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Seeing no evil in the Congo

August 19, 2011

The United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played a significant role in the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century

by Timeka Smith

Raw coltan is an essential ingredient in our cell phones and laptops.
Do you have a smart phone? A laptop? Then you play a role in the violence that occurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cell phones, laptops and other electronics don’t work very well without the mineral, coltan. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, poor farmers are gathered by armed gangs and enslaved to dig coltan out of the ground.

The Institute’s Foreign Policy In Focus project, Friends of The Congo, Congo Global Action and Africa Faith & Justice Network recently co-sponsored a screening of Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth at the Reeves Center in downtown Washington. As the crowd of over 100 people gathered in the conference room, there was excitement about the film as well as chatter about becoming a “friend of the Congo.”

The film explores U.S. influence on the humanitarian crisis in Congo and argues that U.S. actions and the lack thereof have fueled violence and the exploitation of natural resources there. While Congo has experienced turmoil for over 100 years, violence significantly increased after it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, dreamed of democracy as well as total emancipation for his country. However, this has proven to be a dream deferred indefinitely as Western powers systematically support the nation’s destabilization. In 1961, the United States and Belgium conspired to assassinate Lumumba because he refused to conform to Western ideals.

U.S. AFRICOM Commander William “Kip” Ward with Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe – Photo: AFRICOM
After the assassination, the United States supported Congolese dictator Mobutu – a corrupt leader who committed numerous human rights violations. Washington ultimately discontinued its support for him but has continued to sponsor other Congolese dictatorships that exploit citizens.

Furthermore, the United States and United Nations have failed to respond to attacks by Ugandan and Rwandan troops on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rival war lords such as James Kabarebe of Rwanda and James Kazini of Uganda frequently raid Congo, rape the women, massacre entire communities and help themselves to the country’s natural resources. In the war in Congo, 6 million people have been killed. No action is taken to investigate and penalize offenders.

According to Congolese human rights activist Kambale Musavuli, President Barack Obama understands that it is imperative to help Congo. As a senator, Obama wrote a comprehensive law, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, to support Congo.

Section 105 of this legislation states, “The Secretary of State is authorized to withhold assistance made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, other than humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism assistance, for a foreign country if the Secretary determines that the government of the foreign country is taking actions to destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” However, the U.S. continues to support Rwanda and Uganda despite clear evidence of their attacks on the Congolese.

The film includes footage of a speech President Obama delivered two years ago in Ghana, in which he said, “Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men.” How true. That’s why the U.S. government must stop ignoring corruption and supporting war lords.

Timeka Smith is an intern at the Institute for Policy Studies, where this story first appeared. IPS can be reached at

This film is a short version of a feature length production to be released in the near future. Friends of the Congo encourage you to leave a comment by clicking here and to support the film by making a financial contribution.

2 thoughts on “Seeing no evil in the Congo

  1. Peter

    For an indepth look at coltan and conflict minerals, see the book, Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Place.

  2. Ashley

    this is bad that president is killing people in Congo D.R.C
    and giving people the minerals in Rwanda how d u think
    african people r feeling at the moment
    protesting and he want get off.


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