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Women of the Congo decry U.S. neocolonialism

March 29, 2013

The following letter was delivered to Ambassador Carson on March 20. It is signed by Diaspora Congolese women in the U.S., U.K., Belgium, France and South Africa.

Ambassador Johnnie Carson
Outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Department of State
Bureau of African Affairs
2201 C St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
United States of America

March 20, 2013

Dear Ambassador Carson,

We are writing to you with regard to the current U.S. policy position on “Lasting Solution to Instability” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which you presented on Feb. 11, 2013, at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., United States.

TOPSHOTS Congolese women demonstrate for
Women in Goma, eastern Congo, rally for peace on Aug. 1, 2012. – Phil Moore, Getty Images
Although we welcomed your call for greater attention to and response to the ongoing crisis in the DRC, we are alarmed by your statement below implying that the only way forward to resolving the crisis in the DRC is an international effort similar to the one achieved in Yugoslavia and Sudan in which the two countries were broken apart.

“Clearly, a sophisticated and internationally backed solution is the only way forward. We were able to achieve such a solution to end the conflict in the former Yugoslavia through the Dayton Accords. We were able to end Africa’s longest running civil war, the conflict in Sudan, through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was negotiated by the IGAD states and supported by the United States, Norway and Great Britain.” – Johnnie Carson

We are deeply concerned by this neocolonial vision that the United States is imposing upon the populations of the DRC in addressing issues of peace and security in the Great Lakes region of Africa. While the U.S. has been addressing issues of peace and security in its 50 states as well as supporting the unity of European countries under the European Union of 27 states without ever considering fragmenting them, the administration appears to accept the splitting of African countries as a viable solution to similar concerns.

This treatment of African territories recalls the 1884-1885 Berlin conference where colonial powers partitioned the African map without regard for the will of African peoples. We commemorate the 19th century genocide of millions of Congolese, perpetuated by the members of the International African Association, under the command of Leopold II of Belgium, who used forced labor to gather wild rubber from vines and enforced quotas by the cutting off of heads or hands of recalcitrant Congolese populations.

We are deeply concerned by this neocolonial vision that the United States is imposing upon the populations of the DRC in addressing issues of peace and security in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

We invoke the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1956 Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that recognize the right of all peoples to exist, to live in peace and dignity, to self-determine, to freely decide their political status, to pursue their economic, social and cultural goals, and to manage and make use of their own resources.

This treatment of African territories recalls the 1884-1885 Berlin conference where colonial powers partitioned the African map without regard for the will of African peoples.

We cite the following reports that detail international crimes committed in DRC and Great Lakes Region of Africa since 1994:

-The November 2012 United Nations (U.N.) Group of Experts report on the ongoing role played by Rwanda and Uganda in directing proxy militia groups in the DRC.

-The 2010 “Mapping Exercise” report by the U.N. HCHR on serious violations of human rights and international laws committed between 1993 and 2003 in the DRC.

-The 2009 Mukwege and Nangini report on Rape with Extreme Violence: a weapon of war, of destruction and displacement in the DRC.

-The 2008 report by U.N. experts showing the involvement of several companies in the financing of the conflicts in the DRC and particularly the armed groups.

-The 2005 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1756 recognizing the specific link between illicit trade of natural resources and the proliferation of arms trafficking in the DRC.

-The 2006 Lutundula report on illegal mining and contracts in the DRC.

-The 2004 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1533 on the illicit flow of weapons in the DRC and arms embargo on all foreign and Congolese forces.

-The 2002 Kassem U.N. report on the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources in the DRC.

-The 1998 Garreton Report on the situation of human rights in the DRC.

-The 1994 Gersony report on mass killings by Rwandan Patriotic Front led by Paul Kagame after their military victory in the civil war post-genocide Rwanda.

The crimes committed in the DRC since 1996 breach Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute defined as crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, sexual violence, persecution and forced displacement, and war crimes.

The consecutive armed conflicts that have been fought in the DRC are proxy wars sponsored by multinational corporations for the illegal access and control of coltan, cassiterite, beryllium, niobium, andesine, europium ruthenium (used in aeronautic and space industry), oil, diamonds, gold, zinc, cobalt, copper, silver, cadmium, uranium, and other rare and new metals of exceptional concentration in the DRC’s soil. The mining of these natural resources are often undertaken in inhuman and unsafe conditions, by men, women as well as children who are exploited, treated without human dignity, and often forced into labor at gunpoint.

