Tag Archives: Congo

Deadly Silence: Rwanda’s Never Again Is Once Again?

The following article from a Rwandan genocide Survivor was originally published in the Huffington Post. The international community continues to remain quiet while the region and especially Rwanda continues its downward spiral. This time, the international community cannot claim ignorance.

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People often say, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” As a Rwandan Genocide survivor, I would not be alive if not for good people who stood up, advocated for, and protected me, facilitating my ultimate survival amidst the deafening silence of the international community. I was nine-years-old when I found myself caught in a maelstrom of violence that threatened to destroy everything I knew and held dear. And in many ways, all of those things, including family, friends, neighbors, home, and communities were destroyed.

I remember having a group of men wrap me in a blanket and smuggling me to a safe house in a different neighborhood. Petrified, I watched as these men accosted and negotiated with my would-be killers on a daily basis to save my life. I watched in horror and helplessness as my mother and brother were taken from my sister, young cousin and I to be killed. My mother and brother were told they had reached the end of their lives, and were then given tools to dig their own graves. Through the intervention of old friends, strangers, and new allies, my mother and brother’s lives were spared, and our family was reunited.

I cannot imagine how my life would have been different had these individuals not intervened. They placed themselves and their families in danger by advocating for us. In our darkest moments I witnessed the zenith of human compassion. I saw the beauty and potential of the human spirit when good people unite for a good cause. Farmers, street kids, courageous women with children raised their voices against a group of evil doers. Through their acts of solidarity, lives were spared. My faith in humanity was reassured even in the midst of so much violence, death, and destruction. Sadly though, the international community remained silent about what was taking place in my country.

As I watch today the increasingly disturbing downward spiral in my country of birth, I am once again reminded of the international community’s complicity and silence in the destruction of an entire nation. In recent times, when the first woman ever to run for president in my country was attacked by a mob, there was silence. While local newspapers were shut down, their writers exiled, and others incarcerated, I witnessed nothing but shrugs from the international community. When Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported on the growing repression and jailing of an increasing number of people based on vague laws applied to political opponents of the ruling regime, I saw nothing but rationalization from the international community.

Recently, Peter Erlinder, an American lawyer and professor who is representing a hopeful presidential candidate, was jailed in Rwanda. His arrest and subsequent charges were based on his work as a defense lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. He stands accused of genocide ideology and negationism, the same crimes of which his client is also accused. As a genocide survivor, I take genocide crimes very seriously and strongly believe that each and every perpetrator of these crimes should be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I also believe that each accused deserves and must be accorded a fair trial. The right to a fair trial and due process is a highly valued universal principle. Therefore I am perplexed by the silence around the professor’s arrest, and the length of time it took the international community to intervene.

Due to Rwanda’s economic progress, some of which is unfortunately derived from Congolese minerals and “supply side economics,” human rights abuses are mere inconveniences to those strictly focused on economic growth. While Rwanda has become one of the most praised and progressive economies in Africa, the international community has watched it ravage neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo with impunity. An estimated six million Congolese lives have been claimed, and tragically, half of those deaths are children under the age of five.

The Rwandan Genocide was catastrophic. I know… I was there. And I survived. However, it should not be used as a pretext for repressing freedom of others and destroying innocent lives. Although the international community still remains silent in the face of all these grotesque abuses and human rights violations within and outside of Rwanda, the potential positive impact the international community could have on the situation should not be underestimated.

I witnessed first hand the power of good people who cared for a frightened 9 year old girl and her family. Everyday people opened their mouths and raised their voices. My family, especially my mother and brother, was spared because of ordinary people’s courageous acts of generosity. I am eternally grateful to have lived to share my story. With all that is taking place in Rwanda today, especially the present-day eerie similarities to the pre-1994 genocide period, will the international community intervene now? One can only imagine the millions of lives that could be saved.

Alice Gatebuke is a Rwandan Genocide and war survivor, Cornell University graduate, and a human rights activist. She can be reached at gatebuke.alice@gmail.com.

