Point of VIEW.

A purely analytical perception...


 

Zaire - Democratic Republic of the Congo

 History & Geography

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo) is significant by African standards, the size of the United States East of the Mississippi, and ranking third on the African Continent. It probably has more valuable resources than any other country on earth; however, it is hopelessly poverty stricken, and one of the most desolate countries on earth. Its envied resources have attracted its neighbors like bees to honey. War here is a constant companion to everyone living here. Congo’s own rulers have pillaged and enslaved it like no other. Nevertheless, literally all of the human rights organizations on earth, along with the United Nations, have made hopelessly futile attempts to end the misery and suffering of the Congolese. Travelers to this nation have little rights here as well. What anyone would want to in this land of misery is beyond my comprehension, however if you do, we would strongly urge you to travel the country in a tank. With competing militias everywhere, it is an easy task to become a permanent part of the scenery. Everyone seems to be armed and it is best to travel with protection. There is total anarchy on the streets and the police are of little help when the chips are down unless of course you can afford to buy them. Most people in this hapless country are unemployed ([1]) and crime makes an interesting hobby for them between non-existent jobs.

 This was the land where from 1840 to 1872, David Livingstone, a Scottish Missionary plied his trade. His journeys throughout this country brought what was then known as the Congo to the attention of the Western world. After a period of two years of not being in touch with his home base, Henry Morton Stanley who was a journalist attached to the New York Herald was asked to find Livingstone. It was at Ujiji on the Eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika that Stanley and Livingstone found each other with the historic utterance, “Dr. Livingstone I presume.” A little known fact is that Stanley having done his job so professionally was ordered back to the Congo three years later by the same newspaper to continue the explorations of Livingstone. Stanley during the next four years was able to travel from some of the smallest tributaries of the Congo to its mouth by the year 1877.

 Belgium’s King Leopold II, was next in line to investigate what the Congo had to offer and he hired Stanley in 1878. The King arranged for an international consortium of bankers to fund another exploration (International Association of the Congo) and in 1879, Stanley was once again headed upriver. Stanley on this excursion founded the city of Vivi, the country’s first capital. In this and other trips that he took, he founding trading camps and signing hundreds of treaties in the name of Leopold II and Belgium. Because of Stanley’s efforts on Belgium’s behest, at the conference of Berlin held in 1884-5, the European nations sliced up Africa amongst themselves with Belgium getting the Congo Free State which later became Zaire. By the General Act of Berlin, signed at the conclusion of the conference in 1885, the powers also agreed that activities in the Congo Basin should be governed by certain principles, including freedom of trade and navigation, neutrality in the event of war, suppression of the slave traffic, and improvement of the condition of the indigenous population. The conference recognized Leopold II as sovereign of the new state.  However, being granted the concession in the European dismemberment and holding on to it were two different things.

 The slave trade was flourishing in the Congo at that time and was run primarily by the Arabs. The Arabs were not particularly interested in rolling over and playing dead just because the Europeans had ceded the Congo to Belgium. Moreover, they had an excellent business going on here and were not walking away without a fight. Numerous military expeditions had to be sent into the interior of the country to insure that sovereignty. In this newly created Congo Free State during the period of approximately twenty-years at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, ten million people lost their lives. This was during the heartless reign of Leopold II who was at that time, the King of Belgium. The King was well aware of Congo’s riches and turned the country into a gigantic forced labor camp in order to insure that the enslaved population would extract the maximum amount of its bounty from the ground. However, in spite of all the riches that the Belgium Government was able to garner from the Congo, Leopold never saw fit to visit the land he call the “Congo Free State.” During the present altercation, possibly three million people have lost their lives, a heavy toll in terms of humanity; approximately 5% of the population. However, Belgium’s forced labor movement in Congo at the turn of the century, half the population died, most from starvation and exhaustion while they were extracting wood, rubber, ivory and gold.  What we are seeing now is a relative “drop in the buck” compared with what the European oppressors were able to accomplish. 

 The collection of rubber was particularly challenging but an enormously profitable pursuit during that period. Rubber was growing wild in the Congo jungles when Leopold II was seeded the territory.  At that time, you couldn’t really see the forest for the trees so that the indigenous population had to be organized into groups to hunt for and tap into the country’s enormous but highly scattered rubber assets. (Rubber trees tend to like their privacy and grow apart from each other unless planted in an organized fashion)  Leopold’s soldiers enlisted vast numbers of what they called “savages” for this job. Their production scenario was rather simple, it was accomplished simply by when Belgium military arrived in a new village they set back-breaking quotas for rubber production along with announcing the execution penalties for those that couldn’t make their goals. As proof of the fact that the soldiers were rigidly enforcing Belgium’s mandates, whenever a village did not produce up to expectations, the hands of those held hostage would be chopped off and brought to central headquarters to insure that they had been dispatched. However, without DNA, one set of hands couldn’t be told from another, but in order for the soldiers to prove that they were enforcing the rules, they would cut off the hands of anyone in the general vicinity in order to save time and effort. Numerous totally innocent people were killed in this manner by the brutal Belgium regime which was for the most part totally out of control.  Stanley was no angel either and it was he that was in control of the hectic scene. Here Stanley elucidates some of his more Draconian concepts:

 Without the railroad," said Leopold II's agent, Henry Morton Stanley, "the Congo is not worth a penny." Without recourse to forced labor,  however, the railroad could not be built; nor could the huge concessions made to private companies become profitable unless African labor was freely used to locate and transport rubber and ivory; nor could African resistance in the east be overcome without a massive recruitment of indigenous troops. The cruel logic of the revenue imperative left the Leopoldian system with no apparent option but to extract a maximum output of labor and natural resources from the land (see >From Colonial Times to Independence, ch. 3).

 

At the heart of the system lay a perverse combination of rewards and penalties. Congo Free State agents and native auxiliaries (the so-called capitas) were given authority to use as much force as they deemed appropriate to meet delivery norms, and because their profits were proportional to the amount of rubber and ivory collected, the inevitable consequence was the institutionalization of force on a huge scale. Although native chiefs were expected to cooperate, the incessant and arbitrary demands made on their authority were self-defeating. Many chiefs turned against the colonial state; others were quickly disposed of and replaced by state-appointed "straw chiefs." Countless revolts ensued, which had an immediate effect on the scale and frequency of military expeditions. As the cost of pacification soared, Leopold II declared a state monopoly on rubber and ivory. The free-trade principle that had once been the cornerstone of the Congo Free State thus became a legal fiction, aptly summed up in this pithy commentary of the time: "Article one: trade is entirely free; article two: there is nothing to buy or sell."

  

Protestant missionaries were the first to alert international public opinion to the extent of cruelties visited upon the African population, and with the creation of the Congo Reform Association in 1904, the public outcry against the Congo Free State reached major proportions. Not until 1908, however, did the Belgian parliament vote in favor of annexation as the most sensible solution to the flood of criticisms generated by the reform movement. The Colonial Charter provided for the government of what was thereafter known as the Belgian Congo. This charter permitted the king to retain a great deal of authority and influence over affairs in the colony through power of appointment and legislative authority, but his power was constitutional rather than personal and, therefore, limited. The main purpose of the charter was to prevent the establishment of a royal autocracy in the colony similar to the one that had existed in the Congo Free State.

 

For almost the entire period of the Congo Free State (1885- 1908), the peoples of present-day Zaire were subjected to a staggering sequence of wars, repression, and regimentation. The impact of this colonial experience was so devastating, and its aftereffects so disruptive, because the initial shock of European intrusion was followed almost immediately by a ruthless exploitation of human and natural resources. In terms of its psychological impact, the bula matari state left a legacy of latent hostility on which subsequent generations of nationalists were able to capitalize; on the other hand, the sheer brutality of its methods generated a sense of fear and hopelessness, which, initially at least, discouraged the rise of organized nationalist activity.

 It has been said that when Leopold II was given the right to the Congo at the Berlin Conference, the population of that area stood at about 20 million people. When he died, the estimated population was no more than 8 million. Moreover, many of these people died of causes other than massacre, such as disease and lack of medical facilities. However, no matter whether they were killed by mutilation at the hands of the soldiers or by disease spread by the Europeans, they all were killed in the name of Christianity and enlightenment. Leopold II was at best totally mad and believed that he had been anointed by some higher authority to spread the Christian word whether it killed anyone or not. What he told the people attending the conference in Berlin however was something quite the contrary. He said that he was going to elevate the peoples of the rain forest into god fearing Christians. This sounded both unique and good public relations for the Europeans who had been getting a bad rap around the world since the Crusades. Nobody north of the Mediterranean had a clue relative to what riches the Congo held and this was a way of quieting the mad Belgium King and getting some good PR at the same time.  Bringing Stanley who had become a cult figure into the scheme was just an added part of Leopold’s scheme for a massive land grab.

 

The Congo Free State had become nothing other than a massive penitentiary and Leopold’s armed guards set almost unapproachable production quotas for the people, hopping to induce them to extract increasing larger amounts of goods for Belgium. However, when the quotas were not met, the natives were summarily executed and replacements were brought in from surrounding territories to take their places. Moreover, news did not travel very fast in those days and because of the fact that Leopold’s public relations people were able to temporize the claims of the few bedraggled Congolese who had made what Leopold’s publicists described as  “highly exaggerated claims”, not much was ever written about this disaster.  Thus, little is remembered about what had occurred in Congo, roughly a century ago, but the terror that was inflicted on a pathetic and defenseless people by a supposedly civilized country, Belgium will go down in history as one of the greatest mass murders in the history of this planet.

 

However, the rape of Congo Free State a century ago only lays a foundation for the endless for what is occurring there today. The pillaging and murder that this country has had to deal with recently is unique and it continues unabated as we speak. Nevertheless, if the carnage was over, we could add up the damage and agree to start over anew and do it right next time around. This is hardly the case and at the present time in Congo, money has literally ceased to have value as inflation is rampant and currently running at a rate of over 200 percent; and that is per month. Diamonds are an excellent means of exchange in this country for large purchases and for the smaller ones American Dollars are always in demand, but make sure that whatever you get back in change is quickly spent because it will be worth far less the next time you pay for something.   

The Belgians left the country abruptly in 1960 after inhumanly running the country for over 75 years. Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba filled the vacuum created by the Belgian’s hasty departure and he didn’t waste much time before he began playing footsie with the Russians. However, he played well to most of the world because he had been freely chosen in a primarily untainted election. No matter that, the man made America nervous and the CIA hired one of their hit man and a native Congolese, Mobutu Sese Seko to eliminate that perceived problem. This was accomplished and Mobutu came into power and stayed for several decades until the Americans cut the no longer useful Mobutu loose. He was ousted by Laurent Kabila who made paranoia take on new meaning. He followed in Mobutu’s path and attempted to overly enrich himself by stealing whatever hadn’t already been carted off. Mobutu died soon thereafter of natural causes.

However, Kabila called for outside help and was aided by Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Burundi, Eritrea and the United States in his battle to oust Mobutu in a struggle that went on for years. By this time all of Congo’s neighbors were aware of their immense riches and by taking sides could each grab a slice at little cost. However, many of Kabila’s allies soon found out that they were dealing with a madman that couldn’t keep a dishonest bargain. It did not take too long before, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi turned against him and used that country as a battlefield to take on Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia who stayed loyal to him. On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was eliminated in a never solved hit and was succeeded by his son, Joseph. The countries that had entered the fray on one side or the other were given no serious reason to leave the country and it has literally been partitioned by numerous groups. The United Nations has tried in its own inept fashion to arbitrate the quarrels, but this conflict isn’t about principals, it is about money. Thus, the United Nations has been treated as though they do not exist and the organization sulked out of the country without having left and impact.  

Joseph Kabila, the son and heir to Laurent has entered into numerous treaties and agreements, now of which have been worth the paper that they have been printed on. By this time, the warring intruders had found that the Congo contained substantial quantities of an almost unheard of mineral, columbite-tantalite or coltran for short. This product is used in advanced electronics and has been constantly rising in price. It was estimated that the Rwanda army along was exporting $20 million worth of coltran every month and enormous inducement to stay put.   Not wanting to be left out of the picture, Ugandan and Burundian forces within the Congo also organized coltran looting parties but did the Rwandan’s one step better. Instead of mining the stuff themselves, they forced Congo citizens into slavery and had them do it for them. Both Ugandan and Burundian officials were more than embarrassed by these reports and in some cases, people that have been reporting their activities on the ground have been threatened with death. In the Congo, everyone plays for big stakes.

Wars, sponsored by Congo’s neighbors, are easy to fight in this country, because whole armies can glide across the country’s long porous borders and heavy underbrush at will. These marauders can hide return behind their own reinforced borders should they become entrapped. Each of Congo’s neighbors has its own reason to believe that it is entitled to a share of the spoils of war and in the Congo you really can’t differentiate the good guys from the bad guys without a scorecard. There is little difference between the players here though; all people engaged in the rape of Congo are in this game for only one reason, money. The only question is with whom and why the bad guys are are aligned.  So many different groups are involved in this conflict that you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys without a scorecard, and this conflict has often been described as Africa’s First World War.  The key players in this ongoing soap opera are:

 The Players

1.                    

The Tutsis          The Tutsis live in the eastern section of the Congo but have also colonized Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Centuries ago, they were a major force in Africa and they had conquered the aforementioned countries. Their rule began to wane as the Europeans, primarily, the Portuguese, colonized and subjugated the region. However, because of their highly advanced civilization, foreign rulers appointed the Tutsis’ to leadership roles in their stead. The Tutsis were not admired by other African tribes in the region, and to this day they feud with other tribes. However, those Tutsis’ living in Rwanda went into the Congo purportedly to shut down the Hutu militias operating from the UN’s giant refugee camps on its frontier. They came and never left.  

2.                    

