U.S. Military and Corporate
Recolonization of the Congo
by Ellen Ray
Covert Action Quarterly, Spring / Summer 2000
The United States' involvement in Congo since before independence
from Belgium in June 1960 has been steady, sinister, and penetrating.
Most notable was the ClA's role in the overthrow (September 1960)
and later assassination (January 1961) of Congo's first Prime
Minister, the charismatic (and socialist) Patrice Lumumba. The
full extent of U.S. machinations was not known for years, but
the failure at the time of the United Nations to protect Lumumba
was patent. And questions continue to linger over the mysterious
plane crash in September 1961 that killed U.N. Secretary General
Dag Hammarskjold as he was flying to the border town of Ndola
to meet with Moise Tshombe, president of the breakaway Katanga
Province. The plane fell from the sky killing all aboard 2 Is
it any wonder that in Congo today there is little trust of Washington
or respect for the United Nations?
In October 1996, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), commanded by and composed mainly
of Tutsi military forces from Paul Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Army
(RPA), along with Tutsi refugees from Zaire and some Congolese
patriots, all under the titular leadership of Congolese exile
Laurent Kabila, crossed into Zaire from Rwanda and Burundi. In
May 1997, after only seven months of fighting, they had overthrown
the 30-year dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. While marching west
across the vast expanse of the country, divisions of this army
had wreaked terrible vengeance on the Rwandan Hutu exiles encamped
since 1994 in eastern Zaire, where they had been driven from Rwanda
by the RPA on the heels of the horrendous massacre of hundreds
of thousands of Rwandan Tutsis, encouraged and supervised by extremists
in the Hutu-dominated government.
In Kinshasa, with Kabila named President, key cabinet posts
and the new Congo army and security forces were immediately staffed
at the highest levels by Rwandan Tutsis.
By July 1998, Kabila realized that the Congolese people would
not support the excesses of the Rwandan "foreigners"
throughout their government. He also recognized the extent to
which he had become a puppet of his Tutsi "allies,"
and after confirmed reports of atrocities by Tutsi military against
Hutu exiles in the east, and later in the west of the country,
had become too prevalent to ignore, and after he had uncovered
an apparent Rwandan plot to assassinate him and stage a coup in
Congo, Kabila ordered the Rwandans to leave.
Less than a week later, on August 2, 1998, Ugandan and Rwandan
regular troops invaded Congo with regrouped, well-trained rebel
forces, and began the war to overthrow Kabila that goes on to
this day despite a shaky, much-violated, U.S.-supported cease-fire.
Rwandans and Ugandans control most of the east of the country,
and there has been a de facto partition, a gross violation of
Yet Rwanda is a tiny impoverished nation, and Uganda is not
much larger or richer, while Congo is one of the largest, richest,
and most populous nations in Africa, which at one time had its
most powerful army How did this happen? Could impoverished Rwanda
and Uganda have orchestrated, armed, and financed such operations
on their own?
Is it a coincidence that Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame was
trained in the United States? That the Rwandan army received,
and continues to receive, training in the U.S.? That the Pentagon
has had Special Forces military training missions in Rwanda and
Uganda for more than five years? That vast segments of the Congolese
infrastructure, particularly the mining companies, have been taken
over by U.S.- and western-linked multinationals, working with
the Rwandan and Ugandan rebels and governments?
THE U.S. ROLE
The Mobutu era began with ardent U.S. support, financial and
military. From 1965 to 1991, Zaire received more than $1.5 billion
in U.S. economic and military aid. In
return, U.S. multinationals increased their share of the ownership
of Zaire's fabulous mineral wealth. On the foreign policy front,
Zaire was a bastion of anti-communism during the Cold War, in
the center of a continent Washington saw as perilously close to
Moscow's influence. As the State Department put it, "Zaire
has been a stabilizing force and a staunch supporter of U.S. and
western policies...." Mobutu's corruption and brutality were
ignored for thirty years. It was only when the plunder of western-owned
assets and the ruination of the country were nearly complete,
when Mobutu's stolen billions had become a worldwide embarrassment,
that the U.S. began to seek an acceptable change.
By this time, the U.S. was deeply involved in both Uganda
and Rwanda, and very close to Paul Kagame. In 1990, Kagame, a
Rwandan exile serving as a colonel in the Ugandan army was training
at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth,
Kansas, when he dropped out of the program and rushed back to
Uganda to take command of the rebel army that invaded Rwanda.
