S. hegemony that had no role for Mobutu. The image-conscious Clinton administration sought to distance itself from the economic and political disaster created by Mobutu’s institutionalized kleptocracy, as Michela Wrong explains, “With Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika transforming the Soviet Union, the old Cold War imperatives were fading. Democracy was sweeping across Africa and Mobutu was moving from irreplaceable ally to embarrassment.”10 Clinton, claiming “that the United States wanted to see a ‘transition to genuine democracy’”,11 fostered new alliances with leaders amenable to the western economic doctrine of neo-liberal capitalism. These men became symbols of U.S. policy goals for Africa.
The first example of this policy in the Great Lakes region was Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni, who was hailed by Clinton as the epitome of an upcoming generation of “new African leaders” who could “save the continent” through adherence to the principles of neo-liberal capitalism. The principal organs of this economic philosophy were international financial institutions, namely the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Despite his violent and despotic rise to power, Uganda’s dictator Yoweri Museveni became, under Clinton, “the unrivalled champion of the IMF-World Bank project of economic reforms in Africa.”12 Museveni’s ties with Rwandan Paul Kagame and his Tutsi militia, the Rwandan United Front (RUF), whose headquarters in exile were in Uganda, set the stage for U.S. agency during and subsequent to the Rwandan genocide. The American aid Kagame received became public after the RUF, covertly funded and trained militarily before the genocide, assumed formal rule in Rwanda, “Since Kagame’s victory in 1994, the United States had become his primary supporter in the international community.”13 Not only did the U.S fail to intervene in the Rwandan genocide, but allowed Kagame’s RUF to commit genocide in the Congo in order to claim power. But, alongside the prototype of Museveni, Kagame became a parallel figurehead for Clinton’s publicized “African Renaissance”, which was merely political rhetoric used euphemistically to describe an acceptance of U.S.-approved economic policies, rather than a genuine commitment to provide meaningful social reform, as noted by Osita Afoaku:
Nor can either government boast strong democratic credentials. The approval
they have received from Western governments and multilateral NGOs is primarily a function of their commitment to free market economic reform and their ability to maintain internal stability.14
These governments both actively aligned themselves with U.S. regional interests under the new geo-political strategy of neo-liberal capitalism. In fact, as early as 1990, the conflict between the RUF in exile and Habyarimana’s government in Rwanda entailed a new set of international alliances uniting the interests of France, Mobutu and Habyarimana against those of the United States, Museveni, and Kagame.15 Even before 1994’s Rwandan genocide, these opposing groups had drawn upon constructed notions of ethnicity to polarize the political and military landscape of the region, but the new balance of power, ensured by U.S. global hegemony, would not be fully exposed until the conflict blatantly entered the Congo in the first Congo War. Ultimately the U.S. sponsorship of both Museveni and Kagame followed the same deceitful and damaging patterns established with Mobutu during the Cold War. The transformation of U.S. policy found both its symbolic and practical application when the U.S.-backed Rwandan and Ugandan governments orchestrated former U.S. protégé Mobutu’s ejection from power and installed Laurent Kabila as a new puppet leader in the Congo in 1997.
Yet, despite providing a measure of support for Kagame and his RUF militia during their exile in Uganda before 1994, the Clinton administration refused to intervene in the 1994 Rwandan genocide or to force the cessation of the mass killings of Kagame’s fellow Tutsis. That the Clinton administration would decline to send troops when the Hutu interahamwe extremists were primarily armed only with machetes precludes any moral explanation and reflects an enduring racism in U.S. politics which considers black lives to be expendable. The U.S. apathy in the face of this horrific tragedy, which claimed between 800,000 and 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu lives in only two months, remains the most public indictment against American priorities abroad. Ironically, however, it provided the very context necessary to legitimize and allow for a new phase of American intervention in Africa.