The Hutu          The Hutu civilization goes back much further than do the Tutsis, dating their civilization back to 500 B.C. They originally came from southern Africa; however their homeland, while beautiful, was not entirely conducive to agriculture. As a result, the Hutu became nomadic during the frequent dry seasons.   Their region was originally colonized by the Germans, and Belgium grabbed it after World War I.  After Rwandan independence, the Hutu rose to power in that nation. Their military was not benevolent, and displaced a large portion of the populations of both Rwanda and Burundi. Today, many live in Congo refugee camps in utter desolation. The Hutu act as proxies for the Congolese government’s attacks on Rwanda and Burundi, and also periodically take on the Tutsis. These bloody wars are unlikely to end any time soon.

3.                    

Rwanda and Burundi    These countries were originally friends of the Congo, but when the Tutsis’ were slaughtered by runaway Hutu and the Congolese leadership did nothing to stop the killing, those countries embarked on an undeclared war on the Congo. Although they were all bearing the banner of humanity in announcing to the world that they were there to stop genocide, all three nations soon forgot their original missions and setup mining operations within Congo. Their recovery of massive quantities of precious metals has turned their “humanitarian effort” into a profit making enterprise. An official report by the United Nations accused these countries of dealing in massive amounts of diamonds stolen from Congo and recommended a certification program for them to stop the theft. Rwanda has also made a concerted effort to strip the very wild life from the forests they live in.

4.                    

UNITA           Like Congo, Angola has substantial diamond operations, most of which are under the control of UNITA, which uses them to finance its war on the Angolan Government.  UNITA forces attack the Angolan military, and when out-manned, slip safely into Congolese territory.

           

            Angola            Because UNITA could never be cornered in its own country, Angola feared that it would enlarge its small base in Congo and use that country as a jumping off place for raids into Angola. Angola invaded Congo for this announced reason although many felt that Congo was handily competing with Angolan diamond production and that the attack on Congo was also economically motivated. Moreover, it was Angola that came to the aid of Laurent Kabila in 1998 when the fall of Kinshasa seemed imminent. Because of this action he was forever in their debt and they used it to good advantage by literally taking over the western half of the Congo.

6.

Union of Republican Nationalist for Liberation     Apparently non-aligned, this group has created havoc within Congo, attacking forces from either side with little rhyme or reason.  Most apparently, they are against the Government of Congo because they’re announced raison d’etre is to stop blockade the food supply to Kinshasa, the national capital a city of more than five million people. They have set up a power base several hundred miles from the capital, but control various parts of the Congo, making them a wild card in the pitched battle for control of the country.

7.                    

Mouvement de Liberation Congolais  This group is Uganda’s gift to the civil war raging in Congo. Led by Jean Pierre Bemba, Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) literally controls the entire northern sector of Congo. While the MLC are dedicated to the liberation of the Congo, they do not seem averse to aiding any side that will pay them more money or give them more benefits. This group, along with everyone else fighting in this godforsaken place has little allegiance to anyone, including their Ugandan benefactors.

8.                    

Zimbabwe        Robert Mugabe, the number one honcho in Zimbabwe who has been getting a little wacky lately, has the best mercenary army in the region. Congo offered Zimbabwe substantial diamond concessions in exchange for its protection. Mugabe accepted and settled in; his army removed mountains of precious stones from Zimbabwe, while occasionally fulfilling its role as hired guns for the Congo. The Zimbabweans have announced no serious moral motives for their actions, making them the most honest of the competing forces. An official United Nations report stated that it is Zimbabwe’s mining concessions that cause them to remain in the Congo War. Most interestingly, Zimbabwe did not share a border with Congo and yet not only sent 11,000 troops but provided them with armor and fighter jets. Robert Mugabe, who was always able to justify anything indicated that Zimbabwe was acting in defense of the sacred principle of sovereignty and against foreign back aggression.

9.                            

Congolese Democratic Coalition       These people seemed to spring up from nowhere sometime late in 1998. They operate under several names, including the RCD and the Congolese Rally for Democracy. The RCD are ferociously opposed to the Congolese Government of Kabila. They began in grand style by attacking Kinshasa itself. While particularly unsuccessful in taking the nation’s capital, the Congolese Democratic Coalition, universally supported by all of Congo’s enemies, eventually occupied a substantial swath of the country. However, this motley crew was loosely organized and eventually succumbed to internal warfare, desertions and mutinies.

10.                  

Les Mongoles         Like the pirates along the Barbary Coast, these folks are basically an expensive nuisance. However, in between raids on small army units, they are historically opposed to the Congolese Rally for Democracy, and all else being equal, they will attack the Rally for Democracy rather than the opposition.  In the absence of a real enemy, they will attack anything that looks like a choice target.

11.                  

Maji-Maji Ingillima     The Maji-Maji were a force to be reckoned with early in the 20th century and soon became a large thorn in the German side. At that time, the Germans occupied what is now the Congo.  In 1905 they revolted against German oppression. Their beliefs bordered on black magic; their talisman in battle is a kind of water (maji) and a strange looking headdress. Not surprisingly, they eventually got their heads handed to them, but they remained a regional force in the Congo.  They still practice cannibalism, and will attack with a reckless abandon fed by their belief in both invisibility and indestructibility. They are equal opportunity killers and will attack anyone for a price.

12.                  

Namibia                   Sam Nujoma, Namibia’s leader is an ally of both Angola and Zimbabwe and in this role has sent substantial troops into Congo. While not sharing a border with Congo, the country became extremely concerned with the possibility that the conflict in Congo would turn into a larger regional conflict. However, Namibia was well schooled in the value of the precious stones to be found in Congo and that country paid Namibia well for their half-hearted military support. As an example of one of the payments received, Namibia became part owner of an operating diamond mine with the Congo Government and United States’ interests as token of Congo’s appreciation during their civil war.  The mine is located at Maji Munene near Kinshasa.

13.                  

Sudan                   Sudan’s involvement in Congo is probably the most complex of all of the country’s fighting there. Uganda has made several incursions into Sudan and for that reason alone, the government feels that any nation allied with Uganda is their enemy and anyone against them is their friend. In addition, many Sudanese revolutionaries are fighting alongside the Ugandan forces in Congo.  Sudan’s involvement in the Congo is more of that of providing supplies than that of military involvement than active engagement. However, many Muslim nationals living in Sudan have joined with Congolese forces in the fighting. Nevertheless, Sudan has their own distractions. Military and economic problems tie their hands and they will be able to afford little major involvement in this area. However, that has not stopped them from exporting exotic animals from Congo’s jungles.

14.                  

Chad                 Of all of the groups slugging it out in Congo, Chad probably has the appalling reason. In reality, they have no interests to defend and no bounty that they are concerned with. Their forces are in Congo with a substantial force only as a proxy for the governments of Libya and France. Their benefactors have elected Chad to act to defend the Congo Government and it has been said that their arms as well as those from Zimbabwe were supplied by the Chinese Government.

15.                  

Uganda                Much of what formerly has been said about Rwanda and Burundi could be repeated relative to Uganda, but this situation is infinitely more complex. While it is indeed true that Uganda attacked Congo primarily for economic benefit, there is far more to the story. Lately Uganda has shown a substantial amount of adventurism. They have attacked a number of their neighbors, primarily for economic gain. One of the major benefactors of Uganda is the United States and we have given a very substantial amount of money to that country. While the reason for America’s sponsorship of the crazies in Uganda is the simple fact that America bought the support of the Ugandan army to fight America’s enemy, the Sudanese. “Uganda entered the Congo war to prevent a small rebel outfit, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), from continuing their civil war against the Museveni regime from bases within the RC. Sudan was giving financial backing to Kabila (Congo) to maintain these ADF bases as part of its war with the SPLA. “[2]

16.                  

Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army          Another one of those situation similar to that of Sudan. I am a friend to my friend’s friends and an enemy to my enemy’s enemies. This ragtag group of revolutionaries has a vicious hate on for the Ugandan Government and would do just about anything to get in their face. One of the worst things that they have done in their ardor to inflict pain on the Government of Uganda is conscript children to fight their battles for them. For this action, they have received condemnation from most civil liberties groups. However, that is of little concern to them because everyone else in this Alice and Wonderland type war have been ostracized as well for the violation of human rights as well. Ugandan’s Lord’s Resistance Army makes forays into Congo whenever they feel that the time is ripe to kill Ugandans. They do not appear to be ay danger to any of the other belligerents, but this group will pillage, rape and kill innocent victims whenever the opportunity arises.

17.                  

The Simba               A group of revolutionaries that have been an important force in Congo since its early days as a free country. The United States Government under Lyndon Johnson’s administration sponsored the so-called Simba Revolution that changed the government in Congo. At that time, Laurent Kabila who latter become head of the government was an important element in its victory. The Simba have been supportive of the current Congolese administration.

Eritrea                 Came to the aid of Kabila when he was rooting out Mobutu. However, Eritrea has substantial problems of their own and after Kabila took over, they were handsomely rewarded and for the most part left to handle their own domestic affairs.

There are numerous other countries and groups that are directly or indirectly involved in Congo’s problems. The Chinese, French, the South Africans and Americans are covertly supporting either one group or another. It would take forever to describe each of the other country’s reasoning for being involved here because of the political complexities of the situation. However, aside from the politics, there are other unusual elements present here that have created strange bedfellows. South Africa and Israel are home to companies that are intimately involved in trying to dictate the outcome of this struggle. Oppenheimer and DeBeers both have vested interests in how the struggle affects the international diamond market, as does a major company in Israel that was given the Government’s diamond concessions to operate.

It would require more space than we have available to truly delve into the interlocking arrangements that exist in this struggle within a relatively unimportant country in the global scheme of things.  However, with the stakes being diamonds and other precious metals, you can begin to understand the tenacity of the adversaries. Franz Fanon a famous writer has put the Congo into simple perspective when he said, “Africa has the shape of a revolver; the trigger is the Congo.”

 

The United Nations

 

When you consider that there at least nine countries that are United Nations’ members actively engaged in this mess, at first glance, one would probably think that their offices would be the best bet to solve the problem. From a public relations viewpoint, literally everybody agrees that the fighting should be ended including the combatants, but little headway has resulted no matter how much negotiating has taken place. However there has been some agreement among neutral nations relative to sending an independent unit from the United Nations to at least separate the combatants. This idea too has run into trouble:

 

“…Congo is a daunting test case, threatening to become not only the most complex peacekeeping operation in history but also the most dangerous. Often called Africa’s First World War, Congo’s civil war has drawn in armies from at least six African countries to a struggle that pits the autocratic regime of Congo’s President Laurent Kabila against three separate rebel groups. The decaying nation lacks meaningful infrastructure, roads are nonexistent, and disease is virulent. Fighting is scattered throughout a country the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River. And the often-impenetrable jungle has helped conceal the true death toll.”

 

That operation, which has been on the drawing board for some time, has never really gotten off the ground primarily because most countries are really not much interested in what goes on in Africa. They are not affected by the bloodshed or the pillaging. Because of that fact, no consensus exists and beyond this, the logistics are an absolute nightmare. Some of the logistical considerations that the United Nations must deal with to make any peace is the fact that for every observer that the UN sends to the front, it will take ten additional UN soldiers to guard and supply them. “The largest expense is the fact that, up to 1,000 aircraft sorties to get the troops and their equipment to four posts. If this initial deployment is successful, the UN will consider the next phase, which could involve 20,000 to 30,000 peacekeepers.” ([3]) The cost of such an undertaking will be monumental ([4]), while figuring out the logistics of the situation many have said is utterly hopeless. The combatants from both sides are all currently getting rich at the expense of the Congolese People and have little or no reason to pull up stakes. Fundamentally what is occurring in Congo is a giant mugging by both friends and enemies alike and we see little reason for change of that position any time in the immediate future.

 

 

A STUDY IN SCARLET

 

 

 

The International Monetary Fund became a potent weapon in the waging of the cold war by its ability to bestow largesse upon those favored nations that acted as bastions against Russian aggression. No country provided the West more assistance when called upon, than did Zaire. When the Berlin Wall fell, the blank checkbook was closed and the country joined a large list of nations that were no longer needed in the scheme of things.  That is the way temporary alliances work. When they are over, they are over and someone is usually left holding a large bag or air.

 

 

Mobutu Sese Seko, former leader of Zaire and as such, the then longest reigning monarch on earth, died several years ago at the age of 66; in exile of prostate cancer. He had always been the ultimate opportunist and by selectively dispatching his friends to the great beyond substantially before their time and remaining contemptuous of all his subjects; wa able to set new global standards in corruption, greed and avarice.  Upon ascending his exalted position of undisputed head of everything he surveyed, he changed the name of the country from Congo to Zaire; he Africanized his people’s names, banned skin coloring and outlawed Western music along with hair straightening. Zairians became obligated to address each other as “Citizen” while the suit of the day became a Mao-like outfit composed of tunic and pants. Mobutu was attempting to create a country filled with Zombie-like creatures and for a while he succeeded. Mobutu

 

The rule of Mobutu in Congo is tragic, not because, like Idi Amin in Uganda or Bokassa in the Central African Republic, Mobutu was a madman who  brutalized the residents or served them up in stews to visiting dignitaries, but because Congo could be one of the richest countries in the world. It is stuffed like a turkey with resources, from diamonds to cobalt to uranium - and that, naturally, is why Western powers from the colonial Belgians to the Cold War Americans have always been so interested. It is also why those same countries kept propping up Mobutu with great mountains of cash, much of which wound up building African Xanadus for Mobutu, his family and those he sought to buy.”[5]

 

Mobutu was spotted early by the CIA as a sterling talent almost fifty years ago. Early reports indicated that this was a man that had no scruples and would do anything for a buck. When he was first discovered, the CIA saw this immoral but eloquent young man as a future leader of the country and an excellent rallying point for the people. They were still under the stifling leadership of Belgian who still considered Congo their territory. The United States was then engaged in what appeared at the time to be a fight to the finish with the Soviet Union, which was attempting to destabilize the African Continent. American feared that the Russians had a lot to work with because the Europeans had treated Africa as a piggy bank for centuries and their people as inferiors. They had enslaved the population and had attempted to remove the continent’s resources to their own treasuries. Indeed, they had not done a very good public relations job here and it showed. For this reason, Communism seemed at the time a far better theory than the one that had  been foisted on them by the guys with the tarnished white hats in Europe.

