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Features

The dilemma of the wars in the Kivus

Gary K. Busch

2012-11-28, Issue 608

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85595

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The world seems to be in a state of paralysis in dealing with the problems in the DRC in which Rwanda and Uganda continue to pillage and plunder the mineral resources of the country. At the same time over 5 million Congolese have died.

The African territory which includes Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC has been in virtually a state of war since 1995; that is at war with each other. This has engaged the national armies, foreign armies, militias, ‘civil defence’ groups, looters, pillagers, child abductors and abusers, rapists, arsonists and murderers. One can add to this list of villains and plunderers the United Nations Peacekeepers whose range of social debilities accurately mimics those whose peace they are purported to be keeping.

The wars in the Eastern Congo have been responsible for the deaths of millions of Congolese who paid the price of living in a very rich and unmanaged country with failing or non-existent civil institutions. These wars, centred mainly in eastern Congo (North and South Kivu and Maniema) have involved nine African nations and directly affected the lives of 50 million Congolese.

BEHIND RAPING OF WOMEN IS LOOTING OF RESOURCES

Between August 1998 and April 2004 some 3.8 million people died violent deaths in the DRC. Since 2004 this number has almost trebled. Many of these deaths were due to starvation or disease that resulted from the war, as well as from summary executions and capture by one or more of a group of irregular marauding bands. Millions more had become internally displaced or had sought asylum in neighbouring countries. Rape was endemic; insecurity was the rule; and impunity the remedy.

Initially these wars and the rapes, murders and pillaging associated with them derived from the efforts of Uganda and Rwanda seeking to profit from the valuable mineral resources of the Eastern Congo. However, no matter how valuable the pillage of coltan, diamonds and other mineral ores might have been to them they are miniscule in comparison to the current targets of their pillage – the oil and gas industries. The mineral resources are huge and involve thousands of conscripted artisanal miners, but the value cannot compare to the oil and gas wealth.

NEW OIL AND GAS DISCOVERIES

In 2009 Heritage Oil discovered oil in Uganda. The oil and gas industries in East and Central Africa have been the world’s most important area of exploration in the last nine years. Africa is the main continent in the world with frequent and substantial new findings of oil and gas. A joint report by the African Development Bank, African Union and the African Development Fund observed that oil reserves in Africa grew by over 25 per cent, while gas has grown by over 100 per cent since the late 1980s. There have been major finds in Kenya.

In May 2012 Kenya announced its second profitable oil discovery in two months; and large oil deposit in the remote northern Turkana region. Kenya has become the latest African country to join the great African oil boom, following recent discoveries in Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The East African Community which is forming can count on a better energy future with the discovery of oil in Kenya, in addition to the substantial reserves in Uganda and the gas discovered in Tanzania. There are also explorations in the Lake Kivu Graven in Rwanda. South Sudan, with its large oil reserves, has applied for membership in East African Community. There are large oil and gas fields in Somalia. Africa is the main continent in the world with frequent and substantial new findings of oil and gas. A joint report by the African Development Bank, African Union and the African Development Fund observed that oil reserves in Africa grew by over 25 per cent, while gas has grown by over 100 per cent since the late 1980s

Unfortunately the good fortune which has smiled on Eastern and Central Africa has only brought war and destruction in its wake. The Uganda finds in the Albert Graven were located in the seabed of Lake Albert. The border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) runs down the middle of the lake. Uganda wants all the oil and has been funding the various insurgencies to control all the oil and gas of the lake. Skirmishes have taken place between the two national armies and the border is heavily patrolled.

VANOIL OF CANADA

There have also been extensive oil and gas reserves found beneath Lake Tanganyika which shares a common border with the DRC. Tanganyika has largely avoided any role in the conflict and has collaborated with the DRC in extracting oil and gas. Nonetheless it has a stake in the conflict.
Perhaps the most contentious and conflicted result of the oil and gas finds in the region has been the Vanoil of Canada’s success in finding oil beneath Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu is a unique gas-bearing lake in the western leg of the African Rift Valleys, making it a small but very interesting component of the Great Lakes of Africa. The lake is deep, nearly 500m deep in its northern basin, and in its depths there lays danger. It has a turbulent history of its formation, first as a smaller lake that was the source of the Nile River, then growing deeper and larger as it was dammed by two massive volcanoes over ten thousand years ago and finally as it broke through and flooded to the south into Lake Tanganyika and the Congo River. There is geological evidence indicating it to have ‘turned-over’ as many as five times since. These turn-overs are massive gaseous eruptions that release hundreds of billions of cubic-metres of gas in watery "volcanoes", killing everything for miles.

