by Ann Garrison
KPFA Weekend News broadcast Jan. 18, 2015
Friends of the Congo Executive Director Maurice Carney told KPFA that the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s real problems are Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congo’s own President Joseph Kabila, not the FDLR or any other militia operating in the eastern DRC.
KPFA Evening News Anchor Anthony Fest: Potentially catastrophic military operations, authorized by the U.N. Security Council, may lie ahead soon for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The U.N. Security Council has urged the Congolese army to join U.N. combat troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi in hunting down the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Rwandan refugee militia commonly known as the FDLR.
It’s accused of perpetrating the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, even though the organization did not exist then and most of its members are too young to have been involved. Nearly 20 years of regional war and resource plunder in DR Congo have already been cloaked in the pretense of hunting down the FDLR. KPFA reporter Ann Garrison spoke to Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo, about why another huge conflict may be close to happening.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Maurice, it’s obvious to anyone who’s been following this that the U.S., through its Special Envoy Russ Feingold, is twisting the arms of at least four African presidents to go to war inside DR Congo’s borders. If the tables were turned, a Special Envoy from the DRC would be in North America urging a regional war inside U.S. borders. Why do you think the U.S. is pushing this so hard now?
Maurice Carney: Well, I think there are several reasons: One, following up on arrangements that were made which called on the U.N. Force Intervention Brigade to pursue the M23 and, after that, the FDLR. The second, I think in a lot of ways the U.S. is in alignment with Rwanda in this.
Rwanda wants to see action on the FDLR, irrespective of how that action is going to turn out, especially for Congolese civilians, because we’ve seen in the past, especially going back to 2009, when there’s been military action taken on the FDLR, the Congolese civilians are the ones who bear the brunt of the results of those military operations. And I also think, strangely enough, that the U.S. believes that the routing of the FDLR will bring stability to the region, which we don’t think.
Really, if you look at it for the past 20 years, there’s been three primary forces of instability: The leadership in Kigali (Rwanda) under Paul Kagame, the leadership in Uganda under Yoweri Museveni and the leadership in Kinshasa (DR Congo), now under Joseph Kabila. And all three of these leaders – one can arguably characterize them as sociopaths – they have kept the region in a death trap for the past 20 years.
All three of these leaders – one can arguably characterize them as sociopaths – they have kept the region in a death trap for the past 20 years.
And that’s where the pressure needs to be put, for these leaders to leave the political scene and clear up space for people who are in support of peace, people who are in support of democracy, people who are in support of stability to assume leadership in the region. And it’s at that time that we’re going to see any kind of peace in that region.
The issues aren’t the militia groups like the ADF, FDLR. The issues are the heads of state, primarily in those three countries, which continue to fuel the conflict and breed instability.
KPFA: Well, all three act as the heads of various resource smuggling networks, don’t they?
Maurice Carney: Yeah, absolutely. Not only mineral smuggling networks, but also networks that facilitate the pilfering of the region by multinational corporations, which is the more important and destabilizing action. For example, Kabila, in Kinshasa, if we look at the access he’s providing to Soco Oil for the Virunga region, the Virunga Park, Africa’s oldest heritage site, he’s providing access to it for Soco Oil to drill in that region and destabilize the environment there.
If you look at the relationship that Kabila has with Dan Gertler, the Israeli businessman that has made over $2 billion in the Congo over the last decade or so, where he gets mineral concessions and oil blocks for pennies on the dollar that he can sell back on the international market for billions of dollars.
Rwanda has consistently looted Congo’s coltan and cassiterite and served as an outlet for multinational corporations that are trading in those minerals. And Uganda – everyone knows in Uganda that they have looted Congo’s timber and gold and are trying to encroach on Congo’s oil.
One cannot speak to the role that those leaders have played in the instability in the region without looking at how they have been in cahoots not only with illegal smuggling operations but also with “legal” multinational corporations, to the disadvantage of the Congolese people in particular and to the people of the region in general.
KPFA: OK, General, aka President Museveni of Uganda has now been in power for nearly 30 years. General, aka President Kagame (of Rwanda) is threatening to stay beyond his term limits, as is Congolese President Joseph Kabila.
Maurice Carney: These three presidents have been the source of the bulk of the instability in the region. And as long as they are in power, Ann, we do not believe that there will be any stability in the region. We do not believe that there will be any peace in the region. We do not believe that there will be any “democracy” in the region.
So it’s vital that there be a transition to another type of leadership, that there be a process whereby individuals from the population can ascend to power peacefully.
These folks that are in power – these are the strong men that Obama talked about in his speech, President Obama talked about in his speech in Ghana a number of years ago, where he said, “Africa doesn’t need strong men. It needs strong institutions.” So these folks have to leave the political scene in order for peace to be ushered in in the region.
Remember, these are the individuals that President Clinton held up as the renaissance leaders of Africa, the new leadership of Africa that’s going to take Africa into prosperity and democracy. And with these leaders in power, it’s been nothing but hell and tragedy for African people in the Central Africa region. So these people must leave the scene in order for us to see peace.
KPFA: Maurice Carney, thank you for speaking to KPFA.
Maurice Carney: Thank you, Ann.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.