After three years of civil war in Rwanda, a power-sharing
peace accord was negotiated, only to collapse in 1994, when an
airplane carrying Rwanda's Hutu president, Juvenal Habyanmana,
was shot down, with all aboard, including President Cypnen Ntaryamira
of Burundi, killed. A still secret 1997 U.N. investigation implicates
Kagame in the assassinations. Warnings of a coming bloodbath,
set off by the attack, were ignored, and a horrendous 89-day massacre
of 500,000 Tutsis-and 50,000 Hutus-followed.
Kagame's movement then turned on the Hutu-dominated government,
and took power. The massacres began again, this time of Hutus.
More than a million Rwandan Hutus, both militia and civilians,
who escaped the killing, died to eastern Zaire.
U.S. officials, according to the Washington Post, were pleased
with Kagame and "deeply relieved that the rebels had halted
the massacres, thus ending pressure for a U.S.-led intervention."
As one writer observed, "Americas unease about its own attitude
to the massacres in the spring of 1994 was one reason why it later
sided with the triumphant victims." The U.S. "became
increasingly close to the Rwandan government and the army that
backed it.... Washington pumped military aid into Kagame s army
and U. S. Army Special Forces and other military personnel trained
hundreds of Rwandan forces."
At the same time, the U.S. kept tabs on the refugees in eastern
Zaire, while mounting what was called a "humanitarian operation"
in Rwanda, but which also included training of the Rwandan military
in combat, counterinsurgency, psychological operations, etc..
One U.S. official interviewed by the Washington Post contended
that "the United States is focusing disproportionate military
assistance on Rwanda as part of the creation of a 'zone of influence'
in East Africa.... " An African writer has
referred to this zone of influence as a confederation of "military
princedoms [which] have appeared in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and,
to a lesser extent, in Ethiopia and Eritrea.'' These U.S.-supported
military regimes are characterized by "the repeated use of
force in putting their internal and external policy strategies
into effect." They are "obsessed with security"
and they "clone themselves" by joining forces "with
their own diasporas...whose citizenship is disputed .... [They]
attract the services of 'rebels,' dissidents, and others, who
serve as a screen for their intervention" in fragile and
unstable neighboring countries. The role of the Rwandan and Ugandan
princelings, Kagame and Museveni, in neighboring Congo is a classic
example of U.S. meddling.
THE FALL OF MOBUTU, THE RISE OF KABILA
Still unclear is the full extent of U.S. military support
for Kagame's move, via Kabila, against Mobutu and Zaire (and their
bloody retribution against both Hutu militia and Hutu civilian
refugees in the camps). "Many Africans," the Wall Street
Journal noted, concluded that "the Zairean rebellion was
the brainchild of Washington from the very start." In August
1996, six weeks before the RPA and Kabila's forces moved into
Zaire, Kagame had visited Washington to discuss with Clinton administration
officials the dangerous threat to his regime in Rwanda from the
Hutu refugee camps in eastern Zaire, harboring militia among the
civilians 2~ Both Kagame and U.S. officials later claimed unconvincingly
that he left "disappointed" in not having instigated
direct U.S. action. It was clear to the U.S., in any case, that
Kagame was prepared to act, and that this was certainly in the
U.S. government's interest. Kagame acted quickly after his visit
to Washington. Kabila, a former Marxist exile, who had been recruited
by the Tutsis, had been brought to Goma some time earlier, to
be the national Congolese figurehead of an "insurgency"
against Mobutu's army And in October 1996, when the full-scale
incursion began, much of eastern Zaire was immediately taken.
