National Movement for Democracy and Federalism
Democratic Republic of Congo

12 Devon Street
Providence , RI 02904
United States of America


January 3, 2009

Responding to Mr. Herman J. Cohen
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa from 1986 to 1993


Can Africa Trade Its Way to Peace?

Letter posted in New York Times on December 16, 2008

Mr. Cohen states that the failure of international diplomacy to resolve the conflicts and to end the war between Rwanda and the Congo is related to the economic roots of the problem- which began with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda - and that until the economic conundrum is addressed, there is little hope for a solution. This is obvious.

In 1996, the plundering of the Congo's natural resources by Rwandan and Ugandan governments, in cahoots with accomplices who own multinational corporations, was exposed by the United Nations and is well-known by the international community. This war mongering is rife, maintaining only misery and causing tragedy in lives of the people of these two Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu . The world community has yet to instigate substantive solutions to protect the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It has not effectively condemned Rwandan and Ugandan actions in Congo .

The Tutsi-led Rwandan and Ugandan governments have financed and trained Congolese militias over the last twelve years in order to maintain control of the mineral-rich quarries in the North and South Kivu and the Oriental provinces, creating permanent instability in the DRC. This situation has squandered the future of entire generations, and caused the deaths of more than five million innocent Congolese, among them babies, children and elders. Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers in the Congo have indiscriminately murdered civilians and raped both young girls and older women. Those soldiers have caused profound psychological trauma within the population: Boys were forced to have sex with their mothers in public before being killed. These horrors should be condemned.

But …

The war in Eastern Congo , led by General Nkunda, is really a proxy war supported by the Rwandan government and multinational corporations. The solution to end this destructive and devastating war depends purely on the goodwill of these known multinational corporations: The goodwill of people who are happy to make massive profits despite the blood of defenseless Congolese people. The perpetrators of these inhumane acts should be brought to justice and stopped.

But …

After twelve years of plundering the mineral resources of the Kivu provinces, the Rwandans will never relinquish access to these assets that have significantly increased their gross national product.

Since the deplorable actions of the Rwandan government are in direct contradiction with any civilized country, the international community should force the Rwandans out of Congo and help the Congolese to re-establish peace and prosperity and maintain its national integrity. The solution, as Mr. Cohen has suggested, is a way to overlook Rwandan and Ugandan dealings in the Congo but I believe that even Mr. Cohen is not capable of condoning the killing of civilians or rape of any woman - Congolese or American.

Whilst it is encouraging that Mr. Cohen's discussion has brought attention to the issues in Africa, his understanding of the economic conflict is flawed: There is no economic conflict between Rwanda and the Congo or Uganda and the Congo . There is no economic conflict between the Congo and any other central African country. Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo , infringing international law; they should be strongly condemned and ordered to leave the Congo immediately or face the consequences of their dare-devil actions.

The USA and the international community condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and forced Iraq out of Kuwait . It is troubling to think that the USA and the international community would act differently with the Rwandan and Ugandan criminals and terrorists in the Congo .

Suggesting that the Obama administration should propose a framework for an economic common market - encompassing the Congo , Rwanda , Uganda , Burundi , Kenya and Tanzania - to give Rwandan businesses continued access to Congolese minerals and forests is both ill-conceived and ill-advised. This would be a clear approbation of criminal and terrorist actions of Rwandans in the Congo . While the USA is fighting any act of terrorism throughout the world, such notions are confusing and unacceptable. Such an idea would derail the Obama administration policy with regard to Africa from the outset.

With alternative ways to facilitate its exportations, the Congo does not need to export its raw materials through Rwanda. Before the Rwandan and Ugandan invasion of the Congo , there were no problem with the free movement of people, security or refugee camps, and the Congo does not need Rwanda and Burundi to supply “needed labor.” The Congo , known for its legendary hospitality toward its neighbors, has educated most of the highly qualified workforce of these countries. The Congo is, in fact, sadly the tragic victim of its fatal flaw: National hospitality.

As I said before, the war in Eastern Congo is due to Rwandan and Ugandan aggression against the national integrity of the Congo , supported by international corporations. Mr. Cohen and the world community have recognized that the Rwandan government uses the presence of armed Hutu forces in the Congo as a pretext to justify its plundering of Congo mineral resources (such as Coltan) and it is necessary to mention that the Rwandan government, headed by General Nkunda, is conducting a silent genocide and atrocious terrorist acts in the Congo.

The Congo would welcome an American-led mediation to create a common market in East Africa once the war is over, with peace and prosperity returned. At the moment, lobbying for the establishment of such a common market in order to give Rwandan businesses continued access to Congolese minerals and forests is both despicable and unwelcome in the Congo . Insisting on implementing such measures in the Congo immediately is condoning the genocide and terrorism acts that exist in the Congo and an approbation of more than 5 million deaths. It is, quite frankly, un-American.


Matthieu Waakalewae Yangambi, Ed.D.
Chairman of the National Movement for Democracy and Federalism,
Organization Member of the Advocacy Network for Africa, Washington, DC
President of the Congolese Community of Rhode Island, USA.

Cc : - New York Times

- Washington Post

- International Herald Tribune

- The Heritage Foundation/American Leadership

- Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Washington, DC

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