 

At the time of the CIA’s concern, Patrice Lumumba had recently been elected prime minister in a relatively free election. However, the nervy Lumumba wasn’t following the American line and soon began sucking up to the Russians who he thought could do more for his people. The CIA went to their agent in training, Mobutu, and suggested that he could run the country if he would accept American money and weapons and keep his mouth shut about the whole affair.  This was Mobutu’s kind of deal. The President to be just couldn’t wait, he had always dreamed of having his own country and here at an early age he was being offered one. A plan had to be evolved to get rid of Lumumba, some suggested that Mobutu poison him and other felt it would be better to create a civil war. The public relations folks at the CIA indicated that civil wars can be fought on high moral grounds while poison, which is much cheaper and quicker leaves a bad taste.  Mobutu jumped at the opportunity and immediately joined in following the more complicated plan of overthrowing Lumumba to the letter. However, this turned out to be no easy task, as while the allies threw substantial resources into the fray and while Mobutu controlled the army, Lumumba was the people’s favorite and no easy mark.  In the meantime, the Russians gave him substantial moral support and named a university after him in Moscow. The logistics of helping anyone in darkest Africa just did not work for the logistically light weight Communists.

 

 “In August of 1960, the CIA plotted to murder a man named Patrice Lumumba - in the early 1960s, the CIA always seemed to be trying to kill somebody - but in this case, Lumumba was a new leader of the freshly independent Congo. He had himself just been deposed. Lumumba had cozied up to the Soviets in his search for cash to help him build what he expected to become a shining example of what Africans could do when Africa was left to the natives, rather than former colonial exploiters. Lumumba was happy to invite the Soviets, but this, naturally, worried the Americans, who helped arrange Lumumba’s forced removal from power and the subsequent ascension of Mobutu Sese Seko.”[6]

 

Because of the people’s support and the Russian’s goodwill, America’s allies determined early on that it wasn’t enough to overthrow Lumumba; he would have to be dispatched. I guest you could call it a combination of plans one and two. With him still alive the CIA was wary of Lumumba’s strong support from his own people along with his supposed willingness to accept readily available Soviet aid could effect Western domination of that continent. With this in mind, the U.S. along with other friendly Western anti-Communist nations prodded Mobutu and his cohorts to contrive Lumumba’s death. Everyone got their wish, but it took five long years for it to happen.

 

In the middle of the plotting however, a wild card appeared from nowhere. Most of the country’s copper came from the province of Katanga, which, in 1960, was seeking to break away from a Congo that was then controlled by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Allied forces were able to use this as a launching pad. In return, Lumumba sought Russian assistance in putting down the resurrection. This created a situation that could become detrimental to American interests in Africa said the CIA and action had to be taken immediately. The pistols were drawn and the action commenced. The West who supported Mobutu were in good position because in the meantime he had by now become chief of the army. In the end it would also be he who would be ultimately responsible for Lumumba’s overthrow, torture and death. This engendered a massive civil war in which tens of thousands of Congolese lost their lives in the bitter five-year war that ensued. Finally, the allied Western powers were victorious and in 1965 Mobutu, seized power.

 

 

However, Zaire is a country rich in natural wealth and produces substantial quantities of copper, diamonds and cobalt when people are working. Most of the copper comes from the province of Katanga, which, in 1960, was seeking to break away from a Zaire; then controlled by another well know figure, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba had made the mistake of seeking Russian assistance in putting down a modest resurrection. Looking for an alternative to a probable commie, the West supported Mobutu, who by this time had become chief of the army. The West picked well as Mobutu was responsible for Lumumba’s overthrow, along with a bit of torture and an agonizing death. We had created our own monster, but by the time we realized what we had done, it was already too late. Mobutu was a dedicated worker and within a short time, made a shambles of the free election process by creating ballots that were either green symbolizing “progress” or red symbolizing “chaos”. Naturally his party, the only one allowed to be on the ballot, was green, and in its first election, surprisingly, had only 157 red votes cast against it. Many of those that had cast the red votes were quietly hacked to death.

 

 

Mobutu declared himself “Marshal” and introduced a policy of “Zairianization and authenticity”  (Z & A) which in English simply meant that the country would be nationalizing expatriate owned interests within the country and turning them over to the population for involuntary obliteration. When Mobutu spoke of the population when it regarded confiscation, we learned that in reality he was talking about lining his own coffers. Also, part of what became the essence of Z & A was his conceptionalization and construction of a series of outrageous mega-projects that were; to put them in the best possible light, ill conceived, defectively structured, superfluous and which ultimately became a substantial part of the country’s problems. (1) These were created solely with the thought in of overcharging international agencies substantial markups on work performed within the country in the name of humanity and relief and pocketing the difference. Mobutu was able to achieve markups of over 90 percent on many of his make-work concepts.

 

 

America’s Role

 

 

In recent years U.S. policy has stressed the need for good governance in Africa. Most Africans view this as a supreme irony given Washington’s quarter-century of active support for Africa’s most notorious and antidemocratic ruling crook, Mobutu. Between 1962 and 1991, the U.S. directly supported Mobutu (with close to $150 million in CIA bribes and secret payments) and his government (with more than $1.03 billion in development aid and $227.4 million in military assistance). It even provided transport for foreign troops used to suppress anti-Mobutu rebellions in 1977 and 1978.

 

 

The U.S. also helped funnel World Bank loans and IMF credits to Mobutu’s government, even though internal documents reveal that these agencies knew in advance the money was likely to be stolen and the loans unlikely to be repaid. Mobutu used IMF and World Bank loans to repay Zaire’s private creditors, thereby transforming private debt into public debt now amounting to almost $14 billion. Mobutu reciprocated by providing bases and supply routes for UNITA rebels and by backing the U.S. in various arenas. For instance, as chair of the UN Security Council in the months immediately prior to the Gulf War, Zaire was crucial in rallying support for the U.S.-led military operation.

 

 

By the late 1980s, Mobutu’s scale of corruption and human rights abuses had become a growing political embarrassment to the U.S. In 1990, the outbreak of widespread popular protests against his rule moved the U.S. Congress to cut all bilateral aid to Zaire and begin demanding that he step down. During this period, Mobutu, in line with economic liberalization policies championed by the U.S. and the World Bank, privatized many state enterprises he’d nationalized decades earlier. By selling them to supporters at bargain prices, Mobutu transferred dwindling public resources into the hands of many of the same people who’d already looted the public coffers.

 

 

During the next two years, the U.S. embassy initiated contacts with Zaire’s opposition political parties. The U.S., France, and Belgium briefly worked in tandem, cutting all development aid and downgrading diplomatic contacts to pressure Mobutu to relinquish power. But they failed to persuade him to cede control over two vital pillars of his power: Zaire’s elite military units and the central bank. In 1993 the Clinton administration refused to replace its outgoing ambassador to Zaire and barred Mobutu and his closest associates from visiting the U.S. But Washington ignored calls to apply a more potent lever: a freeze on the overseas assets of Mobutu and his close cronies. It also accepted a Mobutu designate, Kengo Dondo, as prime minister rather than the person chosen by Zaire’s parliament, veteran anti-Mobutu opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.

 

 

One of his more grandiose ideas resulted in the erection of a power plant, the Inga Dam, which would produce one-third of the world’s hydroelectric energy and a 1,100-mile, high-tension power grid. The problem with this wonderful concept was the fact that there was no infrastructure to support the project and no way of getting the energy to others that potentially could. For the most part though, Mobuto didn't much care as the whole project was a cover up that allowed him to siphon the money intended to be used into his pocket which would soon find its way into secretive foreign banks most often located in Switzerland. 

 

 

Things continued going down hill as Mobutu played musical chairs with his ministers while blaming the outgoing officials for whatever current ills the government was suffering, took on military projects for the CIA, printed paper money with abandon creating triple digit inflation, and  having a bad hair day, massacred numerous students at the University of Lubumbashi. This did not sit well with Mobutu’s handlers in the United States and it was decided that he had taken the step too far. However, an alternative had to be found within the indigenous population. This was no easy task because the ever friendly Mobutu had already executed anyone that had the brains to attempt unseating him. In lieu of intelligence, integrity and humanity we were obligated to find someone that had no scruples whatsoever in dealing with the dictator in spite of their relationship. Such a man was Laurent Kabila, but more of that later. 

 

  

U.S. policy toward Zaire has been largely reactive since 1993, with policymakers divided over how to respond to developments. Ironically, the massive influx of refugees following the 1994 Rwanda genocide forced an end to Mobutu’s diplomatic isolation. But even as it called for change in Zaire, the U.S. unduly distanced itself from opposition leaders like Tshisekedi, who has considerable political support in Kinshasa, Kasai, and eastern Congo.

 

 

“The Democratic Republic of Congo is both rich and poor. Underneath its sprawling jungle lay many of the world’s most valuable minerals - from gold and diamonds to columbite-tantalite, a vital component in the production of mobile phones and computer chips. But the natural riches have not helped its 51 million inhabitants. Years of corruption and mismanagement have left the country in ruins. Only one in every 1,250 Congolese owns a telephone, for instance. For most, technology still means a hoe or a basket. Per capita gross domestic product is now less than $100 a year, one of the lowest levels in the world. Congo’s economy was the world’s worst performer last year, shrinking by 11.4%. According to the Central Bank, it has contracted every year but one for the past decade. Official coffee production is just 10% of what it was a decade ago; cobalt production is down a third. The state-owned copper mining company earned the Central Bank 800 million in 1989, last year it brought in just $40 million…” ([7])

 

 

The Rwandan government's position on non- engagement, was clear but it is apparent that Kabila had overstepped and all bets were now off.  Rwanda might now have a pretext for intervention, accusing President Laurent Kabila of helping the Interahamwe militias and soldiers of the former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) who have been staging continuing raids into Rwandan territory, causing serious security problems in the north-western regions of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri. Both the FAR and interahamwe (or those who fight together in the Kinyarwanda language) have been accused of slaughtering up to one million people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in Rwanda in 1994. ''We received information about security problems on the border a while back. We've been trying to verify it. But there is no doubt now,''  Ndahiro emphasized. He further accused the Congolese authorities of taking Rwandan nationals hostage, adding there had been reports of some Rwandans being killed.

 

 

Ndahiro reiterated the Rwandan government's position on non- engagement, but warned that things could change according to developments on the ground. He offered strong hints that Rwanda might already have a pretext for intervention, accusing President Laurent Kabila of helping the Interahamwe militias and soldiers of the former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) who have been staging continuing raids into Rwandan territory, causing serious security problems in the north-western regions of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri. Both the FAR and interahamwe (or those who fight together in the Kinyarwanda language) have been accused of slaughtering up to one million people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in Rwanda in 1994. Ndahiro denied the revolt had been orchestrated from the outside. ''There is no miracle in what is happening'', he said, pointing to Kabila's record of mismanagement and nepotism as being catalyst enough for a rebellion.

 

 

Rwanda's denials of involvement in the rebellion were backed by Kabila's former foreign minister, Bizima Karaha. Speaking from Uvira, Karaha emphasized: ''we don't need anyone''. He also dismissed reports of the rebellion being a Banyamulenge-led phenomenon; accusing Kabila's government of 'tribal zing' a broad- based revolt.

 

 

Having Intelligence

 

 

U.S. officials were even less attuned to Congo’s vibrant civil society groups, many of whom had distanced themselves from Kinshasa-based political maneuverings and built up significant public support as a result of their grassroots human rights, civic education, and development work. Until late 1996, the U.S. appeared to acquiesce to flawed election arrangements likely to favor Mobutu. Not until many months after the 1996 rebellion began did the U.S. actively press for a transition government to facilitate Mobutu’s departure. Even then, active shuttle diplomacy in April by U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson only built on prior efforts by Nelson Mandela.

 

 

U.S. officials admitted that given U.S. support for Mobutu, they have limited influence or credibility with the ADFL. (U.S. and western mining companies who eagerly sought and even signed investment agreements with the cash-strapped rebel movement before it took Kinshasa, however, may carry more weight.) The U.S. has been unwilling to challenge the Rwandan government over its reported involvement in massacres of Hutu refugees inside of Zaire and implicitly sanctioned Rwandan and Ugandan covert support for the ADFL military advance. They are less happy that the Angolan government, which also aided the ADFL, is now trying to eliminate UNITA forces, which had long used Zaire as a rear base. The advance of Angolan army forces into UNITA-held areas in May risks unraveling the fragile Angola peace agreement.

 

 

Relieved that Kinshasa fell with relatively little bloodshed, U.S. officials welcomed the ADFL’s inclusion of several non-Alliance members in its new government. United for decades around the need to oust Mobutu, Congolese remain divided on other issues. Some anti-Mobutu politicians and grassroots activists feel inadequately represented in the new government. The Congo will need ongoing dialogue and mutual accommodation among the new government, other former opposition politicians, and civil society to reconcile competing views and to create the basis for long term stability.

 

 

 

The Work of Others

 

 

 

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) take a back seat to no one when it comes to ill-fated, under-evaluated mistakes.  The calamity then occurring inside of Zaire had its roots based in a series of blunders that had literally ravaged the country. Soon to be the former President Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Waza Banga, which some people indicate translates into, the “all powerful warrior who because of his endurance and inflexible will to win will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake”, accumulated assets during his reign of only slightly less than the amount of assistance his country received from global institutions. One other way of looking at his economic appetite was the fact that some economists have determined that this man had pocketed almost one-half of the gross domestic product of the country during his reign. A most prodigious sum and an achievement never before accomplished in the history of the world. Thus, it is more than apparent that he was capable, under the watchful eyes of his benefactors, to convert almost all of the foreign aid his country received, during his term, the longest in earth in this century to his personal gain.