Under the pretext of self-defense, Rwanda has militarily invaded the DRC since 1996 and engaged in genocidal killings of civilians, Congolese and Rwandan refugees, and taken this opportunity to plunder DRC’s natural resources. This incited the “convoitise” of other countries bordering the DRC, including Uganda.

The consecutive armed conflicts that have been fought in the DRC are proxy wars sponsored by multinational corporations for the illegal access and control of coltan, cassiterite, beryllium, niobium, andesine, europium ruthenium (used in aeronautic and space industry), oil, diamonds, gold, zinc, cobalt, copper, silver, cadmium, uranium, and other rare and new metals of exceptional concentration in the DRC’s soil.

This situation gave rise to a regional war on Congolese soil that involved more than seven foreign countries, including the occasion when Rwandan and Ugandan armed forces fought each other in a fierce battle in Kisangani in 1999 and 2000 with total international impunity, despite numerous reports of innocent Congolese civilian casualties and sexual violence committed by their troops.

We invoke the U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1674 (2006) on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and Resolutions 1493 (2003), 1596 and 1616 (2005), 1698 (2006), 1768 (2007), 1771 (2007 -2008) on arms embargoes against armed groups in eastern DRC.

We cite the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1794 (2007) that stresses that the protection of civilians must be given priority when deciding on the use and capabilities of available resources and states that the U.N. Security Council Mission must use all necessary means to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, DRC President Joseph Kabila meet to resolve conflict 1
Despite the constant incursions by forces from Rwanda and Uganda into the Congo to plunder its resources, terrorize its people and destabilize its government, DRC President Kabila (right) appears chummy with his counterparts, Rwandan President Kagame (left) and Ugandan President Museveni. Here, they meet in November 2012 to resolve the conflict as nearly a million Congolese are driven from their homes.
We note the lack of accountability of the U.S. as one of the five permanent members of U.N. Security Council who promoted and voted for the 1994 U.N. Security Council Resolution 929 for Operation Turquoise on the humanitarian situation in Rwandan and the lack of political will to end the armed conflicts in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, which would require organizing effective inter-Rwandan and inter-Ugandan dialogues necessary for peace, security, good governance, economic development and stability in the region.

We recall President Barack Obama’s speech in Ghana in July 2009 where he publicly recognized the need for a new approach and a clean break from neocolonial practices, stating that the U.S. must support “strong institutions” in Africa, “not strongmen.” We are therefore disappointed in the failure of this vision for changes in U.S. foreign policy and the fact that current policy approaches for Africa exhibit a double standard.

The U.S. currently favors a military agenda, subverting institutionalization and promoting armed violence as the only way to access political and economic power in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

We are concerned that the U.S. is not taking stronger steps in holding Rwanda and Uganda regimes accountable for their support to proxy wars and crimes committed in the DRC – by failing to sanction Rwanda at the U.N. Security Council for violating the U.N. sanctions regime and arms embargo inside the Congo, withhold further military aid, place both the Rwandan government and its high-level officials named in the U.N. reports on the sanctions list, and investigate whether the Leahy Amendment has been violated in U.S. training of Rwandan troops.

The U.S. currently favors a military agenda, subverting institutionalization and promoting armed violence as the only way to access political and economic power in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Given these conditions, we denounce the U.S.’s continued support and promotion of the authoritarian regimes in both Rwanda and Uganda in the face of reports evidencing their significant destructive role in the DRC over the past 16 years. Not only have both Rwanda and Uganda governments militarized political space inside their respective countries, they have also exported this militarization to the DRC to the detriment of the Congolese civilian populations.

Withhold further aid from Rwanda until the U.N. Group of Experts and the U.S. government have credible evidence that the Rwandan government no longer supports rebel militias in the DRC.

We decry the neocolonial and paternalistic visions imposed upon the populations of the DRC under the Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation Agreement signed Feb. 24, 2013, drafted under the leadership of the United States without any national consultations in the DRC and based on policies that favor the international economic interest of multinational corporations.

We denounce the U.S.’s continued support and promotion of the authoritarian regimes in both Rwanda and Uganda in the face of reports evidencing their significant destructive role in the DRC over the past 16 years.