Vanoil holds exclusive exploration rights to the 1,631 sq. km oil and gas concession in the north-western part of Rwanda better known as the East Kivu Graben. The Kivu Graben area is part of the great East African Rift System and is approximately 90 kilometres wide and 200 kilometres long. The Graben straddles both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is the Southern extension of the Albertine Graben in Uganda where major oil discoveries have been made by Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil.

THE ROLE OF UGANDA AND RWANDA IN DRC

In March 2007, when the governments of the DRC and Rwanda met with the assembled lake experts and developers at Gisenyi on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, an initiative commenced to define the rules and regulations of safe and environmentally sound exploitation of Lake Kivu's gas reserves. Without strict adherence to these rules the whole lake could explode. These regulations were necessary to define the safest means of degassing the lake, but also to share that definition and the resources equitably between the countries involved. The work, performed by a select grouping of the world's leading experts on the development of Lake Kivu has been published in English (June 2009) and translated to French (January 2010). The Management Prescriptions for the development of Lake Kivu now form the basis of regulations on the lake and the guide by which the bilateral authority being formed will control the development of the lake's resources. Rwanda seeks to alter this by taking control of the other side of the lake. It has recently taken over Goma through its M23 surrogates and plans to exploit the oil reserves with Vanoil and to seek a competent gas partner for the buried methane.

IMPUNITY RULES

The question arises as to why Rwanda and Uganda, whose armies invaded the DRC in 1998 to remove Laurent Kabila from power and were soundly defeated in battle by the DRC, the Zimbabweans, Angolans and Namibians, now feel that they can renew their struggle to conquer the mineral wealth of the DRC with such a level of impunity? After a brief lapse they began to support surrogate armies in the DRC with weapons, training and communications. This was particularly true of the Banyamulenge (the Tutsi who lived in the Eastern Congo and were part of Kagame’s Tutsi Diaspora). They continued to rape and pillage and compelled the artisanal miners of the Kivus to work for their marauding bands, producing coltan and diamonds. This was the pattern of exploitation of the DRC and its human and mineral wealth even when peace agreements, like the Lusaka Accords which supposedly ended the war, were signed.

Instead of warring armies Eastern Congo became controlled by warlords and militia groups whose exploitation took the form of pillage, rape and murder. Most of these groups have affinities with either the Rwandan or Ugandan governments which handle the physical trade in the wealth which is exported. The Rwandans have been backing ‘rebel’ military warlords like Laurent Nkunda or Bosco Ntanganda. These provide the fig leaf for Rwanda’s continuing rape of the Congo. Others do the same for Uganda. They operate with impunity. The people most responsible for the continuing atrocities are protected. These include Yoweri Museveni, Salim Saleh, Paul Kagame, James Kazini, Moses Ali, James Kabarebe, Taban Amin, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Laurent Nkunda, Bosco Ntanganda, the late Meles Zenawi and a long list of people whose culpability is without question; many of whom have been named for atrocities again and again. Bemba was finally brought to the ICC to stand trial. This was more to do with his political opposition to Kabila Junior and the Central African Republic than his depredations in the Eastern Congo.

THE UN & INTERNATIONAL PARALYSIS

Theoretically, the United Nation has had teams of peacekeepers in the DRC as MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo); since 1 July 2010, MONUC was renamed the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The track record of MONUC is not impressive. Two of the inbuilt reasons for their lack of success was (1) relying at the beginning on the French military who encamped at Ituri and refused to leave the city because the rebels killed two French officers on the first outing; and (2) relying on Rwandan troops to co-ordinate the fight against the rebels they are covertly supporting in the name of MONUSCO. This scheme offers limited optimism for the Congolese. In fact many peacekeepers of the MONUC were engaged in rape, murder and pillage for their own account. Some have been prosecuted and sent home. Their presence in the DRC adds to the fears of the population as their actions are often indistinguishable from the marauding band s they are supposed to control.