 

 

Among his most prized possessions purchased with money earmarked for his people were chateaux in Monte Carlo, Switzerland, the Ivory Coast, Paris and Belgium. Instead of flying by his national airlines or by the country’s military aircraft, he preferred to rent the Concord to transport his retinue all over the globe while provided living quarters for them at each stop along the way. “Bernard Kouchner, a minister in the Government of the former French President Francois Mitterrand, referring to Mr. Mobutu’s wealth, estimated at the time by some to be as great as $5 billion; when that was a lot of money. He once described the African leader as “a walking bank vault with a leopard-skin cap.” (2)

 

 

But Mobutu was consistently “a work in progress” which is best illustration by the time he decided to go into the sheep ranching; and being a cautious man, he designated his minister to locate where the finest sheep in the world could be purchased and “not to worry about the price.” After substantial research on the subject, his minister of sheep advised him sheep coming from Venezuela were indeed the world's most excellent. Naturally, upon receiving this intelligence, his supremeness, ordered a government jet transport to Venezuela, piloted by a picked crew and then had them make 32 round trips to stock his farm with the very best. 

 

 

Incidents such as the forgoing gave Mobutu new cache in the West and everybody started waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Wags coined the world “kleptocracy” to better describe the form of government being practiced in his country. After all has been said and done, it may be that the most positive aspect of Mobutu’s reign would be the creation of that word in an attempt to describe the pillaging of a country to a degree previously considered impossible by economists. Mobutu has indeed set the bar of theft at a height that may never be surpassed in our lifetimes.  

 

 

Well, Mobutu was always good for a chuckle in world capitals over tea, but Zaire, never without self-destructive tendencies seemingly went from the Mobutu frying pan into the Kabila fire. The new government took over Zaire, and with it, the public relations people created a ring all of the right words and phrases. “A government for the people, no more corruption and let’s build together. “ The people were overjoyed, but has any new leadership not espoused these very same ideals? Even Hitler promised that to the unknowing Germans when he was actually going to slip them a Mickey. . However, not being too swift, Kabila’s backers suddenly noticed that the country had been stripped bare of its financial resources by the previous regime, and what little infrastructure it had was now in ruin because of a total lack of upkeep. Money for oil the machinery and creating new projects was diverted into the pockets of the fallen leaders. Kabila’s Government found that they had assumed the leadership of a country which had been pillaged of its resources. The new leadership in the country soon found that the fault rested not with Zaire, but with the rest of the world for providing aid:

 

 

“With Mobutu gone, these governments and investors must now face up to the possibility that an incoming government will challenge the legality of the debts their predecessor incurred. By all the ordinary laws of contract, many of these debts should be declared void and irrecoverable as against the people of Zaire. They are clearly poisoned by the illegalities that these governments and other foreign partners were tacitly facilitating, and by any standards they were party to the thefts, as they could not have taken place without external complicity,”  (3)

 

 

Under Mobutu, Zaire set special national economic standards that some experts envisage will never be eclipsed in world history.  Per capita income when Mobutu died was only 10% of what it was when he gained power. Roads literally ceased being usable and the country’s poverty became so pervasive that it was economically immeasurable. If Mobutu did anything, he transported Zaire backwards in time, from the 20th century into the Stone Age or earlier. Opponents were routinely tortured and executed for raising any voice at all against his injustice, while his henchmen went about the arduous task of dismantling a country.

 

Gradual Unraveling

 

 

However, this kind of despotic rule could only go on for so long. By 1990, the people had enough of his despotic rule. Nevertheless, they were only able to bring about elections for the first time in a number of years, but Mobutu was able to rig them once again. The people’s optimism of a chance at a new start was soundly trounced at the polls through a combination of Mobutu’s strong armed tactics, phony ballots, payoffs and a series of other underhanded political moves. The real pity of the situation was that in spite of the stultifying aroma coming out of the Government’s system, there had been some progress by the people in dealing with their plight. Through an intelligent use of human labor, many of the necessary infrastructure necessities had found a way to reopen and schools, hospitals and media facilities were at least operating. The people were operating the infrastructure in spite of the government. However, the loss to Mobutu in the election was devastating to many.

 

It wasn’t until four-years later that the people got another opportunity to dump their fearless leader. Rwanda, Congo’s neighbor had gotten into the genocide game in a big way. They determined that the Hutu’s were not full blooded Rwandans and should be eliminated. Not feeling that elimination was healthy for them, all of the Hutu’s that were able to travel, packed up their belongings and headed for Congo. While it worked for the Hutu, it was a major problem for Mobutu who did not have the money to support all of these homeless folks in spite of his empathetic nature. At the same time, he really was ticked off at the Rwandan Government for causing the whole thing to happen to begin with. However, as always, he was up to the task and constructed a model in which he could profit from the horrible event. Mobutu firmly believed that he could turn the whole thing around by selling discount weapons to the Hutu’s at big prices and devise a plan for them to invade Rwanda.  However, it was always Rwanda that had the upper hand in fighting with Congo and the people were brutally slaughtered. Mobutu did not lose any sleep over the event because he would not be responsible for feeding them anymore. In addition, he had already separated them from whatever money they may have had. The United Nations issued a report that indicated exactly what Rwanda was about in Congo:

 

“The panel found that Rwanda could have financed most of its war effort from Congo’s colombite Tantalite (coltran), including coltran stocks looted early in the war. Over an 18 month period it is estimated that the Rwandan army, which effectively controlled the exploitation in Rwandan-controlled territory, must have mad at least $250 million from coltran.” ([8])

 

The craze for coltran, which is an extremely exotic material, often used in products such as cell-phones, jet engines, night vision goggles, air bags, fiber optics and transistors, became so hectic that it started to endanger wildlife in the vicinity. “The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society says the coltran boom has even sent miners into the region’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park, threatening survivors among a population of endangered gorillas depleted by war and refugees.” ([9]) Making maters even worse was the fact that the park is one of a kind and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In simple terms, that means that when some of the species found here are gone, they aren’t coming back.

 

As much as any of Congo’s fabled mineral riches - and lately, far more than most, - coltran explains what all those armies are doing in Congo. Pursuit of any one commodity may not explain why six foreign countries, two rebel groups and assorted militias came there to fight. When the RCD rebels and their Rwandan backers started the current war in August 1998, Congo’s wealth of gold, diamonds and copper was well known, but almost no one had heard of coltran, then selling for less than $20 a pound. But with the price of a pound of coltran sometimes exceeding $100 - or $200,000 a ton, the unit by which it is exported by chartered cargo plane to Europe - the trade goes a considerable way toward explaining why the belligerents have been so reluctant to depart.” [10]

 

While this whole affair was occurring in the eastern quadrant of Congo, Mobutu determined to kill two birds with one stone. While the Hutu were fighting the Rwandans, he sent his army into the territory which was also occupied by the indigenous Tutsis (Banyamulenge) and seized everything they had.  He also sent them scurrying over the Rwandan border, which tended to confuse everyone in the region so enormously that outsiders had a hard time figuring out what was going on. With hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously headed in opposite directions it was enough to give even the most callused individual stomach cramps.  However, the whole thing wasn’t so tragic it would have made an interesting soap opera.  However, being manipulated in this way didn’t really sit well with the Tutsis who felt that they were being thrown out of their historic homeland and they rebelled.

 

From the bitter fighting between Mobutu’s troops, the Tutsis needing allies formed what came to be known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. A heretofore-unknown soldier headed this force by the name of Laurent Kabila, who many moons before had been a fellow traveler friend of Lumumba. “In 1964, aged 23, Kabila took part in a failed Marxist-inspired rebellion, the Stanleyville uprising - one of many in Zaire (Congo) in its first years of independence - and fled into the hills when Mobutu’s forces crushed it. Kabila formed the People’s Revolutionary Party, encapsulating his own Marxist views and Pan-African vision, while on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.” ([11]) However, he had learned much over time from the capitalistic system by watching the hated Mobutu operate. As a sidelight, “Che” Guevara heard about this young Communist wanabee and thought Africa would be a great place to penetrate. He flew over and had a number of meetings with Kabila. He was not impressed, gave up any thoughts of proselytizing in Africa and had this to say about Kabila.  “A mere tourist.”

 

America’s Cost of Doing Business with Mobutu

 

Let’s see if we can total up the entire scorecard. Mobutu received under the table payments from the Central Intelligence Agency and other clandestine American agencies of just a tad under $200 million. This money did not pass go, it went directly into Mobutu’s pocket, or should we say, his offshore bank account. In addition, Congo received almost $1.5 billion in infrastructure developmental aid during the approximately thirty-year period ending in 1991. Considering the fact that literally no substantive additions were made to Congo’s infrastructure during that period, it is not much of a stretch to assume that Mobutu was able to pocket a good portion of it as well; either by getting direct kickbacks from contractors or by merely taking it. Reliable estimates have indicated that approximately 55% of that sum ultimately landed in Mobutu’s bank accounts or his real estate developments overseas. So in total, Mobutu was able to pocket almost a billion dollars for doing America’s bidding during the Cold War.

 

However, American munificent assistance did not end there; his country received another $250 million in military aid, of which much of the equipment portion was resold to the highest bidder with Mobutu feathering his nest once again. Probably the only time Mobutu didn’t directly profit from the American largesse was when the United States was forced to ferry foreign troops in Congo in order to prevent Mobutu from becoming diner when various of the local tribes rebelled over his harsh leadership. Many have said that it never dawned on the gluttonous leader of the Congo to charge ferry fees to everyone. Had it dawned upon him, he would not have been shy.  In addition, the United States was directly responsible for Mobutu receiving $14 billion from a combination of the World Bank and the IMF in spite of the fact that unpublished documents reveal that everyone involved in the fund’s guarantee and transfer were unquestionably aware that Mobutu would steal the money, or a least a substantial share of it. What wasn’t stolen outright was used to convert private debt into public debt, allowing Mobutu to get kickbacks from those that were repaid.

 

By using this method to back into the probable amount of theft by Mobutu from his government’s coffers in exchange for American assistance, we come to the pleasant round number of $8 billion, which does not include Mobutu’s other enterprises. Missing from that figure is the amount of money, Mobutu took directly from the nation’s treasury. It does not include the vast amounts of money that he took in either in form of precious gems or money in exchange for the granting of well-situated mineral concessions. Nor does the figure include the numerous business shakedowns conducted by his government in exchange of merely operating in that country. For both foreigners and citizens alike, there was a price for everything in this now godforsaken place and if the assessed amounts were not paid punctually to Mobutu, the foreigner would be sent out of town on a rail, but the local would more often than not, disappear entirely.

 

Non-event or not, it was not until 1996 that the United States finally took a position regarding Congo in which they began to publicly support a change. When the rebellion first broke out, America, although convinced that Mobutu should go, came up with a rather timid plan of action. The CIA’s silly scenario literally had Mobutu leaving the country with an interim government taking  over the reigns in Congo until a democratic election could be held. During this period of time the United States even used the good offices of Nelson Mandela to try to talk sense into Mobutu and have him accept his exile. However, this strategy was to be no more successful than any of the other meekly engineered arrangements that were floated during this same period. 

 

Nevertheless, nothing that the United States worked out was good enough bait for Mobutu to swallow and it was only when the people rose up against the Government in power and he saw them marching down Kinshasa’s main street with blood in their eyes, did Mobutu finally get the message. He finally pulled up stakes as opposing forces closed in and the country’s capital was spared additional grief for the first time in decades. The nation’s capital fell with little loss of life. However, when the new government was finally put together it was hardly representative of the varying interests within the country and some Congo watchers started to become very nervous.

 

However, it turns out that Kabila had been fighting a guerilla battle against Mobutu for over thirty years in that same area and had studied his every move. Obviously by this time, he knew the territory like the palm of his hand, and with the additional forces that were now at his disposal, Mobutu’s troops turned out to be no match for him. Kabila’s troops overran the country and the people were overjoyed. However, many of Kabila’s early edicts made them even more comfortable. He soon announced the elimination of bribery and intimidation, but never quite got around to doing anything about it. The people of eastern Congo slept well for the first time in many years but they were unaware of the miseries yet to come.

 

 

With President Mobuto Sese Seko’s departure and death and the new Kabila government consolidating its power, the developed nations went into donation overdrive and once again, like a drunk taking to the bottle felt that craving to send more aid via the International Monetary Fund and other international do-gooder agencies. This then, was an excellent time, then, to consider how these policies have actually helped to impoverish the people of Zaire. International Monetary Fund intervention, like Mr. Mobutu’s rule, dates to the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Ever since then, the United States and its allies have closely overseen Zairian economic policy by approving a series of IMF loans and associated conditions/promises by the government of Zaire to make certain adjustments in tax, spending and monetary policy.

 

Mobutu’s Value to the United States

 

What did the United States get in exchange for most enormous bribes ever paid in history? The answer is simple enough, anything they wanted. Guess which country’s representative was the Chairman of the United Nations Security Council immediately preceding the Gulf War?  Guess what Mobuto had him do for the United States?  Mobutu, literally turned himself into a pretzel in order to sell the American position against Iraq during operation Desert Storm. He buttonholed, he cajoled and he proselytized. When the United States backed UNITA rebels needed sanctuary from their own fighting, America once again asked Mobutu for assistance and once again, he bent over backwards in order to accommodate the rebels in spite of taking substantial heat for his efforts from many world leaders. However, Mobutu didn’t mind taking the heat, he was in it for the money no matter what the cost.