Before analyzing the role of the United States in the post-1994 Congo, it is necessary to attempt to contextualize the Rwandan genocide, still largely understood in the west according to the racist media filter that equates black Africans with an innate and arbitrary “savagery.” The deeper historical roots of the Hutu/Tutsi conflict originated alongside ethnic intensification under Belgian colonial rule. Though comprising only 15% of the Rwandan population, the Tutsi community was shown dramatic favoritism over the Hutu majority during the colonial period. Although Tutsi and Hutu share a common language and many aspects of culture, the Europeans were so singularly impressed with Tutsi society that they developed various mythologies of Tutsi foreign origin, an absurd corollary to their deeply held beliefs in Black African inferiority.16 Colonial rule disrupted a previous coexistence between the groups and implanted an ideology of racial and national difference that continues to this day. Contrary to the most popular western narrative, 1994’s genocide did not arise out of a historical vacuum. Paradoxically, neither the characterization of the Hutu/Tutsi hatred as being thousands of years in the making nor its depiction as a spontaneous (and therefore unpreventable) eruption of violence, absolves western inaction. Indeed, the 1959 “social revolution” in Rwanda, whereby the Hutu majority for the first time gained political and social prominence over the dominant Tutsis, included acts of ethnic cleansing against Tutsi civilians. This resulted in a massive Tutsi emigration, mostly into the eastern Congo, which would later prove to be highly significant in the events following the genocide. Thus, 1994’s genocide is actually the most cataclysmic episode in the now endemic conflict that has expanded to include Hutu/Tutsi ethnic conflict in Burundi and parts of the Congo. There is no exoneration possible for U.S. inaction in 1994, nor its later participation in subsequent events.
While responsibility will never be acknowledged by the U.S., the precipitating event that triggered the 1994 Rwandan genocide was the April 6 missile attack on the plane returning Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana from the Arusha peace accords. The purpose of the talks had been to negotiate a settlement between Habyarimana’s government and Kagame’s RUF militia, which had organized an escalating series of attacks into Rwanda from its headquarters in Museveni’s Uganda. No full international inquiry has ever revealed the party responsible for the plane crash, but the use of highly sophisticated missile technology indicates either direct or indirect complicity of a super-power with access to and operational knowledge of such a weapon.17
That ethnic politics continued to dominate the region after the Rwandan genocide and that western interests persisted in instigating conflict was demonstrated primarily through the new Kagame-led RUF Rwandan government’s actions towards huge populations of refugees who fled the violence. The genocide had initiated a mass exodus of mostly Hutu Rwandans into several neighboring states in the Great Lakes region, the majority fleeing into the eastern Congo provinces of North and South Kivu. While both interahamwe killers and ex-soldiers from Habyarimana’s national army (FAR), were among the refugees, the vast majority were civilians attempting to escape the violence. Estimates of the number of refugees vary, with most figures citing between 1.25 and over 2 million Rwandans, with most guesses usually reflecting the author’s personal affiliations in an emotionally-fraught political atmosphere. Regardless of the exact overall number, Rwandan civilians clearly composed the vast majority of the refugee population. Emizet explains that the 20,000 to 25,000 FAR soldiers and 30,000 to 40,000 interahamwe in the Congo still represented less than 6 percent of the total refugees.18 The sprawling refugee camps established by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) provided essential humanitarian aid, including free food and health services, but they also had the unfortunate effect of centralizing the armed Hutu elements. Quickly turning both the humanitarian aid and the large civilian population to their advantage, these militias immediately instigated a series of ethnically-motivated attacks both across the border into Rwanda and within the Congo. The attacks in the Congo targeted the Tutsi Banyamulenge and Banyarwanda populations because of their perceived Rwandan origins- indeed, many in these populations had fled the 1959 “social revolution” which established the Hutu majority rule. Despite a precedent of ethnic violence in the region between “Congolese” and “Rwandan Congolese”, the refugee influx largely altered the ethnic ratios, inflaming the previous tensions centered around contested land, class hierarchies and issues of “true” national identity.19 Taking direction from Kagame’s government, the Banyamulenge/Banyarwanda organized their defense around Laurent Kabila and the AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo), which became the face of the movement that officially ended the Mobutu regime in 1997. Ultimately, the Rwandan refugee presence in the Congo had a triple destablizing effect: not only did the huge numbers of Rwandan refugees drain the local economy of its already insufficient resources, but the violence instigated by the armed Hutus re-kindled ethnic animosity inside the Congo and provided an internationally accepted rationale for the 1996 Rwandan military intervention.
While the period between 1994 and 1996 represented a quasi-stalemate between the opposing parties, U.S.-backed Uganda and Rwanda used this time to prepare for the invasion that would unseat Mobutu and establish a Congolese government aligned with their interests:
The proximity of the refugee camps to Rwanda permitted the launching of cross-border raids without provoking harsh reprisals for over two years. Yet the protection they provided eventually made the camps targets…In the case of the camps in Zaire, the stage was set during two years of shrewd analysis and careful planning by the Rwandan government to minimize the diplomatic repercussions of the assault on, and destruction of, the camps.20
After issuing increasingly adamant threats that they would attack and dismantle the camps if the UN and international community did not, the Rwandan government finally invaded the Congo in 1996, still claiming destruction of the interahamwe and the FAR as their sole intent.