Nonetheless the world seems to be in a state of paralysis in dealing with this problem and the daily violation of almost every humanitarian right the world community pretends it believes in. It was pushed to the back of the UN and AU agenda for years. It has only resurfaced because the M23 rebels have announced that they were going to take over the entire DRC; that is to restart the 1998 war. That is a different question.

US SUPPORT FOR UGANDA AND RWANDA IN DRC

The reason why these catalogues of horrors have continued unabated for the last six years is because the governments of Uganda and Rwanda are covered by the aegis of USmilitary initiatives in East and Central Africa. They provide, at great expense to the US taxpayer and at a high level of reward to the Museveni and Kagame clans, the troops for the US surrogate army. Their soldiers fight for the US in Somalia; Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa. The US gives them arms, equipment, training, air support, cash and immunity for their gross violations of human rights towards their neighbours. The U.S AFRICOM command relies on Uganda and Rwanda for carrying out its missions in East and Central Africa. The UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, who became the U.S.’s main supporter of the anti-Kabila alliance when she was Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, now defends the two with a passion ant the UN.

A HISTORY OF US INTERVENTION IN AFRICAN WARS

The US has been at war in Africa since the 1950s. It started off as an effort in support of the Cold War. The US has had practical experience in African wars. America has been fighting wars in Africa since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, Djibouti to name but a few counties. In some countries they used US troops, but in most cases the US financed, armed and supervised the support of indigenous forces. In its support of the anti- MPLA forces in Angola it sent arms and equipment to the UNITA opposition. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Larry Devlin of the CIA was an unofficial Minister of Mobutu’s government; the US ran its own air force in the Congo at WIGMO. US airmen supported the South African forces in Kwando, Fort Doppies and Encana bases in the Caprivi from WIGMO. At these bases one could also find soldiers from Southern Rhodesia (in their DC3s) and German, French, Portuguese and other NATO troops.

One of the largest of these bases was at Wheelus Field, in Libya. Wheelus Air Base was located on the Mediterranean coast, just east of Tripoli, Libya. With its 4,600 Americans, the US Ambassador to Libya once called it ‘a Little America’. During the Korean War, Wheelus was used by the US Strategic Air Command, later becoming a primary training ground for NATO forces. Strategic Air Command bomber deployments to Wheelus began on 16 November 1950. SAC bombers conducted 45-day rotational deployments this staging areas for strikes against the Soviet Union. Wheelus became a vital link in SAC war plans for use as a bomber, tanker refuelling and recon-fighter base. The US left in 1970.

Another giant base was Kagnew Field in Asmara. The base was established in 1943 as an Army radio station, home to the US Army's 4th Detachment of the Second Signal Service Battalion. Kagnew Station became home for over 5,000 American citizens at a time during its peak years of operation during the 1960s. Kagnew Station operated until April 29, 1977, when the last Americans left Kagnew Station. Now the battle is with Al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM) which combines the drug and diamond smuggling with terrorist acts. This battle has required a lot of troops on the ground, as advisers and trainers, as well as teams of DEA agents across West Africa. The US is preparing to sustain and support the soldiers who will seek to remove the Muslim fundamentalist extremists in Mali.

According to a US Congressional Research Service Study published in November 2010, Washington has dispatched anywhere between hundreds and several thousand combat troops, dozens of fighter planes and warships to buttress client dictatorships or to unseat adversarial regimes in dozens of countries, almost on a yearly basis. The record shows the US armed forces intervened in Africa forty-seven times prior to the current LRA endeavour. The countries suffering one or more US military interventions include the Congo, Zaire, Libya, Chad, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea.

Between the mid-1950s to the end of the 1970s, only four overt military operations were recorded, though large scale proxy and clandestine military operations were pervasive. Under Reagan-Bush Sr. (1980-1991) military intervention accelerated, rising to eight, not counting the large scale clandestine ‘special forces’ and proxy wars in Southern Africa. Under the Clinton regime, US militarized intervention in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, seventeen armed incursions took place, including a large scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Rwandan regime.

