Author calls for justice in Congo war

By By Daniel Sessions

By Daniel Sessions

For the last decade, a war has raged over the cornucopia of mineral wealth in the heart of Africa. It is a struggle among seven nations and numerous rebel groups that has cost nearly 4 million lives to date.

At a Hinckley Institute of Politics Forum on Monday, Rigobert Butandu shed some light on the players and motives behind the bloody dismembering of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Butandu’s narrative began in 1996, when the Congo was called Zaire. The international community decided that the dictator they had helped rule the Congo with an iron fist for three decades had to go, Butandu said.

The regime of Mobutu Sese Seko had reached new lows of corruption and incompetence, and “could no longer protect Western interests in the Congo,” Butandu says.

So Rwanda and Uganda invaded Zaire and ousted Mobutu in 1997, replacing him with veteran guerilla Laurent Kabila who promptly renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 1998, Rwanda and Uganda turned against Kabila and supported rebels who subsequently took over much of the country, while armies from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe joined in on the side of Kabila. The Congo became a free-for-all for national and paramilitary force eager to exploit as much land as they could seize, Butandu said.

This process of conquest involved entire villages being wiped out in a matter of hours, Butandu said, yet the international community remained inert in the face of the mounting atrocities.

This kind of aggression is an international crime to which the U.N. is obliged to respond, Butandu said, as it did in Kuwait in 1991. Why, he asked, doesn’t the international community respond to aggression in Africa the way it does elsewhere in the world?

Butandu said he believes the answer lies not in racism, but rather economics. The prolonged invasion of the Congo, Butandu said, was an attempt by western business interests and African militaries to “keep the Congo like the rest of Africa-where a few can exploit the resources without concern for the local population.”

While acknowledging the role ethnicity has played in the central- African conflict, Butandu pointed to one factor overriding all others-greed. His argument is fully laid out in his book, “Forgotten War-the Criminal Invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo: the International Conspiracy Unveiled.”

In 1999, the Lusaka Accord was signed by all nations with armies in the Congo along with most rebel groups, leading to a 2002 power-sharing agreement mandating the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Congo.

Compliance has been incomplete, and nations neighboring the Congo still maintain a hold on territory through the paramilitaries they sponsor.

Butandu said that because the International Criminal Court only has jurisdiction over war crimes committed after its establishment in 2002, “what is appropriate [for the invasion of the Congo] is a special criminal court, like the ones in Cambodia and Sierra Leone.”

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