With allies like Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Washington is causing immeasurable suffering on the Congolese people because they happen to sit on $24 trillion worth of resources that are critical to the American war machine. If Americans want to act in solidarity with the Congolese they should stop pretending that US foreign policy is rooted in justice, and instead support citizen movements like TELEMA that are fighting for change in DRC.
462 military observers, 1,090 police personnel, 18,232 military personnel. At 19,784 uniformed personnel, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) is the largest United Nations peacekeeping mission on the planet.
With President Trump proposing billions of dollars’ worth of cuts to the United Nations, this 17-year peacekeeping mission (named MONUC prior to 2010) may soon look dramatically different. In between the corporate media’s insatiable appetite (often used for ratings) for Russian conspiracy theories, we have heard some rumblings about the international consequences of Trump’s budget proposal.
Despite 5 million Congolese civilians murdered or dead from starvation/preventable diseases the Congolese can only be tangentially mentioned in the U.S. press. The indifference is glaring when you consider that it is our American allies: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Joseph Kabila regime who routinely murders/detains civilians to preserve his rule, who are primarily responsible for the death toll. Yet, in spirt of this inherent responsibility, the discussion of Congolese peace is primarily centered around achieving American imperial goals.
CNN’s Peter Yeo warns, “If signed, such an order would seriously endanger US foreign policy and national security interests, and put millions of lives at risk”, and Americans should “[r]emember why the US provides these funds to the United Nations in the first place. Promoting global peace and security abroad through the UN prevents conflicts abroad and minimizes the number of people who need to flee, efforts that are directly aligned with President Trump's policy to keep Americans safe.” Another CNN, report concluded these UN cuts would be “devastating to the war on terror.”
Conflating the peacekeeping missions and other humanitarian UN programs, Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy added that Trump’s $1 billion cut “reflected the White House’s clear desire to jettison America’s traditional role as the champion of the downtrodden and embrace that of a military powerhouse to be feared.”
Absent of any empirical evidence on the benefits that the peacekeeping missions provide the Congolese people (and other countries who have UN troops deployed), but loaded with unsupported American foreign policy rhetoric, the corporate media tacitly reveals why they oppose UN budget cuts. They oppose the Trump defunding not because of any tangible consequence to the Congolese population, but because it would clash with their imperial humanitarian narrative.
This outrage comes on the heels of a majority of House Republicans and Democrats passing a resolution condemning the United Nations for telling Israel they should follow international law. Republicans collectively lost their minds when the United States abstained from the UN Security Council vote and immediately called for defunding the UN until the UN reversed the resolution. If the UN threatens America’s military allies in the world by telling them to follow the law then the “champion of the downtrodden” is justified in threatening to cut programs which would lead to “millions of lives at risk.”
In Central Africa, when the United Nations threatens our regional authoritarian allies such as Paul Kagame of Rwanda, America simply blocks it, edits the report (Paul Kagame was Susan Rice’s client at Intellibridge), and bans lower level French experts from meetings. Americans insisted on this banning because we feared French diplomats were leaking reports in order to subvert American attempts to edit Kagame’s culpability out of UN reports (which is why there are leaked versions of reports and official published versions of these reports).
Placing aside the standard hypocrisy of the American empire, we Americans should ask ourselves some fundamental questions. What are the “champions of the downtrodden” attempting to hide in Central Africa? What are the actual empirical results of MONUSCO’s mission and what does the Congolese population benefit from it?
Since forcing the Belgians to end their overt colonial enterprise, the West and it’s regional allies have worked for decades to crush Congolese democratic aspirations. From the beginning of DRC’s independence, the United Nations peacekeeping forces were used as tools for Western imperial ambitions.
Count Harold d’ Aspremont Lynden (Belgian Minister for African Affairs) bragged in a telegram that, thanks to the UN, “From now on we can be optimistic about the way the general situation in Katanga will evolve. Barring new accidents, the Katangan structures will be protected by UN troops and, in the not too distant future, by Katangan troops under the common of Belgian officers.”
The Katangan structures that would be protected by the UN were in fact a Belgium sponsored separatist movement that broke away from the DRC with American and Belgium support. It culminated in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba (the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the DRC) in Katanga and subsequently attempted to squash the Congolese nationalist and internationalist citizen movement. Since then, every Congolese Prime Minister/dictator has received the approval of the American government.