The camps were attacked, and many of the refugees were driven
back to Rwanda or killed. It is unlikely that Kabila himself took
part in the actions against the refugees, but there is no question
that he had made a deal with the Devil: "Kabila's army is
closely controlled by Rwandan officers who dominate its upper
echelons. Kabila relied heavily on the well-trained Rwandan officers,
along with Rwandan, Angolan, and Ugandan troops, to push Mobutu's
army aside. But in so doing, he made a deal with people intent
on bringing the 1994 ethnic war in Rwanda onto Congolese soil."
as Kabila maintained his headquarters in Goma, in eastern Zaire,
near the site of many of the camps. In the first months of the
fighting, the U.S. denied any ties to Kabila and also denied that
any foreign forces were fighting with him. Diplomatic signals,
however, got crossed: At the start of the rebellion, in October,
"U.S. ambassador to Rwanda, Robert Gnbbin, denied in the
face of mounting evidence that the Rwandan army had any role in
the action in eastern Zaire. But at the same time, in Mobutu's
capital, Kinshasa, American envoy to Zaire, Dan Simpson, was denouncing
the uprising as a Rwandan and Ugandan 'invasion.' The London Guardian
noted, "U.S. policy initially was divided between offering
active support for Rwandan intervention and looking the other
way... In practice, it did both: the Pentagon helped out while
the State Department pretended it wasn't happening." That
the U.S. "helped out" is unquestionable; the motive
for doing so is what we must address.
* A South African pilot in September 1996, "flew a planeload
of assault rifles from Pretoria to...Burundi, where he was met
by.. an official from the U.S. Embassy there. The weapons...were
destined for Uvira...in Zaire, the birthplace of Mr. Kabila's
* In November, "senior officers from the U.S. Embassy
in Rwanda were seen leaving Mr. Kabila's residence in Goma."
* By spring, a State Department official, Dennis Hankins,
was ensconced in a local hotel in Goma "as the first full-time
American diplomat posted to the capital of the rebel alliance.
* In April, the House passed a resolution calling on Mobutu
to step down.
Despite U.S. approval of and involvement in the overthrow
of Mobutu, U.S. support for Kabila from the beginning was mixed
at best, and hostility later intensified, as he became increasingly
estranged from his Rwandan and Ugandan Tutsi mentors. After arriving
in Kinshasa on May 19, 1997, Kabila's new government and teams
of ecstatic Congolese began to clean up the capital and restore
the country's infrastructure, bringing a semblance of normalcy
to their lives, despite armed confrontations between newly appointed
local police and rapid deployment squads. According to UNICEF
15,000 young soldiers patrolling Kinshasa did not speak the language
and were strangers to the city Locals refused to have anything
to do with them.
These "faceless" army and security forces, being
reorganized under instructions from Rwanda and including many
unidentified soldiers working for state security services, were
regarded as "foreigners" by the people and viewed with
distrust. Lt. Col. James Kabarebe, who became Army Chief of Staff,
had been head of the Rwandan Republican Guard before he led the
forces that overthrew Mobutu. Many other key figures had similar
backgrounds. Jackson Nzinza, a Ugandan Tutsi who became Congo's
Chief of National Security, had been the head of Rwanda's Internal
Security Organization, allegedly responsible for numerous political
murders, an activity he continued to practice in Congo. Bizima
Karaha, Kabila's Foreign Minister, was another Rwandan Tutsi,
whose uncle is a member of the Rwandan Parliament. Col. Ibingira,
who later became Commander of North Kivu, was deeply involved
in massacres of Hutu refugees.
During the 15 months between the May 1997 entry into Kinshasa
and the August 1998 start of the current war, the U.S. became
openly critical of the Kabila government. Most complaints voiced
were related to ongoing murderous assaults on the Hutu refugees,
who were not being protected properly in the U.N.-run camps or
by Doctors Without Borders, who were also present. But there were
other undercurrents, related to Realpolitic.
In April and May of 1997, as the downfall of Mobutu was imminent,
reports of massacres which had occurred during the march to Kinshasa
began to appear with regularity although it was often unclear
just who the perpetrators had been. The AP reported on May 22
that "one of Kabila's soldiers" had shown a reporter
a mass grave. The June 1 Boston Globe reported massacres of refugees
who had "tried to flee troops led by then rebel leader Laurent
Kabila." On May 28, 1997, State Department spokesman Nicholas
Burns said "Kabila lacks democratic credentials." The
AP report noted that "skepticism is strong among U.S. officials
about the willingness of Kabila, once associated with leftist
causes, to lead Zaire to democracy" At the same time, other
Clintonites appeared optimistic. "U.S. officials are generally
pleased with Kabila's actions since his forces deposed Mobutu
two weeks ago. He has included opposition elements in his government
and has promised free elections within two years." There
were reports of mass graves in Kisangani, and U.N. efforts to
investigate "have been blocked by forces affiliated with
Kabila's Rebel Alliance." Still, some U.S. officials continued
to believe that "alliance forces involved in wrongdoing were
acting independently of Kabila." On June 3, a USAID team
arrived in Congo to assess its assistance needs, particularly
"funds to help Congo meet the challenge of holding national
elections in April 1999, the target date set by President Kabila."