The Rwandan invasion, the subsequent “cleansing” of the refugee camps, and AFDL’s march on Kinshasa marked the beginning of the Congo wars, once more exposing the willingness of the United States to play an active role in political violence to expand its own interests in Africa. Although he denied it at the time, Kagame later admitted in an interview in the Washington Post that, “the Rwandan government sought out Zairian opposition groups…to help fight against Mobutu and provide a Zairian cover to the operation. Kagame even confirmed that Rwandan troops and officers were at the forefront of the rebellion” and acknowledged that he had informed the US State department of his intentions. 21 Clearly privy to Rwanda and Uganda’s plans, the U.S. played a vitally important role in blocking UN plans for a team of international observers to be present at the proposed camp cleansing, and thus the U.S. helped eliminate foreign accountability that could have condemned the Rwandan military invasion into the Congo’s interior. Tellingly, in spite of its campaign to remove foreigners from the camps before Rwanda’s attack, the U.S. did not apply its own rules to itself. Though U.S. agency in the Congo was largely shielded from the international community at the time, Howard Adelman noted that, once the intervention began, “the Human Rights Watch/Africa observed US soldiers accompanied some Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers to Zaire.”22
The “Zairian cover” chosen by the Kagame government to overthrow Mobutu was Laurent Desire Kabila. His early life as a Marxist rebel fighting with Che Guevara against the U.S. led counterinsurgency in 1964 made him an ironic recipient of the extensive aid given him by the U.S. (His more recent former life as a gold, diamond, and ivory smuggler more accurately reflected U.S. goals in its support.) With Kabila as the Congolese figurehead, the Rwandan and Ugandan armies began their march on Kinshasa. The United States played a critical role in Kabila’s rise and ultimate political take-over through combined military, financial, and diplomatic efforts. The military assistance provided to Kabila was largely, but not exclusively, indirect. The primary form of aid came via the explicit funding, training, and arming of Kagame and Museveni in Uganda, resources which were then diffused to Kabila and the AFDL. The RPF’s strength was largely derived by a “continual training and equipping of the army by sympathetic outside forces, notably the United States military.”24 Similarly, Museveni’s Uganda received comparable aid, “massive military, economic and political assistance from the USA.”25
The American diplomatic efforts on behalf of first Kagame and then Kabila were no less critical in enabling the violence that ensued. The United States effectively silenced international movements calling for investigation into both the Rwandan dismantling of camps and Kabila’s march on Kinshasa. After the initial Rwandan attacks on the refugee camps, the United States supported the Rwandans’ assertion that all civilian refugees had returned to Rwanda. This justified the U.S.’s blocking of a UN Security Council resolution providing for a multinational military force to ensure peace and to provide aid.26 The Clinton administration, relying on a victimization narrative which compared Kagame’s Tutsis with the Jews during the Holocaust, allowed for a political distortion of truth which enabled western apologists to defend the Rwandan activity in the Congo following the genocide:
According to this understanding, the RPA invaded Rwanda in 1990 on purely-or primarily- humanitarian grounds, and they began fighting again in April 1994 to put a halt to the genocide of their Tutsi relatives…The humanitarian defense of Rwanda’s misbehavior is generally accompanied by a reminder of the international community’s failure to intervene in the 1994 genocide, implying that the RPA has a right to assume that no one else will defend the Tutsi population and that extraordinary circumstances justify extraordinary measures.27
Despite the horrific persecution experienced by the Rwandan Tutsis during the genocide, the “extraordinary measures” taken by the RPA (the Kagame-directed Rwandan Patriotic Army, also known as the RPF, Rwandan Patriotic Front), in the Congo were nothing short of a reverse genocide perpetrated against both Rwandan and Congolese Hutus during the march on Kinshasa. Notably, the RPA was composed of the same Tutsis who filled the RUF ranks during the genocide, and having been in exile, had thus escaped being victims of it. Although the UN was similarly careful to excuse the Tutsi plight, they attempted to account for the “missing refugee” population, blaming Kabila, rather than Rwanda, as Rwanda had still not been exposed as the provider of the primary military force. While hindered from the outset by Kabila, who was being prompted by the U.S., the UN’s preliminary work showed more than 40 massacre sites of Hutus and contained evidence of Rwandan direction, and the first report listed:
(1) serious violations of human rights within refugee camps in eastern Congo; (2) the extent of foreign troops’ participation in serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the armed conflict; (3) the intent underlying the massacre of Rwandan and Congolese Hutu beginning in October 1996; and (4) the removal of bodies from a mass grave site in Mbandaka. 28
