Rwanda has benefitted tremendously from the instability in the Congo
-Maurice Carney, Executive Director Friends of Congo
By Ajong Mbapndah L
As the D.R.Congo grapples with yet another crisis with fighting in the Eastern part of the country, Rwanda stands accused of playing a leading role in fomenting the crisis. The Friends of Congo a body which gives itself the mission to raise the consciousness of the world community on the challenges of the Congo believes that Rwanda has benefitted and continues to profit from the instability in the Congo.The group recently initiated an online petition urging U.S Government Officials notable President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for action against Rwanda. Maurice Carney, co-founder and Executive Director of Friends of Congo tells PAV that the petition does not target the people of Rwanda but rather against the Rwandan government and its policies. An independent entrepreneur and human rights activist who has fought with Congolese for fifteen years in their struggle for human dignity and control of their country, Carney regrets that it is the USA and Britain that have been the biggest supporters of the Rwandan government on the international scene .The evidence against Rwanda is overwhelming says Carney who backs his assertion with a number of news sources. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Carney sheds light on the activities of the friends of Congo, the case against Rwanda, expectations from Obama Administration, and more.
PAV: First, could you introduce Friends of Congo, its membership and mission?
Maurice Carney: First, thank you for providing us with this opportunity to engage you and your readers. We truly appreciate this opportunity. Friends of the Congo (FOTC) was established in 2004 to work in partnership with Congolese to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire. FOTC has two basic aims:
1. Raise global consciousness about the challenges of the Congo
2. Provide support to local institutions striving to fulfill the enormous human and natural potential of the Congo.
PAV: In initiating a petition urging people to call on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take action against Rwanda, you accuse that current of playing an active role in the crisis in Eastern Congo, what is the evidence you have to impugn Rwanda?
Maurice Carney: Thank you for the question, the evidence is too many to respond fully to this question. We have to make one correction however; we are not calling for action against Rwanda and her people but rather calling for action against the Rwandan government and its policies. Remember the Rwanda armed forces have invaded the Congo twice (1996 & 1998), occupied Congo (1996 – 2002) and supported proxy rebel groups inside Congo (1998 – present) and fought a battle against Uganda inside Congo (June 5 – 11, 2000) over diamonds in the home province of Patrice Lumumba. In the Rwandan regime’s second invasion of the Congo in 1998, backed by the United States and United Kingdom, it was the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led by Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola that had to come to the rescue of the Congolese people and repel Rwanda and Uganda because Congo lacked an army to protect itself against Rwanda’s aggression. However, to respond to your question about the petition, our sources on the ground have confirmed the presence of Rwandan soldiers inside the Congo, Al Jazeera has interviewed some of these soldiers who deserted, The United Nations has produced the same facts in an article published by the BBC, Human Rights Watch has also corroborated the presence of Rwandan soldiers and just recently the Congolese government finally acknowledged what the whole world now knows. The evidence is compelling and overwhelming to the point that some of the staunchest supporters of Rwanda in the human rights community have now switched and are calling for accountability for Paul Kagame and the Rwandan regime.
PAV: On Eastern Congo, you must have more information than we do, what ignited the current crisis there and what does Paul Kagame and Rwanda gain or seek to achieve with his involvement in the crisis?
Maurice Carney: Rwanda has benefitted tremendously from the instability in the Congo. The main benefit Rwanda gets from destabilizing Congo is financial. According to Dow Jones Newswires, Rwanda benefits to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from Congo’s tin, coltan and tungsten: http://conflictminerals.org/2010/05/ Bloomberg news reports that Rwanda is one of two (The other being Malaysia Smelting) top traders of Congo’s conflict minerals (Coltan, Tungsten, Tin) http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=a1p3C4mCsY2o&pid=newsarchive The Six-day war is a classic example of Rwanda’s intentions in the Congo. Rwanda fought its ally, Uganda in Kisangani, DRC for six days in 2000 over diamond concessions killing an estimated 1,000 Congolese civilians and wounding scores.
PAV: What is it you expect President Obama and the US Government to do and if the evidence on Rwandan involvement is that strong, why is the International Community not taking stronger action to call that country to order?
