Letters & Opinions
Acting on the Congo violence
2008-11-06, Issue 405
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I had the pleasure and honor of speaking with Kambale Musavuli on October 28, 2009, when I called Maurice Carney, Executive Director of Friends of the Congo, to tell him that the "San Francisco Bay View, National Black Newspaper," had posted an essay and a video I'd recommended on Congo that week and planned to post Kambale's "What the World Owes Congo," plus my own piece on Congo, and the U.S. in Congo, as I perceive it from here.
"I know who you are," I said, as soon as Kambale answered Maurice's phone and told me that he was a civil engineering student at North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College. "I just read your piece in Pambazuka and asked another editor to post it to her website."
Kambale said thanks and then riveted my attention with everything else he had to say about Congo, especially when he told me that he belonged to a tribe whose name is transliterated as Nandé, but that tribal membership is insignificant in Congo, and that the Congolese identify nationally, as Congolese. He thus quickly dismissed the usual propaganda about ethnic conflict, rather than Congo's vast mineral wealth, as cause of the horrific violence reported there.
However, even as Kambale and I spoke, renegade General Laurent Nkunda's was leading his highly disciplined, well-armed, and ruthless militia towards Goma, the capitol city of Congo's mineral rich North Kivu Province, causing the catastrophic displacement now growing worse hourly.
I had been writing a piece on what Barack Obama might mean to Africa and the Congo, from an American perspective, what former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the U.S. Green Party's dissident African-American presidential candidate, has meant, and about the terms in which both have addressed the Congo crisis.
However, by the 29th, all observers declared Laurent Nkunda and his militia firmly in control of North Kivu, with the help of the Rwandan Army bombing, shelling, and firing across the Rwandan border, very near Goma. Nkunda then agreed to a cease fire and demanded talks with President Joseph Kabila.
Not only Eastern Congolese, but also the Congolese Army, and UN Peacekeepers had been fleeing Nkunda's militia in every direction for several days.
So, I felt compelled to put the piece I was working on aside and write an account of the worsening catastrophe, as well as I could understand it, highlighting the U.S. role as provider of weapons and military training to Rwandan President, Paul Kagama, and thus to his ally, Laurent Nkunda, in Eastern Congo.
This evening I told Maurice Carney that I'd called the Rwandan Embassy, also in Washington D.C., and quoted fleeing Congolese refugees saying, "The Rwandans are hitting us so hard that we have to run." I also told the diplomat who answered how appalled I was, but he wanted to argue about how misinformed I was, and kept insisting that Rwanda had not invaded Congo.
I told him that very mainstream press like AP, the BBC, and Reuters had quoted fleeing Congolese, including children, saying exactly these words, but Rwanda's diplomat wanted to argue indefinitely, and accused me of spreading misinformation, (passed to me, of course by the insidious AP, the BBC, and Reuters), so I signed off.
I asked Maurice Carney to send me a photograph of a vigil he and allies had organized outside the Rwandan Embassy in Washington D.C., to go with my essay for the "San Francisco Bay View, National Black Newspaper." Maurice thanked me, enthusiastically, for calling the Rwandan Embassy, and urged me to share the number and the story with as many people as possible, so here it is: Rwandan Embassy, Washington D.C., (202) 232-2882.
There's one more thing I can do right now, which is to look up the telephone numbers for the Rwandan Embassy in London, 020 722 49 832, and Toronto, 613) 569-5420/22/24.
And, if we're going to call Rwandan Embassies, I we might as welll try calling President-Elect Barack Obama's office after November 4th, (202) 224-2854.
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