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A Great Loss to the World

Floribert Chebeya Bahizire of the Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless) was a great human rights activist based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Abused, Jailed, and tortured by the subsequent governments over the last two decades but he persevered. To say that he will be missed in a major understatement. He was one of the people in the world that lived to ensure the well being of his fellow human beings.

Chebeya was found dead on June 2 in Kinshasa (DR Congo), in his car after he had been summoned for a meeting with Police Chief General John Numbi. Activists who saw Chebeya in the morgue say that he had blood in his face and was bruised.  General Numbi, well known for his human rights abuses, murder and for his association with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Rwandan General James Kabarebe was suspended from his duties with the Congolese police. It is unclear whether there will be an independent investigation into this, but the involvement of Numbi in his death would not be surprising given the general’s past and the multiple threats received by Chebeye from police and authorities over the years.

The Joseph Kabila clique in power cannot be trusted to carry out an impartial investigations as they are close to General Numbi. The government in Kinshasa will require enourmous amount of pressure to come close to carrying out a meaningful investigation. Surprisingly, there have been no demonstrations in Kinshasa demanding such investigation. Are Congolese people that terrified in Kinshasa. If this was in Eastern Congo where militias, and foreign governments troops and their proxy rebels continue to abuse the population, kill and rape women on a daily basis, it would be understandable. However, the lack of action from the masses in Kinshasa is surprising.

The human rights activist community and the world community at large has lost an excellent advocate at a young age of 47. In the activist community, there is hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. However, Chebeye cannot be replaced by any procedure. This crime was indeed a crime against the world.

The US State Department Negligent in Peter Erlinder’s Case

When president Obama was running for president, he repeatedly said that “Washington is broken”. Today, Washington is still broken in spite of a year and a half of Obama’s administration. In fact, you may argue that it may be more broken than it was during the previous administration.

Consider the case of Professor Peter Erlinder, a William Mitchell College of Law professor who went to Rwanda as a hired attorney for presidential hopeful Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.  After a week in the country, Erlinder was arrested and accused of the same crimes as his client. Mind you, Erlinder’s alleged crimes were committed outside of Rwanda. Due to the conditions of the prison in Rwanda, Erlinder has  gotten ill and the Rwandan government may be cooking up a plan to assassinate him. That seems the only way out with a small victory for the Rwandan government as the charges against Erlinder are weak at best.

The US State Department and the US Embassy in Rwanda have been negligent at best. Below is the State Department’s response to Erlinder’s case in a press briefing yesterday:

“QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status of this American lawyer who was arrested in Rwanda? There are some reports that he tried to kill himself in prison this morning.

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say.

QUESTION: And apparently, his wife or his family is trying to – is seeking a meeting here at the State Department.

MR. CROWLEY: All I can tell you is that we have visited and spoken with Peter Erlinder. He was taken to the hospital this morning and remained there overnight for observation. His U.S. and Rwandan attorneys have had access to him and we expect that due process will be accorded by the Rwandans in a timely and transparent way.

QUESTION: Do you know why he was taken to the hospital?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not.”

The State Department and the embassy are happy to allow Rwanda to jail an American citizen without charges, and the US representatives in Rwanda are hugging the jailers and doing nothing to secure the release of their constituent. The Obama administration and espicially the State Department must step up their game and demand the release of professor Erlinder or else explain how hundreds of millions of dollars of American taxpayers spent on Kagame’s dictatorial regime, the North Korea of Africa, are being used to imprison and possibly kill American citizens.

Rwanda Arrests American Lawyer For Representing A Rwandan Arrested by Kagame

On May 28, 2010, Rwandan security forces arrested American Lawyer Peter Erlinder. Mr. Erlinder is a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota. He is also a former president for the National Lawyer’s Guild. The Rwandan government led by dictator Paul Kagame arrested Erlinder on charges of “Genocide Denial”. Amazingly enough, this is a crime that was committed outside of Rwanda. Apparently, Rwanda has jurisdiction over the whole world. It gets even better. The Rwandan government’s charges are based on professor Erlinder’s questioning the official Rwandan government’s narative on the genocide of 1994 while defending his clients at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Basically, professor Erlinder’s crime was defending his clients.

