Last week (Monday, February 11, 2013) at the Brookings Institution, outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, presented an outline of the Obama Administration's policy position on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The purpose of Ambassador Carson's presentation- titled "Finding a Lasting Solution to Instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo-" was twofold: discussing why efforts should be redoubled to bring stability to the Congo and laying out a framework for "moving forward." He outlined four main reasons for action: 1. The moral imperative to respond; 2. The consequences of Congolese instability for U.S. National Interest; 3. The fiscal and financial imperatives calling for attention to the situation; 4. The contention that failure in bringing stability to DRC is not an option for the world. Ambassador Carson asserted in clear terms "that the international community has a moral imperative to act more effectively in the D.R.C. to break this cycle of death and suffering and to address the other consequences of this violence" He laid out the Administration's strategy for action and moving forward, which includes:
1. Implementation of the UN Framework Agreement (PDF) - to be signed on Sunday, February 24th
2. Establishment of a comprehensive and inclusive peace process around the UN Framework Agreement (PDF) led by a UN Special Envoy
3. Restructuring of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) including the integration of a regional intervention brigade
4.Enactment of Governance and security sector reform in the DRC
Ambassador Carson called for greater attention to and response to the crisis in the DRC. However, it appears that the administration continues to operate on the notion that "quiet diplomacy" is the best way forward when it comes to holding its allies Rwanda and Uganda accountable for their role in destabilizing the Congo.
The most telling and poignant point in Ambassador Carson's remarks came, not in his presentation of the Obama Administration's four pronged approach, but in the question and answer session. The first question posed to Ambassador Carson asked for his input on the matter of Congo's neighbor, Rwanda, and its persistent destabilization of the DRC:
"You spoke about the actions that have been taken, sanctions against five members of the leaders of the M23, five members of FARDC that we supported, actions taken. You mentioned as well the concern that the M23 was supported by external forces, and the report of the UN panel and your own testimony last December indicate that Rwanda had provided that kind of support. Why haven't we pressed for any of those individuals - individual soldiers - officers of Rwandan military to be sanctioned?"
Ambassador Carson gave an unsatisfactory response that betrayed the claims in his presentation, asserting that the actions the U.S. has taken to date-cutting of $200,000 in military aid and a phone call to Paul Kagame from President Barack Obama-"have been appropriate for the time." This response pinpoints the failure of U.S. policy, in particular, as well as other nations and institutions in the international community: reluctance to fully hold to account Congo's neighbors who have played a direct role in the deaths of millions of Congolese, the pilfering of the country's resources and the perpetuation of the conflict through repeated invasions and the sponsoring of proxy militia. Evidence of this reluctance has manifested itself in the persistent inaction and burying of the UN Mapping Exercise Report, which documents serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law carried out mainly by U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda in the DRC from 1993 to 2003. The Mapping Exercise report is unequivocal in its identification of the destabilizing roles by outside support, going further to argue that "the apparent systematic and widespread attacks described in this report reveal a number of inculpatory elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be characterised as crimes of genocide." The report is referring, in this section, to the Rwandan army.
Other than to argue for greater attention and higher priority in the US foreign policy portfolio, Ambassador Carson did not clearly lay out how U.S. Congo policy will substantially change from the past 16 years. Unless accompanied by a break with current policy, greater attention will not bring increased peace or security to the DRC. The current policies have their roots in the Clinton Administration's Entebbe Principles of unfettered support for the so-called "new breed of African leaders," a political approach that has been disastrous for the people of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. It is the entire policy position that must change, not degrees of attention to the same modes of approach.
Key omissions from Ambassador Carson's presentation are calls for adequate measure of accountability and justice as outlined by 220 Congolese organizations. One would not know from listening to Ambassador Carson that a substantial portion of the North Kivu province is still under occupation by the Rwanda-backed M23 militia.
A number of local Congolese news papers have been consumed with Ambassador Carson's statements about Yugoslavia and Sudan:
"Clearly, a sophisticated and internationally backed solution is the only way forward. We were able to achieve such a solution to end the conflict in the former Yugoslavia through the Dayton Accords. We were able to end Africa's longest running civil war, the conflict in Sudan, through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was negotiated by the IGAD states and supported by the United States, Norway, and Great Britain. [A similarly energetic and international effort is now required for the D.R.C.] "
The local papers believe that Ambassador Carson was signaling that greater U.S. involvement in the DRC peace process would doom the DRC to the fate of both the former Sudan and Yugoslavia and result in the break-up of the country.
Although Congolese must be vigilant about any attempt to balkanize the DRC, the local newspapers may have read too far into that part of Ambassador Carson's statements. He mentioned the DRC in the context of Yugoslavia and Sudan not necessarily to laud the specific outcomes in both countries, but to emphasize the priority and profile both countries received from the U.S. to push for a peace process. President Obama has been clear and unequivocal about the territorial integrity of the DRC and, in a follow-up blog to his speech on February 21, 2013, Ambassador Carson noted that his four-point prescription is meant to "protect the territorial integrity of the DRC."
Though the U.S. government claims it wants to uphold the territorial integrity of the DRC, its current policies do not bode well for doing so. The four point plan articulated by Ambassador Carson gives a pass to U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda who pose the greatest threat to the territorial integrity of the DRC. Key shifts on the part of the U.S. in regard to its policies in the region should include:
1. Stronger steps in holding Rwanda and Uganda accountable - withholding of further military aid, placing both the Rwandan government and its high-level officials named in the UN reports on the sanctions list, and investigating whether the Leahy Amendment has been violated in U.S. training of Rwandan troops.
