Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Interview With Kambale Musavuli

1. There is war in the Congo: who are the major forces involved in the actual fighting?

The major forces directly involved are various rebel groups. However, behind some of the rebel groups is neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda who supports one of the major rebel groups and use them as proxies to destabilize and loot the Congo. Ultimately, The United Sates and Britain are behind Rwanda and Uganda, the two countries that unleashed the killings in the Congo through two invasions (1996 & 1998). The two countries could not have waged the war that they have in the Congo without financial, military and intelligence support from the United States and the United Kingdom.

2. There is a lot of talk about women's rights that have stemmed from the ongoing conflicts there. The sentiment seems to be that the patriarchal aspect of the culture that existed there before colonial times is the cause of the current abuse against women. Most of the reports on this issue listed on the website seem to have been drafted by women. As a Congolese man, what is your perspective?

I take deep concern about the use of the words "women's rights" given that it makes it seem as another problem we have to deal with. I believe that women's rights are human rights. If we understand that it is in fact human rights, we should be pan outraged every day about the conditions women have to endure, not just as a female, but as a human being.

We should also remember that Africans had a matriarchal system before the heavy influence of colonial powers. As a Congolese man, I recognize that on the global level patriarchy has caused many issues in terms of power and control that have affected tremendously our women. We, as men in this world, have to do a better job protecting the ones who have given us life and have made sure we are strong men in this society.

We also cannot forget that in the case of the Congo, we forget that while women are being destroyed, men also are being raped and castrated, all in an attempt to intimidate the local population and move them away from areas rich of mineral resources.

To address your question in the context of violence against women, one must remember the vital role women play in the African society. If you destroy a woman, you destroy many families thus the whole society. Women in Africa are the caretakers and the backbone of the whole entire community. Once destroyed, it becomes easy to get access to the land. In Congo, gender-based violence is directly connected to the conflict raging throughout the country. To stop it, one must stop the conflict. To stop the conflict, actions must be taken to stop the resource exploitation of the Congo.

3. There is a lot on the website about spreading the word and for people to put pressure on government entities to resolve this issue. At the same time, the interests of these governments are what continue to fuel the conflicts. Therefore, the solutions drafted by the UN, etc seem to pay mere lip service to the issue at hand. What do you see as a way that the Congolese themselves can end this conflict and rebuild a peaceful and harmonious society.

You are right. The United Nations and western governments have paid lip service to the demands of the Congolese people. It is not in there interest to change the manner in which they have been engaged in the Congo. They would like to maintain the Congo in a state of impoverishment and dependency for generations to come. As long as American citizens do not challenge their government's policies abroad, it will be much harder for weak states such as the Congo to determine and control their own affairs. A significant part of the reason Congo is in its current situation is because the United States has played a role in the assassination of Congo's first elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba; installed and maintained the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for over three decades, backed the invasions of the Congo by Rwanda and Uganda and continued its practice of propping up strongmen in Africa at the expense of the people.

Remember, Congo's challenge is both internal and external. American citizens must challenge US foreign policy just as they did during the anti-apartheid movement. Remember, your government is counting on its citizens being silent and not caring about what happens to Black people in Africa. It is for this reason we are calling on the American public to be engaged.

As it relates to what the Congolese people can do and are doing. We suffer from over 125 years of slavery, colonialism, assassinations, dictatorship and imposed wars, therefore, our institutions have been weakened and made deficient. We are in the process of strengthening our institutions so that we can protect the interests of our people. Throughout our history, many figures have symbolized our struggle to control our own affairs.

Your solidarity from the outside, will help create space so that we can realize the generational pursuit of controlling our own affairs. If we were left to our own devices and all we had to do was deal with our own elites, we would have dealt with them long ago but we have to fight against our own elites and the financing, military training and arms that is provided to them from countries like the United States.

In the final analysis, if Americans hold their government accountable, it will accelerate the liberation of the Congo.

4. There seems to be a lot of involvement of the Hutus and Tutsis who were also involved in the Rwanda Genocide. What is the connection between the Genocide in Rwanda and the Genocide in the Congo and what is the continued role played by the Hutus and Tutsis throughout?

Ethnicity has to be part of the equation in analyzing the situation in the Congo. However, the predominant driving factor for the divisions along ethnic lines is the drive for power. You have select groups who want to acquire power at any cost and they use ethnicity as a means for achieving power. This is essentially what happened in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and that has spilled over into the Congo. So we have to be careful and place ethnicity in its right place. An elder shared with me a while ago that "if Religion was an ethnicity, that is what people would have used to gain power in Rwanda." The pursuit for power at any cost is the predominant reason for the conflict and instability in the Great Lakes region of Africa.


At 11:52 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This is an interesting interview; I was interested in drawing from/quoting Kambale Musavuli at the beginning of my dissertation (it's about Gender and the Poverty-Conflict Trap). I see there are other interviews (e.g., on the Washington Post), but if I wanted to quote this, would I have permission? Also, would I cite it as an interview with Friends of the Congo?

Jessica McGary


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