Unsurprisingly, Erlinder traveled to Rwanda to defend a female opposition leader Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, an aspiring presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in August.  Mr. Ingabire has been physically attacked by president Kagame’s security operatives. She has been charged among other things with the same charges levied against her lawyer. For those who are familiar with Rwanda and Kagame’s modus operandi, it is not surprising that these individuals who hold differing views from his government have been arrested. Critical journalists have been arrested, beaten, forced to flee, deported and in some cases killed.  Local independent media has been shut down until after the election. In recent months, top government officials have been forced to flee, army generals arrested, and a number of media personalities are on the run.

In addition, the Rwandan government has been attempting to force a million refugees from Uganda back to Rwanda. This also is not unusual. Recently, dictator Paul Kagame admitted to killing refugees and forcing others back into the country. The Rwandan president confirmed an allegation that has been long dismissed about his genocide of Rwanda refugees in the Congo. Amazingly, Rwanda is still one of the largest recipients of aid from the US government.

The US embassy in Kigali said that they were not doing anything about Mr. Erlinder’s case as he is liable to Rwandan law. Give me a break. When have Americans become liable to laws of tyrants and systems similar to North Korea? Bill Clinton should be taking a trip to Rwanda as soon as possible to seek the release of professor Erlinder. The US government should also withhold aid from Rwanda for not only its abuses of human rights in Rwanda, but also for its role in the killing of over Five million (5 000 000) innocent Congolese over the last fourteen years as well as the systematic stealing of Congo’s resources. The Obama administration would do well to enforce its laws and withhold taxpayer’s money from going to this despotic government that is using our taxes to arrest our fellow citizens. For a start, the embassy as well as the State Department should get engaged and demand the release of professor Erlinder’s immediate release.

Uganda’s Legalized Genocide

Although many governments around the world can be bold and in many cases delusional, the Ugandan government is taking audacity to a whole new level. The lawmakers in the East African country are drafting a law that according to Wikipedia:

If enacted, broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, are HIV-positive, or engage in same sex acts with people under 18 years of age. The bill also includes provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited for punishment back to Uganda, and includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organizations, or non-governmental organisations that support LGBT rights.

This law also has provisions that will produce a prison sentence for anyone found to have know about homosexual acts without reporting it. It will punish relatives and friends who are “accomplices” of homosexual activity.

While it is true that homosexuality is extremely unpopular in Uganda like the rest of the continent of Africa, lack of popularity has never been a reason for being subjected to the death penalty. If laws were made based on what is and what is not popular, the world would totally succumb to the elite, the crooks and the bully. There would be no room for cooler heads. You are wondering what does this have to do with genocide? Let us take a look at the definition of genocide:

Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The intent of this law can achieve any and everyone of the above except for D and E. Briefly, to be a genocide, one needs not have all of the above elements. In an inexplicable move, the Ugandan government is making strides to legalize of all things, genocide!

There is an estimated 500000 homosexuals in Uganda. Although much smaller than the number of people killed in the Congo genocide since the invasion of DR Congo by Uganda and Rwanda, it is still a large number. Even one homosexual killed for simply being homosexual is a crime of hate. When such crime is expanded to a whole group of people, it becomes genocide. While it is true that Ugandan governments have committed acts of genocide within Uganda, it has never been legalized. For much of president Museveni’s presidency, the Karamojong have been massacred and exterminated by government forces. However, this was done under cover of war and security.

President Museveni again with his student president Paul Kagame of Rwanda invaded Congo and committed genocide of at least five million (5 000 000) Congolese people and turned Congo into rape capital. Among the dead were over three million (3 000 000) children! In summary, president Museveni is accustomed to literally getting away with murder. He has gotten away with murder of thousands of Ugandans and millions of Congolese. It seems that it is now time to take it to the next level and legalize mass killings.

With Museveni’s history, political opponents will be accused of being homosexuals. This will make it legally easy to detain and kill homosexuals as well as political opponents. Therefore, such law should not be enacted. Thankfully, many people around the world have stood up and shown the folly of this law and will continue to protest its existence and application. This could also lead to raising the profile of the conflict in Congo and expose president Museveni along with his student Paul Kagame for who they really are, mass murderers.