The former Washington Post Africa correspondent Howard French argues that a mass grave in Mbandaka, over 1,000 kilometers to the east of the Rwandan border, demonstrates planned reverse genocide, “For Hutu refugees to be tracked down and killed at the opposite end of this huge country, when Kabila’s victory in the war was already assured, would strongly suggest deliberate extermination.”29 Furthermore, the tactics used by the Rwandan forces against the refugees are in clear opposition with their stated goals of attacking only armed, militant refugees. Several of the strategies documented by Roberto Garrion, the UN’s principal investigator, include false radio broadcasts announcing locations for humanitarian aid to lure Hutu civilians out of hiding, the use of Lingala to selectively discriminate against Hutu in crowded areas, and the specific slaughter of young boys to reduce the population of future avengers.30 UN impotence in dealing with this situation combined with a blatant media evasion gave Rwandan forces complete freedom in carrying out their revenge killings, which have been calculated at a minimum of 233,000 civilian deaths. Furthermore, Medecins Sans Frontieres estimated there were an additional 20-30 refugee deaths daily throughout the seven-month march on Kinshasa due to preventable disease and starvation.31
As with Kagame, the United States acted as Kabila’s most vocal advocate in impeding international efforts for fact-finding missions, despite the increasing evidence that a reverse genocide against both Rwandan Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutus was occurring in the wake of Rwanda’s invasion. The United States advised Kabila how to prevent international intervention and itself minimized the allegations against him by continually distorting both the numbers and the experiences of the refugees in the Congo. Kevin Dunn describes:
The United States paid only minor lip service to the charges of human rights abuses during the anti-Mobutu rebellion. This was clearly due to the established connections the RPF regime had with Washington, D.C…the Clinton administration declared its sympathy with Kabila’s assertion that the UN and human rights organizations were trying to impose “Western values” on Africa. As one US official stated, “We have to respect the African point of view.” 32
Equating an “African point of view” with acceptance of human rights atrocities and the mass murder of civilians is inconceivably racist, and its transparent hypocrisy was intended to cover the U.S. agency in the crisis.
American economic motives lay at the core of its military and diplomatic alliances with Museveni, Kagame, and Kabila. In a perfect application of neo-liberal capitalism, and a fore-warning of the war-profiteers who would come to dominate the Iraq War,Dunn explains how, “Even before Kinshasa had fallen, Kabila’s finance minister Mawampanga Mwana, was meeting with dozens of businessmen in Lubumbashi, including representatives from Goldman Sachs, First Bank of Boston, Morgan Grenfell, and other economic investors.”33 These investment banks embodied the new American geo-political strategy, and the negotiations with Kabila’s regime even before he officially gained control indicated not only that his victory was assured by the U.S., but also that the goals of U.S. policy in the Congo were fundamentally extractive. Not unexpectedly, North American mining corporations were also quick to reach out to Kabila, and U.S. corruption is most evident in the activity of the transnational corporation American Mineral Fields, a TNC started in Clinton’s Arkansas hometown. The AMF, “approached Kabila and organized contacts…The AMF…reportedly began supplying millions of dollars to the ADFL, along with transport for Kabila’s troops.” 34 Rwanda and Uganda also profited significantly from the ongoing conflict in the Congo, and the ongoing conflict between 1996-2001 demonstrated that eastern Congo had become an “economic colony” for the combatants. Both Uganda and Rwanda’s rates of mineral export far exceeded their own resource base, and “Economic activity in Rwanda today goes far beyond what either the Rwandan economy alone or the current level of international investment could support.” 35 Uganda also maintains similar inflated rates of economic activity, and Museveni’s own brother, Salim Saleh, “took charge of the exploitation of diamonds in the portion of Congo controlled by Uganda” using his personal air transport service.36 That these countries use the conflict to enrich themselves and yet continue to be praised for their economic policies and supported heavily by the IFIs is not antithetical: rather, the economic effects of the war are perfectly aligned with the tenets of neo-liberal capitalism. Using their invasion as a pretext to dismantle the mineral industries nationalized under Mobutu and instead implant a wide smuggling network, Rwanda and Uganda have created an economic zone defined by “liberalized” and privatized trade, foreign direct involvement, and massive deregulation-all conditions required in a neo-liberal capitalist model. As Africa’s “model pupils” of the IFIs and western economic theory, Rwanda and Uganda could have taken explicit direction from behavior modeled by the western transnational corporations who similarly exploited the conflict for profit. What is most tragic about the fact that this economic policy thrives within war zones is that it creates incentive for continued violence, rather than for peaceful and lasting resolution.
