U.S. Military and Corporate
Recolonization of the Congo

by Ellen Ray

Covert Action Quarterly, Spring / Summer 2000


The United States' involvement in Congo since before independence from Belgium in June 1960 has been steady, sinister, and penetrating. Most notable was the ClA's role in the overthrow (September 1960) and later assassination (January 1961) of Congo's first Prime Minister, the charismatic (and socialist) Patrice Lumumba. The full extent of U.S. machinations was not known for years, but the failure at the time of the United Nations to protect Lumumba was patent. And questions continue to linger over the mysterious plane crash in September 1961 that killed U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold as he was flying to the border town of Ndola to meet with Moise Tshombe, president of the breakaway Katanga Province. The plane fell from the sky killing all aboard 2 Is it any wonder that in Congo today there is little trust of Washington or respect for the United Nations?


In October 1996, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), commanded by and composed mainly of Tutsi military forces from Paul Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), along with Tutsi refugees from Zaire and some Congolese patriots, all under the titular leadership of Congolese exile Laurent Kabila, crossed into Zaire from Rwanda and Burundi. In May 1997, after only seven months of fighting, they had overthrown the 30-year dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. While marching west across the vast expanse of the country, divisions of this army had wreaked terrible vengeance on the Rwandan Hutu exiles encamped since 1994 in eastern Zaire, where they had been driven from Rwanda by the RPA on the heels of the horrendous massacre of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsis, encouraged and supervised by extremists in the Hutu-dominated government.

In Kinshasa, with Kabila named President, key cabinet posts and the new Congo army and security forces were immediately staffed at the highest levels by Rwandan Tutsis.

By July 1998, Kabila realized that the Congolese people would not support the excesses of the Rwandan "foreigners" throughout their government. He also recognized the extent to which he had become a puppet of his Tutsi "allies," and after confirmed reports of atrocities by Tutsi military against Hutu exiles in the east, and later in the west of the country, had become too prevalent to ignore, and after he had uncovered an apparent Rwandan plot to assassinate him and stage a coup in Congo, Kabila ordered the Rwandans to leave.

Less than a week later, on August 2, 1998, Ugandan and Rwandan regular troops invaded Congo with regrouped, well-trained rebel forces, and began the war to overthrow Kabila that goes on to this day despite a shaky, much-violated, U.S.-supported cease-fire. Rwandans and Ugandans control most of the east of the country, and there has been a de facto partition, a gross violation of Congolese sovereignty

Yet Rwanda is a tiny impoverished nation, and Uganda is not much larger or richer, while Congo is one of the largest, richest, and most populous nations in Africa, which at one time had its most powerful army How did this happen? Could impoverished Rwanda and Uganda have orchestrated, armed, and financed such operations on their own?

Is it a coincidence that Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame was trained in the United States? That the Rwandan army received, and continues to receive, training in the U.S.? That the Pentagon has had Special Forces military training missions in Rwanda and Uganda for more than five years? That vast segments of the Congolese infrastructure, particularly the mining companies, have been taken over by U.S.- and western-linked multinationals, working with the Rwandan and Ugandan rebels and governments?


The Mobutu era began with ardent U.S. support, financial and military. From 1965 to 1991, Zaire received more than $1.5 billion in U.S. economic and military aid. In


return, U.S. multinationals increased their share of the ownership of Zaire's fabulous mineral wealth. On the foreign policy front, Zaire was a bastion of anti-communism during the Cold War, in the center of a continent Washington saw as perilously close to Moscow's influence. As the State Department put it, "Zaire has been a stabilizing force and a staunch supporter of U.S. and western policies...." Mobutu's corruption and brutality were ignored for thirty years. It was only when the plunder of western-owned assets and the ruination of the country were nearly complete, when Mobutu's stolen billions had become a worldwide embarrassment, that the U.S. began to seek an acceptable change.

By this time, the U.S. was deeply involved in both Uganda and Rwanda, and very close to Paul Kagame. In 1990, Kagame, a Rwandan exile serving as a colonel in the Ugandan army was training at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, when he dropped out of the program and rushed back to Uganda to take command of the rebel army that invaded Rwanda.

