339 York St, E3B 3P5 Unit B8
Fredericton, New Brunswick
January 14th, 2014
His Excellency Barak Husein Obama President of the United States of America The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC20500
Re : Memo to President Obama on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Please allow me to join Americans and all other lovers of democracy in the world in congratulating you on your successful re-election and second inauguration as the President of the United States of America. I am Fredrick Wangabo Mwenengabo, a Human Rights Activist, and Congolese by birth now living in exile in Canada. Since my arrival to Canada in 2009, I appreciate even more the democratic values of the Canadian society and other western democracies, with their respect of human rights. Some of these democratic values have been and continue to be part of my life and work for which I was offered humanitarian protection by the government of Canada. Between March and April 2012, I observed a 48 days hunger strike in Canada to protest the international conspiracy of silence over the genocide in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and to urge Canada and the Francophonie Nations to take a leadership role in addressing injustices in the DRC. Following the 2012 Francophonie Summit in Kinshasa, a series of resolutions on peace in Congo were adopted by 75 nations with recommendations to the United Nations Security Council for implementation. It is noteworthy that Rwanda was the only country that abstained during this debate that was crucial for peace in DRC and the great lakes region. I have since continued to follow up on the progress of these matters at the United Nations and with your administration, in course of which in early November 2012, I have spoken two times to your assistants at the White House and five times to your representatives at the United Nations while many human rights workers have also struggled to bring to your attention the numerous crimes and injustices against humanity being committed in Eastern DRC.
Mr. President as you no doubt proceed with the business of governing America and mindful of securing your legacy in history, I wish to also bring directly to your attention the plight of the DRC, a nation of about 70 million men, women and children. The DRC has been embroiled in a never ending cycle of wars over the last two decades with killings with impunity, war crimes on very grand scales by multiple perpetrators, genocide perpetrated against defenceless civilian populations, mass rapes as a weapon of war, abduction of children and forced use as child soldiers, foreign invasions and a continuous campaign to destabilize and control its resources by belligerent neighbours. 2
These atrocities continue and even now are worsened by the recent mutiny and fighting by M23. They have contributed to the death of over 6 million people making the DRC’s war the deadliest conflict in the world since the second world war and at least equal in scale to the holocaust. A study published by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in January 2008 said that 5.4 million people had died from 1998 to 2007 in Congo, with 45,000 more victims being added to the death toll every month. These atrocities have sadly been allowed to continue with very little political will on the part of the United States and the International Community to engage in a concerted effort to bring peace to the region. This is in spite of the largest contingent of United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) being stationed in DRC with an annual budget of $1.4 billion in the year 2012-2013 alone. This force has instead been passive bystanders without the will to enforce the peace they have been mandated to keep. The DRC’s situation has been further compounded by the United States of America's position which has been to blindly support Rwanda and Uganda who have been behind most of these efforts at destabilising the DRC in a bid to control its resources.
Events in DRC bear a strong parallel with the Nazi holocaust which was allowed to grow unchecked while most of Europe appeased Hitler and failed to heed the atrocities he was unleashing on the Jews and the world at large. Hitler was hailed as a strong leader instead and his economic reforms in Germany were being focused on. Today the situation in DRC closely resembles the holocaust in the scale of systematic killings and extermination of civilian populations while Kagame’s excuse for involvement is being passed off as a legitimate quest to safeguard his country’s security. His expansionist plans towards the DRC are not recognised for what they are instead western leaders line up as cheer leaders and make excuses for atrocities he is unleashing in the DRC.
Mr. President, resolving the problems in the DRC requires understanding the background of its problems and appreciating the opportunities. Throughout the last two decades, the war from 1998 to date known as the last Congo war is the worst humanitarian disaster and genocide since World War II-claiming the lives of more than 6 million innocent black children, women and men while unspeakable gross crimes continue to be committed against civilians. These have included crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, sexual violence, recruitment and use of children in fighting associated with the armed forces and armed groups, as well as enforced disappearances and killings.
A United Nations report named the Eastern DRC the rape capital of the world concluding that an average of 48 women and girl child are raped every hour in the Eastern DRC and those are only statistics for the reported cases. A study, in the American Journal of Public Health, found that more than 400,000 females aged 15-49 were raped over a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007 alone. In early may 2012, one hospital in Goma known as Heal Africa, alone reported 5,000 rape cases of women and children. The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has confirmed that even these outrageously high figures still represent a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of sexual violence because of chronic underreporting due to stigma, shame, perceived impunity, and exclusion of younger and older age groups as well as men. Such crimes continue to take place, most notably in the east and northeast even under the gaze of the United Nations and countries like the United States. 3
While this continues the impunity of perpetrators and a denial of justice for the victims remains pervasive, and millions of families are and continue to be broken as a result of the direct impacts of this unjust traumatic war.