2. Just as the U.S. is demanding democratic reform in the DRC, it should also demand democratic reform in both Rwanda and Uganda. The authoritarian nature of both regimes has been a significant component in their destructive role in the DRC over the past sixteen years. Not only have both governments militarized political space inside their countries, they have also exported this militarization to the DRC to the detriment of the Congolese civilian population.
3. Support must be given to democratic institutions and the democratic process in the DRC. Ambassador Carson's public opinion on the DRC elections was ill advised. When asked about the 2011 elections he answered: "my own impression, as someone who looks the situation, is that even if we had had a fair accounting throughout this process, I think President Kabila probably would have still had won." This is pure speculation. His point was to dismiss the need for a "fair accounting" of the 2011 elections, which is troubling; the concern of U.S. officials in his position should always be to ensure the electoral processes are transparent, fair, and just. The U.S. must play a constructive role in supporting democratic processes in DRC. With the help of U.S. policies, democracy in the DRC has been repeatedly sacrificed in the name of security; history shows that such approaches lead to the current situation, in which there is neither democracy nor security.
In his July 2009 Ghana speech, President Obama publicly recognized the need for a new approach and a clean break from Clinton era practices; he said that the U.S. must support strong institutions in Africa, "not strongmen." This is a clear vision for changes in foreign policy approaches that has yet to be made a reality.
Join the global movement in support of the Congo.Keep abreast of the latest updates via Twitter.
Participate in the Friends of the Congo Breaking The Silence Speakers Tour.
Unite Against Fascism
Ken Livingstone, Owen Jones (Writer and journalist), Edie Friedman (Jewish Council for Racial Equality) and Linda Roy (Communication Workers Union) join the latest list of speakers to the UAF/OSMC conference.
30,000 Golden Dawn supporters took to the streets of Greece in early February. This is a stark reminder of how fascism takes advantage of an economic crisis by viciously attacking and scapegoating vulnerable communities. Racist murders have accompanied their rise and they have open support in the police and the army. When the Front National’s Marine Le Pen was invited to Cambridge Union this week, UAF’s demonstration opposing her visit became the story both nationally and internationally.
UAF has a ‘No Platform for fascism’ policy because we remember that across the globe up to 70 million people lost their lives in the Second World War. This includes 15 million murdered under Nazi occupation since it seized power in 1933. No other regime in the history of humanity has been responsible for this level of devastation and destruction in the space of 12 years from when Hitler came to power to the end of the Second World War. Those who lost their lives opposed fascism and died fighting for the freedom and liberation of humanity. After the Second World War the whole world said ‘never again’. We must learn the lessons of history. This is why we call for ‘No Platform’.
This conference is an opportunity to discuss how we build a movement in Britain that prevents the rise of fascism in the age of austerity and economic crisis.
Register now for our conference: see eflyer below
Stopping the rise of fascism and racism
■ Celebrate multiculturalism
■ Challenging Islamophobia
Saturday 2 March, 10–5.30pm
Congress Centre, TUC, Great Russell Street,
London WC1B 3LS
Ken Livingstone Former Mayor of London and Honorary President, UAF
Diane Abbott MP
Andy Slaughter MP
Claude Moraes MEP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leslie Mercer TUC President
Christine Blower NUT General Secretary
Chris Keates NASUWT General Secretary
Hugh Lanning PCS Deputy General Secretary
Linda Roy National Equality officer, CWU
Farooq Murad Muslim Council of Britain General Secretary
Owen Jones Writer and journalist
Symon Sentain Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust Chair
Edie Friedman Director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality
Azad Ali Head of Community Development, Engage
Fr. Steven Saxby Dean of Waltham Forest
Omar Ali FOSIS President
Petros Constantinou Greece anti-fascist campaign KEERFA national organiser
Glyn Ford Unite Against Fascism European Officer
Gerry Gable Editor, Searchlight
Marwan Muhammed Collective Against Islamophobia (CCIF)
Helen Shaw Co-Director, Inquest
Omer El-Hamdoon President Muslim Association of Britain
Myriam Francois-Cerrah Writer and journalist
John Campbell Yorkshire UAF Chair
Denis Fernando Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism
Aaron Kiely NUS Black Students’ Officer
Sabby Dhalu Unite Against Fascism Joint Secretary
Weyman Bennett Unite Against Fascism Joint Secretary
Fascist organisations are seeking to take advantage of the hardship created by the economic crisis and the impact of austerity to gain support. Today Muslims, immigrants and others are wrongly blamed for the crisis, just like Jews were scapegoated for the Great Depression in the 1930s.
We have successfully defeated the BNP and the EDL. But they have not disappeared. The invitation by the Cambridge Union for Marine Le Pen, leader of the fascist Front National in France, to address the Society, reminds us why we must be vigilant in opposing racism and fascism in Britain.
Le Pen finished third in the French Presidential elections, last year and similarly the openly Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece polled a record 6.9 per cent and gained 18 MPs. Fascist organisations are using these results to co-ordinate campaigns across Europe in the run-up to next year’s Euro elections, where in Britain Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons are seeking re-election. UKIP have benefitted from the Conservative Party’s unpopularity, but this could also lead to a revival of fascist organisations like the BNP. We must learn lessons of history and prevent a national political breakthrough by the British National Party (BNP) or any other fascist organisation.
Racism, Islamophobia, and myths about Muslims, immigration and multiculturalism have provided the cutting edge of support for fascism in Britain and other European countries. In many European countries, concessions to a far right agenda have had devastating consequences such as the expulsion of Roma communities, legislation banning the face veil, halal and kosher meat and the construction of minarets. We must prevent the implementation of such policies in Britain.
The conference on Saturday 2 March is an opportunity to discuss these issues and how we best campaign against fascism, racism and Islamophobia.