After three years of civil war in Rwanda, a power-sharing peace accord was negotiated, only to collapse in 1994, when an airplane carrying Rwanda's Hutu president, Juvenal Habyanmana, was shot down, with all aboard, including President Cypnen Ntaryamira of Burundi, killed. A still secret 1997 U.N. investigation implicates Kagame in the assassinations. Warnings of a coming bloodbath, set off by the attack, were ignored, and a horrendous 89-day massacre of 500,000 Tutsis-and 50,000 Hutus-followed.

Kagame's movement then turned on the Hutu-dominated government, and took power. The massacres began again, this time of Hutus. More than a million Rwandan Hutus, both militia and civilians, who escaped the killing, died to eastern Zaire.

U.S. officials, according to the Washington Post, were pleased with Kagame and "deeply relieved that the rebels had halted the massacres, thus ending pressure for a U.S.-led intervention." As one writer observed, "Americas unease about its own attitude to the massacres in the spring of 1994 was one reason why it later sided with the triumphant victims." The U.S. "became increasingly close to the Rwandan government and the army that backed it.... Washington pumped military aid into Kagame s army and U. S. Army Special Forces and other military personnel trained hundreds of Rwandan forces."

At the same time, the U.S. kept tabs on the refugees in eastern Zaire, while mounting what was called a "humanitarian operation" in Rwanda, but which also included training of the Rwandan military in combat, counterinsurgency, psychological operations, etc.. One U.S. official interviewed by the Washington Post contended that "the United States is focusing disproportionate military assistance on Rwanda as part of the creation of a 'zone of influence' in East Africa.... " An African writer has


referred to this zone of influence as a confederation of "military princedoms [which] have appeared in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and, to a lesser extent, in Ethiopia and Eritrea.'' These U.S.-supported military regimes are characterized by "the repeated use of force in putting their internal and external policy strategies into effect." They are "obsessed with security" and they "clone themselves" by joining forces "with their own diasporas...whose citizenship is disputed .... [They] attract the services of 'rebels,' dissidents, and others, who serve as a screen for their intervention" in fragile and unstable neighboring countries. The role of the Rwandan and Ugandan princelings, Kagame and Museveni, in neighboring Congo is a classic example of U.S. meddling.


Still unclear is the full extent of U.S. military support for Kagame's move, via Kabila, against Mobutu and Zaire (and their bloody retribution against both Hutu militia and Hutu civilian refugees in the camps). "Many Africans," the Wall Street Journal noted, concluded that "the Zairean rebellion was the brainchild of Washington from the very start." In August 1996, six weeks before the RPA and Kabila's forces moved into Zaire, Kagame had visited Washington to discuss with Clinton administration officials the dangerous threat to his regime in Rwanda from the Hutu refugee camps in eastern Zaire, harboring militia among the civilians 2~ Both Kagame and U.S. officials later claimed unconvincingly that he left "disappointed" in not having instigated direct U.S. action. It was clear to the U.S., in any case, that Kagame was prepared to act, and that this was certainly in the U.S. government's interest. Kagame acted quickly after his visit to Washington. Kabila, a former Marxist exile, who had been recruited by the Tutsis, had been brought to Goma some time earlier, to be the national Congolese figurehead of an "insurgency" against Mobutu's army And in October 1996, when the full-scale incursion began, much of eastern Zaire was immediately taken. The camps were attacked, and many of the refugees were driven back to Rwanda or killed. It is unlikely that Kabila himself took part in the actions against the refugees, but there is no question that he had made a deal with the Devil: "Kabila's army is closely controlled by Rwandan officers who dominate its upper echelons. Kabila relied heavily on the well-trained Rwandan officers, along with Rwandan, Angolan, and Ugandan troops, to push Mobutu's army aside. But in so doing, he made a deal with people intent on bringing the 1994 ethnic war in Rwanda onto Congolese soil." as Kabila maintained his headquarters in Goma, in eastern Zaire, near the site of many of the camps. In the first months of the fighting, the U.S. denied any ties to Kabila and also denied that any foreign forces were fighting with him. Diplomatic signals, however, got crossed: At the start of the rebellion, in October, "U.S. ambassador to Rwanda, Robert Gnbbin, denied in the face of mounting evidence that the Rwandan army had any role in the action in eastern Zaire. But at the same time, in Mobutu's capital, Kinshasa, American envoy to Zaire, Dan Simpson, was denouncing the uprising as a Rwandan and Ugandan 'invasion.' The London Guardian noted, "U.S. policy initially was divided between offering active support for Rwandan intervention and looking the other way... In practice, it did both: the Pentagon helped out while the State Department pretended it wasn't happening." That the U.S. "helped out" is unquestionable; the motive for doing so is what we must address.

