After Obama came to power, his administration’s policy on the ‘Congo question’ did not change. In fact, one of Obama’s advisers was embarrassingly caught red-handed while attempting to smuggle minerals from Eastern Congo and his jet was impounded.
Kase Lawal, 57, is a Nigerian-born American who propelled CAMAC International Corporation’s rise to a $2.4 billion private company – said to be the second-largest African-American-owned business in the US – was appointed to a trade advisory post by the Obama administration, and has held similar positions in Republican administrations. He lost $30 million after financing a botched deal to buy 1,000 pounds (475 kg) of smuggled gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a report by United Nations investigators.
The transaction ultimately profited General Bosco Ntangada. The investigation was mandated by the UN Security Council to probe links between mineral trading and illegal armed groups in eastern DRC (Fitzgerald 2012).
Washington’s double game playing in the Great Lakes Region came to light in 2008, following the breakdown of peace talks between the Ugandan government and the the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA),which the United States, after the September 11 attacks declared a terrorist group and Joseph Kony its leader a terrorist.
In late 2008, the National Security Council authorised AFRICOM to support a military operation (one of the first publicly-acknowledged AFRICOM operations) against the LRA, which was believed to be in the DR Congo at the time. AFRICOM provided training and US$1 million in financial support for ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ – a joint endeavour of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan forces in Congolese territory launched in December 2008 to ‘eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’ and never the threat posed by Rwandans and Ugandans in eastern DR Congo as if some terrorists are better then the others.
According to the United Nations, the offensive ‘never consulted with partners on the ground on the requirements of civilian protection. Stretching over a three-month period, it failed in its mission and the LRA scattered and retaliated against the Congolese population; over 1,000 people were killed and up to 200,000 displaced.
This battle against the LRA has to be seen as a continuation of the battles in Eastern Congo. In October 2011, US President Obama authorised the deployment of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to central Africa.
They will help regional forces ‘remove from the battlefield’ Joseph Kony and senior LRA leaders. ‘Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense’, Obama said in a letter to Congress.
Enter the British
Britain has been blocking European sanctions against Rwanda – in fact shamelessly went back on its word. The former British Secretary for International Development Andrew Mitchell told MPs that he had decided to resume Britain’s £16m aid package to Rwanda after two out of three conditions set by the UK – a ceasefire in the Kivus region and an end to practical support from Rwanda to militias – were met.
The Congolese people, in fact the whole world, aren’t aware of such a ceasefire as the unfolding situation on the ground shows.
Feeling isolated and under pressure after all major European countries suspended their aid support to Kagame, Prime Minister David Cameron finally acknowledged that ‘the international community could not ignore evidence of Rwandan involvement with the M23’ and called on Kagame to ‘show the government of Rwanda had no links to the M23.’
When Joseph Kabila made a deal with Paul Kagame in 2009 to allow the Rwandan army to enter the DR Congo and hunt Hutu militia, he did not know that on the Rwandan side the scheming British were being associated to ‘the project’.
It is for that matter that the Chief of General Staff (CGS) of the British Army, Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt travelled to Kigali specifically to be briefed by his Rwandan counterpart James Kabarebe about the operation on ‘how their two armies could work together’. He also met President Kagame.
Rwanda boasts the Gabiro School of Infantry where a commander’s course, the first of its kind, is jointly conducted by Rwandan, British and American instructors (under Africom, the Africa Military Command).
It was only later that the people of DR Congo realized that the Tutsi continued to use the war against Hutu ‘genocidists’ as a pretext for occupying mining concessions and systematically exploiting them. In fact the 4,000 thousand Rwandan troops did not really leave as such and have turned into what they call M23 today.
The discovery of oil has sharpened the appetites: the British company SOCO (which has offices in Kigali) began oil exploration in Virunga National Park in North Kivu. As for the oil field discovered in Lake Albert, operations should be shared between Uganda (which will develop a refinery) and the DR Congo. But for the ground extending into Rutshuru, Rwanda via its M23 allies could claim to take its share of the loot.
During his tenure, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was very much Rwanda and Uganda’s partner in crime in the DR Congo. James Astill, writing in the British daily,The Guardian, on 10 April 2003, said it all:
While Rwanda and Uganda remain in DR Congo, peace will be impossible. Yet both continue to receive more than half their budgets in Western aid, and only an occasional chiding for their role in the slaughter. How do they get away with it?
The biggest donors to both Rwanda and Uganda are Britain and America. Britain contributes over £30 million a year to Rwanda’s budget. Clare Short, then British minister for international development, flew in and out of Uganda, Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region several times a year. So, she must have known what was going on.
In his Guardian article, Astill wrote that when he returned from a reporting trip to the Dr Congo in the middle of 2002 and put his findings to British and American diplomats, ‘virtually all – off the record, of course – corroborated them’.
‘I put them to Clare Short, and she refused to comment,’ said Astill who went on to quote Richard Dowden, the former Africa editor of the British weekly, The Economist, as saying that when he asked Glare Short why, in 2002, Rwanda ‘needed to occupy [Kisangani] a diamond-rich town 700 miles into the DR Congo to protect its border’, Ms Short hit the roof.
Tony Blair now acts as personal adviser to Mr Kagame, while one of his charities, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), employs about 10 people inside the Rwandan government, helping it to run more effectively (Mendick 2011).
However, Tony Blair who claims success in reconciling the Catholics and the Protestants, hitherto enemies in Northern Ireland, is backing away from encouraging Kagame to initiate a inter-rwandan dialogue susceptible to reconcile Hutu and Tutsi so that they can share power and live in peace.
The Ugandan government must also dialogue with people from the North and their Lord Resistance Army (LRA) movement. This is the only way that will bring peace to eastern DR Congo.
As Jacqueline Umurungi writes, some of Kagame’s greatest admirers are Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz. American evangelist Rick Warren considers him something of an inspiration and even Bill Gates has invested in what has been called Africa’s success story.
Yes, Western liberals, reactionary evangelicals, and capitalist carpetbaggers alike tout Paul Kagame as the herald of a new, self-reliant African prosperity. Britain annually subsidizes 50 per cent of Rwanda’s national budget (Umurungi 2012). Now you understand why the war in mineral-rich eastern democratic Republic of Congo never ends and why, mockingly according to the BCC, ‘there is no end to the tears in the DRC.’
This is what Obama must tell his American electorate in case he promised them a big chunk of the DR Congo: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s territorial integrity is non-negotiable.
Antoine Roger Lokongo is a journalist and PhD candidate from the Democratic Republic of Congo.