Though the later events and exhaustive analysis of other African and foreign actors in the Congo Wars is far beyond the reach of this paper, the same patterns of western interference and corresponding apathy towards mass violence against African civilians continued to define later events. The trajectory of U.S. involvement in the Congo has consistently opposed democracy and genuine social improvement, instead implanting governments amenable to their interests. That the United States would repeatedly ignore the suffering of the Congolese -from Leopold’s genocide, to the oppression and humanitarian crises experienced under Mobutu, to their blatant efforts to conceal Kabila and Rwanda’s mass killings- indicates an ongoing racism embedded in American attitudes towards African “usefulness.” The events following those discussed in this paper were to claim over five million lives, over 40% of which could have been avoided with access to basic health care.37 Perhaps the most ominous indication that the violence in the Congo has yet to see its most extreme devastation is that the North Kivu province contains over 80% of the world’s coltan. Coltan will arguabley be the 21st century’s most important mineral, as it is essential for all the digital technology (microchips) used today. North Kivu resident Vincent Machozi reports that both U.S. and Chinese governmental operatives are active inside North Kivu today38-and with China emerging to pose the principal threat to U.S. global and economic hegemony, it seems as though the Congo’s huge mineral resources will once more make its people the proxy for geo-political manipulations that compromise Congolese safety, health, and sovereignty. The cycle of exploitation is not going to end until there is a clear change of heart in the U.S. and a recognition that African governments need to be run for the benefit of Africans, not to further U.S. economic interests. Congolese people should also work and stand together with all the lovers of freedom across the planet to defeat the powers and the corporations behind the Congo forgotten tragedy. This will need that they dissociate between the leaders of superpowers exploiting Congo and the people of good will in these superpowers who are outraged by the Congo tragedy. As Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” ( Letter from Birmingham)
Boston University (USA)
1 Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History (New York: Zed Books, 2002), 15.
2 Nzongola-Ntalaja, 16.
3 Nzongola-Ntalaja, 22.
4 Nzongola-Ntalaja, 23-25.
5 Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2001), 80.
6 TK Biaya and Omashombo Tshonda, “Social Classes in Zaire Today,” Zaire: What Destiny? (Chippenham: CODESRIA, 1993), 115.
7 Edgar O’Ballance, The Congo-Zaire Experience, 1960-98, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 2000), 116.
8 Wrong, 206-207.
9 Wrong, 212.
10 Wrong, 211.
11 Chris Landsberg, “The Impossible Neutrality?: South Africa’s Policy in the Congo War”, The African Stakes of the Congo War, John F. Clark, ed., (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 173.
12 Ogenga Otunnu, “Uganda as a Regional Actor in the Zairian War”, War and Peace in Zaire-Congo, Howard Adelman and Govind C. Rao, eds., (Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2004), 51.
13 Kevin C. Dunn, “A Survival Guide to Kinshasa”, The African Stakes of the Congo War, John F. Clark, ed., (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 58.
14 Osita Afoaku, “Congo’s Rebels”, The African Stakes of the Congo War, John F. Clark, ed., (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 114.
15 Augusta Muchai, “Arms Proliferation and the Congo War”, The African Stakes of the Congo War, John F. Clark, ed., (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 187.
16 Nzongola-Ntalaja, 218.
17 Raymond Bonner, “Unsolved Rwanda Mystery: The President’s Plane Crash”, New York Times, November 12, 1994.
18 Kisangani N. F. Emizet, “The Massacre of Refugees in the Congo: A Case of UN Peacekeeping Failure and International Law”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Jul., 2000), 165.
19 Emizet, 165-169.
20 Fiona Terry, “The Humanitarian Impulse: Imperatives Versus Consequences”, War and Peace in Zaire-Congo, Howard Adelman and Govind C. Rao, eds., (Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2004), 211.
21 Dunn, 56.
22 Otunnu, 62.
24 John F. Clark, “Museveni’s Misadventure in the Congo War”, The African Stakes of the Congo War, John F. Clark, ed., (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 151.
25 Otunnu, 49.
26 Asteris Huliaras, “(Non)Policies and (Mis)Perceptions: The United States, France, and the Crisis in Zaire”, War and Peace in Zaire-Congo, Howard Adelman and Govind C. Rao, eds., (Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2004), 289.
27 Timothy Longman, “The Complex Reasons for Rwanda’s Engagement in Congo”, The African Stakes of the Congo War, John F. Clark, ed., (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 131.
28 Emizet, 171.
29 Howard French, A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa, (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 230.
30 Emizet, 179-180.
31 Emizet, 178.
32 Dunn, 58.
33 Dunn, 59.
34 Dunn, 59.
35 Longman, 137.
36 Clark, 157.
37 Afoaku, 123.
38 Vincent Machozi, interview by Caroline Smartt, April 4, 2008.