* A South African pilot in September 1996, "flew a planeload of assault rifles from Pretoria to...Burundi, where he was met by.. an official from the U.S. Embassy there. The weapons...were destined for Uvira...in Zaire, the birthplace of Mr. Kabila's revolt."

* In November, "senior officers from the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda were seen leaving Mr. Kabila's residence in Goma."

* By spring, a State Department official, Dennis Hankins, was ensconced in a local hotel in Goma "as the first full-time American diplomat posted to the capital of the rebel alliance.

* In April, the House passed a resolution calling on Mobutu to step down.


Despite U.S. approval of and involvement in the overthrow of Mobutu, U.S. support for Kabila from the beginning was mixed at best, and hostility later intensified, as he became increasingly estranged from his Rwandan and Ugandan Tutsi mentors. After arriving in Kinshasa on May 19, 1997, Kabila's new government and teams of ecstatic Congolese began to clean up the capital and restore the country's infrastructure, bringing a semblance of normalcy to their lives, despite armed confrontations between newly appointed local police and rapid deployment squads. According to UNICEF 15,000 young soldiers patrolling Kinshasa did not speak the language and were strangers to the city Locals refused to have anything to do with them.

These "faceless" army and security forces, being reorganized under instructions from Rwanda and including many unidentified soldiers working for state security services, were regarded as "foreigners" by the people and viewed with distrust. Lt. Col. James Kabarebe, who became Army Chief of Staff, had been head of the Rwandan Republican Guard before he led the forces that overthrew Mobutu. Many other key figures had similar backgrounds. Jackson Nzinza, a Ugandan Tutsi who became Congo's Chief of National Security, had been the head of Rwanda's Internal Security Organization, allegedly responsible for numerous political murders, an activity he continued to practice in Congo. Bizima Karaha, Kabila's Foreign Minister, was another Rwandan Tutsi, whose uncle is a member of the Rwandan Parliament. Col. Ibingira, who later became Commander of North Kivu, was deeply involved in massacres of Hutu refugees.

During the 15 months between the May 1997 entry into Kinshasa and the August 1998 start of the current war, the U.S. became openly critical of the Kabila government. Most complaints voiced were related to ongoing murderous assaults on the Hutu refugees, who were not being protected properly in the U.N.-run camps or by Doctors Without Borders, who were also present. But there were other undercurrents, related to Realpolitic.

In April and May of 1997, as the downfall of Mobutu was imminent, reports of massacres which had occurred during the march to Kinshasa began to appear with regularity although it was often unclear just who the perpetrators had been. The AP reported on May 22 that "one of Kabila's soldiers" had shown a reporter a mass grave. The June 1 Boston Globe reported massacres of refugees who had "tried to flee troops led by then rebel leader Laurent Kabila." On May 28, 1997, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said "Kabila lacks democratic credentials." The AP report noted that "skepticism is strong among U.S. officials about the willingness of Kabila, once associated with leftist causes, to lead Zaire to democracy" At the same time, other Clintonites appeared optimistic. "U.S. officials are generally pleased with Kabila's actions since his forces deposed Mobutu two weeks ago. He has included opposition elements in his government and has promised free elections within two years." There were reports of mass graves in Kisangani, and U.N. efforts to investigate "have been blocked by forces affiliated with Kabila's Rebel Alliance." Still, some U.S. officials continued to believe that "alliance forces involved in wrongdoing were acting independently of Kabila." On June 3, a USAID team arrived in Congo to assess its assistance needs, particularly "funds to help Congo meet the challenge of holding national elections in April 1999, the target date set by President Kabila."

