PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
In the Congo, a report says there is a mutiny going on amongst the Congolese army. This is a report from the United Nations. An interim report or a version of that report was released on Friday, but some of the people that were involved in the committee of experts that wrote that report have leaked that there’s more to it, and it has to do with Rwandan interference in the Congo. And if so, that wouldn’t be something new.
Now joining us to talk about all of this is Maurice Carney. He’s the executive director and cofounder of Friends of the Congo, and he joins us now from our D.C. office. Thanks for joining us, Maurice.
MAURICE CARNEY, EXEC. DIR., FRIENDS OF THE CONGO: Hi. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.
JAY: So, first of all, what do we know of the facts of the situation?
CARNEY: Well, the facts as reported by the United Nations and by human rights watch basically state that the mutinous group in the east of the Congo, the rebels that have been destabilizing the country since early spring, where over 200,000 Congolese have been displaced, those rebel groups are being supported by the Rwandan government in terms of training, arming, logistical support. And this is consistent with a pattern over the past 15 years where Rwanda has either invaded the Congo or [incompr.] rebel groups inside the Congo that have destabilized the country. And in addition to this consistent support over the last 15 years, another staple of over the last 15 years has been the United States covering for Rwanda whenever it has gotten involved in the Congo.
JAY: And why do they?
CARNEY: Well, you know, nations function on interests. Some people say, well, the U.S. is guilty because it did not do enough during the genocide in ’94. But the U.S. has strategic and economic interests in central African [incompr.] region of Africa, and Rwanda, among a number of other nations in that part of the world, protect and carry out U.S. interests in the region. So whenever Rwanda is called to account by the international community, the United States usually runs interference so that there are no sanctions brought against the Rwandan government.
JAY: And what are the effects on the people living there in terms of what you describe as destabilization?
CARNEY: The effects are devastating. Weâ€”as I shared with you, 200,000 people have been displaced. Really, since Rwanda invaded Congo in 1996, millions of Congolese have perished, hundreds of thousands of women have been systematically raped, Congo’s wealth has been looted. So the impact of Rwanda’s role in the Congo in destabilizing the Congo has been tragic for the people of the region and especially the Congolese people.
And this is really the sad part about the whole situation, because it’s within the means of the United States to hold its ally accountable, but it has not done so to date. We’ve had countries like Sweden and Netherlands who have withheld aid from Rwanda because of Rwanda’s activities inside Congo. But the United States has yet to hold to account Rwanda, evenâ€”.
JAY: What does Rwanda gain? Why is this in Rwandans’ interest to so destabilize this section of the Congo?
CARNEY: Rwanda’s interests are severalfold. And one, in their destabilizing the Congo, Rwanda is able to continue to benefit from Congo’s riches. Both Dow Jones and Bloomberg news have reported Rwanda has gained hundreds of millions of dollars in trading of Congo’s minerals, its coltan and its tin in particular. Bloomberg news said that Rwanda was one of two top traders of Congo’s conflict mineralsâ€”you know, tin, tungsten, and tantalum.
JAY: But how are they doing this? Are they making deals directly with these mutinous soldiers? Or how are they doing this?
CARNEY: Well, I mean, the rebel groups control mines. They have access to the mines. And they, you know, gatherâ€”the resources that are mined are then shipped across the Rwandan border without Congo taxing it, or it’s actually smuggled into Rwanda, and then Rwanda sells it to the global market.
JAY: And, now, there’s a lot ofâ€”. Sorry. Go ahead.
CARNEY: As long as the Congolese state doesn’t have full control of over the east of the country and the borders are porous, then it’s like an open-air supermarket where Rwanda and Uganda can come in and basically take at will Congo’s gold, its tin, its coltan, its wolframite, and trade it in their own countries as if it was produced by Rwanda itself or produced by Uganda. So that’s been the pattern since 1996 when both Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo.
JAY: And what’s the role of the international mining companies in this conflict?
CARNEY: Well, the role of the international mining companies are severalfold. One, they purchase the elicit minerals from Rwanda and from Uganda. Two, because you have a weakened Congolese state, they’re also able to enter into contracts with that Congo state and benefit tremendously from the natural resources of the Congo.
So there are many beneficiaries. You have the Rwandan government, military officials in Rwanda, multinational corporations, elites in the Congo itself, and they all benefit at the expense of the Congolese people, who are suffering tremendously from the instability that’s been fostered and supported by the Rwandan regime.
JAY: Now, when President Obama was Senator Obama, didn’t he actually propose a bill or support a bill that would call for more accountability for Rwanda and Uganda? And what’s his record on that if that’s right?
CARNEY: Yes, he actually sponsored a bill that was passed into law in 2006, signed into law by George Bush, Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act, which was also cosponsored by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, to date, since President Obama’s been in office he hasn’t acted on that law. There’s a particular section of the law that calls on the secretary of state to hold Congo’s neighbors accountable, provided that there’s sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Congo’s neighbors are involved in destabilizing the country. And there’s an abundance of evidence. There’s more than enough evidence. In fact, I was sharing with you earlier that both Sweden and Netherlands withheld aid from Rwanda because of the evidence that was produced that demonstrated that Rwanda was destabilizing the Congo. So here it is that two European nations that do not have such a law on their books, they’re acting. However, the United States hasâ€”.
JAY: What is the American attitude, then, towards this UN report? Because if this report actually went public and did contain the things that the leak says it does or should contain, in theory, wouldn’t that trigger the legislation?
CARNEY: Well, it should certainly trigger the legislationâ€”not the legislation, the law. It’s law. It should trigger the law. And the U.S. response has been shocking, because really this is the situation that we have. We have rebel groups inside the Congo that’s being led by one Bosco Ntaganda, who’s wanted by the International Criminal Court. So rebel groups hereto were committing crimes, and these rebel groups are been supported by Rwanda. And then we have the United States that’s covering for Rwanda. So for all intents and purposes, the United States is supporting rebel groups inside of Congo that’s wanted by the International Criminal Court, because they have blocked and delayed reports coming out and covered for Rwanda. Even when the U.S. issued a statementâ€”the U.S. ambassador in Congo issued a statement about the rebel groups, and they didn’t even mention Rwanda by name. They said those outside forces that are supporting rebel groups should be held to account. They didn’t even mention Rwanda’s name. Today even the Rwandan foreign minister was at the United Nations, and the arrogance with which he spoke, as if Rwanda is not involved at allâ€”it’s just incredible that the United States is putting its neck out as it is, to be embarrassed in the global community for supporting rebel groups inside the Congo through [its support of] Rwanda.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Maurice.
CARNEY: Alright. Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And don’t forget, if you’d like to see more coverage of the Congo and Africa, which a lot of our viewers keep asking us for, we need more money. And we are involved in our spring/summer fundraising campaign, so every time you click a dollar over here, it triggers another dollar. Thanks very much for joining us on The Real News Network.
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