Recalling the U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 adopted by the U.N. Security Council on Women, Peace and Security; Diaspora Congolese women call on the U.S. to:

  1. Demonstrate the political will to end the conflict in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
  2. Sanction Rwanda and Uganda at the U.N. for violating the U.N. sanctions regime and arms embargo by arming the rebel militias inside the Congo and not respecting the protocols signed by heads of states of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
  3. Submit the names of the top level Rwandan officials named in the U.N. Group of Experts report, starting with Rwandan Defense Minister James Kaberebe, Chief of Defense Staff Charles Kayonga and Gen. Jacques Nziza, military adviser to Kagame. Section 8 of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2076 “[e]xpresses its intention to consider additional targeted sanctions, in accordance with the criteria set out in Resolution 1857 (2008) against the leadership of the M23 and [those providing external support to the M23] and those acting in violation of the sanctions regime and the arms embargo, and calls on all Member States to submit, as a matter of urgency, listing proposals to the 1533 Committee.
  4. Take similar action in the U.S. House of Representatives to compliment the Senate’s Amendment 3199 to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calling for imposing an asset freeze and visa ban on those supporting the M23.
  5. For the U.S. president to add to the existing Department of Treasury sanctions list, under Executive Order 13413, top level officials in the Rwandan and Ugandan government named in the November 2012 U.N. Group of Experts report.
  6. Withhold further aid from Rwanda until the U.N. Group of Experts and the U.S. government have credible evidence that the Rwandan government no longer supports rebel militias in the DRC.
  7. Initiate an inquiry to discover whether the Leahy Amendment is being violated as a result of the United States military support for the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries.
  8. Amend Public Law 109-456 to make it a requirement for the secretary of state to withhold aid from Congo’s neighbors who destabilize the Congo. The current law authorizes the secretary of state to withhold aid but does not make it mandatory that the secretary of state withhold aid from Congo’s neighbors.
  9. Per section 102(3) of PL 109-456, support democratic institutions in the DRC via technical, financial and training resources in order to buttress local efforts to expand democratic space and strengthen democratic institutions in the Congo.
  10. Elevate the profile of the U.N. Mapping Exercise report at the United Nations and request that the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. make the implementation of the report recommendations a priority.
  11. Although many policy institutes have called for a reform of Congo’s security sector, there cannot be any successful reform of the security sector without reform of the political sector. The U.S. government should support reformation of Congo’s Electoral Commission and assure via aid conditionality that the Constitution is not changed to extend the term of the presidency.

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Diaspora Congolese Women immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from Belgium, Canada, France, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States of America

cc: DRC President Joseph Kabila, U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, DRC Minister for Foreign Affairs Raymond Tshibanda, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, DRC Ambassador to the United Nations Ignace Gata Mavita, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, DRC Ambassador to the U.S. Faida M. Mitifu, U.S. Ambassador to the D.R. Congo James F. Entwistle, Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) A.D. Ntumba Luaba, International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

For further information, please contact commoncauseuk@gmail.com.

Signatories

For Diaspora Congolese women in the United States of America: Jeanne Kasongo (Shalupe Foundation, Boston), Marie-Jeanne Luyinda Georges (Victory Women, New Hampshire), Bibiane Tshefu (WILPF, New York), Leontine Daliga Lanza (Activist Congolese Women, Los Angeles), Marie-Jeanne Kirby-Lanza (Atlanta), Jacky Kalonji (Catholic Mothers, Boston), Anne M. Kalonji (Dallas), Claude Kabuya (Boston), Nita Evele (Congo Global Action, Washington)

For Diaspora Congolese women in the United Kingdom: Marie-Louise Pambu (Common Cause U.K., London), Maguy Mayanda (Common Cause U.K., London), Kongosi Onia Mussanzi (Common Cause U.K., Bradford), Nzita Ngoma (Common Cause U.K., Manchester), Germaine Odia (Common Cause U.K., London), Charlotte Ngubia (Mothers of Congo, U.K.), Mina Munga (WILPF Scotland, Glasgow), Liliane Mbiki Lando (Common Cause U.K., London), Francoise Lutala Kabe (Common Cause U.K., Cardiff), Esther Muloway (Common Cause U.K., Essex), Carine Mushigo (Common Cause U.K., London), Christine Lilley (U.K.), Marie-Claire Faray (Common Cause U.K., WILPF U.K., London), Marie-Thérèse Nlandu (London)

For Diaspora Congolese women in Belgium: Stella Kitoga (FIREFEC, Bruxelles), Juliette Kimpiabi (FIREFEC, Bruxelles), Marceline Mundela (Bruxelles), Louise Ngandu (Belgique), Elena Matundu (GFAIA, Bruxelles)

For Diaspora Congolese women in France: Elza Vumi (Congo Actif, Paris)

For Diaspora Congolese women in South Africa: Me Lola Miteu (Johannesburg)

 

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