Maurice Carney: Our expectations of the Obama administration is simple – implement the very law that President Obama sponsored and passed into law as a senator in 2006. We are asking nothing more and nothing less. The international community has taken several actions against the Rwandan government (See the UN Mapping Exercise Report of 2010 and the Spanish Court Rulings of 2008 against 40 top officials of the Rwandan government, also see the 2008 Sweden and Netherlands actions against Rwanda that led to Rwanda arresting its proxy inside Congo, Laurent Nkunda). It is mainly the United States and the United Kingdom that have protected Rwanda diplomatically and politically. In addition, like Israel, Rwanda has opted out of many of the international bodies that other governments have subscribed to. For example, Rwanda is not party to the International Court of Justice, which ruled in 2005 that Congo is entitled to $10 billion in reparations from Uganda because of its crimes against humanity and pilfering of the Congo. The court would have likely ruled the same against Rwanda but Rwanda is outside the jurisdiction of the court.
PAV: If we are correct there was a Congressional hearing in the USA not long ago where Friends of Congo talked about the crisis, did you secure any promises and if Congress did not act after the hearing what are the chances that the petition will push them to act now?
Maurice Carney: We are fighting a just cause and not leading a campaign. We are convinced if we continue to apply pressure we will prevail. Remember, the United States was in support of Apartheid South Africa but activists persevered and eventually got the United States Congress to change its policy and laws toward South Africa. Dr Martin Luther King put it best when he said the moral arc of history is long but it bends toward justice. We are in this for the long haul in the spirit of Dr King. There is growing pressure on the Rwandan government and we are confident that if we continue to apply pressure we will prevail.
PAV: Elections that took place a few months back in the DRC did not go so well, how efficient has President Kabila been as a leader and how well is he handling the current crisis?
Maurice Carney: President Kabila is an illegitimate leader of the Congo. He appropriated power through force and not by the will of the people. He is handling the situation better than expected considering his track record in dealing with Rwanda where Rwanda has had its way in the Congo at the behest of Kabila. Let’s make no mistake however, the fact that a weak illegitimate regime is in place in Kinshasa, renders the Congo less effective in dealing with this matter.
PAV: The DR.Congo has not known peace since the late 90s, what in your opinion needs to be done to provide lasting respite for Congolese?
Maurice Carney :Several things need to be done to advance lasting peace in the Congo and the region:
1. The West needs to cease its support (military, financial, training, intelligence) of the strongmen in the region (Museveni of Uganda, Kagame of Rwanda, and Kabila of Congo)
2. Rwanda needs to enter into a dialogue with the FDLR. An inter-Rwandan dialogue is needed.
3. Democratic institutions must be strengthened in the Congo
4. Multinational pillaging of the Congo must cease, the people cannot continue to live in abject poverty while foreign corporations continue to benefit at the expense of the people
5. A Congolese state and military accountable to democratic civilian leadership must exercise authority over the entire Congo
PAV: Do you agree with those who think D.R.Congo is just a victim of its resources, that its vast mineral wealth is the bane of all its problems?
Maurice Carney: No the Congo is not a victim of its resources. The idea of a resource curse is preposterous. Congo is a victim of greedy men (local elites, neighboring leaders, corporate predators the likes of Dan Gertler, George Forrest and the Blattners, etc) who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. Congo is a victim of companies such as Banro, AngolGold Ashanti, Freeport McMoran, ENRC, The Forrest Group, Glencore, OM Group and the nearly hundred companies identified by the United Nations as systematically looting the Congo: http://conflictminerals.org/us-canadian-companies-involved-in-congo/
PAV: What was the reaction of the public to the documentary “Crisis in Congo, Uncovering the truth” produced by Friends of Congo and any projects in the pipe line?
Maurice Carney: Thank you for asking. The response has been remarkable, especially where it counts most, inside the Congo. The film is being screened throughout the Congo. People in China, Japan, Australia, India, Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa and many more countries are screening the film. We have translated the film in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and more language translations are underway. We were not expecting such a strong response to the film. The film is merely an excerpt of a feature length work that we are in the process of completing. We developed the short to put on President Obama’s desk to remind him of the law he got passed as Senator. Yet, film festivals, libraries, high schools, colleges, universities, conflict resolution organizations and ordinary individuals are screening the film and using it as a teaching tool.
Our main focus right now is the fifth anniversary of Congo Week, which will take place from October 14 – 20, 2012 throughout the globe. Communities across the world organize events (screenings, teach-ins, fundraisers, rallies, etc) in solidarity with the people of the Congo. Since 2008, over 60 countries and 300 communities have participated. We encourage people to join us in transforming the heart of Africa by signing up for Congo Week at congoweek.org