Rwanda continues to destabilise DRCongo

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

Another war has broken out in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In April 2012 about 600 soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied and seized weapons and territory in eastern DRC. Within four months the mutineers had swelled to over 2,000 soldiers. Over 270,000 people have been displaced. The total number of displaced people since 2009 is now 2.2m. There are reports of systematic massacres of civilians. Behind the rebellion is Rwanda, an important regional ally of Britain and the US.

DRC, sharing common borders with nine sub-Saharan African countries, is a potentially vital strategic prize in Africa for the advanced capitalist countries. DRC has the world’s largest deposits of copper, cobalt, coltan and cadmium, and significant deposits of oil, gold, uranium, tungsten and diamonds, and accounts for at least 7% of global tin supplies.

Control of these resources and transportation routes, by the imperialists and their local allies, lies behind the wars that have raged in DRC since 1996. There is growing US and EU military engagement in Africa, usually under humanitarian cover, reflecting their intention to control strategic raw materials. The creation of the US Africa Command (Africom), the resurrected hunt for Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony and the war in Somalia are examples of this.

Neighbouring Rwanda has invaded DRC at least four times under the pretext of hunting those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda invaded DRC (then called Zaire) in 1996 with the secret but direct support of Britain and especially the US. A second invasion in 1998 saw Rwanda and Uganda attempt to create rival proxy administrations in eastern DRC using loyal armed groups. Rwanda continues to maintain troops and auxiliaries in eastern DRC through which it plunders the country’s resources. These invasions have led to over six million deaths (some say ten million) from killings, disease and malnutrition, and mass horrific rapes of men and women, often repeatedly. The UN and Amnesty International estimate 94,000 victims of rape between 1998-2010. Rwanda’s goal is the ‘secession’ of North and South Kivu, the eastern mineral-rich region of DRC.

Britain supports Rwanda

Britain and the US are the two largest bilateral donors to Rwanda, giving over $350m in 2011. Following the reports of Rwanda again destabilising DRC and strong regional criticism, the imperialists made a show of suspending ‘aid’. On 29 July Britain announced a £16m (from £75m a year) suspension in budgetary support, following a $200,000 cut in US military aid to Rwanda and a £4m cut from the Netherlands. By 4 September Britain’s outgoing international development minister, Andrew Mitchell, praised Rwanda for ‘constructively’ engaging to resolve the crisis, saying: ‘Britain will partially restore its general budget support to Rwanda’.

Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president has long been a favourite of Britain’s Africa ministers, especially Clare Short, his ‘number one fan’. Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair is a special adviser to Kagame. Blair called him a ‘visionary leader’. Rwanda has received over £1bn in direct budget support from Britain since 2003, and Britain is the single largest contributor of foreign aid. Rwanda is heavily dependent on international aid (45% of current expenditure in 2010). Other ‘advisers’ to Kagame include Bill Gates and former US President Bill Clinton.

UN report exposes ‘mutiny’

A leaked report from a UN Group of Experts in June 2012 revealed that since February – well before the official outbreak of the ‘mutiny’ – poor unemployed youth have been recruited and trained in Rwanda, then used to transfer ammunition and heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons, to the ‘rebels’, always escorted by Rwandan soldiers. An annex to the report which names the Rwandan military hierarchy and details their provision of political and military support to the rebels has been blocked by the US and Britain. Rwandan officials called military and political Congolese figures, urging them to support the mutineers based on ‘ethnic solidarity’.

The Rwandan military maintains contact with other Congolese armed groups, such as the Mai Mai, and even Hutu extremists from the FDLR (including leaders responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide of mostly Tutsi people) who were repatriated to Rwanda, demobilised, then subsequently rearmed and returned to DRC. It was the DRC’s efforts to break up these gangs that sparked the current mutiny.

Mutiny déjà vu

In August 2008, a Congolese army General Laurent Nkunda, led a ‘rebel’ group, CNDP based in Kivu, that mutinied, massacred civilians and displaced over 250,000 people. He claimed to be fighting to protect the Congolese Tutsi minority. A UN report showed he had direct support from the Rwandan army. A bogus military operation to ‘protect Rwanda’ was nothing more than a pretext to loot DRC. At the time, Britain’s Labour government Minister for Africa, Lord Malloch-Brown, ‘completely reject[ed] allegations that CNDP is a Rwandan force’.

The CNDP became a legal political party in DRC and integrated into the state army (FARDC) as part of a ‘peace agreement’ between Rwanda and DRC on 23 March 2009. The current mutiny is led by Bosco Ntaganda and consists of former fighters from CNDP. The mutineers call themselves 23 March Movement (M23) after the date of the 2009 ‘peace deal’, alleging ill-treatment in the FARDC. Since April the M23 rebels have committed barbaric abuses against civilians and plundered natural resources. This gives the lie to their bogus claims.

The current military rebellion is a mirror image of the one in 2008: the cycle of rebellion, pardons and ‘integration’ into the army, needs to be broken or DRC will remain a source of cheap raw materials for the imperialist powers.         

Charles Chinweizu


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