New law to fight Congo warlords

by Scott A Morgan

The United States has an interesting history when it comes to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We know how Mobutu Sese Seko stole millions of dollars in aid and was brutal to the opposition. His death coming soon after the Rwandan Genocide left millions in the region dead or homeless.

Former Congo President, Mobutu Sese Seko

Former Congo President, Mobutu Sese Seko. Picture by Congo Planet

The rule of Joseph Mobutu is not the only way that the Congo has been brutalized. The country is abundantly rich in natural resources. Sadly, what should be a blessing is not so. Instead, there are several warlords who, despite the efforts of a government in Kinshasa and the United Nations, have set up their own little fiefdoms. They are the ones who are getting rich from the resources.

Following this train of thought, legislation has been introduced by the US Senate to deal with the situation. The Bill, called the Congo Conflict Minerals Act, will bring the power of the US to do the following:

  • Have the US support the efforts of the UN Group of Experts, mapping out which militias control mines that produce gold, coltan, casserite (tin ore) and wolframite (tungsten source) in the eastern DRC;
  • Develop a coherent US Strategy to deal with this situation and assess how this trade actually impacts the human rights climate.

The timing of this legislation is crucial. It comes in the light of not one but two controversial and failed military efforts to rein in militias that control vast areas of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In recent days, OXFAM – a UK based NGO – released a report which stated that the joint mission by the Congolese Army and the Rwandan military against Hutu rebels actually made the situation in the Kivu Provinces worse than when the operation began.

When Operation Lightning Thunder against the Lords Resistance Army ended, it was clear that action could be renewed at some later point. Already there has been a call for a renewal of this effort with greater US Support. Any US effort probably would be limited to logistical support,planning or even tactical air Support.

It cannot be denied that the United States is taking a new interest in Central Africa. Peacekeeping is a crucial role at this time. The missions in Darfur and in the Congo are facing crisis situations. The voices calling for the US to take an increased role in Central Africa may have been heard.

In what has to be an interesting development, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) head for human intelligence was in the region visiting Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to expand his understanding of Africa.

As the DIA is the body responsible for the actions of US military Attaches’ in these countries, the criteria could be laid out for US support if military action is necessary. The Director will also learn about the support that the US provides for the Darfur Peacekeeping Mission, the stability of Kenya, the situation in the DRC and piracy in Somalia.

However, it is unlikely that ground forces could be introduced into this equation. If they are used, they would probably be special forces or airborne elements. The possibility of American forces in central Africa is remains remote. For now.

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