This would not be the last time the United Nations allowed atrocities committed by American allies. In 2008, Kiwanja was attacked by soldiers led by international war criminal Laurent Nkunda (general to Paul Kagame’s proxy paramilitary groups, still free). In one day, 150 people were slaughtered despite UN forces deployed a mile away.
In 2009, the United Nations partnered with Rwandan proxy forces and the Congolese army during Operation Kimia II and Umoja Wetu. During the operations, the Congolese military and Rwandan proxies regularly raped and murdered Congolese civilians. At least 700 civilians were killed despite the United Nations claiming the military partnership would reduce or eliminate war crimes during the missions.
In 2010, Luvungi was attacked again by American ally Rwandan paramilitary forces. This time, the UN troops were 11 miles away. Despite hearing gun fire in an obviously volatile region, the UN troops decided not to respond because it may have been a trick.
In 2012, the United Nations peace keeping mission again failed to fulfill its mandate. This time, the Rwandan proxy group, the M23, invaded the Congo and systematically robbed, raped, and murdered Congolese citizens (the U.S. would seek to minimize the role of Kagame in UN reports). The M23 eventually gained more press than usual when it occupied NGO hub Goma and Western ambassadors were forced to flee.
UN peacekeepers have been charged with rape; a third of the cases have involved minors. The Independent estimates that there about 2,000 pedophiles currently staffed at the UN. Responding to the epidemic, the UN secretary General Antonio Guterres explained that, “No magic wand exists to end the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse…Nevertheless, I believe that we can dramatically improve how the United Nations addresses this scourge.”
Earlier this month, despite being granted additional military authorities to stop these exact type of atrocities, the UN partnership with Central African dictators, as many as 17 mass graves of Congolese citizens have been found. This is not entirely surprising given that the collection of policies sponsored by the U.S. and it’s Central Africa allies resulted in human rights violations increasing by 30 per cent in the last year alone.
The cases reviewed along with countless others may explain why in areas where MONUSCO is deployed a near majority or a majority of Congolese civilians want them to leave. Only 36 per cent of Congolese across the entire country feel the UN is not corrupt.
It would be too kind to call this a failure by the United Nations peacekeeping forces. The United Nations is championed by American politicians when it aligns with their political objectives. When it doesn’t, it is condemned, subverted, and threatened with defunding.
At the Council of Foreign Relations, United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (and neocon favorite) proclaimed to the world that “we have our allies backs”, and “all bets are off” if Trump foreign policy prerogatives are challenged. Under the guise of humanitarian interventionism, Haley promised, “the American people to continue the United States’ indispensable role as the moral conscience of the world.” ‘The moral conscience of the world’ was on full display when (accused war criminal) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, was gifted a medal by CIA director Mike Pompeo.
For the Congolese, this omnipresent moral consciousness manifested itself at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) where Paul Kagame became the first African leader to address the far-right Israel lobby. Demonstrating how she plans on having her allies back, UN ambassador Haley told those in attendance that “until the U.N. responds the way they’re supposed to, there are no freebees for the Palestinian Authority anymore.” Translation: If the world community challenges the dictatorial allies of the world’s moral conscience (by publishing reports documenting crimes against humanity), you will be punished. It amounts to a public announcement of blanket immunity for American dictatorial allies in attendance, including Paul Kagame.
The corporate media and bipartisan war hawks are not upset that this budget may cause greater suffering to the world. They are mad that the elites who support our empire can no longer hide their imperialism behind the cloak of empty American foreign policy narratives.
The Trump administration is simply naked imperialism. He does not care about the appearance of corruption; he is the corruption. He is a kleptocrat that only values hard power. He is a danger to Americans and the world, but that doesn’t mean the establishment Washington consensus is not already causing immeasurable suffering on the Congolese population because they happen to sit on 24 trillion dollars’ worth of resources that are critical to the American war machine. If Americans want to act in solidarity with the Congolese population we should support citizen movements like TELEMA, not pretend that our foreign policy was rooted in justice prior to Trump.
* Daniel Fisher is a volunteer researcher with Friends of the Congo and a developmental psychology graduate student. Daniel holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in political science. Twitter: _danielfisher
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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