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Kambale Musavuli Pt1: Congo is essential to the American military and
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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the world’s largest reserve of cobalt. It has gold, diamonds, and copper, and many other minerals. The magazine Africa Business estimates that the value of the resources in the Congo could be more than $24 trillion. That’s equivalent to the combined GDP of the United States and the United Kingdom. Ex-president Mobutu alone, a dictator installed during the Cold War, mostly by the CIA, stole somewhere between five and seven billion dollars. In the scramble for the riches of the Congo, combined with the fallout of Cold War politics, that led to a war in 1996 that directly or indirectly led to the deaths of five to six million people. That approaches the numbers of the genocide against Jews in World War II. This war continues today. In 2006, then-senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cosponsored a bill to try to deal with US policy towards the Congo. Here’s one section from that bill. Addressing what US foreign policy should do, it says the following: “To engage with governments working to promote peace and security throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo and hold accountable individuals, entities, and countries working to destabilize the country.” And everyone knows that referred to Rwanda and Uganda in particular. Now joining us to talk about how now-president Obama is doing in US policy towards Africa and the Congo in particular is Kambale Musavuli. He is the student coordinator and national spokesman for the Friends of the Congo. He’s written for The Washington Post, Foreign Policy in Focus, Huffington Post, and many other publications. Thanks for joining us.


JAY: So President Obama sponsors this bill, which essentially people understand to mean that US policy should be to hold accountable Rwanda and Uganda for interfering in the Congo. So first give us the context of why that bill was passed, what’s the nature of that interference, and then we’ll talk about how the president has done.

MUSAVULI: Yes. So Senator Obama, you know, introduced a bill to deal with the political situation in the Congo, in the region, especially in Central Africa. He knew it was important to have leverage for nationalists destabilizing the Congo, to hold them accountable for their actions in the Congo, specifically Rwanda and Uganda. So he created a bill, put pressure in Senate, got senators to cosponsor it. And he even was really, really hard on George Bush. So, for example, as he passed the bill, when it was signed into law, he sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice in 2007 to find out what are the updates, you know, what is the Department of State doing. When Joseph Kabila, the president of the Congo, visited the US in 2007 to meet with George Bush, he sent a personal letter to George Bush reminding him that we have a law in the books that you need to enforce. Yet, now nothing’s being done. Why is this very important? Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo twice, in 1996 and ’98, and have unleashed the conflict that’s existing and causing all these deaths. If the US can hold the perpetrators, the negative forces on the eastern part of Congo, accountable for what’s happening, peace will come very fast. But right now the United States government [incompr.] doing so. Why? Rwanda and Uganda are US allies in the war on terror. So right now we have Ugandan troops in Afghanistan, in Iraq, we have Rwandan troops in Darfur, in peacekeeping missions for the UN. So the US is not willing to hold them accountable, as it’s been documented by the United Nations group of experts, by Human Rights Watch, by Global Witness, a very notable organization, about the destabilization effort from these two nations. The US government up until today is not willing to let go of Rwanda, Uganda in the destabilization effort inside of the Congo.

JAY: Now, let’s go back a bit, because this kind of use of Rwanda and Uganda by the United States is nothing new, and this alliance, it goes right back to the time even of the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba. So talk about [incompr.] for–a lot of our viewers are younger, and they may not even have heard the words Lumumba. So maybe we want to trace US foreign policy from that point forward and then explain–then we can get back to what’s happening today.

MUSAVULI: Yes. The US has been engaged in the Congo action for the past 100 years. You know, the United States was the first country to recognize the Congo as the personal property of Leopold, allowing Leopold II of Belgium 100 years ago to control a land the size of Europe, and causing the death of almost–anywhere from ten to fifteen million Africans, Congolese.

JAY: Okay. Well, let me just–for younger people that may not know this, King Leopold actually got Europe–countries of Europe to agree that he could actually personally own the Congo. And he actually did for–how long did that last?

MUSAVULI: About, we say, 15 to 20 years.

JAY: And this was essentially to exploit rubber.

MUSAVULI: Exactly. Rubber. And not only rubber. They were giving access to the land of the Congo to some of the American investors. So you have the Rockefellers who did receive some lands there and a few other families that I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, who start getting concessions of the land.

JAY: So your point here is that the United States was the first country to recognize Leopold could own a country.

MUSAVULI: Exactly. And with that political move, with US leadership, other nations also recognize that. So if the United States did not recognize, Leopold would have had a hard time controlling lands that he never even visited, you know, the size of the whole continent of Europe.

JAY: Let me just add one other note. One of the great campaigners against that in the United States was Mark Twain, actually,–

MUSAVULI: Yes, yes.

JAY: –which is a note–people don’t know much about Twain, but–this part of Twain’s life, but Twain was a big campaigner against Leopold and his control of the Congo.