 

However, the relative of Mobutu was substantial, at least in American espionage circles. Nevertheless, as the mad dictator of Congo became ever more corrupt, the United States had to begin weighing the public relations downside of supporting this apparent maniac. Here we were in the United States stressing transparency in government, equal opportunities for citizens to use schools, hospitals, education and the like and a solid democratic, freely elected political system. That was what was coming out of one side our mouths, however it was what came out the other that really mattered. That was the side that said, this guy makes Cambodia’s, Pol Pot look like an angel. At least Pot did not enrich himself in office and firmly believed firmly in his position. In the case of Mobutu, no one seems to question that if the Russians had offered him more money, he would have jumped at the chance. Luckily for us that they didn’t have the wherewithal to write the check. At the end, he had gone bonkers over his greed.

 

Massive negative public opinion about this man started circulating around the world. This tended to make even the most callous of American legislators extremely nervous and word was sent to Mobutu that he better get his act together fast or that the rug was going to be pulled out from under him. It dawned on the dictator that he may have to leave town in a hurry and with great fanfare he announced an enormous privatization program. He took literally every medium to large business in Congo owned by the Government and offered it up for bids. His next move was obviously to sell the properties to the highest bidder of those that would kickback to him the most. Usually they didn’t have to bid a lot because it may have led to their execution. Having sold most of the country for a farthing, he pocketed the cash and got ready to leave town in a hurry. When word got out that he had sold what was left of Congo to his partners in crime for a penny on the dollar, the Untied States Government determined that he had served his purpose and with the Cold War over, he was no longer of any importance. Most essential, he was becoming an anchor on America’s public relations campaign for good government throughout the globe.

 

Not only did the United States cut their ties with the Congolese Government led by Mobutu, but also they had all of their friends do the same. Diplomatic relations with Congo became frigid, foreign aid eventually dried up to only a trickle and delegations from the United States as well as other countries had meetings with the Congolese Government about ceding power. When there was no visible response from Mobutu, the United States ratcheted the handle up one more notch. They arranged with both France and Belgium, the two other powerhouses in the region to cut Congo off as well. However, this failed along with other ploys which were attempted during this time. When none of them had any effect; in 1993, the Clinton administration banned Mobutu and any of his associates from visiting the United States. Not that he had any desire to come here, but it read well in the papers and made some politicians look good.

 

However, the United States was not interested in pulling Mobutu’s chain completely because if he ever publicized all of the dirty tricks that he was involved in for the CIA and all of the money that he had stolen from international agencies, we would have looked like idiots. Thus, we have come believe that the United States was only blowing wind when they threatened Mobutu and he knew it. He had us in checkmate and we knew it but apparently we had his permission to blast him for the benefit of our voters.. America could have easily tied up Mobutu’s offshore accounts, but what would Mobutu do in return. He still had numerous untold stories about what America had asked him to do for them when the chips were down and we just didn’t want to let that genie out of the bottle. For a while, it became a standoff. 

 

 

The Oppressive Debt Load

 

 

In June 1967, the IMF approved Zaire’s first economic stabilization program, backed by a $27 million line of credit. The hope, in the words of economic historian Winsome J. Leslie, was to “re-establish economic growth.”  Zaire had no such luck. By 1974, per capita agricultural production was down more that 15% in inflation-adjusted terms. Per capita gross domestic product was up slightly, but thanks only to a massive spike in copper prices that followed U. S. suspension of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971. “The country’s growing debt burden,” a later observer noted, “was part of a steadily weakening economy.” >From 1974 to 1981 the IMF increased Zaire’s debt burden, lending $52 million (coupled with $235 million from the Paris Club) in exchange for a series of 1978 “reforms.” Zaire placed IMF and other foreign officials in key positions its Central Bank, finance ministry and office of debt management. “Belgium is sending 30 to 40 customs inspectors to stop bribery and smuggling,” U. S. News and World Report said in 1979. “Europeans run the vital river-transport system. France is considering sending tax experts, and a United Nations team is moving in to make some order out of the budget.” The more aid they sent, the direr the situation was becoming.

 

 

In desperation, in 1976, Zaire raised personal income tax rates by 20 percentage points. Not even making a dent in the problem and creating a massive number of people living on welfare or less, Zaire was spinning out of control. Three years later it imposed a small payroll tax, a major paperwork burden on businesses. Five times from 1976 to 1981, the Zaire, the national currency, was devalued, at the urging of the IMF who though they were doing the right thing but didn’t have clue what Mobutu was doing to the country. Bureaucrats in other countries were pulling strings that weren’t attached to the real world nonetheless Zaire.

 

 

Despite two more Paris Club reschedulings of official debt (1979 and 1981), an IMF “stabilization” plan (1979) and line of credit increase (1981), and a London Club rescheduling of debt to commercial banks (1980), Zaire’s debt woes continued to mount and the people started calling for an end of the outside help that was destroying the country. Production declined by 4% to 6% every year from 1974 to 1979, rose a meager 2% in 1980, then plunged again in 1981. By 1982, after 15 years of IMF assistance, Zaire now had a lower per capita GDP than in 1967. By now they were faced imminent default on the country’s debt and because they had taken the advice of experts, they were suspended from further use of the IMF facility. But 1983 brought a new agreement, for another $356 million in loans. The IMF’s imprimatur (leverage) allowed Zaire to attract other foreign loans, increasing its overall foreign debt to more than $5 billion in 1978. Everybody thought that these folks were eventually going to get it right, but little did they know.

 

 

With this additional money and “tough” adjustment policies, it was thought that Zaire could begin to grow. In consultation with the IMF, officials devalued the Zaire another 77.5%. Inflation raged, and tax-bracket creep became a gallop, with Zairians earning as little as $2,000 per year thrown into the - 60% - tax bracket. The few that had survived the earlier economic shock waves brought on by helpful international agencies were now pushed over the economic brink. Zaire was inconceivably making Somalia look like the land of milk and honey. 

 

 

Eventually the people that were still working eventually revolted against all of these grandiose economic ideas that were devastating the country. It does not take a nuclear physics expert to figure out that Zairian laborers weren’t willing to work for 40% take-home pay they were getting from a worthless currency that was falling faster than a balloon mounted with lead weights. Production lagged; the underground economy flourished; tax revenues although now pegged a almost inconceivable levels of participation, dwindled to 40% of budget projections. As if to add insult to injury, Zaire imposed a 30% surtax on “importe../../d services__8221.css; and on Zairian income from abroad. This ill-conceived tactic wasn’t nearly enough to make up the revenue shortfall, so the IMF and Europeans helped Zaire to establish a value-added tax, which now stands at 18% and rising.

 

 

The record of failure stood at nearly 20 years when then IMF Director Michel Camdessus reportedly praised Zaire as one of several African countries that were troubled, but “on track” for “economic growth soon.” A few months later - in May 1987 - Zaire was forced to abandon its agreement with the IMF in the face of food riots. But the IMF patched together a new economic program for 1989-1991, bringing further devaluations of the Zaire. Camdessus was never again considered an oracle on the subject or economics or anything much else after that. He followed up his mistakes in Zaire in numerous countries around the world and did it with panache until he eventually resigned. But Camdessus wasn’t sure that his audience was attentive and he said: “These reforms,” Mr. Camdessus told a joint meeting of the IMF and Association of African Central Banks in February 1991, “are producing results - positive real growth.” By that summer, Zaire’s real growth rate had fallen to minus 5%, and it has remained negative each year since. A record that is literally unsurpassed in global history.

 

 

We can now look back at the 30th anniversary of Zaire’s first major IMF traunche. In that time, per capita GDP has declined by more than 40%; annual inflation has commonly run to triple figures, sometimes even four or five figures. Even an IMF document complains that Zaire has been caught “in a vicious cycle of hyperinflation and currency depreciation.”  However, the document does not place the blame where it really belonged, right on the shoulders of the IMF and the thug president Mobutu that they had backed so long and so hard.

 

 

Amazingly, as recently as December 1995, IMF officials once again saw hope for Zaire - if only it would follow more faithfully the advice of the people that had led it into ruin. However, the IMF still had notes of optimism on this horrendous situation.  Zaire’s sickly economy is showing signs of recovery, thanks to stringent government reforms, IMF officials say,” the African Economic Digest reported on December 18, 1995. (4) Fundamentally, Zaire was an economic Frankenstein experiment that had gone stale and none of the pseudo intellects trying to put humpty-dumpy together again was willing to admit that the righting the Zairian egg was not like putting pieces back into a jigsaw puzzle.

 

 

In September 1996, an ethnic revolt against human rights abuses erupted in eastern Zaire. This rapidly developed into a nationwide rebellion against Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32-year dictatorship. On May 17, 1997, a rebel alliance supported by Rwanda, Uganda, and Angola seized Kinshasa, the capital city, barely a day after Mobutu fled. It quickly reinstated the country’s pre-1971 name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and appointed a new government. Mobutu’s departure closed the chapter on Washington’s last remaining cold war client in Africa.

 

Recruited by the CIA in the late 1950s when his country was still a Belgian colony, Mobutu helped overthrow Patrice Lumumba, the Congo’s first and only democratically elected prime minister. Wary of Lumumba’s populism and willingness to accept Soviet aid, the U.S. and other Western powers encouraged Mobutu and others to contrive Lumumba’s death. Thousands of Congolese lost their lives in the bitter five-year civil war that followed. In 1965 Mobutu, with CIA help, seized power in a coup.

 

 

Perfecting a system of rule by theft (called kleptocracy), Mobutu pillaged the public sector, harassing or jailing those who objected. In some years he and his cronies siphoned off up to 50% of Zaire’s capital budget as well as hundreds of millions in mineral export revenues, foreign aid and loans, and private investment (some guaranteed by the U.S. Eximbank). The effects were catastrophic. Despite vast mineral wealth (diamonds, cobalt, copper), oil deposits, and immense hydroelectric and agricultural potential, Zaire’s per capita income has dropped almost two-thirds since independence in 1960 and is listed as the lowest of all 174 countries in the UNDP’s 1996 Human Development Report.

 

 

Mobutu’s impact on people’s daily lives was devastating. Extensive corruption crippled public services, from repairing roads to running schools and hospitals. Workers, their salaries stolen, were forced into the system of corruption just to survive. Nurses sometimes demanded payment before giving shots, while soldiers and police routinely extorted bribes from passersby. Nevertheless, the U.S. continued to view Mobutu as a useful ally against both global communism and radical African movements. He was vital to the U.S.-backed UNITA rebels’ efforts to overthrow the leftist MPLA government in neighboring Angola.

 

 

Popular protest exploded in 1990, forcing Mobutu to agree to end his one-party rule. During this period, Zaire’s emerging civil society—a lively mix of grassroots women’s, human rights, and development groups—initiated many projects to provide basic services (schools, clinics, community radio stations) and to nurture a new politics of accountability. But Mobutu continued to delay Zaire’s transition to democracy, maneuvering to ensure his own election.

 

 

In 1994 over 1 million Hutu refugees, some of them armed, fled to eastern Zaire following the genocide in Rwanda. Rather than disarming these exiles, Mobutu’s military ignored refugee raids back into Rwanda and even sold the Hutus arms. When Mobutu’s forces in eastern Zaire began seizing property and deporting Zairian Tutsis (known as the Banyamulenge), this ethnic minority rebelled.

 

 

In mid-October 1996 the Banyamulenge joined three other anti-Mobutu rebel groups in an Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire/Congo. The ADFL is headed by Laurent Kabila, a follower of Lumumba who had waged a bush war in eastern Zaire against Mobutu since the mid-1960s. Many Congolese initially praised the well-disciplined ADFL rebels for forcing rapacious government soldiers to flee and banning most bribe taking and intimidation, all of which improved people’s daily security.

 

 

Congolese widely celebrated Mobutu’s exit and welcomed Kabila’s promise to organize national elections by April 1999. But some remain concerned over the ADFL’s ban on all political activities and parties, continued blocking of access to Hutu Rwandan refugees and possible involvement in refugee massacres. Still others from Kinshasa’s traditional political parties have condemned his large number of Tutsi advisers, controversial among the many Congolese who view all ethnic Tutsis as foreigners without citizenship rights.

 

 

In an admission against interest or a minor tinge of honesty, in a book published by the World Bank (Private Capital Flows to Developing Countries: the Road to Financial Integration) and released in late May, 1997, the IMF took an about face regarding its “money solves everything” approach. After all this time, the Bank indicated that short-term money inflows are inflationary and often do more harm to the economy than they help. The book also indicates that the distortions effected on the country’s currency can temporarily, artificially inflate its value in world markets, subjecting the national economy to radical peaks and valleys, and laying the country bare to short term economic events such as the displacement of segments of its commerce. So now they tell us after experimenting with people’s lives for the better part of a half a century.

 

 

Well, even if the IMF is a big bully, the World Bank and the Paris Club are certainly friends of Zaire are they not? At about the time that the IMF was throwing in the towel, the hapless World Bank sponsored a meeting in Brussels called “Friends of Congo” to work out a trust fund for Congo once all the money that is owed the two agencies is repaid. However, by this time, The Paris Club alone was owed $10 billion of the $14.6 billion total debt outstanding which represented a mortgage on Zaire’s present, past and future.  Now it  shouldn’t be too hard to work out a $15 billion shortfall when you consider that the amount owed foreign creditors is only 225% of the country’s gross domestic product, and the equivalent to almost 9 years of gross exports for the country. There is about as much chance of this entire debt being rescheduled as there is of recovering even a reasonable part of the money the Mobutu stole.  However, through a slight of the hand trick, the United States had gotten away almost unscathed in spite of the fact that Mobutu was an active CIA operative and had been totally bought and paid for years earlier. Some people even went as far as to say that part of his deal with his American handlers was his allowance to steal whatever wasn’t tacked down and he could take that as well if he could transport it.