Rwandan Genocide: Is Rwanda Gearing up for Another Genocide?

Hate media, violence, dehumanizing opponents, acts of terrorism, cynical apologies for violence, threats, and the quest to remain in power at all cost were some of the elements leading up to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Today, we are seeing similar behavior and talk coming from Rwanda. Politics have become interesting lately, to say the least. Since the return of Rwandan opposition leader Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza on January 16, 2010, a refugee for 16 years, the Rwandan government has found itself in unusual territory and an awkward situation. Constantly on the defensive, the government created a number of high profile blunders. The language coming out of Rwanda is eerily similar to that of pre-genocide Rwanda. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail and that the end is the opposite of what we saw sixteen years ago.

Upon her return, Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza visited the genocide memorial at Gisozi and pronounced that the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis as well as the perpetrators of crimes against humanity against Hutus should all be brought to justice. This did not sit well with Rwanda’s elite of the ruling party, the RPF.  No Rwandans inside the country have ever so loudly demanded that crimes committed by the RPF and Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s troops be prosecuted. Make no mistake, the RPF committed major atrocities against both the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda. Anyone who does not believe this fact is either not informed enough, or a cynical RPF and Kagame apologist. This demand for justice by Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza infuriates the Rwanda government for many reasons.

One of the reasons this puts the Rwandan government in a quagmire is that not only did the RPF troops led by General Paul Kagame commit these crimes against humanity, they have also been able to keep Rwandans silent about this. In Rwanda, it is taboo to talk about ethnicity. Everyone is Munyarwanda or Rwandan. Ironically, the Rwandan government has changed the term “Rwandan Genocide” to “Genocide against the Tutsi’s”. On one hand Rwandans are supposed to be Rwandas only but the genocide was not committed against Rwandans, it was committed against Tutsis. However, no one in Rwanda can question such illogical tripe lest they are accused of being “genocidaires”, “genocide deniers”, “genocide negationists”, or “divisionists” or all of the above. When I visit Rwanda, people talk to me in whispers with much trepidation while continuously scanning their surroundings. However, Mrs. Ingabire Umuhoza’s remarks must hit home with the RPF officials. The truth hurts and if prosecutable, it makes them nervous. Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza’s comments, if echoed by millions of Rwandans will bring President Paul Kagame and his cronies to their knees.

Reason number two is that it threatens the Rwandan government’s biggest diplomatic tool: the Rwandan Genocide. Rwanda has continuously used the guilt of genocide to get their way with the international community. Anytime President Kagame is on the defensive, he goes on the attack and blames everyone for not doing anything during Rwanda’s dark hour. This method has proved successful because international community members are quickly silenced. In Rwanda, it has also proven to be a strong tool to silence opposition. When Rwandans makes a critical comment of the government, they are quickly blamed of taking part in the genocide and they are jailed. If not implicated directly in the genocide, they are punished using ambiguous laws related to the genocide. These include laws of “divisionism” and “genocide ideology”. Good luck figuring out what these laws mean and how they are defined or when they are applied. Anything that criticizes the government can be prosecuted under these laws.

Upon hearing the remarks by Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, government officials along with pro government media started a smear campaign against the first woman to announce her intentions to run for president. As usual with any critics of the government, she was accused of divisionism and genocide ideology. They called for her to be prosecuted. They sent people to follow her and monitor her every move. On February 3, she was summoned to the Kinyinya government office by Mr. Shema; the local government leader. She was called to receive official documents. Upon her arrival at the office with her assistant Mr. Joseph Ntawangundi they were attacked by a mob. Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza managed to escape unharmed, although her purse carrying her passport was stolen and returned by police days later. Mr. Joseph Ntawangundi was beaten by the mob for about 45 minutes, stripped of his clothes and his glasses stolen. He sustained injuries that required a visit to intensive care. The police on the scene did not intervene and Mr. Shema did not attempt to call for help for Mr. Ntawangundi. On February 5,The New Times,  a pro government newspaper reported that Mr. Ntawangundi had been sentence to Nineteen years of prison in absentia by a Gacaca court (courts where no one is trained in the area of laws that prosecute genocide). Go figure.