Clinton intervened in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone to prop up a long standing troubled regimes. He bombed the Sudan and dispatched military personnel to Kenya and Ethiopia to back proxy clients assaulting Somalia. Under Bush Jr. fifteen US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa.

US MILITARY LINKS WITH AFRICAN ARMIES

Most of the US African outreach is disproportionally built on military links to client military chiefs. The Pentagon has military ties with fifty-three African countries (including Libya prior to the current attack). Washington’s efforts to militarize Africa and turn its armies into proxy mercenaries in protecting property and fighting terrorists were accelerated after 9/11. The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a ‘strategic priority in fighting terrorism’. Henceforth, US foreign policy strategists, with the backing of both liberal and neoconservative congress people, moved to centralize and coordinate a military policy on a continent wide basis forming the African Command (AFRICOM). The latter organizes African armies, euphemistically called ‘co-operative partnerships,’ to conduct neo-colonial wars based on bilateral agreements (Uganda, Burundi, etc.) as well as ‘multi-lateral’ links with the Organization of African Unity

AFRICOM’S IMPERIALIST AGENDA

A typical building-block is the annual ‘Operation Flintlock’ exercises. In the midst of a major drive to increase security in Africa’s Saharan and Sahel nations, American, African and European military forces combine to engage in a version of Operation Flintlock; a series of multinational military exercises designed to foster and development international security cooperation in North and West Africa. The latest exercises were part of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).

1200 soldiers participated in the latest manoeuvres, including 600 US Marines and Special Forces, units from France and Britain and smaller European contingents from Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. African countries with military representation included Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Tunisia and Morocco. The exercises were headquartered out of a Multinational Coordination Centre set up at Camp Baangre in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou. Malian Special Forces received training in responding to hostage-taking operations (as carried out by AQIM). Many of the Malian participants were veterans of fighting Tuareg rebels in northern Mali. These ‘Flintlocks’ are the model replicated in Central Africa.

MUSEVENI’S AND KAGAME’S INVOLVEMENT IN DRC

In Central Africa one of the key actors in the relations between Uganda and the rest of the world and a good indicator of the role of Museveni is his brother, General Salim Saleh (aka) Caleb Afande Akandwanaho. Salim Saleh is a proven money-launderer, drug dealer, resource thief and plunderer. General Salim Saleh (born Caleb Akandwanaho, 14 January 1960), is an adviser to the President of Uganda on military matters. Formerly, he was the Ugandan Minister of State for Microfinance. Before that, he was a high ranking military official of UPDF, the armed forces of Uganda. He has featured in controversies regarding corruption, including being implicated by the UN Security Council for plundering natural resources in Congo (DRC).

The US Government was fully aware of these crimes and the participation of Museveni in these enterprises; just as it was aware of the barbaric practices engaged in by its favourite African despot, Paul Kagame of Rwanda through his proxy armies killing thousands of civilians in the DRC. However their armies are needed by AFRICOM and so it is unlikely that these two will face major problems unless they actually do try to take over the DRC.

DRC’S WEAKNESSES

The root of much of the difficulties lies with the fact that the current DRC President, Joseph Kabila is weak, vacillating and bereft of the support of a united nation. Unlike his father who commanded the loyalty of much of the DRC, Joseph is seen as aloof, manipulative and without a set of core beliefs. That weakness has alienated many in the national army. The army needs discipline, a purpose and the materiel to engage with its enemies. The Kabila government has not been able to supply these so the country is vulnerable. The citizens of the DRC have suffered grievously since a brief period after independence. Their future looks no better.

The countries which supported the DRC in its last war against the Ugandan and Rwandan invaders may well intervene again. This would be a disaster for regional African policies. If the US can bring itself to actually do something positive to restrain its military surrogates in Uganda and Rwanda and indicate that they are not immune to prosecution for crimes against humanity then perhaps there is a chance to establish peace in the eastern DRC. Without a stern contingency being imposed by the US in the region the lure of a fast buck to be made in the oil and gas businesses will circumvent any humanitarian impulse by Museveni and Kagame. The policy of Washington wringing its hands and saying nothing is a disgrace to the values it constantly professes for the continent.


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