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Suffering and Despair: Humanitarian Crisis in the Congo,
Hearing before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, 17 May 2001
PDF (73 pages)
Hearing Notice,
Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
Father Jean-Bosco Bahala,
Mr. Sulaiman Ali Baldo,
Dr. Les Roberts,
Ms. Anne Edgerton,
Mr. Wayne Madsen

House Legislation

Statement of Ranking Member Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights

Committee on International Relations


Statement of Ranking Member Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney
Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights

Committee on International Relations

Suffering and Despair: Humanitarian Crisis in the Congo

May 17, 2001

Madam Chair,

This hearing today is vitally important because we have the opportunity to set the record straight as to what has been happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the last 3 years. We have the opportunity to be able to draw together the varying investigations and reports of experts who have examined the DRC War and place in the public record the truth about what Rwanda, Uganda and their rebel allies have done to the people of the DRC. We have the opportunity to pass judgment on the Clinton legacy and make a finding as to exactly what Madeleine Albright and her foreign policy team has done to the Great Lakes region.

I think its also important to point out at the outset that the US and Belgium deserve special condemnation for the 37 years of suffering in the DRC because it was their intelligence services who conspired to assist in the murder of the democratically elected President Patrice Lumumba. The west chose Mobuto to replace him and for next 3 generation's Zaire, as it was then known, was placed in the grip of a corrupt and evil leadership. Despite the mining of billions of dollars of minerals and other resources DRC was left by Mobuto nearly bankrupt and on the brink of collapse. The corporations and the western businessmen who traded with Mobuto never once called him to order instead they celebrated in his fabulous homes and enriched themselves at the expense of the Congolese people.

Rwanda, Uganda and their rebel allies began a war in August 1998 in the DRC under the claim of fighting the Hutu interahamwe, the Rwandan militia responsible for much of the killing during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. President Museveni of Uganda and President Kagame of Rwanda have always maintained that by fighting in the DRC they will defeat the interahamwe and in so doing secure their borders and prevent another Rwandan type genocide from occurring. They continue to maintain this position until this very day. But this Rwandan/Ugandan explanation for their invasion of DRC is a lie, it's a bright shining lie.

This is not a noble war about saving civilians from genocide or about protecting democracy from tyranny, instead this is a war about self-interest and greed. Despite limp and totally ineffective protestations by the United Nations the world communityhas largely stood idly by and allowed these two men to prosecute what can only be described as the most vicious, senseless and bloody wars being fought in the world today.

The cost of their actions to the DRC and its people is almost beyond measure.

The scale and savagery of the crimes committed by the Rwandan and Ugandan armies in DRC compares to the abhorrent actions of the Nazi assault upon Eastern Europe.

The International Rescue Committee has just released a 2001 Survey of the Death Toll in DRC's war. For the 32 month period from August 1998 until the end of March 2001 an estimated 2.5 million civilians have died in the DRC. Of those 350,000 people have died from violence and 2.2 million have died from disease and malnutrition arising from the adverse affects of the war on the region. IRC estimates that on average 77,000 civilians have perished each and every month in the DRC. That's almost 2,500 civilians dying each day for almost the last 3 years. Compare those numbers with the lost lives in Kuwait 10 years ago and the world's response to Iraqi aggression. The world sent 350,000 troops to the gulf to defend Kuwait. In 100 days the combined military, naval and air forces of the Western world had reduced the Iraqi military, one of the world's powerful armies, to a burning hulk. And then compare DRC's suffering with the 2 thousand lost lives in Kosovo two years ago. The combined airforces of NATO pounded Belgrade into submission and then indicted Milosevic for war crimes. We all remember how the western world responded to the Iraqi and Kosovo humanitarian disasters and flooded them with food, medicines, shelter and other aid.