The next month Kabila's Foreign Minister, Bizima Karaha, visited Washington and, as evidenced by a lengthy interview he gave to UPI, did little to enhance U.S.-Congolese relations.:39 He was in Washington to ask the Clinton administration for help in reconstructing the country. But, as UPI noted, he was "not bringing a message the Clinton administration wants to hear."

For one thing, the U.S., with its typical monomania for "free and fair elections," even in the wake of the overthrow of thirty years of relentless dictatorship, was insisting that elections take place within two years, which, admittedly, Kabila had announced when he took over. Karaha referred to the pledge as merely "a goal," one which he doubted could be reached, given the continuing instability in the country

Karaha was also vehement in ruling out any participation in the new government by opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, Mobutu's last prime minister. "The United States," UPI noted, "one of the few nations to recognize Tshisekedi's brief appointment to head Mobutu's government during some of the fiercest fighting, has pointed to the opposition leader as exactly the type of figure that should be included in Kabila's administration." Karaha, with perhaps less diplomacy than might be expected from a foreign minister, called Tshisekedi a "provocateur" who "wants to create anarchy and chaos...an enemy of the people and of the government."

The handwriting was on the wall. A senior official told the UPI reporter "that Kabila can 'kiss goodbye' any hopes of American help if the positions taken by Karaha on elections and on Tshisekedi prove accurate reflections of the policies Kabila plans to pursue."


The demand that the massacres committed during the overthrow of Mobutu be fully investigated and that the perpetrators be identified and punished was raised, but the U.N. and the Clinton administration never revealed what they knew-that these were Tutsi revenge killings. A few reports conceded that the atrocities were committed by troops beyond Kabila's control. The media attacks against Kabila were relentless, always ignoring the astonishing degree to which foreign nations, Rwanda and Uganda, exercised absolute control over the Congolese military and security services.

Kabila responded cryptically to calls from human rights organizations demanding investigation into the massacres, claiming that countries and international groups must assume some of the responsibility "All the forces...including in the name of sending humanitarian assistance, are [also] responsible...for these great violations." He stopped short of conceding that Rwandan troops, in fact, committed mass killings in their sweep across the country But he hinted at complicity by both the U.S. government and certain human rights groups.


An October 1997 Human Rights Watch report with the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues stated, "Kabila's troops, particularly Rwandan allies, segregated and executed young men, former Hutu government officials and Hutu intellectuals." They accused the U.S. of ignoring the massacres to "hasten a conclusion to the region's three-year refugee crisis."

An exception to most media coverage was a revealing Washington Post investigation by Scott Campbell, placing much of the blame on Paul Kagame's Rwandans, and noting that, while the Defense Department admitted training RPA troops inside Rwanda, "knowledgeable witnesses told me they had seen U.S. soldiers in the company of RPA troops on Congolese territory on various dates including July 23rd and 24th of this year... Massacre sites continue to be cleaned up and potential witnesses intimidated... Rwandan officers and troops remain in the Congo in the same areas where they participated in massacres, representing a lethal threat to any who would dare collaborate with the U.N. team."

Campbell concluded by urging that "Kabila and the international community.. insist that Kagame withdraw his troops from Congolese territory and investigate anyone suspected of killing civilians. Armed Hutu soldiers and militia must also finally be disarmed and brought to justice."

It became apparent that the Clinton administration would welcome Kabila's overthrow, and perhaps had always envisioned such an outcome. The desired scenario was floated in World Policy Review, where, in the summer of 1998, just before the second Congo invasion, Frank Smythe savaged Kabila, calling him a "thug," and stating that "Voices from all quarters say that the Kabila regime is corrupt. Even his former allies in Rwanda, Uganda, and Eritrea have begun asking whether they should have recruited another Zairean to lead operations in eastern Zaire." The notion that Paul Kagame was sensitive to charges of official corruption is laughable, but Smythe's article confirmed that the die was cast.