MUSAVULI: Exactly. And that’s why I say that he used his talent as a writer [incompr.] remain silent. We’re not seeing that now with what’s happening in the Congo, that people are not being bold. You know. So who are the Mark Twains of today to denounce US foreign policy toward the region? Mark Twain did that back then. So after that, Congo was not given back to the Congolese after world pressure of activists to stop Leopold’s exploitation. It was given to Belgium. So the US continued to support Belgium. You know, we may remember the US bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The uranium that was used came from the Congo. But it came to Belgian hands because the US government was in collaboration with Belgium. But something interesting happened in 1958. With the will of the people organizing a social justice movement, leaders rose there. One of them, a notable leader, was Patrice Lumumba, an independence movement leader who demanded that the resources of the Congo benefit the Congolese first before it benefited somewhere else. What was happening at the time? We have Dwight Eisenhower who said, wait a minute, we have an African saying that we can’t get the cobalt in the Congo? Who are you? So in August 1960, according to the Church Committee, and as well as Larry Devlin’s book, who was the CIA operative at the time in the Congo, in August 1960, a month after he became prime minister of the Congo, there was an order to assassinate him. So within weeks he was deposed, and within months he was assassinated with the help of the United States government, CIA as the agent on the ground, and the Belgian government. So his assassination completely destabilized the Congo that up until today, Congo hasn’t been the same, because when the Congolese elected a leader that they wanted to lead, he was brutally assassinated. But what happened after that? After he was assassinated, the United States imposed a dictator on the Congo, not for four years, not for eight years, the maximum length of US presidency, but for 32 years. While the Congolese on the inside were fighting to control their affairs, to try to remove Mobutu democratically, anytime there was uprising in the Congo, the US always sent in forces to crush any rebellion, any uprising, and continued to provide support. Why? Because Congo is essential to the military and aerospace industry in the US. The Congressional Budget Office said so in 1982, that without Congo’s cobalt, we’ll have a economic crisis. So seeing that the United States understood the importance of the Congo, right in the center of the African continent, bordered by nine other African countries, we cannot let anyone else control it, so we needed to have a puppet, a dictator, that would give us unfettered access to the resources.

JAY: And that’s Mobutu.


JAY: So after 32 years, Mobutu kind of outlives his usefulness. And what happens? Because Rwanda and Uganda have a specific role to play here.

MUSAVULI: Oh, definitely. And that comes back to the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration had a policy in the 1990s where they believed that they would need to have the renaissance leaders of Africa. And the people who were directly targeted for that policy were Zenawi of Ethiopia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, where they were seen as the beacon of hope of Africa, the African leaders that would bring out Africa of its [incompr.] But these leaders, these three leaders I just mentioned, have two things in common. One, they invaded another African country. Two, they have blood of millions of Africans. But that policy supporting them, you know, specific for Rwanda because of what happened in 1994 with the genocide, gave them unfettered access to anything they wanted to do. They could go to the Congo [incompr.] African countries [incompr.] impunity. They could go to Burundi and do any actions in that country [incompr.] impunity. And they’re even at the present time doing extrajudicial killings outside of the country with total impunity.

JAY: So let’s just put that into clearer context. After the genocide, genocidal war in Rwanda, Kigali [sic] comes to power.


JAY: And the Hutus, who had previously been blamed for the genocide, many of them move into the Congo.

MUSAVULI: Correct.

JAY: And then Kigali chases them into the Congo. So what happens there, and what is the US attitude towards it?

MUSAVULI: Yes. So Kagame’s invasion into the Congo was to use the pretext of going after people who committed the genocide in Rwanda during 1994. And we had about 1.2 million Rwandans fleeing inside of the Congo. The majority of them were Hutus, refugees. In the midst of them you had women, children, elderly, and, of course,a few numbers of the people who participated in the genocide. So we–the story of the genocide that was in the international community, it gave them leverage to enter another African country without any control. They could do anything they wanted to do. So what took place? Unfortunately, in 1996 they invaded the Congo with the help of Uganda and put in front of the rebellion they created a Congolese freedom fighter–I can call him that way–Laurent Kabila, who has been fighting Mobutu for many years. He was the figure-face of the rebellion. But while they were making advances inside of the Congo, what we saw unfold was that the Rwandan military directly targeted civilians. They massacred children, women, and elderly. And in 1998, when the story came out, Roberto Garriton of Chile, who [incompr.] the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, documented the massacre of about 200,000 Rwandan civilians, brought it to the United Nations, and said that–saying that the Rwandan government and the Rwandan military, while they were in Congo, massacred civilians who were not combatants. The United States stopped that report at the United Nations at the time, whoever was the US ambassador at the UN. Blocking that report only create grievances that we still deal with till today.

JAY: And what–your contention is this is because Rwanda and Uganda are helping defend American interests in the Congo.

MUSAVULI: Exactly. And now, with the chaos now–you know, you have a conflict, you remove a dictator through military solutions. And now, at that time, we have contracts that were being signed. So as the dictator leaves the country, then you see mining companies, which–this is actually very interesting.

JAY: Well, I tell you what, hold the thought, ’cause we’re going to do a part two. So in the part two, we’re going to talk about the current situation, what the mining companies are doing, but more particularly we’re going to talk about President Obama’s 2006 legislation and what is he doing now that he has this act and he’s president. Is he actually enforcing the piece of legislation or not? So please join us for part two of our interview, as we dig into what’s going on in the Congo.

End of Transcript

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A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is a leading political and cultural Congolese voice. Based in Accra, Ghana, he is a policy analyst with the Center for Research on the Congo-Kinshasa.