The United Nations report famously known as the "UN Mapping Report,” described human rights violations in the DRC from 1993 through 2003. Finally published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2010, after long delays, the report specifically charges Rwandan troops with engaging in mass killings termed as crimes against humanity and genocide. Similarly the most recent report by a UN Group of Experts belatedly released in 2012 concludes that M23, the "Congolese rebel" group that captured Goma in November 2012, is in reality "a Rwandan creation," entrenched with over 4,000 Rwandan soldiers that take their orders from President Paul Kagame’s top army commanders with the role of Rwandan Minister of Defence James Kabarebe and that of General Emmanuel Ruvusha very well documented. All the above has been carried out in obvious breach of every principle of International Law, and human decency, and in full view of the inadequately-led, inadequately-sized, ineffective, incompetent, overvalued, expensive and overpaid United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) with at least indirect logistical support from the United States of America and their allies.
Consequent to these reports, Stephen Rapp, the head of the United States of America war crimes office had warned Rwanda's leaders, including Paul Kagame, that they could face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for arming groups responsible for crimes against humanity in the DRC. It is for similar actions that the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, was jailed for 50 years by the International Criminal Court in May 2012 (McGreal 2012) for supporting crimes in his neighbouring country of Sierra Leone
Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda have continued to use the war against Hutu 'genocidists' as a pretext for occupying mining concessions and systematically exploiting them. This pretext of attacking Hutu ‘genociders’ in DRC have always been known as wrong and fabricated by Rwanda, Uganda and it is surprising why or how the United States of America has continued to be convinced by this argument even in the face of obvious facts to the contrary. An example of this was demonstrated in 2001 when fighting broke out between the two invading armies of Rwanda and Uganda in the oriental province of Kisangani, DRC in a dispute over the sharing of large mines of the Congolese diamond, gold and coltan minerals. The genocide in Congo has been very profitable for Uganda and Rwanda, who have plundered the Eastern Congo's mineral resources for sale to multinational corporations, most of them based in the United States and Europe.
Paul Kagame and his allies have always explained the war in DRC as an ethnic war and as a result the International Community has been encouraging insincere talks such as the current peace talks in Kampala,. Peace talks like these are strategies that have benefited Kagame and allies and have helped them maintain and sustain this war for more than two decades now. These strategies by empowering rebels and assimilating them into government as part of ensuring peace process are undermining peace in the region and denigrating the victims in DRC. 4
They legitimise armed conflict as a way of resolving differences and maintain the cycle of war in the region. One of the most serious threats to global peace is terrorism and for any reason, it is unjustified and its perpetrators must be brought to justice and not accommodated in bogus peace agreements.
Mr. President, the long term role of the United States of America in the wars in Congo, its guilt over the Rwandan genocide in 1994, mineral extraction and use of conflict minerals, on-going genocide in the DRC and the choice of silence over justice by the United States and the International Community are pertinent issues all very well documented and researched. I am aware the former democratic United States president Bill Clinton is regarded as a personal adviser to Paul Kagame and I believe the United States guilt over their inaction in the 1994 genocide fuelled United States sympathy toward Rwanda. I feel this sympathy and guilt is one of the reasons why the United States has decided to look the other way while a genocide of an equal if not higher magnitude to the Holocaust unfolds in DRC. I strongly believe this position is morally reprehensible and unjustifiable and must be challenged and stopped by all right thinking people who love truth and justice. I cannot understand how perpetuating violence and genocide in DRC will assuage the pain or guilt of genocide committed in Rwanda from 20 years earlier.
I believe it was in part response to your concerns about events in DRC that led you as a Senator and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to sponsor the most comprehensive piece of United States of America legislation on the DRC. The DRC Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006 which highlights United States policy objectives towards the DRC with a particular emphasis on promoting improved governance, neutralizing armed groups, and ensuring responsible and transparent management of natural resources while assisting the DRC government as it seeks to meet the basic needs of its citizens. These laudable objectives have however been undermined by your administration as president which has adopted contradictory positions.
According to a report by United Nations investigators in 2011, Mr. Kase Lawal your appointed trade adviser was implicated in an illegal transaction in Congolese gold with Bosco Ntaganda, a war criminal indicted by the International Criminal Court over crimes against humanity committed in DRC and the commanding officer of M23. This demonstrates the extent to which some of your officials actively collude with perpetrators behind the atrocities in the DRC and raises serious questions of the neutrality of your appointed officials towards the peace process in Congo.
Mr. President, the United States have also played a key role in suppressing information on Rwanda and Uganda’s role in the ongoing genocide in DRC. The United States ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has sought to protect Rwanda and Uganda by several means at her disposal including, delaying publication of a United Nations Group of Experts report, and at the same time suppressing efforts within the State Department to sanction Uganda and Rwanda for their crimes against humanity being committed in Eastern DRC. In November 2012, Rice blocked the UN Security Council from explicitly demanding that Rwanda immediately cease providing support to M23 criminal movement who vowed to march all the way to Kinshasa, the Congolese capital. 5
It is very clear to all Congolese people that atrocities in DRC are encouraged by western powers, and in particular the United States and the United Kingdom, who are arming, training and equipping the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries while both countries continue to receive more than half their budgets in Western aid. Your ambassador at the UN Susan Rice has argued against directly naming Rwanda and Uganda stating that it would be an obstruction to peace. Instead she has chosen to remain silent and complicit in the atrocities and in Rwanda’s plans to annex and balkanise the Eastern DRC as her appeasement to the regional strongmen and United States allies Paul Kagame and Yuweri Museveni. Furthermore while other western democracies have substantially cut aid to Rwanda in response to their involvement in the ongoing genocide your administration only to cut a mere $200,000 as a gesture.