According to a statement from the FDU Inkingi, Mr. Ntawangundi left Rwanda in 1993 and never returned until 2010. This means he was not in Rwanda in 1994. However, Gacaca courts’ incompetence is a discussion for another day. A day after the report, Mr. Ntawangundi was seized and jailed. In the media, the Rwandan police first tried to justify the well coordinated mob attack by saying that the mob was angry about the victims’ politics. This would be a funny explanation if it wasn’t for the fact that an actual attack on real human beings occured. The police later changed their story saying that Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and Mr. Ntawangundi skipped the long line and angered the crowd.

As if it was not enough, the media preaching hate for Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza began to call her IVU (translated in English as ashes). The pro government New Times repeatedly called her IVU similar to the way the genocidaires called Tutsis INYENZI (cockroaches) in 1994 to dehumanize them. During the same period, President Kagame had a press conference where he threatened that laws will do their work after the honeymoon (referring to her recent return to Rwanda). Doing work is also a term that was used by the genocidaires in 1994 meaning to kill. In this case, there is no doubt that President Kagame was referring to the earlier mentioned ambiguous genocide laws. Sure enough, Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza was summoned to the police to answer to charges of “divisionism” and “genocide ideology”.  Surprise surprise. She has been summoned a second time to answer to these charges again.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ntawangundi is in prison and the police continues to harass Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. The Green Party and other opposition has been denied official authorization to meet because the notary in the office is on maternity leave. This is awfully similar to the events leading up to the genocide when administrative unwillingness led to the transitional government forming. Meanwhile, the Rwandan senate continues to harrass Mr. Bernard Ntaganda of PS-Imberakuri with accusations of divisionism. In their desperate attempt to hold on to power, the Rwandan government is stopping at nothing out of all options.  Now, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Internation and other human rights organizations are calling for it to loosen its tight grips on the freedom and rights of the citizens of the country.  Knowing that they have killed 5 million people in neighboring Congo it would not be surprising if they killed others in masses in their desperate attempt to hold on to power and avoid facing justice for their crimes.

On night of Friday January 20, three grenade explosions occured in Kigalin in three separate places. Various reports put the initial toll at one death and eighteen injured. The explosions were in public places including a building that houses several businesses, a bus station (such places are very crowded anywhere in African countries), and a restaurant. Indeed this act of terrorism is very cowardly but not unusual in Rwanda. In the period leading up to the genocide in 1994, there were deadly grenade and bomb blasts on a regular basis.  The Rwandan government must ensure security for all of its citizens. Recent events though tend to point at the government of Rwanda having a hand in this as in the previous incidents of violence against the opposition.  It is also curious that these events are taking place in the midst of political issues where the Rwandan government has found itself in the midst of politically motivated violence, imprisonment, and violence.

It appears to be a difficult period to be a Rwandan, especially a Rwandan who dares stand up against President Kagame. Let us hope those who stood by while a million were killed in Rwanda and while five million died in Congo will now rise to the occasion and make sure that it never happens again.  Is kagame and the rpf preparing a genocide?

Conflict Minerals: A Cover For US Allies and Western Mining Interests?

Below is article from the Huffington Post that provides a concise recommendation on the Congo conflict. Although it is a short article, it has all of the points that MUST be considered if the Congo conflict is to be resolved.

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As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, myriad Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo’s challenges than to resolve them.

The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR and other rebel groups while scant attention is paid to Uganda (which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo) and Rwanda (whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by UN reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials). Rwanda is the main transit point for illicit minerals coming from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group (FDLR, CNDP or others) transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda’s mining sector output grew 20% in 2008 from the year earlier due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country’s three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed. In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo’s minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach $200 million by 2010. Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes “having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure.