At the same time, much "shiny new military hardware was appearing at Kigali airport in Rwanda." It was not long before what the western press would dub "Africa's First World War" began.


Only four months after President Clinton's March 1998 trip to Africa, Kabila ordered all Rwandan and Ugandan Tutsi troops and military instructors out of the country. On July 28, 1998, they began to leave, taking much of what was left of the DRC treasury with them.

Kabila later described a foiled assassination attempt against him as the factor that precipitated the ouster, as well as the Tutsi killings of Hutu refugees, which had spread to the central Equatorial region.

On August 2, only four days later, Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo from the east with ground troops from their regular armies. And just two days after that, in what must have involved months of forward planning, there were two airborne invasions by Rwanda in the west, and Ugandan troops simultaneously landed in the south and occupied the ports.

An attempted coup was under way.

While some "rebels" were involved in the invasion (mostly former Mobutu officers), "Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers...constitute the major portion of those troops which are combating Kabila's government," according to a statement at the time by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Nevertheless, it was months before Uganda and Rwanda admitted that their soldiers were involved in the invasion. (The U.S. has yet to confirm its participation.)

The early fighting in western Congo almost reached Kinshasa. For nearly a month, Rwandan troops controlled Kitona airport, and Ugandans in the southwest held the Inga dam, cutting electricity and water into the capital. In mid-August, when the invaders totally defied a demand from the Organization of African Unity to lay down their arms, Zimbabwe and Angola, and later Namibia, decided to send troops to Congo to assist the government in beating back the assault. It was only after fierce fighting, with vital military support from the Angolans and Zimbabweans, along with spirited defense from the local populace in Kinshasa, that the rebels were repulsed at the gates of the capital. Ultimately, by the end of August, they were driven back to the eastern regions.


The battle in eastern Congo is another story, one that still rages, despite more than a year of cease-fire efforts. In North Kivu, South Kivu, and Haut-Congo provinces the invaders have been able to occupy vast reaches of territory, at present more than half of the entire country. (Congo is more than one-fourth the size of the U.S.) The isolated infrastructure of this area, encompassing most of the mineral wealth of Congo, has remained under the effective control of rebel groups, as proxies for the Ugandans, the Rwandans, and the various mining firms and their private security forces.

Since the invasion, for almost two years, the fortunes of the "rebel" groups, themselves riven with splits and recriminations, have been inextricably tied to the mercurial and deteriorating relations between Uganda and Rwanda, all competing for Congo's fabulous mineral wealth. Personal relations between the Ugandan and Rwandan leaders were close for many years, ever since Kagame, as an exile in Uganda, was a rising star in its army. He helped Museveni come to power By the summer of 1999, however, relations were so strained between the two countries that their troops fought a bloody three-day battle in Kisangani. Rwanda had attempted, unsuccessfully, to take control of the Haut-Congo capital, where the Ugandan army and rebels have their headquarters.


One branch of the Congolese Union for Democracy (RCD), based on the border with Uganda, is headed by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, a former university professor who was brought from exile in Tanzania and appeared in public three weeks after the attempted coup. By all reports, he is a Congolese nationalist who is in favor of a non-military solution, but whose ambition to be the leader of Congo has him, in some analysts' opinion, in "over his head." Wamba dia Wamba first operated out of Goma with the protection of Rwandan Tutsi and former Mobutu troops. When political-military differences became severe, in April 1999, ousted by the military faction and in fear for his life, he moved the headquarters of his group to Kisangani and renamed his operation RCDML. He is now under the protection of the Ugandan army

Rwanda backs the military branch of Wamba's former group, still in Goma and now led by Dr. Emile Ilunga, from Katanga, Kabila's home province. Ilunga's faction is now called RCD-Goma. The security chief for this branch is Bizima Karaha, Kabila's former foreign minister.