The next month Kabila's Foreign Minister, Bizima Karaha, visited
Washington and, as evidenced by a lengthy interview he gave to
UPI, did little to enhance U.S.-Congolese relations.:39 He was
in Washington to ask the Clinton administration for help in reconstructing
the country. But, as UPI noted, he was "not bringing a message
the Clinton administration wants to hear."
For one thing, the U.S., with its typical monomania for "free
and fair elections," even in the wake of the overthrow of
thirty years of relentless dictatorship, was insisting that elections
take place within two years, which, admittedly, Kabila had announced
when he took over. Karaha referred to the pledge as merely "a
goal," one which he doubted could be reached, given the continuing
instability in the country
Karaha was also vehement in ruling out any participation in
the new government by opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, Mobutu's
last prime minister. "The United States," UPI noted,
"one of the few nations to recognize Tshisekedi's brief appointment
to head Mobutu's government during some of the fiercest fighting,
has pointed to the opposition leader as exactly the type of figure
that should be included in Kabila's administration." Karaha,
with perhaps less diplomacy than might be expected from a foreign
minister, called Tshisekedi a "provocateur" who "wants
to create anarchy and chaos...an enemy of the people and of the
The handwriting was on the wall. A senior official told the
UPI reporter "that Kabila can 'kiss goodbye' any hopes of
American help if the positions taken by Karaha on elections and
on Tshisekedi prove accurate reflections of the policies Kabila
plans to pursue."
WAR CRIME ALLEGATIONS
The demand that the massacres committed during the overthrow
of Mobutu be fully investigated and that the perpetrators be identified
and punished was raised, but the U.N. and the Clinton administration
never revealed what they knew-that these were Tutsi revenge killings.
A few reports conceded that the atrocities were committed by troops
beyond Kabila's control. The media attacks against Kabila were
relentless, always ignoring the astonishing degree to which foreign
nations, Rwanda and Uganda, exercised absolute control over the
Congolese military and security services.
Kabila responded cryptically to calls from human rights organizations
demanding investigation into the massacres, claiming that countries
and international groups must assume some of the responsibility
"All the forces...including in the name of sending humanitarian
assistance, are [also] responsible...for these great violations."
He stopped short of conceding that Rwandan troops, in fact, committed
mass killings in their sweep across the country But he hinted
at complicity by both the U.S. government and certain human rights
An October 1997 Human Rights Watch report with the International
Federation of Human Rights Leagues stated, "Kabila's troops,
particularly Rwandan allies, segregated and executed young men,
former Hutu government officials and Hutu intellectuals."
They accused the U.S. of ignoring the massacres to "hasten
a conclusion to the region's three-year refugee crisis."
An exception to most media coverage was a revealing Washington
Post investigation by Scott Campbell, placing much of the blame
on Paul Kagame's Rwandans, and noting that, while the Defense
Department admitted training RPA troops inside Rwanda, "knowledgeable
witnesses told me they had seen U.S. soldiers in the company of
RPA troops on Congolese territory on various dates including July
23rd and 24th of this year... Massacre sites continue to be cleaned
up and potential witnesses intimidated... Rwandan officers and
troops remain in the Congo in the same areas where they participated
in massacres, representing a lethal threat to any who would dare
collaborate with the U.N. team."
Campbell concluded by urging that "Kabila and the international
community.. insist that Kagame withdraw his troops from Congolese
territory and investigate anyone suspected of killing civilians.
Armed Hutu soldiers and militia must also finally be disarmed
and brought to justice."
