|Paul Kagame, Rwanda's President|
Of course Rwanda was ingurgitated enough to threaten a withdrawal of its 3,500 army aiding in peacekeeping effort in Sudan. UN in a diplomatic twist (after realizing Rwanda’s potential in peace of the region) has pushed the publishing the report, with Rwanda’s reaction, on 1st October.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon flew unexpectedly in Rwanda last week for talk, showing the seriousness of the repercussions.
I wasn’t shocked on Rwanda’s reaction on the leaked report. Prolific writers and journalists covering DRC have got the same backlash on their work. Dutch journalist Ludo de Witte’s The Assassination of Lumumba (first published in Dutch, 1999) is a good example. The fuss it caused in Belgium, DRC former colony, made the Belgium parliament to accept its country involvement in Lumumba’s death.
The UN backed report on Illegal Exploration of Natural Resources and other forms of Wealth from the DRC published from 2001-2003 received the same backlash.
The allure of DRC’s vast mineral resources has brought to it’s doorstep the world stage like hounds picking on it carcass amid plundering, war inhumanities and smuggling.
The 1988-2003 conflict drew a score of African countries; Angola, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Namibia, Chad and all the way to the bloody diamond fields of Sierra Leone.
I tried looking at 50 years of independence on the land of rhumba and found interesting the world stage in DRC:
The colonial Belgium under Leopold II set the stage for the scramble and partition of Africa. With shrewd ambition and insatiable greed for wealth, Leopold hired Henry Morton Stanley in 1878 to unleash terror to 400 African chiefs to curve the ‘Congo Free State.’ Joseph Conrad’s account in Heart of Darkness about colonial DRC said ‘the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience’ made Leopold the richest man in Europe.
But the wind of independence blowing over Africa reached the country on 30th June 1960 bringing more world figure in -ism schism of the cold war.
Patrice Lumumba, the pm, leading a shaky coalition with Belgium unwillingness to concede power brought chaos. Moise Tshombe with Belgium support declared Katanga, the mineral hub, an independent state on 11th July 1960. UN and USA stepped in but when Lumumba wasn’t impressed by their service called in Russia and Czech personnel at the nadir of cold war.
This culminated into assassination of Patrice Lumumba by Belgium and CIA. The revolt in Kisangani (Lumumba’s stronghold) in 1964 was supported by China, Algeria, Cuba and Egypt, forcing the CIA ti aid Mobutu to power in 1965.
As the western ‘friendly tyrant’ Mobutu lead a kleptomaniac regime, but enjoyed $9Billion aid, US contribute $860Million of this. It is from the start on 1988 that DRC was engulfed in humanitarian crisis in four stages according to the report; 1993-1996; July 1996-July 1998; August 1998-January 2000 and the fina; transition of January 2001-June 2003.
In 1988 DRC was rotting over corruption, weak central government and huge debt. Mobutu was ‘dinasaur’ against the second democratic wind of change which tirned the world against him.
But not France which sided with him against ‘Anglo-phone ‘ encroachment in central Africa. In 1994 Franco-African summit Mobutu got a warm, French president Jacques Chirac gave amoment of silence in memory of Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana whom France supported against RPF.
The then current Rwandan president Pasteur Bizimungu was not invited.
The first stage started with Mobutu, in need of regional powerbroker, to meddle in Rwanda and Burundi’s conflict despite DRC hosting over 1.5 million Rwandan refugees like Interahamwe, Mayi Mayi and Banyamulenge.
Rwanda and Uganda resentful at cross border raid in Kivu and Eastern conge respectively chose to support Laurent-Desire Kabila. Angola too supported Katanga rebels to hit back on Mobutu’s support to Jonas Savimbi and Unita.
Interestingly, Kabila was dismissed by Argentinean revolutionary Ernesto ’Che’ Guevara and 120 Cuban fighters in 1965 as lucking any revolutionary seriousness. Algerian Ben Bella, china’s Zhou En-Lai blessed the expedition while Egypt’s Abdel Nasser had his reservation. Ernesto wrote the 1965 expedition in Dar es Salaam embassy in the book The African Dreams: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in Congo.
On 17th May 1997 Kabila become the president of DRC while Mobutu died four months later in morocco. Uganda’s Yoweri Museni remarked, as quoted by Times journalist Martin Meredith in State of Africa, capturing the all incident thus:
“The big mistake of Mobutu was to involve himself in Rwanda. So its really Mobutu who initiated the programme of his own removal. Had he not involved himself in Rwanda, I think ho could have stayed, just like that….”
The third stage (August 1998-January 2000) flared when Laurent Kabila dismissed Rwanda a country, as his advisers said to be so small to be found in the map.
With aims to control their borders, president’s otiose ambition for being regional kingmakers and unbridled greed for diamond, petroleum, gold , timber, Colton and other minerals, several countries joined the fray at this stage. DRC was a proxy with contracts used to buy loyalty.
Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda financed rebels because Kabila could not control the cross border raids. Zimbabwe and Angola aided Kabila with help from Namibia and Chad. The acme of this stage was in 2000 when Rwanda and Uganda turned against each other in three occasions to control Kisangani, the diamond hub!!
The last stage (January 2001-June 2003) saw the withdrawal of foreign armies after the July 2002 peace treaty by Joseph Kabila. There is no respite as rebels were and are still supported as a proxy war in rivalry in the region.
Published on the Thursday September 30th Issue of The Daily Nation and Syndicated online at: NewsFlavor