Yet another group, the Movement for Congolese Liberation (MLC), in the north central region, is also backed by Uganda, led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, a young businessman during the Mobutu era. His group is composed of some former Mobutu officers and soldiers. Curiously, his father, Saolona Bemba, a very wealthy former close associate of Mobutu, was put in jail in Kinshasa when Kabila took power. The elder Bemba somehow transformed himself into Kabila's political ally and is now the DRC Minister of Economy and Industry (even as his son plots the overthrow of the Kabila government).

The rebels are definitely not welcome in most of the northeast half of the country they control. "[T]he men seeking to overthrow the President of Congo, Laurent Kabila, have been decidedly unpopular even as they conquered nearly half this huge country. They are linked too closely with Rwanda, which provides the rebels with troops and arms but is despised by many ordinary Congolese." The London Economist had earlier acknowledged that "The second rebellion in two years is unpopular with most Congolese. In 1996, the rebels [here meaning Kabila's forces] held crowded rallies at which they recruited young fighters. In the eastern Kivu province which the rebels [here meaning Kabila's opponents] still hold, and in the towns outside Kivu which they have captured...rallies have been...sparsely attended...rebel leaders have been booed, and there have been no lines of young men eager to join.''

Abuses, indeed atrocities, by the RCD and other rebel groups in North and South Kivu have been well-documented. "Reports from South Kivu strongly suggest the danger of large-scale violence among different ethnic groups there. Among several alleged massacres and atrocities is the burial alive of 15 women in Kivu province by rebels, apparently in suspicion of contacts with Mayi-Mayi forces." Mayi-Mayi are a local tribe that supports Kabila because of their antipathy for the Tutsi aggressors.

Another conflict-this one in the rebel-controlled area bordering on Uganda-is a Ugandan-instigated war between the Hema and the Lendu tribes. Long at peace, albeit tensely, they began battling fiercely when Ugandan forces took control of the region and paid the Hema to step up the level of warfare. The fighting has been described as "massacres on a chilling scale." The Ugandans have used the fighting as an excuse to send more regular army troops into the area. Many other examples of infighting among rebel groups and their sponsors are surfacing.

Although it is "generally agreed that the rebels are thoroughly detested in the areas they have now occupied for more than a year," the Congolese army has been unable to dislodge them.

So, "de facto partition" has come to Congo. Money is a major factor. As Le Monde Diplomatique noted, "the well-equipped Rwandan and Ugandan troops [with the rebels] are paid in dollars."

And the dollars are flowing. Eastern Congo, virtually annexed by Uganda and Rwanda, is one of the most mineral-rich areas in the world. Gold and diamonds and rare strategic minerals are flowing into the two countries, earning vast sums for their treasures.

The border between Congo and Rwanda is "a mere formality." The international mining companies that operate in Kivu protect the Rwandans, who "have a monopoly on the mining and marketing of those minerals."

The West has ignored the blatant theft of Congo's sovereign natural resources. Some believe this is because its bonafides were so shattered by its apparent indifference to the 1994 atrocities. Paul Kagame was politically sophisticated enough, some analysts noted, that, since 1994, he has "played on Washington's sense of guilt about the genocide.'' Le Monde Diplomatique agreed "The genocide of the Tutsis is now invoked to play on the international community's sense of guilt and persuade the United States to look with a kindly eye on what is nothing less than a plan to conquer and control the resources of the Congo." Others believe, instead, there is an overwhelming coincidence of interests for all of the parties involved-greed.


Less than two months after rebels had taken control of eastern Congo and were moving toward the diamond mines in the southwest near Angola, Susan Rice began to press for a cease-fire. After two days of discussion with Kabila in Kinshasa, on November 1, Rice went to Zambia for talks with President Frederick Chiluba, the anointed mediator. In Lusaka, Rice pressed her point. "There is absolutely no military solution which is viable." Given the unending U.S. military support for Rwanda and Uganda, Rice knew well why a military solution was impossible for the Congolese, half of whose country was under foreign occupation.

