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Letters & Opinions

Acting on the Congo violence

Ann Garrison

2008-11-06, Issue 405

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/letters/51782

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There are 3 comments on this article.


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.


Readers' Comments

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A web site calling for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo (known by its French acronym MONUC) to immediately arrest Laurent Nkunda to face justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity, has been launched according to project coordinator, Amede Kyubwa.

The web site, http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org , provides information about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by troups under Nkunda 's command since 2002 . The website is also launching a petition calling on concerned people around the world to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.N.'s biggest peacekeeping mission will soon be over 20,000 in Congo "must ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws are brought to justice" said Mr. Kyubwa.

Nkunda is accused of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity of which most cases are well documented by various human right organzations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In September 2005, the Congolese government issued an arrest warrant for Nkunda, accusing him of numerous war crimes and crimes against human rights. Human Rights Watch, for example, which has been calling for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity since February 2006 has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under the command of Nkunda in Bukavu in 2004 and in Kisangani in 2002. Also armed groups loyal to warlord Nkunda have been repeatedly accused of using rape as a weapon of war and the recruitment of child soldiers, some as young as 12 after the abduction from their homes.

According to Mr. Kyubwa, NKunda continues to be involved in the committing of crimes in DRC, and in particular in the province of North Kivu, where again groups armed acting under his command are reportedly responsible for killing civilian systematically in the town of Kiwanja. The continuing horrific killing of civilians testifies that Human Rights Watch was absolutely reasonable in its warning then in 2006 and it’s today. “So long as Nkunda is at large, the civilian population remains at grave risk"

The website http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org encourages concerned people around the world to sign a petition to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For more information please call the project coordinator in the United States , Amede Kyubwa at (916) 753 5717 or email: arrestkundanow@hotmail.com

john robert

My cousin, Project Censored Award Winner Bob Nichols here is teasing me about my "legendary" scholarship and understanding of Congo. He means legendary among our circle of friends who are also Friends of the Congo.

However, this week, after studying U.S. uses of the geostrategic minerals so densely concentrated in Congo, especially the cobalt in Congo's Katanga Province and in neighboring Zambia, I finally feel confident enough to speak more publicly about Congo, especially here in America and the rest of the English-speaking West, where we must start speaking out, not only about Rwanda, but about the U.S. role in Congo, where General Laurent Nkunda and the Rwandan Army fight proxy wars for U.S. corporate, military industrial, and military interests, whose infinite hunger for government contracts and subsidies crushes the hopes of Americans as well as those of the Congolese. Ordinary Americans are in pain not only because of our reckless financial sector but also because of our huge, wasteful, and lethal, military budget.

Ann Garrison

Thank you Ms Garrison, for this article. Your scholarship and understanding of the DR Congo and Africa are legendary. I shall do all in my power to make sure it is distributed worldwide.

Bob Nichols, Project Censored Award Winner




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