 

 

However, as these Paris Club negotiations progressed, the climate became somewhat touchy as the Kabila government embarked on a campaign of accusing their lenders of selling out the country’s people by specifically creating lending projects with which Mobutu could grease his palm. Sounds to me like they finally figured it out. They make the telling argument that in 1978, the ranking IMF official in Zaire pointed out that loans to the country, “did no more than enrich the president and members of the ruling class.” (5)  So all these guys knew that this money was going to wind up in Mobutu’s pocket all the time and yet continued to prime his pump. We can just see Mobutu offering bounties to inventive citizens who were able to find more rivers to dam and more roads to build. We think that instead of rescheduling Congo’s debt, we should reschedule some of the IMF lenders and send them back to economics school.

 

 

 

YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE

 

 

 

If you had to look for something constructive achieved by Mobutu during his reign you would be hard pressed to find any redeeming features at all. Indirectly though, a surprising benefit has emerged, the creation of the first permanent international criminal court. Under the aegis of the United Nations, criminal and constitutional lawyers for all corners of the globe converged upon the UN for a two week meeting that hammered out the substance of the new world court which is was ratified by treaty in Rome during July of 1998. Intense lobbying by the United States put women's rights at the head of the crimes addressed. Other issues that are sure to be heard by the new court will be those of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in general. Interestingly enough though, after all its lobbying on what should be done, the United States did not want this court to get in the way of any agenda it may have and voted to severely restrict the courts jurisdiction.  However, just infrastructure projects are often named after their creators; we believe that the Court should be called the Mobutu International court of Justice, after the man that inspired its creation.

 

 

Naturally, Britain, China France and shared with the United States, their desire for veto power over the definition of international crimes.  They demanded that the United Nations Security Council have sole power to refer cases to the court. Eventually this was worked out by allowing the Security Council to defer the reference of a case but not to define the Court’s jurisdictional boundaries. An example of the infighting that went into the sloth like progress on moving along the court’s agenda, David Scheffer, who was the U. S. Ambassador-at-large for war crimes indicated that out of the potpourri of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; America would only allow the court automatic jurisdiction in the cases of genocide. Although the court is certainly a step in the right direction, some of the guardians of this flame are a little too close to the fire to have everything go without a hitch and the unusual alliance of the United States, Russia, France and China do not seem to want to trade in sovereign rights for what they may believe is a bowl of porridge.

 

 

But when all of the smoke had finally cleared, the Court was approved by an enormous majority. All of the nations worked mightily to overcome the objections of the United States who didn’t want its soldiers charged with war crimes for acting as the world’s policeman. When the final vote was taken, the United States had serious moral problems about the court’s makeup and along with other major stalwarts of human rights, Libya, Algeria, China, Qatar and Yemen voted against the court. The global cop finally found out how high the price is for setting the world’s moral standards and now faces the potential sacrifice its own citizens at  the hands of those who do not necessarily share the Washington’s charitable inclinations. Down the road, this court was eventually approved with the United States exchanging virtual immunity from prosecution in exchange for its presence.        

 

 

  A CATHARSIS- IT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER

 

 

 

The World Bank admits that the adverse impact of money poured into the economy can be magnified in developing countries because they often lack the human resources to handle unexpected economic and monetary dislocations. Joseph Stiglitz, at the time, the World Bank’s chief economist, pointed out that rigid capital control systems open the door to speculators (arbitrage profiteers) who can take advantage of disintermediation, effectively sucking money out of the system. Too much money can also cause imprudent lending practices by indigenous bankers, subjecting the system to long term problems.

 

 

The book comes to the conclusion that reduction of government deficits is more important to stabilization than fixed monetary policies. It is difficult to understand why it took the World Bank over 50 years to realize that internal economic discipline does more to attract outside investment to developing nations than does a series of cosmetic knee jerk fixes.  As we point out later in the paper, the World Bank may have finally caught up to today’s reality, but the economy of tomorrow will be radically different and based on their history, they will again find a new way of being out-of-step. However, these folks didn’t realize what they were dealing with when they tried to apply these principles to the new Kabila government. 

 

 

 

JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT THINGS WERE GETTING BETTER…

 

 

 

Particularly in Zaire, the World Bank and IMF faced a new challenge in the form of highly regarded Laurent Kabila, who was the leader primarily responsible for eliminating Mobutu. Kabila has also been spearheading the country's efforts to get international banks to return the money that the ousted leader stole from the "people".  However, he seems to have clay feet. As time goes by Kabila, instead of donning the mantle of Joan of Arc, more and more often wears the armor of Pol Pot.  He seemed to be ready willing and able to steal everything that Mobutu had left. While this was not a lot, the country was extremely rich in natural resources and Kabila began to concentrate on that area for plunder.

 

 

Along with a strong desire to match Mobutu in desecration of the country, Kabila had another even more nefarious game plan in mind for these innocents. You see, Mr. Kabila is a Tutsi, one of the ethnic Zairians who, along with the Hutu, make up the majority of the population. Throughout  history, the  two tribes have never gotten along well and it seems that Kabila’s ruling passion was revenge against the Hutu tribesmen who killed at least half a million of his people in Rwanda in 1994.  It did not take very long before people in what was not renamed The Democratic Republic of the Congo, started talking about the good-old-days when Mobutu was leading the country into starvation. Kabila had the same drive as Mobutu when it came to theft of the country’s resources but he added a factor that was unthinkable at the time. While President Mobutu was always into a good torturing session for those that got out of line, he limited this activity to special cases. (anyone that got in his way) Kabila on the other hand had a major agenda and before the blood had dried was probably responsible directly or indirectly for the murder of more than 31/2 million people. 

 

Laurent Kabila, Out Of the Same Mold

 

A despot in training emerged to take over from the old professional. The people in the World Bank and the IMF were forced back to their drawing boards in order to figure out what to do with the unproven Kabila. Here was a guy that had shown leftist leaning while cozying up to Lumumba but more recently seemed to be leaning towards a democratic agenda. Was he a fish or was he a fowl. Nothing in their records gave them a clue. He seemed to be OK because Kabila has been spearheading the country's efforts to get international banks to return the money that the ousted leader stole from the "people".  However, little could anyone have dreamed that he only wanted the money returned so that he could put it in his own pocket.  As time went on this became more and more apparent, Kabila, instead of donning the mantle of Joan of Arc, more and more often wears the armor of Pol Pot.

 

You see, Mr. Kabila is a Tutsi, one of the ethnic Congolese who, along with the Hutu, make up the majority of the population of Congo. The two tribes have never gotten along well and it seems that Kabila’s ruling passion was revenge against the Hutu tribesmen who killed at least half a million of his people in Rwanda in 1994.  The fall of Mobutu was only a secondary goal that he had in mind. He had a much more nefarious plot in mind.

 

Let the slaughter begin Kabila cried to himself. Once again there was an outcry from the human rights groups, journalists and the United Nations investigators.  But where were all the bodies? Although these advocates had found little physical evidence of the slaughter, they have had substantive interviews with refugees, missionaries and diplomats, who painted a very gruesome picture.  Because the evidence of genocide was so pervasive, the European Union which was originally extremely pleased with Kabila’s ascension to leadership determined that they would wait with their promised funding until they could determine which way the wind was really blowing. It seems that they ultimately determined that the wind was blowing through the garbage dump and its smell was that of death. 

 

 

More Human Rights Violations

 

 

An outcry now went from human rights groups, journalists and the United Nations investigators; the very same people that had heralded Kabila’s ascension to power.  Although at this point these advocates had found little physical evidence of the slaughter, they were having substantive interviews with refugees, missionaries and diplomats, who were beginning to paint a gruesome picture.  Because the evidence of genocide was so pervasive, the European Union began withholding a promised $500 million until the United Nations investigation that was mandated was complete. Early analysis showed that the total numbers of dead would approach the startling totals in Cambodia, something that is almost too horrendous to contemplate and yet these numbers started to prove conservative. At first,  Kabila and his associates tried to cover up the evidence, but the killing became so pervasive that this soon became a waste of time. Moreover, in a lucid moment, The Tutsi have admitted shooting countless civilians when as they put it, “it was necessary to root out their enemies”.  

 

 

 

Amnesty International joined the chorus and directly accused Kabila and his henchmen of covering up evidence of the atrocities. Amnesty International stated that the Tutsi forced burned their victims and tossed their corpses into the rivers, feeding the man-eating crocs that infested these waters which helped dispose of the evidence.  For centuries, Congo’s marine life has been substantially better fed than the country’s population.  Kabila, however, was only adhering to a murderous national tradition; perhaps he should have been commended for honoring the traditional mores and customs of the area. With the hew and cry that arose, ultimately the United Nations asked Kabila if they could  take a look at the situation for themselves so that they could evaluate the report, and after substantial delay, permission was finally granted.

 

 

This became a game of cat and mouse, somewhat akin to what Iraq did with the United Nation’s Weapons. While the UN team was elsewhere in the Congo, Kabila’s soldiers were carrying out sorties in towns such as Butembo while attempting to rout out the Mai-Mai troops that had invaded the area. In Butembo, the troop’s commander, frustrated with his lack of success against the Mai-Mai ordered his men to turn their guns on the town’s children. However, don’t think that there wasn’t method to his madness. Thinking that when the Mai-Mai saw babies being killed because of their continued presence, they would withdraw. This became a high-stakes poker game with the infants as hostages in a really sick game of chicken. The Mai-Mai did not leave, and when Kabila’s men had finished killing all of the available children and still couldn’t get rid of their opponent, they called in reinforcements. As would be expected in situations such as this, when the new troops arrived on the scene, instead of being horrified at the slaughter, they became incensed because they had been left out and there was little left to burn and pillage in Butembo. On a roll they began killing everyone in the surrounding villages, duplicating what had already occurred.  (6) But then again they were probably just showing off for their commanding officer.  Numerous of these soldiers, none of which had as much as seen a Mai-Mai, were anointed for bravery in face of substantial odds instead of being tried for treason and murder. 

 

 

Children

 

Moreover, when talking about children, this war has taken an unbelievable toll on the young. Some of the statistics are horrendous. The following is a report by Karl Vick for the Washington Post on 5-3-2001.

 

In Congo, the hugely elevated mortality rates have continued for 32 months, racking up deaths by the hundreds of thousands across a vast region rendered inaccessible to aid because of fighting and the lack of roads. Children appeared to be perishing at an extraordinary rate. Around Moba, on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika, last year’s survey showed nearly half of the infants were dying before reaching their first birthday. The figure was so staggering that Roberts scaled it back when extrapolating the data for the entire province, Katanga. But last month, when Robert brought a team back to Katanga, this time concentrating on the district of Kalemie, he found the situation was worse: Three of four children were dying before age 2. ‘It’s a damn rare we see these kinds of hardship,’ Roberts said, using famines as reference pints, ‘Probably in Somalia in the 1990s when we saw these skinny kids on TV. Probably in Ethiopia in 1984 you saw number like that.” [12]

 

 

Under the American Clinton Administration, no one could do much bad and good words were in abundance for even the biggest louts. However, in one of the most outrageous statements ever uttered by a diplomat, U. S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated that the Congo "had a commitment to open markets, honest government and the rule of law"; the country would emerge as an "engine of regional growth."  She went on to say that "President Kabila has made a strong start toward these goals."  Shortly after Albright left the Congo, President Clinton sent his special envoy for democracy and human rights in Africa, Jesse Jackson, to Congo.  Jackson, a black Christian minister, cooled his heals as five meetings were canceled and rescheduled. He was ultimately told that Kabila did not like the fact that Jackson was having dialogs with other Congolese. This apparently set the stage for things to come as Jackson headed for equally trouble Liberia.

 

 

A Minister Comes To The Table

 

 

Jackson met with Etienne Tshisekedi, an opposition Tutsi leader shortly before he left.  Tshisekedi was arrested shortly thereafter, and has not been seen since. Against this backdrop,   Albright soon saw the error of her ways and stated shortly thereafter that when Kabila overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko  he “inherited a country that was divided, demoralized and broke, unfortunately, President Kabila has done little thus far to bring his people together.”  This has to take the cake as the world record for understatement as you read on.  Someone in the State Department obviously was reading the tea leaves upside down when both statements were made, however, during this period of time, most of their employees were out-to-lunch anyway.

 

 

As to Ms. Albright’s claim that Kabila had something to do with honest government, he certainly did make a good start, which is what she must have been referring to. He did not steal a thing until he had been if office for ten-minutes. Among the first things he did was say, that ultimately Congo would have a presidency based on the “American style”, but apparently Mr. Kabila went to a different political science school than did Ms. Albright. He announced in true “American style” that certain people would not be allowed to run for the presidential office and included all people that “have compromised themselves, who have acquired property illegally or who have been involved in political killings or other human rights violation will not be allowed to stand.” My god, under those guidelines three out of the last six American Presidents couldn’t even have run and that list doesn’t include those who have compromised themselves. Beyond the definition of who can’t run, Kabila’s henchmen drew up a “provisional list” of those that would be statutorily bared such as most of the members of opposition groups including his major opponent, Etieenne Tshisekedi. With the terms of the election of the dictator, I mean, president worked out, anxious citizens requested the date on which the forthcoming election would be held. Government Officials indicated that this date had not as yet been determined, but it certain would be set in stone the next several decades.     

 

 

If the killing of its citizens has something to do with honest government or the rule of law, then we are not aware of it. The same day that Ms Albright made her strange announcement; civil war erupted in Zaire between the government and anti-government forces in Bukvu.  Gaetan Kakudji, Minister of State for Home Affairs, accused the Vatican of backing the rebels with help from former Mobutu allies who provided weapons. Kabila and his people had taken on all comers in their early days in office and were now fighting social, religious and economic wars on literally all of their borders with the outside world. Moreover, internally, things were even worse.