It became apparent that the Clinton administration would welcome
Kabila's overthrow, and perhaps had always envisioned such an
outcome. The desired scenario was floated in World Policy Review,
where, in the summer of 1998, just before the second Congo invasion,
Frank Smythe savaged Kabila, calling him a "thug," and
stating that "Voices from all quarters say that the Kabila
regime is corrupt. Even his former allies in Rwanda, Uganda, and
Eritrea have begun asking whether they should have recruited another
Zairean to lead operations in eastern Zaire." The notion
that Paul Kagame was sensitive to charges of official corruption
is laughable, but Smythe's article confirmed that the die was
At the same time, much "shiny new military hardware was
appearing at Kigali airport in Rwanda." It was not long before
what the western press would dub "Africa's First World War"
OUSTER, ATTEMPTED COUP, AND INVASION
Only four months after President Clinton's March 1998 trip
to Africa, Kabila ordered all Rwandan and Ugandan Tutsi troops
and military instructors out of the country. On July 28, 1998,
they began to leave, taking much of what was left of the DRC treasury
Kabila later described a foiled assassination attempt against
him as the factor that precipitated the ouster, as well as the
Tutsi killings of Hutu refugees, which had spread to the central
On August 2, only four days later, Rwanda and Uganda invaded
Congo from the east with ground troops from their regular armies.
And just two days after that, in what must have involved months
of forward planning, there were two airborne invasions by Rwanda
in the west, and Ugandan troops simultaneously landed in the south
and occupied the ports.
An attempted coup was under way.
While some "rebels" were involved in the invasion
(mostly former Mobutu officers), "Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers...constitute
the major portion of those troops which are combating Kabila's
government," according to a statement at the time by Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe. Nevertheless, it was months before Uganda
and Rwanda admitted that their soldiers were involved in the invasion.
(The U.S. has yet to confirm its participation.)
The early fighting in western Congo almost reached Kinshasa.
For nearly a month, Rwandan troops controlled Kitona airport,
and Ugandans in the southwest held the Inga dam, cutting electricity
and water into the capital. In mid-August, when the invaders totally
defied a demand from the Organization of African Unity to lay
down their arms, Zimbabwe and Angola, and later Namibia, decided
to send troops to Congo to assist the government in beating back
the assault. It was only after fierce fighting, with vital military
support from the Angolans and Zimbabweans, along with spirited
defense from the local populace in Kinshasa, that the rebels were
repulsed at the gates of the capital. Ultimately, by the end of
August, they were driven back to the eastern regions.
LIFE IN THE OCCUPIED ZONE
The battle in eastern Congo is another story, one that still
rages, despite more than a year of cease-fire efforts. In North
Kivu, South Kivu, and Haut-Congo provinces the invaders have been
able to occupy vast reaches of territory, at present more than
half of the entire country. (Congo is more than one-fourth the
size of the U.S.) The isolated infrastructure of this area, encompassing
most of the mineral wealth of Congo, has remained under the effective
control of rebel groups, as proxies for the Ugandans, the Rwandans,
and the various mining firms and their private security forces.
Since the invasion, for almost two years, the fortunes of
the "rebel" groups, themselves riven with splits and
recriminations, have been inextricably tied to the mercurial and
deteriorating relations between Uganda and Rwanda, all competing
for Congo's fabulous mineral wealth. Personal relations between
the Ugandan and Rwandan leaders were close for many years, ever
since Kagame, as an exile in Uganda, was a rising star in its
army. He helped Museveni come to power By the summer of 1999,
however, relations were so strained between the two countries
that their troops fought a bloody three-day battle in Kisangani.
Rwanda had attempted, unsuccessfully, to take control of the Haut-Congo
capital, where the Ugandan army and rebels have their headquarters.
THE REBEL SURROGATES
One branch of the Congolese Union for Democracy (RCD), based
on the border with Uganda, is headed by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba,
a former university professor who was brought from exile in Tanzania
and appeared in public three weeks after the attempted coup. By
all reports, he is a Congolese nationalist who is in favor of
a non-military solution, but whose ambition to be the leader of
Congo has him, in some analysts' opinion, in "over his head."
Wamba dia Wamba first operated out of Goma with the protection
of Rwandan Tutsi and former Mobutu troops. When political-military
differences became severe, in April 1999, ousted by the military
faction and in fear for his life, he moved the headquarters of
his group to Kisangani and renamed his operation RCDML. He is
now under the protection of the Ugandan army
Rwanda backs the military branch of Wamba's former group,
still in Goma and now led by Dr. Emile Ilunga, from Katanga, Kabila's
home province. Ilunga's faction is now called RCD-Goma. The security
chief for this branch is Bizima Karaha, Kabila's former foreign
Yet another group, the Movement for Congolese Liberation (MLC),
in the north central region, is also backed by Uganda, led by
Jean-Pierre Bemba, a young businessman during the Mobutu era.
