We seldom quote the leftist anti-Semitic Guardian/Observer, but today we make an exception for extracts from a horrifying account, by Ian Birrell, of the little-reported savage war in the Congo. His completely irrelevant opening sentences tell you (or at any rate tell us) it is by a lefty anti-Semite – his bitter implication being “no Jews, no news” (but whose fault is that if not the likes of him?), but read on:
Once again, the apparently insoluble struggle between Israel and Palestine has flared up before flickering into uneasy standoff. As usual, world leaders issued fierce warnings, diplomats flew in and the media flooded the region to cover the mayhem as both sides spewed out the empty cliches of conflict. After eight days of fighting, nearly 160 people lay dead.
Meanwhile, 2,300 miles further south, events took a sharp turn for the worse in another interminable regional war. This one also involves survivors of genocide ruthlessly focused on securing their future at any cost. But the resulting conflict is far bloodier, far more brutal, far more devastating, far more destructive – yet it gains scarcely a glance from the rest of the world. …
[It is taking place in] the Democratic Republic of the Congo – scene of massacres, of mass rape, of children forced to fight, of families fleeing in fear again and again, so many sordid events that rarely make the headlines. …
A rebel army of 1,500 men waltzed into Goma, a city of one million people, on Tuesday. In doing so, they humiliated not just the useless Congolese government but also the hapless blue helmets of the biggest United Nations peacekeeping mission, costing nearly £1bn a year.
Where on earth have UN peacekeeping forces been effective? Notoriously they themselves raped and murdered civilians in the Congo, as the Guardian itself reported in 2010.
There are so many peacekeepers and development agencies in Goma it has become a boom town, home to some of the most expensive housing in Africa. Yet again, all these people proved impotent.
The leaders of this insurgent force, the M23, have declared their aim to march across this vast country to capture the capital, Kinshasa. Since it is backed by Rwanda and Uganda, which used proxy armies to do this once before in 1997, such threats cannot be dismissed. Joseph Kabila, the Congolese president, who, through fear of a coup, corruption and incompetence, castrated his own military, is reported to have responded by asking Angola to send troops to save him.
It is all a dismal echo of the Great African War, which officially ended in 2003 but dribbled on for another five years. This began when Rwanda and Uganda invaded in 1998, saw 11 countries from Angola to Zimbabwe involved and left more than five million dead and millions more displaced. There were war crimes on all sides as armies brutalised those unfortunate people living above the fabulous seams of minerals that fuelled the fighting.
It is hard to fathom the real aims of M23, formed earlier this year by mutinous Congolese Tutsi army officers. It could be they hope the Kabila government will implode or it may be they wish to create an independent state in the east of the country. One thing is clear: the international community needs to take tough and urgent action to stop a festering sore from poisoning a huge chunk of Africa once again.
Ah yes. The West – read “chiefly the US” – which Guardian journalists despise on principle, must intervene to stop Third World savages (whose culture, don’t forget, is quite as good as ours, if not better) are doing what they habitually do.
The west bears some responsibility for the latest act in the Congolese tragedy. Not just because the ethnic divisions that cause such fear were inflamed during dark years of Belgian misrule.
Albeit the Belgians – who did indeed govern their colonies cruelly – left the Congo more than fifty years ago, two generations back.
Nor simply because we gobble up those minerals that fund the warlords.
See how wicked we Westerners are? We buy their minerals, which lay unprofitably in their soil for millennia before any Belgian ventured into the heart of their darkness.
But because at the heart of the horror in a country the size of western Europe is the tiny nation of Rwanda, darling of western donors seeking to assuage their guilt over inaction during its own genocide.
And we’re wrong, wrong, wrong, if we feel guilt for not intervening in the Rwanda massacre in 1994? Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
Britain and America in particular have lionised a regime guilty of ghastly internal repression and gruesome foreign adventurism, with catastrophic consequences for millions of Congolese. Admirers of Paul Kagame, the despotic Rwandan president, praise his country’s economic development, ignoring that it is part-financed by trade in minerals plundered and pillaged from a ravaged neighbour. As far back as 2001, a Congolese rebel leader admitted such theft was Rwandan state policy.
Meanwhile, the west ignored repeated war crimes committed by this regime. The first invasion, originally to drive out Hutu genocidaires who fled over the Congo border and were allowed to regroup by aid organisations, led to an estimated 300,000 deaths of innocent refugees. One expert called this a genocide of attrition. The second invasion sparked even worse carnage. … Rwandan troops and their allies slaughtered children, women and elderly people, often with the crudest weapons such as knives, ropes and stones.
Yet western leaders hailed Kagame as the modern face of Africa and pumped vast aid into his arms.
Here’s a particular on which we at TAC agree with the writer. (We agree with him in general of course that what is happening in the Congo is pitiful and atrocious.) We are against all foreign aid (but we bet he isn’t!).
Britain is the biggest bilateral donor; we directly funded agencies of repression, then led moves for Rwanda to join the Commonwealth. The links between our two countries are alarmingly close … Tony Blair advises Kagame on “governance”, even while swanning around seeking peace in the Middle East. …
“Swanning around”? Implication of contempt. So again we can agree. Tony Blair and his mission are both superfluous to any requirement.
After weeks of prevarication, Britain has finally admitted evidence of Rwandan support for M23 was “credible”. Now we must make up for supporting this monstrous regime by cutting all aid, imposing tough sanctions and seeking war crimes proceedings against Kagame and his senior officials. The UN needs to review its peacekeeping mandate in Congo. Rwanda is set to join the UN Security Council in January, even as fears grow it may end up with a pliable client state carved out in eastern Congo. …
Rwanda carving out a client state? How the world turns!