 

 

Outlandishly, a short time after Secretary of State Albright’s “honest government” speech the State Department came out with a diametrically opposite position:  “The security forces of Congo President Laurent Kabila committed serious human rights abuses last year, just as those of his ousted predecessor Mobutu Sese Seko did. The Security forces of both governments (Mobutu and Kabila) were responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, rape, and other abuses and there are many persistent and credible reports of simple, straightforward killings of unarmed persons by Kabila’s forces or by Rwandan troops who were supporting them.” (7) Someone woke up and started to smell the burning coffee. The Rwandans were being allowed to pilfer whatever diamonds they could carry out of the country in exchange for their help in eliminating Kabila’s enemies which were fast becoming legendary.

 

 

With Albright having dropped the championing of Kabila’s cause, the United Nations stepped in to verify what if anything had happened to all of the citizen’s that seemed to be disappearing right and left. They had a number of strong hints from survivors of massacres where the vanishing people could be located and they had indicated to the United Nations where mass burial plots contained the remains of badly tortured corpses with all parts of their bodies severed. Naturally the U.N. team made a beeline for that location and began excavation after cooling their heels for four months in downtown Kinshasa while awaiting permission Kabila’s permission to explore the area. No sooner had the diligent U.N. grave digging squad begun their grisly work in and around Mbandaka, in spite of intense heat and constant attacks by insects big enough to carry away even the heartiest of the exhumers, when suddenly they were placed under arrest for desecrating a tribal grave. Can you believe this, after waiting all of that time and trekking through unchartered jungle for weeks, they almost get murdered by fanatical locals claiming that the United Nations team was digging up their ancestors.  Moreover, those on the scene could only tell that it appeared as though someone had dug the graves, buried the bodies and then came back and removed the evidence. U. N. Spokesman Juan-Carlos Brand stated that “Preliminary exploration of the site on March 18, 1998 by forensic experts confirmed the existence of at least on mass grave, whose contents appeared to have been removed several months after burial, possibly in an attempt to destroy evidence. “

 

 

Mbandaka residents passionately informed UN operatives that this wasn’t just another grave that they were fiddling with, this was the grave that held the body of a tribal chief and unless those that disturbed the sanctity of his resting place were dealt with accordingly, the gods would be displeased and you know what happens when you irritate the gods.  Apparently the penalty in the Congo for this offense must have been being cooked in oil because the team when they saw the natives coming at them brandishing “machetes and hunting spears,” (8) along with setting a large pot over some burning logs, ran for the hills. The team at that point thought that they were going to be someone’s dinner. However, at the very last minute, just as in the Perils of Pauline, the army stepped in an evacuated the terrified team. The group which included both doctors and anthropologists “will not soon be coming back to the Congo”, was the learned statement of one wag in the know.   

 

 

In all fairness to Kabila, he had taken over power in a country that was in a major state of disrepair. Road traffic for the most part is non-existent and in most cases the jungle has reclaimed whatever highways existed. Thus, all cities are only accessible to each other by river traffic and if they don't have a river nearby, the residents just aren't going anywhere. The country has become a hodge-podge of local and independent economies attempting to make it on their own without assistance from the national government. The country’s agriculture sector has been devastated by the lack of infrastructure, which has prevented goods from reaching market.  For the most part the country has neither electricity nor drinkable water.  Illness is a virtual death sentence as there are neither doctors, clinics or medicines. 

 

 

Yet, one of Kabila’s first moves was to establish a Gaullist "Office for Ill-Gotten Gains" which has made a concerted effort to catalog and store all the items that are believed to have been part of the corruption process of the former administration.  Ironically, the culture of corruption has penetrated so deep that the office’s employees have been summarily sacked and countless items that were part of the inventory have disappeared, only to resurface for sale abroad.  In a land where there is little left, it becomes more difficult to get truly rich by looting the leftovers.

 

 

Interestingly enough, the country has the ability to produce not only enough electricity for itself but for many of its neighbors as well from its facility on the Congo River. The only trouble is; there is no power grid that can transport this resource. Thus, Congo has one of the greatest potential exports and if they could get one more bite at the World Bank apple, they could string their grid lines to neighboring countries, sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, there is one small problem with this theory and it goes back to those generous donors that oversaw the energy plant’s construction, Congo’s neighbors don’t have a grid either. What were these folks thinking about?

 

 

Kabila has consolidated his success by jailing his own associates who helped him liberate Zaire. His latest arrest was highly regarded Commander Anselme Massasu Nindanga, a high ranking partner of Kabila in the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. The excuse given by Kabila's people is that he was arrested for "military discipline'" reasons. Now another civil war has broken out in the country with forces loyal to Massasu engaging the Kabila loyalists. Like another global great, Hussein of Iraq, Kabila feels he can only trust his family and has installed his brothers and his children in the country's most important posts. With the jailing of Massasu, he has eliminated whatever opposition may have come from his former compatriots. He is free to finish where Mobutu left off and loot what little is left in the country.

 

 

Kabila loyalists, on average a bright group, looked around to see where they could make a fast buck. Enterprising army officers took the food relief supplies for the army sent in by humanitarian Agencies and resold it to the civilian population not even bothering to feed their own forces. Because of this 380 recruits died of starvation and cholera. Getting bad press from an otherwise capital idea, associates of Congo’s new leader have opened a new bank that accepts foreign deposits; that is, if you want to do business in the country. And guess who owns the bank that you have to deal with? Kabila’s family. Graft has once again reared its ugly head and in true Russian style, the same projects are being sold to multiple buyers. I mean, this has become a country where even after you pay the bribe and it is accepted, you can’t be sure that the deal is yours and if people won’t stay bribed, how are you going to deal with them? 

 

 

Azadho is the name of the premier human rights group in the Congo and as such issues and issues an annual report yearly.  The group has been evaluating civil rights in the country since Mobutu’s time in office, and for the most part has been able to make little distinction between the two regimes. In their most recent treatise on the state of affairs under Kabila it “lists exhaustively, alleged killings, rapes, pillaging and arbitrary detention as well as corruption cases before and after President Laurent Kabila took power. Nepotism, clientelism, traffic of influence ... sudden restriction of public liberties, arbitrary arrests sand intimidation characterized the AFDL’s running of public affairs...” (9)  Naturally as quickly as the annual report could come off the presses authorities were able to confiscate and destroy the great majority of the copies. 

 

 

Poor Laurent, it seems that everyone is taking pot shots at him, and you can’t really blame the dear boy with all of those do-gooders traipsing around the country talking about the perilous state of Congo’s economy. Kabila though, got in the last laugh when his Information Minister, Raphael Ghenda explained it all, “The truth is that this inquiry by the United Nations is part of a vast plot to destabilize the new leaders of Congo.”  Ghenda went on to tell it like it is, “The cabinet denounced the scandalous and inconsistent behavior of members of the commission. Arrogant investigators with no consideration for our values desecrate graves, provoking the indignation and hostility of the local population.” Boy that sure tells it the way it is.

 

 

On a roll, Kabila next banned the Zairian Association of Human Rights (AZAHDO), the largest human rights group in the country. Not satisfied just with the ban, police raided their offices the same day and sealed them shut. On this occasion, the justice minister, Mwenze Konolo acted as Kabila’s spokesman and said of the organization, “It is illegal and it gets involved in political campaigns instead of making objective reports.” It is strange that Mwenze would say those things; after all it was only a month ago when AZAHODO had released their white paper about Kabila’s administration and indicated that they were involved in “Killings, rapes, looting and arbitrary detention as well as institutionalized theft, both before and after Kabila formally took power.” (10) As time goes on it becomes increasingly obvious that Kabila is just a spoil sport with no sense of humor.

 

 

 

Kabila’s Quest

 

 

 

Laurent Kabila turned out to be a fiend who had probably become angry because his predecessor had stolen so much from the country he was running that there was nothing left for anyone else. However, Kabila was not totally stupid and he soon came to the conclusion that the more diamonds that could be mined, the more money he could make in spite of everything his predecessor had accomplished. There was still a small possibility in his mind that he could ultimately steal as much as Mobutu had.  He made deals with everyone in sight to start mining the pretty stones and before you know it they were all fighting for the opportunity to take the stuff out of the ground

.

 

Unquestionably, there was a moral high ground that all of these countries attempted to maintain publicly. However, when push came to shove, if the simple truth was told, as far as the nations surrounding Congo were concerned the economics were simple, can I make more getting a legal concession from the Congolese Government and take the stones out by mining them with my own troops and protecting throwing in a tad of protection for the incumbent government or am I better off, taking what I want by force and holding off anyone that attempts to take it back.

 

 

Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe received valuable concessions from Kabila and were able to take substantial numbers of diamonds out of the ground while occasionally fighting with Uganda ([13]) and Rwanda who had staked out their own claims unilaterally because they thought that they could do better that way.  Congo by this time had become the wild west and each of these invaders, whether there  by invitation or by invasion had their own justice system. Sort of a country within a country approach to government. These courts even went as far as sentencing opposing leaders in absentia and then announcing that they were wanted dead or alive with a bounty on their heads. Each mining territory had its own indigenous band of rebels, schools and infrastructure, run by the armies that happened to be at that place at that time. Anarchy was indeed reigning supreme.

 

 

“On the Congolese government side, the granting o mineral concession to military allies has been well documented: offshore oil wells to Angola, diamond and cobalt to Zimbabwe, a share of a diamond mine to Namibia. Among the rebels and foreign invaders who control the eastern half of Congo (and perhaps 20 percent of its resource wealth, according to the government minister for investments), the expropriation of diamonds, timber, coffee and gold is also taken for granted. Uganda, which supports the rebel group that occupies Congo’s premier gold-mining region around Bunia, exported 10 times more gold ore after entering Congo than it did five years ago, according to official statistics.” ([14])

 

 

However, any government at all was probably better than what was going on in Congo central. Literally all of the human rights offices had been closed and the organizations had been banned by Kabila. In addition, Kabila had a habit of either sentencing offending civil right leaders to death or if they were lucky, sending them to prison for long stretches, 15 to 20 years at a pop.  Many of the civil rights leaders around the country are now convinced that their civil liberties were substantially greater under the monster, Mobutu than they were under Kabila. In addition, under Mobutu they said, “we were not dealing with our neighbors coming into our own country and killing our own people. Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda were accused of being involved in massacres” ([15]). (Namibian troops were up to their eyeballs in plundering but not in the massacres) In addition, they said,  under Mobutu the people were paid, not necessarily on time or not necessarily as much and not necessarily in money with the original buying power, but they would be paid and they could support their families. Under Kabila, we work and get nothing for our labors.

 

Adding more fuel to the fire was an obscure incident in Kinshasa, the capital of the Congo,  a city with over 5 million inhabitants, in which a 13 year old soldier shot and killed a Red Cross volunteer. He did it because the lad was upset with the fact that he had been ordered to leave the playing field because a game was about to begin. The speedily convened court recommended a substantial jail term but avoided capital punishment because of the boy’s age. During this bizarre war, the Red Cross came in for its share of misery. Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders had already packed up and left because of the lack of protection in Congo.

 

“Attackers with guns and machetes shot and slashed to death six Red Cross workers on a remote road in eastern Congo, leaving their bodies to be discovered in their burned vehicles…The ambush marked the deadliest single attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross since six nurses were killed in their sleep at a hospital in Chechnya in 1991.” ([16])

 

 

The military tribunal publicly overturned the civil authorities and ordered the youngster put to death. A country of portable time bombs, Kabila’s conquering army has, based on the United Nations Children’s Fund, 15,000 to 20,000 thousand prepubescents serving in the country’s military forces. This boy was not the first under-aged soldier in this country to use the gun he had been carefully trained to kill with on the wrong victim, and in recent months over 60 soldiers have been put to death over similar crimes. This incident has raised a storm of protest in the Capital and some of the population is whispering about the fact that they had it substantially better with Mobutu.

 

Congo’s military routinely recruited and used child soldiers under the late President Laurent Kabila. In June 2000, the president announced that the armed forces would demobilize child soldiers and reintegrate them into civil society. But Congo still has approximately 12,000 child soldier according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.” [17]

 

 

The honeymoon between the United Nations and Kabila was short lived. It now looks like the United Nations has had it with Kabila. The last straw was the overnight detention of Canadian U. N. Team member, Christopher Harland, at the airport in Kinshasa. Harland had previously been detained in Goma as well. At issue were his travel documents which were in perfect order and had been issued by both the Canadian Government and the United Nations. Information Minister Raphael Ghenda tried to cool down tempers when he said that the cabinet of the country had “denounced the scandalous and inconsistent behavior of members of the commission. Arrogant investigators with no consideration for our values desecrate graves, provoking the indignation and hostility of the local population”, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have indicated to the U. N. Secretary General, that further attempts by the organization to get to the bottom of what happened in the Congo are fruitless and that UN personnel’s talents can be better utilized elsewhere.

 

 

The United Nations

 

 

Effectively having no where to turn, Kofi Annan, the Secretary General  announced that he would withdraw the United Nations Team that was investigating the massacres.  Annan stated that the Country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, showed a “total absence of cooperation.” Annan sent an additional message to Kabila by not scheduling a trip to the Congo on his upcoming tour of Africa.  The United Nations then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson called for the convocation of an International Criminal Court, “with the political backing and resources to bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst violations of human rights.”

 

 

Hey Mary, we get the drift and think you are a groovy person with those high ideals and all. What about an International Criminal Court for the “next to worse” violations of human rights as well. From what we see in the nations making UN membership, we think there are a lot of folks equally as evil as Kabila and under your system; he could drop through the cracks. The day that Syria lands on the Security Council and runs the Human Rights end of things, we know that game is over. These are folks that helped transport fighters into Iraq during the American incursion in that country, they allowed Iraqi criminals to escape through their borders, they allowed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to be transported to their country, they have attacked their friendly neighbor, Jordan, they have annexed Lebanon, they have destroyed entire segments of their own population who had differing religious beliefs and are in the bossiness of exporting terrorism. How come there missions don’t begin at home in your own back yard, or  is the United Nations Human Rights Commission only interested in low risk publicity.