His group is composed of some former Mobutu officers and soldiers.
Curiously, his father, Saolona Bemba, a very wealthy former close
associate of Mobutu, was put in jail in Kinshasa when Kabila took
power. The elder Bemba somehow transformed himself into Kabila's
political ally and is now the DRC Minister of Economy and Industry
(even as his son plots the overthrow of the Kabila government).
The rebels are definitely not welcome in most of the northeast
half of the country they control. "[T]he men seeking to overthrow
the President of Congo, Laurent Kabila, have been decidedly unpopular
even as they conquered nearly half this huge country. They are
linked too closely with Rwanda, which provides the rebels with
troops and arms but is despised by many ordinary Congolese."
The London Economist had earlier acknowledged that "The second
rebellion in two years is unpopular with most Congolese. In 1996,
the rebels [here meaning Kabila's forces] held crowded rallies
at which they recruited young fighters. In the eastern Kivu province
which the rebels [here meaning Kabila's opponents] still hold,
and in the towns outside Kivu which they have captured...rallies
have been...sparsely attended...rebel leaders have been booed,
and there have been no lines of young men eager to join.''
Abuses, indeed atrocities, by the RCD and other rebel groups
in North and South Kivu have been well-documented. "Reports
from South Kivu strongly suggest the danger of large-scale violence
among different ethnic groups there. Among several alleged massacres
and atrocities is the burial alive of 15 women in Kivu province
by rebels, apparently in suspicion of contacts with Mayi-Mayi
forces." Mayi-Mayi are a local tribe that supports Kabila
because of their antipathy for the Tutsi aggressors.
Another conflict-this one in the rebel-controlled area bordering
on Uganda-is a Ugandan-instigated war between the Hema and the
Lendu tribes. Long at peace, albeit tensely, they began battling
fiercely when Ugandan forces took control of the region and paid
the Hema to step up the level of warfare. The fighting has been
described as "massacres on a chilling scale." The Ugandans
have used the fighting as an excuse to send more regular army
troops into the area. Many other examples of infighting among
rebel groups and their sponsors are surfacing.
Although it is "generally agreed that the rebels are
thoroughly detested in the areas they have now occupied for more
than a year," the Congolese army has been unable to dislodge
So, "de facto partition" has come to Congo. Money
is a major factor. As Le Monde Diplomatique noted, "the well-equipped
Rwandan and Ugandan troops [with the rebels] are paid in dollars."
And the dollars are flowing. Eastern Congo, virtually annexed
by Uganda and Rwanda, is one of the most mineral-rich areas in
the world. Gold and diamonds and rare strategic minerals are flowing
into the two countries, earning vast sums for their treasures.
The border between Congo and Rwanda is "a mere formality."
The international mining companies that operate in Kivu protect
the Rwandans, who "have a monopoly on the mining and marketing
of those minerals."
The West has ignored the blatant theft of Congo's sovereign
natural resources. Some believe this is because its bonafides
were so shattered by its apparent indifference to the 1994 atrocities.
Paul Kagame was politically sophisticated enough, some analysts
noted, that, since 1994, he has "played on Washington's sense
of guilt about the genocide.'' Le Monde Diplomatique agreed "The
genocide of the Tutsis is now invoked to play on the international
community's sense of guilt and persuade the United States to look
with a kindly eye on what is nothing less than a plan to conquer
and control the resources of the Congo." Others believe,
instead, there is an overwhelming coincidence of interests for
all of the parties involved-greed.
THE LUSAKA ACCORD
Less than two months after rebels had taken control of eastern
Congo and were moving toward the diamond mines in the southwest
near Angola, Susan Rice began to press for a cease-fire. After
two days of discussion with Kabila in Kinshasa, on November 1,
Rice went to Zambia for talks with President Frederick Chiluba,
the anointed mediator. In Lusaka, Rice pressed her point. "There
is absolutely no military solution which is viable." Given
the unending U.S. military support for Rwanda and Uganda, Rice
knew well why a military solution was impossible for the Congolese,
half of whose country was under foreign occupation.
But more than eight months were to elapse before any agreement
was reached. With the crucial support of Angola, Zimbabwe, and
Namibia, Congo was able to halt any further rebel advances and
to protect the vital southeast, Katanga, with its diamond mines.
