Congo: All the Creeps Are Cheering
Things are happening fast in Eastern Congo. Strange things. Strangest of all, a United Nations combat force has actually engaged in combat. And won.
The UN’s "Intervention Brigade," made up of troops from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania, went into the sanctuaries of the M23 militia in Kivu, up against the lakes where Congo meets Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, and kicked some "rebel" ass. At least that’s the official story.
The real news is not so cheerful. Yes, the UN did create an effective combat force that went in and blasted M23 out of Kivu Province in Eastern Congo. This was the UN’s New Model Army, with a license to kill, instead of the usual UN license to duck, whimper and complain. Within a few days, the Intervention Brigade pushed into Kivu Province from the North, West, and South, and quickly overran M23’s bases. It wasn’t very difficult; M23 never had more than 6,000 men, and the community they drew from, the Congolese Tutsi known as Banyamulenge, are one of the smallest groups in Kivu, with way less than 100,000 people—maybe as few as 55,000. That means they’re less than 4% of the Kivu population. M23 was never the biggest, or the most savage militia in Kivu. Eastern Congo has dozens of so-called "rebel" groups.
The real reason M23 was on the top of every regional power’s hit list is that it’s a Tutsi group. All the real powers in Central Africa, from the Belgian and French mining companies to the worthless Congolese bureaucracy and their white enablers in the NGOs agree about one thing: It’s always the Tutsi’s fault. You’d think that a tribe that was nearly wiped out by genocide less than 20 years ago would get a little slack, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. The world community that watched indifferently when 800,000 Rwandan Tutsi were hacked to death suddenly got very concerned when the survivors formed a small army, the RPA/RPF, and took back their country. It was the Hutu genocidaires who fled west—unwilling to meet the Tutsi in combat, though they’d been perfectly happy to hack Tutsi women and children to death—who got all the pity, all the donations, all the attention.
The "refugee camps" they established were run by the mass murderers, just as tightly as the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand were run by the surviving Khmer Rouge. The same rapists and killers who’d directed the genocide formed a new militia, the FDLR, which is murdering and raping its way across Eastern Congo right now. But there was never the same outrage at the Hutu FDLR as against the Tutsi M23.
FDLR has committed so many horrific massacres and gang rapes in Eastern Congo that it spawned a counter-militia among the people of Kivu called "Rai Mutomboki"—"Angry Citizens" in Kiswahili.
Of course, the atrocities by FDLR genocidaires got very little press. Even when respectable people do hear from locals who’ve been raped by the FDLR, they go into rape-denial mode, like Laura Heaton did in the pages of Foreign Policy Magazine.
Heaton wrote an article in FP implying that more than a hundred women in the town of Livungi who’d been raped by the FDLR were probably faking their stories, and had been "coached," because they didn’t show the emotional response that a first-world woman who interviewed them expected:
"In her trips to the area to follow up on the recovery process, however, Laura found reasons to doubt the official account. Speaking with survivors, she had the uncomfortable feeling that ‘a psychological element seemed to be missing’ and thought perhaps the women had been coached."
If you want to see the dehumanization of inconvenient Africans in print, just read Laura Heaton’s story. She actually dares to tell more than a hundred African women who say they were raped (a difficult admission for any woman but especially a woman in a rural patriarchy) that they were not, in fact, raped at all, because the men who raped them were the Hutu FDLR, and as Laura and her media friends all know, it’s the Tutsi who are the only villains in Eastern Congo.
Of course witnesses who’d been in Luvungi said, in print, that the Foreign Policy article was insane and that they’d seen mass rapes, but the doubts had already been planted, the rape victims had already been called liars, and the official story—bad Tutsi, poor victim Hutu—ground along until it climaxed this week with the joyful response to the news about the extinction of the Tutsi militia in the area, leaving the FDLR in a perfect position to rape and kill on a grander scale than ever before.
Which would be perfectly fine with just about everybody, including the Congolese government. They’ve had a quiet de facto alliance with the FDLR against Rwanda, the Tutsi, and M23 ever since Laurent Kabila, the Congolese leader put in power by Rwandan Tutsi, turned on Tutsi fighters who took him to Kinshasa.
Swift talked about a confederacy of dunces. What we have here is a confederacy of evil do-gooders, including the Catholic Church, cheering for the defeat of the only defense force Congolese Tutsi had against the same people who came very close to killing the entire Tutsi population of Rwanda. It’s quite a spectacle. And just like you’d expect, where there are virtuous dupes cheering for something horrible, there’s dirty money behind it, very big money. This money has created a nasty alliance between old-school mineral exploiters, the Congolese kleptocracy, and a chorus of NGO do-gooders who like their Africans helpless, chaotic and needy. The Tutsi threaten the interests of all these groups by being Africa's Prussians: Tall, snooty, efficient and soldierly.
The Tutsi came very close to carving out their own empire in Eastern Congo and the Lakes in the mid-1990s, and the world community suddenly got very concerned. The last thing anyone in the mineral business, the great powers, or the NGOs wanted was a self-sufficient Tutsi state. The cohesion and efficiency of the Tutsi, a classic militarized ethnic group, made them a threat to the lucrative chaos of Congo, where there is no dominant tribe. Nobody’s quite sure how many different ethnic groups are trying to scratch a living from the Congo basin, but the estimates start at 400 and go as high as 700. Most ethnic maps of Africa show you the dominant tribe pretty quickly, but the Congo ethnic map is just a bunch of small blobs.
