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Kambale Musavuli: Uganda responsible for atrocities in Congo, focus on Kony cover for US militarization and support for dictators

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.

As most of you have either seen or heard by now, a video produced by the NGO Invisible Children, called “Kony 2012”, that essentially calls for U.S. military involvement in the capture of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army—. And this video’s gone viral—over 100 million views in a very short period of time. Here’s a little bit of the video.


NARRATOR: For 26 years, Kony has been kidnapping children into his rebel group, the LRA, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into child soldiers. He makes them mutilate people’s faces, and he forces them to kill their own parents.


JAY: Now joining us to discuss the video and the situation in the Congo and Uganda is Kambale Musavuli. He’s a human rights activist originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He’s now in Washington most of the time. He’s a student coordinator and national spokesman of Friends of the Congo. Thanks very much for joining us again.

KAMBALE MUSAVULI, SPOKESMAN, FRIENDS OF THE CONGO: Thank you, Paul, for having me back.

JAY: So what’s your basic reaction to the video? And we’ll play a little bit more of it in a second.

MUSAVULI: Well, I believe cinematographically the film looks really good. You know, it delves into the situation. You have some factual inaccuracies and exaggeration as well, unfortunately.

What I really want people to focus on is what the video called for. They called for a direct military intervention by the United States, looking at the U.S. army as a force of good in the world. You know, whenever we hear U.S. military intervention, we know what that means.

JAY: Okay. Well, before we discuss this, let’s play a little more of the video where they make that call.


NARRATOR: In order for Kony to be arrested this year, the Ugandan military has to find him. In order to find him, they need the technology and training to track him in the vast jungle. That’s where the American advisers come in. But in order for the American advisers to be there, the U.S. government has to deploy them. They’ve done that. But if the government doesn’t believe that people care about arresting Kony, the mission will be canceled. In order for the people to care, they have to know, and they will only know if Kony’s name is everywhere.


JAY: So according to the video, the U.S. will cancel the military advisers’ mission—and quotes around “adviser”, because I think they’re clearly also capable of combat. But the video gives the suggestion that only U.S. public opinion or world public opinion will keep the U.S. military there, who are there only for humanitarian reasons. So what do you make of that?

MUSAVULI: Well, the U.S. is already there. You know. And there was a bill that was passed called the LRA Disarmament Act. And this act already, whenever it was introduced in the Senate, we were concerned with it. Why were we concerned? It had a specific quote there, where it said that—it called for U.S. military engagement in Uganda and in the region to remove Kony. The first question we had was: what does “remove” mean? And it meant, literally, extrajudicial killings, in our reading of it. And it seems as advocates, peace advocates, were calling for U.S. military intervention, which we disagreed on.

I mean, here’s the context. Kony is a very evil man. You know, he has kidnapped thousands of children. He has killed thousands of people. He continues to wreak havoc in the region. But the people in the region have start rebuilding their lives. So in the case of Uganda, Kony is not in Uganda. He hasn’t been there since 2006. You know, he’s been operating more so in Congo, Sudan, and as well as Central Africa. Two, there are religious leaders within that area who have met numerous times and have insisted that the solution to this crisis is negotiation. They are calling us to go back to the Juba negotiations to deal with the situation.

Now, all of a sudden, today we are discussing having a military intervention in the region, you know, using the law that was already passed, rather than using diplomatic means that exist. And why is it dangerous? It’s because of the government of Uganda. The government of Uganda is an oppressive regime. We are calling to support an oppressive regime that’s oppressing their own people. They have caused havoc in Somalia, in Rwanda, in the Congo where now more than 6 million people have died. And Uganda is a U.S. ally.

JAY: Yeah, I mean, maybe the most important piece of context that’s missing in all the media and hype around this video is this fact: 6 million people have died in the Congo, and the Ugandan regime is partly responsible for this, and the Americans have been backing the Ugandans in all of this. So what do you—speak a bit more about this context, because it’s barely being talked about.

MUSAVULI: Yes. And it goes back to President Obama, the commander in chief—very knowledgeable about the situation in that region. You know, as a senator, he wrote a law to deal with the problem in the Congo, to hold accountable Rwanda and Uganda. You know, today he’s ignoring that law that he himself wrote. I mean, it’s even outrageous. This is the president who actually allowed the Congo to use child soldiers. For the past two years the United States president has given the Congolese army a waiver to use child soldiers in the military. So it’s a shock to us to see that even the White House is so pleased with the video.

But they are not using the diplomatic means that they have, that the people of the region say, we need diplomatic solution. And he has one on the table to hold perpetrators of this situation, of this crisis [incompr.] and not just to bring back—. I mean, we now have two films, you know, one “Kony 2012”, speaking about military intervention, and two, “Crisis in the Congo”, speaking about diplomatic engagement in holding Rwanda and Uganda accountable for the death of 6 million.

