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U.S. Security Policy and Interventions in Congo, Rwanda, and Africa’s “First World War”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

U.S. Security Policy and Interventions in Congo, Rwanda, and Africa’s “First World War”

The Congo exemplified this problem. In 1960, Belgium granted its former colony independence, but this proved only the beginning of new troubles. Civil war ensued, and initially the United States, as a participant in a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force, seemed to back Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. But as Lumumba drifted increasingly into the Soviet orbit, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) considered means of assassinating him, in the words of the local CIA station chief, “to avoid another Cuba.”

Meanwhile, the United Stated provided assistance to army officer Joseph Désiré Mobutu, whose troops captured and killed Lumumba.
Although conditions in the Congo were difficult under Lumumba, they were at least as bad under Mobutu, who became unquestioned leader of the nation in 1966. He renamed the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko
Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga, which means “the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.” For the next three decades, Mobutu, supported by the United States and the World Bank, looted his country, building vast palaces for himself and fattening the pockets of his cronies while the majority of his people lived without electricity, running water, or basic medical care.
Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who proved just as corrupt, and who was killed by his own bodyguards in 2001.
By then, the Congo had become embroiled in events described collectively as “Africa’s First World War.” The opening salvo of that larger conflict a series of conflicts involving Rwanda, the Congo (which returned to its original name in 1997), and other nations was the infamous Rwandan genocide in 1994.

The conflict involved age-old disputes between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples, who together constitute most of the population in Rwanda, Burundi, and neighboring states.
After Rwanda’s Hutu dictator, Major General Juvenal Habyarimana, died in a plane crash on April 6, 1994, his supporters blamed the Tutsi-controlled Rwandan Patriotic
Front (RPF), and launched a campaign of genocide that resulted in more than 800,000 deaths over a period of a few weeks. By July, the RPF had driven the remnants of the Habyarimana government, along with some 1 million refugees, into neighboring Zaire.
This influx served to so destabilize the Mobutu regime that it helped provide the opportunity for Kabila’s takeover.


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