  

 

Simultaneously with Harland’s detention, Kabila who was at that time in Ethiopia, was ranting and raving about how his country was being short changed by the world community in the rebuilding of his country.  He has not yet got the message that funding and human rights are a tandem and one is not going to happen without the other. Meanwhile, Kabila’s thugs were forcing Hutu refugees into trucks for their ride back to Burundi. In his anxiety to get rid of the Hutu’s in short order, Kabila’s men, by mistake, loaded Congolese Citizens into the trucks as well. However, they were also sent to Burundi in spite of their protestations that they were legitimate Congolese Citizens.  

 

 

With the United Nations literally put to pasture, Kabila’s legions started cleaning up their dirty linen. I mean with all of the human rights groups wandering around the country, someone could get hurt and it would be best to round them up so that they would be safe. Why, didn’t Omer Kande, the leader of the human rights organization, ANNADEM-F disappear from the face of the earth immediately after publishing the fact that “senior security officials had buried torture victims in their gardens?” (11) Kabila also thought it was best that Paul Nsapu and Sabin Banza who were the two highest ranking officials of the “League of Electors” take some time out to enjoy life at one of the country’s better correctional facilities before something happened to them as well. You have got to give Kabila his due, he may not be doing everything right, but his anticipatory actions that insure a healthier population by sending overworked zealots to rest homes run by merciless guards certainly would have to put to rest a lot of the misguided information we are receiving about him and just maybe, Madeline Albright was right.

 

 

In the meantime, the UN began work on a report, going into chapter and verse on the subject of Kabila and his murderous henchmen. The report seemed to be anticlimactic in that it natural verified the fact that genocide was still a way of life in the Congo and indicated in no uncertain terms that Laurent Kabila’s troops systematically killed Rwandan Hutu refugees. The report added that, “The Democratic Republic of the Congo has shown no interest in fulfilling its obligation, under international law, to investigate responsibility for the serious violations of human rights and grave breaches of humanitarian law which occurred in its territory.”

 

 

Kabila, having few cards in his deck left to play, took issue with the scholarly document and suggested that member states of the United Nations should either disregard it or reject its findings as they saw fit on the grounds that the UN had violated its own regulations regarding confidentiality until the member nation in question had time to answer the charges in detail. Mwenze Kongolo the Congo’s justice minister stated for the record: “Once again, the Democratic Republic of the Congo invites member states of the United Nations to reject purely and simply the conclusions of the report which implies the country implicated in a genocide which never existed nor was investigated.”

 

 

Adding oil to an already raging fire, it seems that the contingent to the United Nations Headquarters in New York from the Democratic Republic of the Congo did not take kindly to paying the bills that they ran up while in the United States very seriously. It seems that they were under the impression that being assigned to the UN included the ultimate free lunch a landlords and shopkeepers who dealt with them. Totally feed up, the United States State Department told the majority of the mission to pack their bags and leave and not to come back until they had settled up their accounts with everyone.  

 

 

Look how generous he was to Mobutu’s three top general’s that had fled to the Ivory Coast and were now getting the heave ho from that country. Kabila said, “It’s very simple, they have only to come back home...It’s their country. They don’t have to go on wandering. They have to participate in the reconstruction of the country they have destroyed. There will be no revenge.” These fellows may have to take Kabila up on his kind offer as the Ivory Coast sent the trio to Mali thinking that they had gotten rid of them once and for all, only to find them arriving back on the next plane. All other countries in the region have courteously declined to offer the gentlemen residence. On the other hand, we are always to suspicious of Kabila, he may be completely serious and desirous of learning new secrets that these gentlemen have at their disposal of how to steal everything that isn’t tacked down from a country that has nothing left. Considering the fact that they worked for Mobutu, they just may have the answer.   Kabila is always taking a page from the Sadam Hussein book of life and we remember when he told his two sons-in-laws then living in Jordan that they would also be welcome to come back.  

 

 

Ngefa Atondelco a civil rights activist in the Congo put the matter in perspective:” Last year Kabila's regime jailed 98 journalists and seven human rights leaders. In rebel-held areas, two human rights activists were murdered. "At least under Mobutu we had freedom of expression," said Atondeko.  He accused the foreign forces involved in the war of looting the country's wealth. He accused four of the countries involved - Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda - of involvement in massacres.

 

 

The U.S. Government Wakes Up

 

 

James Foley's March 4, 1999 statement: “The already poor human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo worsened following the outbreak of war last August. The State Department's recently released human rights report cites serious human rights violations committed by both sides in the war. Government security forces are responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, beatings, rapes and other abuses. Many of the abuses have been directed at ethnic Tutsis. Rebel forces have also committed extrajudicial killings. There are credible reports that they massacred hundreds of civilians in the town of Kasika in August and the town of Makabola over the New Year's weekend. They were responsible for disappearances and they reportedly tortured, raped and detained many civilians.”  In a revue of the entire situation it turns out that 80% of the Congolese budget after theft by senior officials including Kabila was spent for heavy weaponry. Assuming the norm set by Mobutu of 50% of the gross national product going into the hands of  relatives and associates, the weaponry represents an enormous percentage of the available funds. Old money became valueless and new money was issued in its stead and proceeded to collapse.

 

 “Government security forces are responsible for numerous extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture, beatings, rapes and other abuses. Many of the abuses have been directed at ethnic Tutsis. Rebel forces have also committed extra-judicial killings. There are credible reports that they massacred hundreds of civilians in the town of Kasika in August and the town of Makabola over the New Year's weekend. They were responsible for disappearances and they reportedly tortured, raped and detained many civilians. Other independent groups such as Human Rights Watch have also documented the numerous and serious human rights abuses associated with the conflict.”

 

Eventually Laurent Kabila was killed by one of his own bodyguards and the nation seemed to breath a sigh of relief. However, it was his son Joseph that immediately assumed the mantle of leadership after in typical Congolese fashion denying that his father was even dead. It would certainly be wonderful if in the best of all possible worlds, the Congolese people were to take a break from the pain that they have suffered. It has recently been estimated that over three million people have been killed in the conflict within this country. This was a survey done by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and it only covered the “rebel-held eastern half of the country. However, the eastern half of the country is exactly where most of the war has been fought.

 

“The assassination of President Laurent Kabila in Kinshasa on January 16 was but the latest violent episode in the tumultuous recent history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to Africa’s largest Catholic community. Having himself come to power in 1997, as head of an armed rebellion, Kabila spent much of his brief presidency fighting to stay in office. By the time of his death, Congo had descended into chaos with warring African states using the country as a staging ground for their battles, competing rebel movements having occupied two-thirds of Congo’s territory, and the economy lying in shambles.” ([18])

 

The IRC went on to say that: “The survey attributes a relatively small proportion of the deaths - - a few hundred thousand - to battles waged by the Congolese army, its rebel foes as well as troops from the half-dozen other African countries that had fought on both sides of the conflict. The vast majority of deaths have resulted from starvation, disease and deprivation on a scale emerging only as aid workers reach areas that have been cut off by fighting and lack of roads.” The same organization puts the Congo war into understandable perspective saying that more people died in the Congo fighting than were killed in the 18-years of war in the Sudan and three times the most frequently quoted death count for the Biafra conflict of the 1960s.

 

 

SPEAKING OF VILLAINS

 

 

 

The IMF and World Bank are not the only banking villains in this affair.  A study done by Morgan Guaranty in 1985 found that 70% of borrowings by the big ten Latin American debtor countries, between 1983 and 1985, financed capital flight. “Flight capital”, in turn, financed loans to developing countries to replace the dollars that had been illicitly siphoned away. Indeed, according to James Henry, ‘The banks’ real role has been to take funds that Third World lites have stolen from their governments, and to loan them back, earning a nice spread each way.’  “The problem”, remarked one member of the U. S. Federal Reserve Board," is not that Latin Americans don’t have assets. They do. The problem is; they’re all in Miami.” (12)

 

 

As we write about the Congo, we see nothing but negative dynamics threatening the country. The country’s water is polluted, the forest are being razed for quick buck timber profits, hazardous wastes have piled up everywhere and poaching is threatening all of the remaining wildlife. Soil erosion has become critical and the mining of precious metals has caused substantial environmental damage while AIDS is taking an ever increasing percentage of the population. The population, because of their problems has become massive producers and consumers of cannabis and an inadequate supervisory system has left the banking industry running totally out of control with massive payoffs being the order of the day along with a money laundering problem that is world-class. In spite of that, the country has substantial natural resources including, cobalt, copper, cadmium, petroleum, diamonds, god, silver, zinc, manganese, tine, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, coal, and timber, a literal treasure trove that has never fully been exploited because of numerous government agendas that took precedence.  Neither medical supplies nor trained personal in health care exist in this country. Food is scarce and wages are under starvation levels.  Kabila was assassinated after proving that he was incapable of bringing the country a peaceful solution to its numerous problems and he was replaced by his son, Joseph Kabila on January 26, 2001.

 

Oxfam, a British organization that is attempting to eliminate hunger in a study comparing the aid given the Democratic Republic of the Congo with what the relief organizations gave in Kosovo, they point out that “in 1999, donor governments gave just $8 per person in the DRC, while providing $207 per person in response to the UN appeal for the former Yugoslavia. While it is clear that both regions have significant needs, there is little commitment to universal entitlement to humanitarian assistance." (Emphasis added)

 

Oxfam elucidates that point in say that the international community is essentially ignoring what has been deemed 'Africa's first world war.' The DRC remains a forgotten emergency. Falling outside of the media spotlight, and experiencing persistent shortfalls in pledged humanitarian aid, the population of the DRC has been largely abandoned to struggle for their own survival."

 

Slowly though, in some mainstream media, there have been questions of why international efforts are not seen here, especially when compared to that given to Kosovo. An updated Oxfam report also notes the following facts:

o        It is estimated that up to 2.5 million people in DRC have died since the outbreak of the war, many from preventable diseases.

o        At least 37 per cent of the population, approximately 18.5 million people, have no access to any kind of formal health care.

o        16 million people have critical food needs.

o        There are 2,056 doctors for a population of 50 million; of these, 930 are in Kinshasa.

o        Infant mortality rates in the east of the country have in places reached 41 per cent per year.

o        Severe malnutrition rates among children under five have reached 30 per cent in some areas.

o        National maternal mortality is 1837 per 100,000 live births, one of the worst in the world. Rates as high as 3,000/100,000 live     births have been recorded in eastern DRC.

o        DRC is ranked 152nd on the UNDP Human Development index of 174 countries: a fall of 12 places since 1992.

o        2.5 million people in Kinshasa live on less than US$1 per day. In some parts of eastern DRC, people are living on US$0.18 per day.

o        80 per cent of families in rural areas of the two Kivu Provinces have been displaced at least once in the past five years.

o        There are more than 10,000 child soldiers. Over 15 per cent of newly recruited combatants are children under the age of 18. A substantial number are under the age of 12.

o        Officially, between 800,000 and 900,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS.

o        40 per cent of health infrastructure has been destroyed in Masisi, North Kivu.

o        Only 45 per cent of people have access to safe drinking water. In some rural areas, this is as low as three per cent.

o        Four out of ten children are not in school. 400,000 displaced children have no access to education.

o        Of 145,000 km of roads, no more than 2,500km are asphalt.

More than two million people are internally displaced; of these, over 50 per cent are in eastern Congo. More than one million of the displaced have received absolutely no outside assistance.  This is a hell of a war and nobody seems to care. We believe that this conflict will continue simmering until the low hanging fruit of Congo’s resources has been pillaged by the intruders. There is nothing that the world community will do about this other than talk about how bad the situation is. Africa is on no one’s agenda and this will not be settled by the parties, the loot is too appealing.

 

.

 

 

 

 



[1] Currently somewhere around 80%

[2]  Congo War Drags On - Uganda and Chad Pull Out by Chris Talbot, WSWS.ORG, 14 May 1999.

[3]  Stepping in where other rear to tread, U.S. News and World Report, Kevin Whitelaw 2-28-2000

[4] Probably in the billions of dollars over a period of time.

[5]  Black Man’s Burden, Michela Wrong gets it all right in this look behind the scenes of a disaster called Congo, Brian Alexander, The San Diego Union - Tribune, 4-22-2001

[6]  Ibid

[7]  Africa/ Change In The Congo, Desperate Lives The war in Congo has hit the already sick economy hard, driving people deeper into poverty and illness, Simon Robinson, Time International, 4-23-2001

[8]  Looting in Congo - clearly exposed in report to UN, Africa Analysis, World Reporter, 5-1-2001

[9]  Ore Fuels West’s High-Tech-Gear by Arnaud Azjtman, Associated Press, 4-9-2001.

[10]  Little-known mineral fuels many-sided war. Minerals, including an ore highly valuable to high-tech industries, have paid for fighting in Congo. Karl Vick, Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, 3-24-01

[11] Laurent Kabila: Democrat or Dictator? The Namibian.

[12] Les Roberts an epidemiologist formerly with the Centers for disease Control and Prevention conducted this year’s survey.

[13]Uganda has become a major exporter of gold and diamonds since its troops invaded Congo, and the revenues from these exports improved GDP in 1999 and maintained it in 2,000, enabling Uganda to meet World Bank ceilings on military spending as a percentage of GDP, thereby retaining its eligibility for loans.” Looting in Congo, clearly exposed in report to UN, World Reporter, 5-1-2001

[14] [14]  Little-known mineral fuels many-sided war. Minerals, including an ore highly valuable to high-tech industries, have paid for fighting in Congo. Karl Vick, Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, 3-24-01

[15] Pan African News Agency, 1999

[16]  Red Cross considers leaving Congo after 6 workers slain, Ellen Knickmeyer, The Dallas Morning News, 4-28-2001

[17]  Child Soldiers In Congo, Africa News Service 5-3-2001

[18] Congo; A tale of two churches, Timothy Longman, Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company, April 2, 2001.

 

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