Mr. President, the United States position on the DRC has reached an unbearable and untenable extent, dangerous to global peace and security. If the United States maintains this position it will incite a terrible genocide in the great lakes region of Africa, and likely encourage jihadist reactions by the Congolese people who continue to feel powerlessness. I fear that ultimately these injustices will prove a fertile ground for terrorists who will thrive in the absence of government and use the region as a safe haven. Eastern DRC may also become attractive to terrorist groups wishing to control mining and distribution of minerals as a source of financing to maintain terrorist activities around the globe. The ultimate worst case scenario will be where terrorists may gain access to uranium from illegal mines in DRC as an ingredient for a dirty bomb which is not entirely farfetched in the current climate of instability and lack of security in the country.
Mr. President, your failure to hold to account those responsible for the violations in the DRC has a harmful impact of additionally entrenching a culture of impunity; it fosters cycles of violence and violations; it undermines any efforts to create a culture of peace and respect for a democratic rule of law.
These crises are symptoms of unresolved regional and local conflicts, a failure to achieve structural reform within the security sector, poor governance and non-existent rule of law. They arise from the inability to address the sources of financing for armed groups, end impunity and extend state authority.
In spite of Joseph Kabila being in power for the last 12 years, DRC still has a very weak government run by a weakened and corrupt leadership with no legitimacy or credibility. Kabila’s continued stay in power further sets the stage for even more corruption, more atrocities from various divisive forces creating more instability in the country and in the region at large at even more human and material cost to the United States and to the United Nations. Therefore there is an argument to be made for DRC to have a strong central government and leadership which will have attendant positive ripple effects since it will provide a capable leadership, security for the people of DRC within its borders, economic prosperity for the country and the region and with ultimately less resources being dedicated by the United States through the United Nations towards propping up the Government of DRC.
Mr. President, I do applaud your phone call made to Paul Kagame in mid-December 2012 warning him about his crimes against humanity and his inconsistent deceitful messages of peace for the great lakes region; 6
I also wish to acknowledge with gratitude your support for the United Nations sanctions against the M23 and FDLR movements adopted December 31st 2012. However in the face of the daunting challenges of continued genocide in Eastern DRC and covert attempts at balkanising a sovereign state, these steps are rather belated and are only limited attempts towards true peace in Eastern DRC and the region at large.
The United States as a major player with all the resources, influence and good will at its disposal is in a vantage position to drive a renewed sincere process establishing hope, peace and justice with rule of law for the people of DRC.
As a strategy towards your administration pursuing and meeting these objectives, I humbly recommend the following:
- End impunity by calling on the MONUSCO to support the arrest of Bosco Ntaganda already indicted by ICC for war crimes against humanity;
- Call for Rwanda to hand over and transfer Laurent Nkundabatware to the International Criminal Court for trial;
- Demand an ICC indictment against Paul Kagame for his crimes against humanity committed in Congo;
- Support imposition of comprehensive sanctions on top-level Rwandan and Ugandan officials named in the United Nations Expert and Mapping Reports while withholding all military aid to both countries;
- Demand a cessation of all unlawful cross-border support to armed groups operating in the DRC;
- Cessation of the militarization and support of strongmen in the region that date to the Clinton administration;
- Support the establishment of a new responsible and credible Congolese government that will secure its people and its boundaries and rebuild its institutions;
- Demand the UN Security Council to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy, with a strong political component, to address pervasive insecurity and the threat of illegal armed groups in eastern Congo;
- Demand the United Nations Security Council to revisit and allow the MONUSCO mandate to be able to reinforce peace.
- I and millions of other Congolese citizens look up to you and other comity of nations to help uphold our God given rights to a just equal and free country within which we can live and prosper. We have been let down and abandoned to a sordid fate to date and I feel it is a moral obligation that will serve as your lasting legacy to the DRC and its people, the region at large and global peace.
It will ultimately be in United States’ own best medium and long term strategic interests both geopolitically and economically to lead rather than obstruct the rest of the world in redressing an injustice and setting a country with such vast potential on the path to a free democratic and just society. 7
I genuinely look forward to a favourable response from your government and a renewed commitment by your administration towards a true and lasting peace in the DRC. I equally commit to working with your administration in any positive capacity to achieve these goals.
In the meantime I plan to continue advocating for a true and just Congolese agenda which will help bring more attention to the plight of my country and its people.
In the absence of a genuine United States policy change towards peace in DRC, I will continue to pursue all peaceful avenues of protest at American institutions including the American Embassy in Canada until America chooses to support a more humane and morally appropriate policy towards true lasting peace in Congo.
Fredrick Wangabo Mwenengabo
Ø His Excellency David Jacobson, Ambassador of the United States of America to Canada
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