Rwanda is far from the only villain in this drama. Uganda, another western ally, is also linked again to the latest unrest, the president’s own brother accused of backing the M23. But Rwanda is the cause of much of the trouble. The truth is that six times as many people have died already in the Congolese wars as died in the Rwandan genocide. Time to say never again – or does the blood of Congo not count?
On October 14, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that 100 U.S. troops, acting as advisors to the Uganda military, will help in military action against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) — a rebel force roaming northwest Uganda, recruiting child soldiers, committing atrocities, and taking hostages (including slave “wives”) for more than fifteen years.
Information on the origin and nature of the appalling Lord’s Resistance Army is provided here at PJ Media by Harvey Glickman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Haverford College, who also speculates on the reasons for the recent stepped-up US involvement against it in Uganda. (For more on the LRA see our post The Lord’s army of child slave cannibals, June 14, 2011.)
The LRA’s main goal is to live off the terror it creates. Northwest Uganda, northeast Congo, and southeast Sudan (now divided by the new border with South Sudan) have all seen decades of bloody disorder as the LRA traversed international borders to elude Ugandan troops. At times, the LRA has also attacked in Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Republic of Sudan, and Uganda, committing atrocities in those countries.
The LRA emerged as an atrocity-anarchy mechanism in the mid-1980s. It arose among the long-neglected Acholi people in northern Uganda, whose brief period of ascendancy during the brutal Idi Amin regime was overthrown by the National Resistance Army, led by Yoweri Museveni, in 1986. Museveni parlayed his military success into the presidency and remains there today.
Joseph Kony, a member of the Acholi people originally from Gulu in northern Uganda, founded the LRA, and instigated a rebellion against the Ugandan government in 1986. His ostensible purpose was to establish a theocracy based on orders from God communicated to him via spirits. His method to spread the “Word” encompassed unspeakable atrocities and child abduction, eventually displacing two million people in his rampages through northern Uganda, Congo, and Sudan.
After the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Ugandan military reinterpreted its own measures against the LRA rebellion as part of the global war against terrorism. In 2002 the Uganda parliament passed a Suppression of Terrorism Act. The United States rewarded Uganda’s support for the war in Iraq by restarting a military training and assistance program in 2003. The agreement provided for electronic technology and some direct military assistance, but not weapons. Part of the program was to “win the hearts and minds” of the Acholi people, whose territory within Uganda has been most ravaged by LRA depredations.
By 2003 it was estimated the LRA had 3,000 fighters under arms and 2,000 camp followers, many involuntary. In October 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for five leaders of the LRA, including Kony.
Early in 2010, however, the Ugandan military stated that the LRA was at its weakest point in the past fifteen years. More recently, it claims there are only 200 to 400 soldiers still in the field for the LRA.
So why does the U.S. government pick this moment to get involved?
It turns out that the United States has been involved with this issue for some time. As early as 2003, the United States contributed aid to the Uganda defense budget as part of the expanded struggle against global terrorism. And President Obama has disclosed that since 2008 the United States has helped efforts in the region to protect local people by pursuing the LRA.
U.S. Public Law 111-172 — the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009” — was passed by the U.S. Congress on May 24, 2010. The bill, combining national security and humanitarian goals, was sponsored by Senators McCain and Feingold to provide financial and material assistance to Uganda’s counterinsurgency efforts.
But U.S. support for the anti-LRA war has not been an unmitigated success. The National Security Council authorized training and financial support for the December 2008 Operation Lightning Thunder, a joint Uganda-Congolese-South Sudan campaign. This resulted, however, in major casualties among Congolese civilians, with 200,000 people displaced and the LRA escaping to fight another day.
Again the US is invoking R2P – the Responsibility to Protect – as its reason for intervention in a foreign war. It was the reason given for US military intervention in Libya. But if the intention really was to protect civilians, that intervention must be counted as a failure. (See our posts The danger of R2P, March 23, 2011; A siren song from hell, April 1, 2011; NATO bombards civilians in Libya, October 5, 2011.)
There were other reasons for the US and NATO to go to war in Libya, among them the need for European NATO member-states to ensure their access to that country’s oil. And there are surely other reasons for the US to go to war in Uganda.
Somewhat puzzling about the new U.S. deployment “to protect civilians” — as stated by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala on October 17, 2011 — is the fact that the Ugandan army announced that the Kony/LRA problem is no longer a threat in Uganda, but a regional problem. So, apparently the UPDF is joining the U.S. in an African regional conflict. Uganda has been a leader in the African Union’s battle against the al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, and suffered a retaliatory bombing in Kampala by them in July 2010.
So does this new operation mean a wider U.S. regional military action in East Africa in support, however reluctant, of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia against al-Shabaab? Is this part of an expanded role for AFRICOM, the U.S. military command in Africa? …
Among the possible motives that Glickman considers for more military action by the US in the region, one makes more sense than most:
There is one other possible factor inspiring this new U.S. effort. The geographic areas in which the LRA operates are in the middle of recent discoveries of oilfields. The finds are substantial. Three companies have bought the drilling rights. Heritage sold its interests to Tullow, Tullow sold 30% of its interests to Total and CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which is state-run). …
The Obama administration’s motives are still not clear. Given this list of possibilities, the way the campaign develops should provide some answers.
We think oil is a very good reason to go to war. It would be an added benefit, greatly to be welcomed, if in the course of such a war the Lord’s Resistance Army were to be destroyed.