But more than eight months were to elapse before any agreement was reached. With the crucial support of Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, Congo was able to halt any further rebel advances and to protect the vital southeast, Katanga, with its diamond mines. (Rebel groups and their Ugandan and Rwandan sponsors were constantly squabbling, having splits, and moving headquarters, and the Rwandans and Ugandans were fighting each other )

Moreover, the Americans' hand-picked peace broker, Chiluba, was hardly neutral. Frederick Chiluba, president of Zambia, was known to allow UNITA to transit through Zambian territory in their constant forays against Angola. Chiluba was also discovered to have extensive interests in the internationally outlawed UNITA diamond trade, the main source of financing for the rebel group. UNITA was not only wreaking havoc, as it has for 25 years, in Angola, Congo's close and critical ally its troops were now fighting the DRC in Congo as well, alongside the Rwandan rebels.

By the end of the year, pressures on Kabila to enter talks were overpowering, even though it had become clear to the world that Congo had been invaded and occupied by foreign powers and was not in the throes of a civil war.

In January 1999, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Angola agreed to an African-sponsored cease-fire framework, but since the rebel groups had not been invited to the meetings, nothing would be meaningful until they agreed.

The wheeling and dealing intensified through the spring of 1999. Numerous meetings were held under the auspices of the Organization for African Unity and the Southern African Development Community. Nevertheless, it took U.S. pressure on the participants-including Nelson Mandela's good offices (splitting still further what were once the united frontline states)-to forge an agreement that would satisfy the rebels. This was not difficult, given the impressive level of U.S. military and economic support for Rwanda and Uganda, as well as for the South African government.

In June, foreign and defense ministers gathered in Lusaka, later joined by their nations' leaders, and by July 7 new terms of the cease-fire accord had been announced. Clinton's special envoy for Africa, Howard Wolpe, who was in Lusaka for the duration, noted, somewhat ominously "Our sense is that the key players have come to comprehend how enormously costly this is not only to the people of the Congo but to the entire region."

Of all Congo's allies, Angola has the most serious stake in the outcome of the war. UNITA forces have been using southern Congo to attack Luanda's troops since Mobutu's time and had long before joined with Rwandan Tutsi fighters. In late August 1998, only weeks after the war began, UNITA representatives met with Kagame. Some UNITA fighters were also captured in "rebel" skirmishes. Further complicating the situation, "UNITA has reportedly received South African arms, shipped to Mozambique and flown on South African aircraft to Angola by way of Zambia." After decades of support for UNITA, the U.S., according to U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, now proposed to "throw its weight behind" efforts to "tighten and enforce sanctions" against them

The effect on Namibia has also been significant. In August, a separatist group in Namibia's Caprivi Strip, previously inactive, launched a series of military attacks made possible by supplies and other assistance from UNITA. Their "suspected motive," the New York Times noted, "is to punish Namibia for its role in the Congo war" As recently as February 2000, UNITA troops were attacking Namibian border villages. Namibia has "a growing problem with UNITA along its border with Angola and in the breakaway Caprivi Strip.... Caprivi separatists reportedly receive aid not only from UNITA, but also from Botswana and Zambia." In addition, Zimbabwe's contributions to the Congo war effort played a major role in the devastation of its economy and the likely ouster of President Robert Mugabe.

When everyone sat down in Lusaka, the rebels dampened U.S. enthusiasm by refusing to sign the accord (unable to agree on who would sign it on their behalf). It would take another month and a half before the RCD rivals agreed that both factions would sign.

It was just at this moment that Richard Holbrooke began to take center stage. In August, Clinton administration horse-trading with Senate Republicans had abandoned funding for U.N. projects overseas that supported abortion programs in exchange for confirmation of Holbrooke as U.N. ambassador In the meantime, his Africa staff had been shepherding the accords to their signing, maintaining a constant pressure on Kabila to accede.

The agreement called for a step-by-step withdrawal of foreign troops, including the rebels, within 180 days, rather than immediately as the African-sponsored version had required. This meant that the rebels would stay in Congo. In any case, that deadline was never met. The foreign troops never left

Cease-fire violations since then have become rampant. By mid-November each side accused the other of violations. Susan Rice continued to insist, "Lusaka is the only viable way It can and must be implemented." She then announced that Richard Holbrooke would travel to the region in December When he did, he "acknowledged that unlike the Balkans, where military might and billions of dollars have been devoted to peacemaking, NATO was not available to impose a settlement." Nevertheless, he was both threatening and patronizing. The OAU, he insisted, must "get its act together," or the U.S. would not support a peacekeeping operation at all.

