Maurice Carney: Major strides for peace in the Congo have emerged and will continue if the United States pressures neighboring countries like Uganda and Rwanda from intentionally destabilizing the central African country
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of our report about the Congo.
And now joining us to discuss the Congo is Maurice Carney. He is the executive director and cofounder of Friends of the Congo. He has fought alongside Congolese human rights activists for nearly 20 years in their pursuit of peace and justice in the Congo.
Thanks for joining us, Maurice.
MAURICE CARNEY, EXEC. DIR. AND COFOUNDER, FRIENDS OF THE CONGO: It’s a pleasure to be with you today, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Maurice, I want to get a sense of where are things headed for the Congo. Can you give us a sense of what you project for the new year and where things are at right now?
CARNEY: Sure. The operative phrase for the situation in the Congo right now is cautious optimism. There are some historic undertakings near the end of the year where the Rwanda-backed militia group the M23 put their weapons down as a result of being militarily defeated. And this is the first time that a Rwanda-backed militia group has been defeated in the Congo in the past 17 years, so that augur–offers a prospect for peace and stability, provided that key elements are pursued.
For example, a major reason why there’s a defeat of the M23 is because of U.S. pressure on Rwanda. The U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, had called President Kagame to share with him that he needed to cease his support of the M23 militia. And that played a role in the defeat of the militia.
So the United States needs to keep pressure on Rwanda, and to some extent Uganda as well, to assure that neither country serves as a base for sponsorship of militia groups inside of the Congo. So if that continues, then that will be a big element in advancing peace in the region, in the Congo.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. And for next year, are there any major talks ahead? Can you give us a sense of what’s on your radar?
CARNEY: Well, the Congolese government just signed a declaration that, along with the regional bodies, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Southern African Development Community, and the M23 militia itself that called–which basically signaled an end to peace talks that have been ongoing for over a year now.
So the main thing for 2014 really is whether or not the parties to a peace framework that was established by the United Nations at the start of this year, in February 2013, whether or not the players hold to that framework. And some of the elements of that peace framework include Rwanda and Uganda respecting the territorial integrity of the Congo and not intervening in the Congo and destabilizing the country. It includes the reforming of Congo’s security sector by the Congolese government, the holding up to our maintaining of or advancing governance in the Congo itself. So what we’re to watch for 2014 is the degree to which the peace framework is implemented, the degree to which the United States, however reluctantly, will continue to put pressure on its allies Rwanda and Uganda, and also whether or not the Congolese government will respond to the will of its citizens. That’s also key.
There’s a government in plase that lacks legitimacy, and the Congolese people have been putting pressure on it to protect the people and protect the interests in the Congo. And finally, there are major regional international economic moves being made. And South Africa just signed a $100 billion investment deal to develop the Grand Inga project in the Congo. And the U.S. had just announced within the last 24 hours or so that it may invest in that project itself. So you also have Tanzania, who’s proposing a regional integration of sorts between Tanzania, Burundi, and the Congo.
So these are some of the big things to look for 2014, to see whether or not peace, stability, and economic development will, you know, occur in 2014.
DESVARIEUX: Maurice, just remind our viewers again why does Rwanda and Uganda want to destabilize the Congo. And can you speak further about why the United States as well is being reluctant in pursuing peace in the region?
CARNEY: Sure. Rwanda and Uganda are U.S. allies. Their leaders, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, received tremendous support from the United States. They get military training, equipment, financing, intelligence support. The United States since the late 1990s has run diplomatic and political interference on behalf of Rwanda and Uganda at international bodies, especially the United Nations. Since the Clinton administration, the United States had identified Rwanda and Uganda, and their leaders, rather, as the new breed of African leaders, the Renaissance leaders that ought to be supported by the so-called international community. So they’re very much–the United States is very much invested in these leaders and in the heart of Africa. They have supported U.S. policies. They represent a neoliberal beachhead in the heart of Africa. So they serve as ideal models for the United States to say these are the nations to follow because they follow the neoliberal principles and policies that the United States would like to see advance not only in Africa but, you know, throughout the globe.
So these are some of the reasons why the United States continue to support their allies Rwanda and Uganda.
And Rwanda and Uganda’s interests in the Congo are primarily economic. They get access to the mineral riches of the Eastern Congo by destabilizing, you know, the country. United Nations just published a report or–stating that up to $300 million to $400 million of gold was leaving the Congo illicitly, I think up to over–up to 90-plus percent was leaving Congo through Uganda.
Rwanda has benefited tremendously from Congo’s coltan and cassiterite, or tin, over the years. So there’s tremendous economic interest on the part of Congo’s neighbors, even though they try to disguise their pilfering of the Congo by raising security arguments.
But there’s much to be gained from unstable Congo. In fact, Uganda and President Yoweri Museveni refer to Congo as a banana plantation, where anyone can go in and get what he or she wants or any nation can go in and get what they want.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Maurice Carney, cofounder and executive director of Friends of the Congo, thank you so much for joining us.
CARNEY: Thank you, Jessica. It’s a pleasure.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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