Why Nicholas Kristof is Wrong on Congo
In Nicholas Kristof's latest (February 11, 2010 NY Times Commentary) prescriptions for the Congo he gets a lot wrong. He would benefit a great deal by truly listening to the aspirations of the Congolese people.
Mr. Kristof has one thing right but true to his symptomatic approach around the Congo he has almost everything else wrong. Yes, the United States certainly need to lead a global diplomatic push, it’s the least it can do considering the destructive policies it has had in the Congo for the last 50 years – CIA role in the assassination of democratically elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the installation and backing of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Backing of two invasions (1996 & 1998) of the Congo by its allies Rwanda and Uganda, the carte blanche it has given Rwanda and Uganda in spite of their decade-long destabilization of the Congo, the silence around U.S. corporate looting of Congo’s minerals and its repeated backing of the militarization (President Obama should dismantle the Bush-Rumsfeld initiated AFRICOM http://www.resistafricom.org) of the Congo.
The Four step approach that would work best to end the conflict is:
1. Listen to the Congolese (http://www.change.org/friendsofthecongo). The last thing the Congolese need is yet more Western imposed solutions which are intrinsically limited because almost all these solutions seek to protect and prioritize U.S. strategic and Corporate interests in Central Africa at the expense of the people.
2. President Obama needs to change the way he along with both the Bush and Clinton administrations has engaged in Congo. Jim D ought to know that the US is already in the Congo and spending money there (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/07/world/africa/07congo.html?_r=1). It’s that they have prioritized military options as opposed to diplomacy and a political path and of course they have prioritized profit over the people. Those western corporations (http://conflictminerals.org/us-canadian-companies-involved-in-congo/)that have pilfered Congo over the past 14 years should be held to account and provide restitution to the Congolese people.
3. The United States need to hold its allies Rwanda and Uganda (The International Court of Justice ruled in 2005 that Congo is entitled to $10 billion in reparations from Uganda (http://www.globalpolicy.org/intljustice/icj/2007/0726ugandapayup.htm) because of its looting of Congo’s wealth and commission of crimes against humanity) accountable in a similar fashion to the manner in which Sweden and Netherlands did in 2008 by withholding aid from Rwanda because of its destabilization efforts in Congo. The United States can do this by enforcing the laws it already has on its books. Public law 109-456, Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, section 105 calls for the Secretary of State to withhold foreign assistance to neighboring countries that destabilize the Congo.
4. President Obama can break from the past and establish a new relationship with Africa by finally genuinely supporting the non-violent democratic forces in the Congo. President Obama should make good on his words in his Ghana speech of July 2009 (http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2009/July/20090711110050abretnuh0.1079783.html) when he noted that he aims to support strong institutions and not strong men. Well, he can start by drastically curbing support for US strongmen Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame (an international arrest warrant (http://jicj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/6/5/1003) is out on 40 of his top officials by a Spanish court for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Congo; Kagame would be on the list too if he were not a sitting head of state). He can in turn support and help strengthen local institutions in the Congo and while making the US a partner for democracy in the Congo by using its diplomatic heft to assure free and transparent elections in 2011.