PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. And welcome to this week’s Africa report, and this week with Maurice Carney, who now joins us from our office in D.C. Maurice is executive director and cofounder of Friends of the Congo.
Thanks for joining us again, Maurice.
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MAURICE CARNEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND COFOUNDER, FRIENDS OF THE CONGO: Pleasure being with you, Paul.
JAY: So what are you reporting on this week?
CARNEY: Well, you know, there’s a great deal taking place on the continent and, of course, here in the U.S. as it portends for U.S. policy towards Congo in particular and the African continent as a whole.
Just dealing with the Congo itself and recent developments, there was some hope that was put behind a peace deal that was announced by the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, that would be signed earlier this week at the African Union Summit. However, this vaunted peace deal that would include the signing of eight African countries to try and bring some stability to the east of the Congo faltered. On the morning that the deal was to be signed, the UN announced that the signatures were not ready.
And part of the problem is that we have discord between regional forces on the African continent and how they envision bringing stability to east of the Congo.
JAY: Okay. Just for people that haven’t followed the story, just give us a really quick context about what’s been going on.
CARNEY: Well, since April 2012, there has been a Rwanda-backed revolution that’s destabilized the east of the country, of the Congo, that has displaced nearly 1 million people. The United Nations had done several reports through its group of experts that document that this rebel militia they call the M23 is being backed, you know, financed, armed, sponsored primarily by Rwanda, and to some degree Uganda. And as it—this November, they’d captured a major city in the east of the Congo, Goma, with an estimated population of about 1 million.
And as a condition for them relinquishing the city back to the Congolese government—that is, the Rwanda-backed militia M23, the Congolese government would enter into peace talks with them, ostensibly to bring about stability and address the grievances that this group has put in front of the Congolese government.
However, the main players in the instability in the east of the Congo is Rwanda and Uganda. And the United Nations has tried to step in to try and work with the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to establish a comprehensive peace agreement that will bring about stability in the region.
So, earlier this week, there was a presentation by the United Nations and Ban Ki-moon that there is going to be an agreement that will be signed that would advance the peace accord and advance stability in the region. But that accord was not signed. And the reason for the disconnect between the United Nations and the gathering African nations is that African nations have proposed what they call a neutral force of about 4,000 soldiers or so that will go into east of Congo to try and stabilize the region; however, there is an existing 17,000 or so UN troops that are in the Congo. So the question was: with this introduction of a African force, who would actually have command of the 3,000 or 4,000 forces that the African nations would actually, you know, set up in the east of the Congo? And apparently there wasn’t an agreement on that. The UN wanted the command to be under UN, and Africans wanted to control the force that they would be sending in.
JAY: So where’s the United States in all this, given that Rwanda and Uganda are close allies of the U.S.?
CARNEY: Well, that’s a key question. You know, the United States has a crucial role to play, considering, as you said, that Rwanda and Uganda are the allies and the United States provide training, financing, military equipment to these nations, who are in turn arming war criminals in the Congo. What has happened is that the United States has tried to protect their allies.
So the UN, the group of experts at the UN have called, have presented a list of individuals to be sanctioned, of Rwandan individuals. However, the United States, through its UN ambassador, Susan Rice, has prevented the sanctioning of these individuals. Rwanda itself has violated, broken the UN arms embargo in the Congo that prevents the supply of weapons to rebel militia. And Rwanda has done that. But Rwanda hasn’t been sanctioned, again protected by the United States.
So what we see at the UN and in the international community is an attempt really to hold Rwanda accountable and bring about some kind of stability without sanctioning Rwanda, without putting top Rwandan officials on the sanctions list, and without withholding more aid.
But what really needs to happen is that Rwanda, and to a lesser degree Uganda, needs to be challenged directly, to be held accountable. I know the United Nations, you know, they’ve come up with a series of proposals. They’ve talked about sending drones to eastern Congo to document what’s been going on there.
But really, at this stage, after 16 years of Rwandan and Ugandan involvement in the Congo, further documentation’s not what’s needed. What is needed is the political will on the part of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the international community to hold these nations accountable for the destabilizing of eastern Congo. And that’s been the challenge, trying to get to that point where Rwanda could be fully held accountable, and to a lesser degree, but an important degree nonetheless, Uganda can be held accountable as well. And, unfortunately, the peace accords that are put on the table thus far have obviated this necessary step, because if Rwanda’s not held accountable, Uganda’s not held accountable, they’ll continue to support militia in the east of Congo and support those illicit networks that are causing so much suffering to the Congolese people.
JAY: Right. Just let me switch topics. I know your expertise is on Congo, but Congo’s not that far from Mali. What is your take on the situation there? You have—one point of view says this is a French play/intervention to defend its resources, the untapped resources of Northern Mali, and the others say this is an independence/national struggle of the Tuareg people that’s been hijacked by al-Qaeda type elements. What’s your sense of what the truth is here?
CARNEY: Well, I mean, it’s really a combination of both. If you look at French engagement in Africa, recent engagement, we see they were at the forefront of calling [for] the overthrow of Gaddafi regime in Libya. We saw that they intervened in Côte d’Ivoire with the electoral battle between Ouattara and Gbagbo. So now we see that there in Mali. So the French have been quite active militarily on the continent of late, which is consistent with their colonial history.
And whether you’re talking about the French or the United States, what we see, unfortunately, is an increase in the militarization of the African continent. And what we see taking place in Mali in part is a result of this increased militarization, whether you’re talking about the bombing of Libya that resulted in arms being dispersed throughout the region, whether we talk about the United States and its programs of training military officials in Mali—the coup that took place in Mali was led by a U.S.-trained soldier that upended a democratically elected government that only had about two months left to go before elections.
So we see, whether it’s France or whether it’s the United States, this heavy investment in the militarization of the African continent. We’re now told that the United States looked to have a presence in 35 African countries to do special operations, are right next-door in Niger. The New York Times reported this week that there’s a possibility of U.S. setting up a drone base there.
So at its core, the destabilizing of, you know, North Africa and other parts of the African continent, we see the West, whether it’s France, the United States, pushing hard on this military offensive, as opposed to—if truly they wanted to help the African continent, even if it was a question of fighting terrorism, as they state, the best antidote is to make sure you have stable regimes, make sure you have viable economic opportunities for Africans so that they’re invested in the institutions in their countries. And we do not see this kind of investment in democratic institutions, kind of investment in education and health and other sectors of the society that can buttress and strengthen these very weak African nations, who can then in turn serve as a bulwark against terrorism to the degree that it exists.
So there’s a twofold challenge that I see. One, for those of us who are here in the U.S. and in Europe, we have to push harder, we have to be better organized, we have to confront this whole militarization effort on the part of the West led by France, led by the United States and the U.K. coming in now. We really have to educate the American public, the European public, as to the destructive nature of the increased militarization on the African continent.
And then, in looking at the continent itself, we see the incredible weak states, where there is little defense against whatever will that the West wishes to impose on Africa. That’s—Africans really have to be better organized to defend their interests. It’s not by accident that we don’t see as much of that, the instability and the Western intervention in Southern Africa, as we do elsewhere.
[unintel.] the Southern African Development Community is relatively well organized. If they were not well organized and unified, Robert Mugabe would not be in power today. One would venture to say that the West would have already found a way to depose the Mugabe government.
So the answer lies, both inside and outside of the continent, in organization, organizing in a way to defend the interests of African people, whereby Africa does not continue to be a playground for external powers, whether it’s [crosstalk]
JAY: Thanks, Maurice. Thanks very much for joining us.
CARNEY: Alright. Thank you. Thank you, Paul.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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