by Ann Garrison
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to see Ann Garrison’s independent reporting continue, please contribute on her website at anngarrison.com.