(Rebel groups and their Ugandan and Rwandan sponsors were constantly
squabbling, having splits, and moving headquarters, and the Rwandans
and Ugandans were fighting each other )
Moreover, the Americans' hand-picked peace broker, Chiluba,
was hardly neutral. Frederick Chiluba, president of Zambia, was
known to allow UNITA to transit through Zambian territory in their
constant forays against Angola. Chiluba was also discovered to
have extensive interests in the internationally outlawed UNITA
diamond trade, the main source of financing for the rebel group.
UNITA was not only wreaking havoc, as it has for 25 years, in
Angola, Congo's close and critical ally its troops were now fighting
the DRC in Congo as well, alongside the Rwandan rebels.
By the end of the year, pressures on Kabila to enter talks
were overpowering, even though it had become clear to the world
that Congo had been invaded and occupied by foreign powers and
was not in the throes of a civil war.
In January 1999, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe,
and Angola agreed to an African-sponsored cease-fire framework,
but since the rebel groups had not been invited to the meetings,
nothing would be meaningful until they agreed.
The wheeling and dealing intensified through the spring of
1999. Numerous meetings were held under the auspices of the Organization
for African Unity and the Southern African Development Community.
Nevertheless, it took U.S. pressure on the participants-including
Nelson Mandela's good offices (splitting still further what were
once the united frontline states)-to forge an agreement that would
satisfy the rebels. This was not difficult, given the impressive
level of U.S. military and economic support for Rwanda and Uganda,
as well as for the South African government.
In June, foreign and defense ministers gathered in Lusaka,
later joined by their nations' leaders, and by July 7 new terms
of the cease-fire accord had been announced. Clinton's special
envoy for Africa, Howard Wolpe, who was in Lusaka for the duration,
noted, somewhat ominously "Our sense is that the key players
have come to comprehend how enormously costly this is not only
to the people of the Congo but to the entire region."
Of all Congo's allies, Angola has the most serious stake in
the outcome of the war. UNITA forces have been using southern
Congo to attack Luanda's troops since Mobutu's time and had long
before joined with Rwandan Tutsi fighters. In late August 1998,
only weeks after the war began, UNITA representatives met with
Kagame. Some UNITA fighters were also captured in "rebel"
skirmishes. Further complicating the situation, "UNITA has
reportedly received South African arms, shipped to Mozambique
and flown on South African aircraft to Angola by way of Zambia."
After decades of support for UNITA, the U.S., according to U.N.
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, now proposed to "throw its
weight behind" efforts to "tighten and enforce sanctions"
The effect on Namibia has also been significant. In August,
a separatist group in Namibia's Caprivi Strip, previously inactive,
launched a series of military attacks made possible by supplies
and other assistance from UNITA. Their "suspected motive,"
the New York Times noted, "is to punish Namibia for its role
in the Congo war" As recently as February 2000, UNITA troops
were attacking Namibian border villages. Namibia has "a growing
problem with UNITA along its border with Angola and in the breakaway
Caprivi Strip.... Caprivi separatists reportedly receive aid not
only from UNITA, but also from Botswana and Zambia." In addition,
Zimbabwe's contributions to the Congo war effort played a major
role in the devastation of its economy and the likely ouster of
President Robert Mugabe.
When everyone sat down in Lusaka, the rebels dampened U.S.
enthusiasm by refusing to sign the accord (unable to agree on
who would sign it on their behalf). It would take another month
and a half before the RCD rivals agreed that both factions would
It was just at this moment that Richard Holbrooke began to
take center stage. In August, Clinton administration horse-trading
with Senate Republicans had abandoned funding for U.N. projects
overseas that supported abortion programs in exchange for confirmation
of Holbrooke as U.N. ambassador In the meantime, his Africa staff
had been shepherding the accords to their signing, maintaining
a constant pressure on Kabila to accede.