This was a reference to another critical provision of the accords, calling for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force within 120 days, another unmet deadline. The U.N. force has only just been authorized, after a special session of the Security Council in January. Albright, Holbrooke, and company had learned to be less publicly ham-handed since their manipulations of the Rambouillet meetings on Yugoslavia had been widely exposed, and the Security Council sessions were relatively open and smooth, paving the way for U.N. approval.

Nevertheless, the U.S. role continues to grow, even as the U.N. prepares to deploy a woefully inadequate 5,000-man peacekeeping force. The Pentagon is already giving military advice to the U.N on that force. It is, in the words of Holbrooke, giving "the United Nations the benefit of U.S. experience in such matters." Direct participation of U.S. personnel remains a touchy subject, after the debacle in Somalia, also under Clinton's watch. Unfortunately former South African President Nelson Mandela has not only offered to send South African troops to Congo, but has also publicly urged the participation of U.S. forces there, a certain recipe for disaster


The U.S. shaping of, and insistent support for, the Lusaka accords only highlights what has been clear for some time. The agreement was not a good deal for the Congo government, and Kabila was forced to accede only because of the implicit threat that refusal would be met by even greater assistance to the rebels and the potential dismantling of the entire country. In stark contrast to the resolutions of the OAU and the SADC, and to the earlier draft agreement before the last gathering in Lusaka, the final accord did not even recognize the legitimacy of the DRC government or President Kabila.

When the agreement was signed, U S. envoy Howard Wolpe noted, "its a very important beginning to have all the parties together, collectively laying out a road map." But the map is of a partitioned, divided Congo, contrary to the OAU Charter and a throw-back to the Berlin Conference of 1885, when the western powers drew the boundaries of African nations with impunity

More than a year ago, the New York Times launched what can now be identified as a major propaganda campaign to legitimize the Balkanization of Africa, much as the re-Balkanization of Yugoslavia was promoted in the West during the 1990s. On January 12, 1999, when the Lusaka accord

lay well in the future, a front-page article by lan Fisher with Norimitsu Onishi entitled "Congo's Struggle May Unleash Broad Strife to Redraw Africa," appeared. Its rhetorical trick was to lay the responsibility for the current borders on meddling European colonialists, implying, despite OAU recognition of those borders as inviolate, that the redrawing of those boundaries by African combatants might be more legitimate: "The borders of African nations, set up arbitrarily by the Europeans who colonized the continent a century ago, are supposed to be inviolate. Yet Congo is now split in two, perhaps for good."

While the article paid lip service to the "stability" lent to the continent by respect for those boundaries, it planted the seeds of doubt: "The borders established [at the Berlin Conference] had little to do with geography or the lines that separated ethnic groups."

A few days later, the Times campaign continued, more directly A long article on January 16 by Howard W French was entitled "The African Question: Who Is to Blame? The Finger Points to the West, and Congo Is a Harsh Example." While some recognition was given to the generally exploitative legacy of "European subjugation and rule," the imposition of boundaries was stressed: "colonial subjugation brutally ended Africa's sovereign evolution toward modern nation-states." An African scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo was quoted: "The example I like to think of is if an African imperial army had marched into Europe in the Middle Ages and required Germany France, and England to live together by force of arms. It would have unleashed untold mayhem... " "Almost every time the Europeans created a state," French wrote, "ethnic groups or previously existing African polities were split by the new borders, undermining the new states' claims to legitimacy in the eyes of their inhabitants."


Most recently the Times, while never openly endorsing partition, has lauded the "relative stability" of the current division of Congo and has opined that the main mission of the U.N. peacekeeping force will be to "provide security in relatively stable zones.

It is not unlikely that the boundaries of a two-Congo Africa have already been set-imposed yet again by the western powers.

Africa watch