According to Global Witness’s 2009 report, Faced With A Gun What Can you Do, Congolese government statistics and reports by the Group of Experts and NGOs, Rwanda is one of the main conduits for illicit minerals leaving the Congo. It is amazing that the conflict mineral approach shout loudly about making sure that the trade in minerals does not benefit armed groups but the biggest armed beneficiary of Congo’s minerals is the Rwandan regime headed by Paul Kagame. Nonetheless, the conflict mineral approach is remarkably silent about Rwanda’s complicity in the fueling of the conflict in the Congo and the fleecing of Congo’s riches.

Advocates of the conflict mineral approach would be far more credible if they had ever called for any kind of pressure whatsoever on mining companies that are directly involved in either fueling the conflict or exploiting the Congolese people. The United Nations, The Congolese Parliament, Carter Center, Southern Africa Resource Watch and several other NGOs have documented corporations that have pilfered Congo’s wealth and contributed to the perpetuation of the conflict. Some of these companies include but are not limited to: Traxys, OM Group, Blattner Elwyn Group, Freeport McMoran, Eagle Wings/Trinitech, Lundin, Kemet, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Anvil Mining, and First Quantum.

The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration, is silent on the question of resource sovereignty which has been a central question in the geo-strategic battle for Congo’s mineral wealth. It was over this question of resource sovereignty that the West assassinated Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba and stifled the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people for over three decades by installing and backing the dictator Joseph Mobutu. In addition, the United States also backed the 1996 and 1998 invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda instead of supporting the non-violent, pro-democracy forces inside the Congo. Unfortunately and to the chagrin of the Congolese people, some of the strongest advocates of the conflict mineral approach are former Clinton administration officials who supported the invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. This may in part explains the militaristic underbelly of the conflict mineral approach, which has as its so-called second step a comprehensive counterinsurgency.

The focus on the east of Congo falls in line with the long-held obsession by some advocates in Washington who incessantly push for the balkanization of the Congo. Their focus on “Eastern Congo” is inadequate and does not fully take into account the nature and scope of the dynamics in the entire country. Political decisions in Kinshasa, the capital in the West, have a direct impact on the events that unfold in the East of Congo and are central to any durable solutions.

The central claim of the conflict mineral approach is to bring an end to the conflict; however, the conflict can plausibly be brought to an end much quicker through diplomatic and political means. The so-called blood mineral route is not the quickest way to end the conflict. We have already seen how quickly world pressure can work with the sidelining of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and the demobilization and/or rearranging of his CNDP rebel group in January 2009, as a result of global pressure placed on the CNDP’s sponsor Paul Kagame of Rwanda. More pressure needs to be placed on leaders such as Kagame and Museveni who have been at the root of the conflict since 1996. The FDLR can readily be pressured as well, especially with most of their political leadership residing in the West, however this should be done within a political framework, which brings all the players to the table as opposed to the current militaristic, dichotomous, good-guy bad-guy approach where the West sees Kagame and Museveni as the “good-guys” and everyone else as bad. The picture is far grayer than Black and White.

A robust political approach by the global community would entail the following prescriptions:

  1. Join Sweden and Netherlands in pressuring Rwanda to be a partner for peace and a stabilizing presence in the region. The United States and Great Britain in particular should apply more pressure on their allies Rwanda and Uganda to the point of withholding aid if necessary.
  2. Hold to account companies and individuals through sanctions trafficking in minerals whether with rebel groups or neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. Canada has chimed in as well but has been deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo. Canada must do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300.
  3. Encourage world leaders to be more engaged diplomatically and place a higher priority on what is the deadliest conflict in the World since World War Two.
  4. Reject the militarization of the Great Lakes region represented by AFRICOM, which has already resulted in the suffering of civilian population; the strengthening of authoritarian figures such as Uganda’s Museveni (in power since 1986) and Rwanda’s Kagame (won the 2003 “elections” with 95 percent of the vote); and the restriction of political space in their countries.
  5. Demand of the Obama administration to be engaged differently from its current military-laden approach and to take the lead in pursuing an aggressive diplomatic path with an emphasis on pursuing a regional political framework that can lead to lasting peace and stability.

To learn more about the current crisis in the Congo, visit www.conflictminerals.org.


Kambale Musavuli
is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. Bodia Macharia is the President of Friends of the Congo/ Canada.