Madam Chairwoman, I am ashamed to say that the western world has treated DRC like it has treated all the other African disasters - too little too late. In January 2001 the World Food Program issued a worldwide appeal for $110 million for urgent food aid to Congo. As of May the World Food Program had received less than one third of this amount. Similarly, UNICEF had asked for $15 million essential drugs and therapeutic feeding center and to date UNICEF has received less than one tenth of that amount. Incredibly, the principle aid sent by the US to the region has been in the form of military aid to the warring parties. What we do know is that US Special Forces and US funded private military companies have been arming and training Rwandan and Ugandan troops to deadly effect. I think its appalling that the US tax payer should be directly assisting the military efforts of Rwanda and Uganda, the aggressors in this tragic conflict and who have confirmed by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as the authors of terrible atrocities against Congolese civilians. Our efforts in Africa have amounted to nothing more than bank rolling belligerents and mass murders.

What makes this conflict particularly sickening is the role of US and European corporations together with Rwanda and Uganda in the plunder of DRC's resources. The recent UN Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources from the DRC made a series of important findings. Before going on let me first commend Madam Safiatou Ba-N'Daw and other UN panelists for their work in preparing the UN Secretary General with a truly first rate investigative report on the theft of DRC's resources.

The report concluded that "there is a mass scale looting, systemic exploitation of Congo's resources taking place at an alarming rate by the armies of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda." For example the report finds that "DARA Great Lakes Industry of which DARA Forest is a subsidiary is in collusion with the Ministry of Water, Land and Forests of Uganda to export timber from eastern Congo by falsifying its origins. The countries actively buying this uncertified timber included USA, China, Belgium, Denmark, Japan, Kenya and Switzerland. In May 2000 DGLI (the parent of DARA Forest) signed a contract for forest stewardship certification with SmartWood and the rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy in Oregon in the United States". This program amounted to nothing more than a scheme to facilitate the certification and extraction of illegally acquired timber from the DRC.

The same large scale theft of DRC's resources has been committed with respect to cobalt, gold, diamonds, coltan, silver, zinc, uranium and numerous other minerals. Significantly, DRC has some of the world's largest deposits of Coltan, an important mineral critical for maintaining the electric charge in the computer chip industry. The price of Coltan varies from $100 to $200,000 a ton varying on quality and availability. Business in Coltan is booming but its not the Congolese who are getting rich.

Madame Chairwoman, there is an additional and very disturbing report from MISNA, the Catholic News Agency regarding Rwanda's actions with respect to the theft of DRC's resources. MISNA reported in February this year that the Rwandan Army is now setting up "concentration camps" in the Numbi area south of Kivu in order to have sufficient labor on hand to extract Coltan and other precious minerals. It was this enslavement of innocent civilians and captured prisoners of war that drew some harshest criticisms against the Nazi and Japanese leadership from the Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals.

In response to the findings by the UN Special Panel the Rwandans have had the audacity to say that the Congolese people are benefiting from the mining trade in eastern Congo with improvement in their welfare, security, health, education and infra-structure. Madame Chairwoman that's almost like saying that the peoples Eastern Europe who were enslaved in quarries, underground mines and forced to work in dangerous conditions in automotive and munitions plants benefited from the Nazi occupation of their countries.

Mr. Robert Raun, President of Eagles Wings resources, a US based company which trades in Coltan was reported to have described the growing trade in east Congo's Coltan as "Capitalism in its purest form." I say it's capitalism trading in misery.

Madame Chairwoman,

We need to support the recommendations of the Ba-N'Daw UN Special Report on the Illegal Exploitation of the Natural Resources from the DRC.

We need to end all military support for the Rwandan Ugandan military forces.

Our government should publicly condemn the governments of Rwanda and Uganda for their criminal actions in eastern Congo and we should to demand that an International Tribunal be established in the Great Lakes Region to investigate and prosecute the violations of international law.

We need to urgently increase US aid to the peoples of Congo and ensure that they receive adequate food, health care, medicines and shelter.

We should call on our allies and the entire international community to join us ending the conflict in DRC.

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