The agreement called for a step-by-step withdrawal of foreign
troops, including the rebels, within 180 days, rather than immediately
as the African-sponsored version had required. This meant that
the rebels would stay in Congo. In any case, that deadline was
never met. The foreign troops never left
Cease-fire violations since then have become rampant. By mid-November
each side accused the other of violations. Susan Rice continued
to insist, "Lusaka is the only viable way It can and must
be implemented." She then announced that Richard Holbrooke
would travel to the region in December When he did, he "acknowledged
that unlike the Balkans, where military might and billions of
dollars have been devoted to peacemaking, NATO was not available
to impose a settlement." Nevertheless, he was both threatening
and patronizing. The OAU, he insisted, must "get its act
together," or the U.S. would not support a peacekeeping operation
This was a reference to another critical provision of the
accords, calling for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping
force within 120 days, another unmet deadline. The U.N. force
has only just been authorized, after a special session of the
Security Council in January. Albright, Holbrooke, and company
had learned to be less publicly ham-handed since their manipulations
of the Rambouillet meetings on Yugoslavia had been widely exposed,
and the Security Council sessions were relatively open and smooth,
paving the way for U.N. approval.
Nevertheless, the U.S. role continues to grow, even as the
U.N. prepares to deploy a woefully inadequate 5,000-man peacekeeping
force. The Pentagon is already giving military advice to the U.N
on that force. It is, in the words of Holbrooke, giving "the
United Nations the benefit of U.S. experience in such matters."
Direct participation of U.S. personnel remains a touchy subject,
after the debacle in Somalia, also under Clinton's watch. Unfortunately
former South African President Nelson Mandela has not only offered
to send South African troops to Congo, but has also publicly urged
the participation of U.S. forces there, a certain recipe for disaster
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: BALKANIZATION
The U.S. shaping of, and insistent support for, the Lusaka
accords only highlights what has been clear for some time. The
agreement was not a good deal for the Congo government, and Kabila
was forced to accede only because of the implicit threat that
refusal would be met by even greater assistance to the rebels
and the potential dismantling of the entire country. In stark
contrast to the resolutions of the OAU and the SADC, and to the
earlier draft agreement before the last gathering in Lusaka, the
final accord did not even recognize the legitimacy of the DRC
government or President Kabila.
When the agreement was signed, U S. envoy Howard Wolpe noted,
"its a very important beginning to have all the parties together,
collectively laying out a road map." But the map is of a
partitioned, divided Congo, contrary to the OAU Charter and a
throw-back to the Berlin Conference of 1885, when the western
powers drew the boundaries of African nations with impunity
More than a year ago, the New York Times launched what can
now be identified as a major propaganda campaign to legitimize
the Balkanization of Africa, much as the re-Balkanization of Yugoslavia
was promoted in the West during the 1990s. On January 12, 1999,
when the Lusaka accord
lay well in the future, a front-page article by lan Fisher
with Norimitsu Onishi entitled "Congo's Struggle May Unleash
Broad Strife to Redraw Africa," appeared. Its rhetorical
trick was to lay the responsibility for the current borders on
meddling European colonialists, implying, despite OAU recognition
of those borders as inviolate, that the redrawing of those boundaries
by African combatants might be more legitimate: "The borders
of African nations, set up arbitrarily by the Europeans who colonized
the continent a century ago, are supposed to be inviolate. Yet
Congo is now split in two, perhaps for good."
While the article paid lip service to the "stability"
lent to the continent by respect for those boundaries, it planted
the seeds of doubt: "The borders established [at the Berlin
Conference] had little to do with geography or the lines that
separated ethnic groups."
A few days later, the Times campaign continued, more directly
A long article on January 16 by Howard W French was entitled "The
African Question: Who Is to Blame? The Finger Points to the West,
and Congo Is a Harsh Example." While some recognition was
given to the generally exploitative legacy of "European subjugation
and rule," the imposition of boundaries was stressed: "colonial
subjugation brutally ended Africa's sovereign evolution toward
modern nation-states." An African scholar at the State University
of New York at Buffalo was quoted: "The example I like to
think of is if an African imperial army had marched into Europe
in the Middle Ages and required Germany France, and England to
live together by force of arms. It would have unleashed untold
mayhem... " "Almost every time the Europeans created
a state," French wrote, "ethnic groups or previously
existing African polities were split by the new borders, undermining
the new states' claims to legitimacy in the eyes of their inhabitants."
Most recently the Times, while never openly endorsing partition,
has lauded the "relative stability" of the current division
of Congo and has opined that the main mission of the U.N. peacekeeping
force will be to "provide security in relatively stable zones.
It is not unlikely that the boundaries of a two-Congo Africa
have already been set-imposed yet again by the western powers.