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South African police arrest Congo rebels

February 9, 2013

by Ann Garrison

On Feb. 7, 19 Congolese, including one U.S. citizen, said to be members of a group trying to overthrow Congolese President Joseph Kabila were being tried in a Pretoria, South Africa, court for offering mining rights in the Congo in exchange for military training and weapons, according to a prosecutor. This supporter of the group holds a Congolese flag outside the courthouse. – Photo: Jon Gambrell, AP
On Feb. 5, the Associated Press reported that “South African police arrested 19 suspected members of a Congolese rebel group Tuesday morning, accusing them of plotting to overthrow their nation’s government after it recently came under attack by militants said to be backed by neighboring Rwanda.” The phrase “said to be” referred to the U.N. Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 2012 report, which included a chain of command placing Rwanda’s Chief of Defense Staff Charles Kayonga and, above him, Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe, at the top.

Two days earlier KPFA Evening News had spoken to Professor Georges Nzongola, a Congolese citizen and professor of African Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, about the isolation and desperation of the Congolese people, as their own government fails to protect them from neighboring aggressors Rwanda and Uganda and the international community continues to support Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. The Congolese are the poorest people in the world, despite having what may be the world’s most dense resources and, for the past 16 years, they have suffered the most lethal conflict since World War II.

Georges Nzongola
Georges Nzongola, African Studies professor, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
The International Rescue Committee was the last to attempt to count the dead consequent to the Congo Wars and ongoing conflict. They concluded that 5.4 million people had died of the conflict between the outset of the Second Congo War in August 1998 and January 2008, and that 45,000 were still dying each month. Many, they said, were dying of hunger and disease in refugee camps inside and outside Congo’s borders and many of those were children.

If that number, 45,000 fatalities per month, were sustained between January 2008 and January 2013, then another 2,700,000 would have died of the conflict between January 2008 and January 2013. If it were projected back to the outset of the First Congo War, in November 1996, well over another million died. That would be 9.1 million people dead of the conflict since November 1996.

However, no one has done a scientific mortality study for those years of war and conflict, so the 5.4 million figure or a conservative 6 million are still commonly quoted. While moderating a 2008 presidential election year debate, Tom Brokaw mistakenly cited the figure as 4.5 rather than 5.4 million. Press commenting failed to note the error, with the sad implication that 900,000 more Congolese lives were of little importance.

Paul Kagame, Joseph Kabila, Ban Ki-moon, Yoweri Museveni at African Union
Paul Kagame, Joseph Kabila, Ban Ki-moon and Yoweri Museveni at the African Union, where South Africa and Tanzania both refused to sign the peace agreement for the DRC because, for one, they thought it should have an African rather than U.N. command.
In 2012, the UNHCR estimated that renewal of the war in the Kivu Provinces had created another million refugees, but no one seems to have estimated mortality for the past year.

So, is it any wonder that Congolese people would be so desperate that a real rebel group – not one commanded by Rwanda’s Defense Minister – may have arisen and looked for a way to take up arms? Is it any surprise that such a group has been apprehended by the police of South Africa, whose government aided and applauded the Congolese election of 2011, even as the Carter Center and the conservative International Crisis Group declared the election a failure and a fraud?

Here is the transcript of KPFA’s conversation with Professor Georges Nzongola on Feb. 4, 2013:

KPFA Evening News, Feb. 3, 2013

In December, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair opened the Special Hearing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo by saying that the U.S. was by then standing alone amongst its Western allies in its ongoing support for Rwanda, despite the U.N. Group of Experts report documenting Rwanda’s command of the M23 militia. The militia had created another million Congolese refugees inside and outside the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in fighting resumed in April 2012.

In January, Germany unfroze $26 million in aid to Rwanda, taking the pressure off the U.S. The U.N. Security Council has also refused to sanction top Rwandan and Ugandan officials implicated in the report. Georges Nzongola, professor of African Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill says this confirms what he wrote in the London Guardian in November, that “No One But the Congolese People Can Save the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”


KPFA/Anthony Fest: Yet another “peace agreement” for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was set aside unsigned this week, but many Congolese and Africa activist organizations, including Washington D.C.-based Friends of the Congo and the African Great Lakes Action Network, say the agreement held out no hope anyway.

Congo election opposition protests fraudulent ballots Kinshasa 112811 by Jerome Delay, AP
Though the 2011 Congolese election was deemed a fraud and failure by groups including the Carter Center and the International Crisis Group, some said that the Congolese people affirmed their national identity by fighting so hard to have a real election.
They say that the international community has turned its back on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Congolese Professor Georges Nzongola, African Studies professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and former head of the Africa Studies Association in the U.S.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: African Studies Professor Georges Nzongola said that nothing has changed the conclusions he explained in a London Guardian essay published last November.

He wrote then that “Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni will not stop their attempts to control and loot North and South Kivu (for Rwanda) and the Ituri district of the Eastern Province (for Uganda) as long as Kinshasa is unable to protect its borders.”

Nzongola also accused Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, of being a weak and corrupt collaborator in the theft of Congo’s resources who has made no real attempt to build either civil society or a real army that could protect the country’s borders. The international community, including the Security Council, the U.S. and UK and other major Western powers, have nevertheless continued to arm and otherwise support Kagame, Museveni and Kabila.

Drenched Congolese child Kibati, north of Goma, eastern Congo 080812 by Jerome Delay, AP
A Congolese child braves the rain in the Kibati internal refugee camp north of Goma in eastern Congo in August 2012. – Photo: Jerome Delay, AP
Today Professor Nzongola told KPFA that the Congolese people realize they’re on their own, but haven’t given up.

Georges Nzongola: Since the Democratic attempt failed in 2011, right now the feeling among the Congolese is to find a way to do it by other means. So the Congolese have not given up. There are Congolese all over the world talking to each other, trying to figure out how we can develop a mass democratic movement and even develop a group that would use whatever means are necessary to take over the state.

KPFA: Meaning some sort of mass, direct action – resistance, civil disobedience, something like that?

Georges Nzongola: Exactly, some type of resistance, even including some type of military action if necessary. So that is going on, and these groups have been talking about this for the last couple of years, although it is very, very difficult working in an environment where we don’t have any country around the Congo that will support such a thing. We don’t see support coming from Congo-Brazzaville or from Angola or from Tanzania or Zambia or South African republic. Our hope is that we can mobilize people internally, to really paralyze the state and create a situation where it might be possible.

KPFA: And that was Congolese Professor Georges Nzongola, professor of African Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay ViewGlobal ResearchColored OpinionsBlack Star News and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at If you want to see Ann Garrison’s independent reporting continue, please contribute on her website at


2 thoughts on “South African police arrest Congo rebels

  1. Seamus

    Rwanda has the same trouble only bigger. Hutu Power rebels operating out of the Congo have been working to destabilize Rwanda for almost two decades.

  2. Richard Giusto

    I don’t drop many responses, however I read a lot of remarks here BLOGTITLE. I actually do have a few questions for you if you do not mind. Is it only me or does it look like some of the responses appear like they are left by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting at additional online sites, I’d like to follow anything new you have to post. Could you list of the complete urls of all your social community sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?


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