The only stable empires that ever grew up in this wet, overgrown river basin were on the edges—the Lunda and Luba in the southern highlands, and the BaKongo near the coast. The rest is an ultra-Balkanized chaos of little ethnic enclaves. The only common languages are French, borrowed from the Belgians who messed the place up (i.e., slaughtered up to 10 million Natives), and a new one, Lingala, a trade language along the river.
Eastern Congo, where the fighting’s been going on, has nothing in common with this Balkanized rainforest. This is the part of the country that butts up against Rwanda and Burundi, two small countries where there are only two tribes, Tutsi and Hutu (the T’wa, the pygmies, the original and by far the nicest inhabitants of the area, don’t count unfortunately, having been reduced to the status of slaves or, occasionally, food). Both the Hutu and Tutsi are highly organized, efficient and at each other’s throats.
Both have given very recent displays of combat power—the Hutu when they grabbed their pangas and started chopping their Tutsi neighbors to death in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, and the Tutsi when a small force of Rwandan Tutsi militia marched in, stormed the capital, Kigali, and stopped the genocide.
That’s when things began to go weird. No one was particularly pleased to see the Tutsi RPF retake Kigali. No one in the world press had much pity for the 800,000 Tutsi hacked to death or burned in their houses and churches. When they reconquered Rwanda, the Tutsi didn’t massacre their Hutu neighbors, though everyone expected them to. I can’t think of a single ethnic group in the world that would show that kind of restraint and discipline. I wouldn’t; I couldn’t. You fight your way back home and find your whole family hacked to death with machetes and you don’t take revenge on the people who did it? That’s the kind of conduct that really deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. None was forthcoming, of course. The UN and assorted do-gooders had somehow decided that it was the Hutu genocidaires, the FDLR, who’d been too cowardly to fight the small Tutsi army, who deserved to be pitied.
The FDLR understood how to win over the do-gooders: You win by putting your people in misery, not by standing up for yourselves. Leftist victim-rhetoric has a lot to answer for in the pro-Hutu tilt of European opinion. In fact, Europeans raised on victim-rhetoric, like Georges Ruggiu, actually served as mouthpieces for the genocide while it was happening. So the Hutu militias turned their guns on their own people and led a forced migration, out of Rwanda into Kivu in Eastern Congo. The kleptocratic government of Congo went into alliance with the Hutu genocidaires, supplying them with all the materiel they needed to attack the Tutsi in Rwanda, and Tutsi refugees inside Congo. The Hutu militias started hit-and-run massacres inside Rwanda, and the RPF went into Congo to root them out in 1996. Again the Tutsi won on the battlefield and lost in the press and the boardrooms. They were forced out of power in Congo, designated as the one and only bad guy in Kivu, and finally, just this week, crushed by the first effective UN combat force since Korea.
And everyone’s happy—most of all the European, American and Chinese companies that are making huge profits on what they’re digging out of the ground in Eastern Congo. Your cell phone won’t work without a metal called Tantalum, made from an ore known as coltan. At least two-thirds of this planet’s supply of coltan is under the forests of Eastern Congo—maybe more, as much as 80%.
Coltan is only going to get bigger and more important to the world economy, which means a lot of champagne, a lot of prostitutes, and a lot of Mercedes limos for the guys who run Kinshasa. They’re perfectly happy to have the mining done in a wilderness of competing small-time militias, including their murdering, raping friends of the FDLR; what they fear, what they won’t tolerate, is to see Eastern Congo under a stable Tutsi regime. That would cut them out of the deal entirely—and that’s why Congo’s usual apologists are screeching with joy about the defeat of the so-called "rebels" of M23.
Coltan is a dirty trade in every way. You mine for coltan the way the old prospectors used to mine for gold: digging it out of the ground by hand or panning for it in the rivers and creeks. And while you’re mining, you feed yourself on "bushmeat," meaning anything you can shoot, including the endangered Mountain Gorillas found only in this part of the world. It’s a dirty trade, but it’s not going to stop—even though one of the popular fantasies among do-gooders is that the defeat of M23 will somehow bring the coltan trade under control—and save the Mountain Gorillas.
Anyone who really believes that doesn’t know the swine who run Congo very well. The man in charge at the moment is Joseph Kabila, son of Laurent Kabila, the professional insurgent who was installed by Tutsi fighters, and then turned on them. Kabila was such an old pro in the revolution business that he (Laurent, not Joseph) once met Che Guevara himself. Guevara didn’t have a very good impression of Kabila. Che arrived in Congo in 1965 with a hundred committed Marxist guerrillas, but left after realizing that Kabila, his supposed ally, was more interested in women and champagne than making revolution. But the real bad news for Congo was that even so, Che considered Laurent Kabila the only Congolese he’d met who had any potential as a leader at all.
Che was right. Congo is the same miserable chaos it’s always been. The big mining companies like H. C. Starck post the usual disclaimers about running
But of course we’re not supposed to believe that this has been no more than a shift of power from one gang to a far nastier one. See, the official story is that any day now, that same UN Intervention Brigade that did such an efficient job of taking down little M23 will do the same job on the much bigger FDLR. Naïve reporters have been printing this all week, ignoring—or just plain ignorant of—the long, dirty alliance between Kinshasa and the FDLR.
What’s much more likely to happen is the sort of change the fat men in Kinshasa, and their Hutu friends in Kivu, do so well: a change in acronym. The FDLR brand has been tarnished a little—a few of those rape and pillage stories got out in spite of all that the apologists could do. But that’s very easy to fix, as long as there are 26 letters in the Roman alphabet, and words like "Democratique" and "Populaire" that start with those letters. "FDLR" will become some new, untainted acronym, and by the time that new acronym is too stained with blood, all you have to do is scramble the letters again, issue a press release, and keep the coltan flowing down the river.