So the dangerous thing, especially in this day and age, is whenever I remember Hillary Clinton, you know, whenever she had her nomination speech as Secretary of State, she spoke about small power, you know, explaining how, you know, we used to have hard power and soft power, and with small power it’s the use of social media, you know, how the U.S. government could use efficiently, you know, Twitter and Facebook as a means to advance U.S. foreign policy. [incompr.] very well. Today, using social media, we have 13-year-old Americans calling for U.S. military intervention in Africa.

JAY: But I guess the other piece of context that’s not being talked about in all of this is the fabulous wealth that’s at stake here. This is not just about whether to be humanitarian or not. First the mineral wealth of Congo, oil in Uganda—there’s an enormous amount at stake here.

MUSAVULI: And the oil is also in the Congo. So if you look at the oil that’s being extracted in Uganda, it’s being extracted at Lake Albert and Lake Edward, which borders the Congo. So the oil blocks is all the way inside of the Congo as well.

You know, we can look at companies such as Total oil that’s extracting oil there. You know. Now we have SOCO oil, who just finally got the oil block, and they’re doing exploration in the Albertine Rift to get it now. You know, many people do not know there are multinationals operating in these areas. You know, it’s very concerning. And anytime we hear U.S. military coming, specifically AFRICOM, is that we know they are there for two things. One, secure oil resources that’s on the continent, knowing that the Africa [incompr.] has surpassed the Middle East in giving the U.S. oil. You know. And the second is really to counter China’s presence.

But in all of this, the challenge is Africans are the ones suffering from these solutions. You know, Africans did not call for U.S. military intervention to deal with Kony. You know, what they called for, when you look at, for example, the actually leaders, the actually religious leaders, the Congolese religious leader, as well as the Sudanese religious leaders, they have called for negotiations, for security for the people who are [incompr.] and for funding for communities who have suffered from LRA attacks. So what they are doing right now is being jeopardized with this mass of people calling for military intervention [crosstalk]

JAY: So if you could speak—so what would you like to say to all these young people who, you know, out of a sort of justified sense of rage when they see these images—and no doubt Kony has committed terrible crimes. So what would you like these young people to say to their governments? What should they be demanding?

MUSAVULI: Very simple thing. It goes back to what Obama told Africans when he went to Ghana. He said it clearly that Africa doesn’t need strongmen; Africa needs strong institutions. In Uganda there is a president who’s been in power since 1986, fully supported by U.S. taxpayers’ money and U.S. government right now. This is what has created Kony. If Kony is killed today, there will be another Kony tomorrow, because for 26 years, the Ugandan people have suffered under this regime that we are backing.

So we will ask for the American people, the American youth, to hold their government accountable to its democratic principles, which is of supporting democracy in Africa. So to hold Rwanda and Uganda accountable in this case, make sure that before using weapons, before using guns to deal with African issues, to see if there are diplomatic and political solutions to the problem.

And as I’m emphasizing, there are those solutions. And President Obama at the White House and Secretary Hillary Clinton at the State Department are very well aware of it, because they, you know, wrote the law, cosponsor it, and passed it, the public law 109-456. But, unfortunately, the youth of America is not aware of that. So that will be the call for America to—.

JAY: Well, we—in a previous interview with you, we discussed this in a lot more detail. So we’re going to post that video below this one. But it sounds like what you’re saying is that people should be demanding the exact opposite of the recommendation of that film. In other words, don’t give military support to the Ugandan military.

MUSAVULI: No. You cannot give military support to an oppressive regime. They’re going to use it against the people. This is the battle that’s going on in Uganda right now. Ugandans are trying to change the government. They have a dictator who was in power for 26 years. That’s what they’re fighting about. This is the same government who have caused the death of more than a million, actually, in Northern Uganda, you know, put them in camps. You know, people have dubbed it as death camps. You know, this is the same government who are trying to kill any homosexual. You know, they introduced a law saying that if you’re homosexual, either you are arrested—. And that’s the government that we are supporting right now.

Then I can move it further. On March 2 of this year it was reported that the Uganda People’s Defence Force in Central Africa have been raping Congolese women who are refugees in Central Africa. Not only that, it’s been reported that they were extracting, looting diamond and timber in Central Africa. So we are providing the support to this military. They are already in Central Africa chasing Kony. And as they’re chasing Kony, they are doing the same exact thing they did in Congo—looting resources and oppressing the people of the region.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining—.

MUSAVULI: So it’s really interesting for us Africans, especially Ugandans and Congolese, to witness this, say, wait a minute, did they just call for support to a dictator and no one is actually challenging that?

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Kambale.

MUSAVULI: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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.