He did not create directly the ongoing instability in Eastern Congo. He only inherited the situation.
Can he change it? Yes he can. Though there are challenges. And that’s where Barack Obama, US president, is faced with a tricky dilemma.
Like his predecessors, he is by constitution the first American citizen whose mandatory responsibility is mainly to defend US as a country and its people’s interests.
In line with such understanding, and for the need to strengthen links with countries they have interests in, US use an arena of programmes which include humanitarian activities, military training and intelligence, educational, and many others.
Some of these serve however for covering up for others more sinister aimed at preserving actively US security, influence and prosperity. And in many contexts, they don’t care much about negative outcomes in countries where they are implemented as long as there are no US citizen victims.
Until the 1990s, while global rivalries prevailed between communist and capitalist camps and were equally played on the African continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo [then Zaire], was much under American influence with former president Mobutu. US helped the dictator get into power in the 1960s and stay there for more than thirty years.
With the end of communism, but also the emergence of China as a global economic power to reckon with, Western influence in DRC has used more deadly strategies involving proxy agents, president Kagame of Rwanda, and president Museveni of Uganda. These two countries have leveraged that position and used it to pursue their own national and regional agendas, at the expense of millions of citizens of the region.
Who are the beneficiaries?
Considered the undemocratic character of Rwandan and Ugandan regimes, and the intentionally created insecurity in the region which enable them to shift attention from internal critical social, political and economic issues, Kagame and Museveni are undoubtedly the main beneficiaries.
Then come US and other Western allies. When one looks at the range of companies from capitalist economies which are involved in exploiting DRC minerals, and sometimes under ineffective terms and conditions for the country, the instability situation becomes somehow understandable and profitable.
Indifference towards the tragedy
Before October 1990 when Rwanda was invaded fromUgandaby Kagame’s rebel forces, the most recent deadly war in the region was led by his mentor Museveni early in the 1980s. And it subsequently got him into power in 1986.
If all the victims of wars initiated in the region were added all together since Museveni and Kagame have been leading armed forces as rebels and presidents, the total would get close to 10 millions of innocent people of their victims.
Surprisingly, their governments have respectively benefited of billions of £, $ and Euros from developed countries and international institutions the latter controls such IMF, and World Bank.
Additionally, judiciary international institutions depending on mainly the same developed countries including International Criminal Court and International Criminal Court for Rwanda have been active protecting the two presidents from prosecution, but instead pursuing those who tried to be in their ways.
How far is Obama tied up?
In 2006, Barack Obama, then senator, wrote and introduced in the congress for vote the following law [some excerpts] on the Democratic Republic of Congo.
SEC. 201. Promotion for United States policy toward the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the United Nations Security Council
The United States should use its voice and vote in the United Nations Security Council—
(5) to ensure that the practice of recruiting and arming children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is immediately halted pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 1460 (2003) and 1539 (2004);
(6) to strengthen the arms embargo imposed pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1493 (2003) and ensure that violators are held accountable through appropriate measures, including the possible imposition of sanctions;
SEC. 105. Withholding of assistance
The Secretary of State is authorized to withhold assistance made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), other than humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism assistance, for a foreign country if the Secretary determines that the government of the foreign country is taking actions to destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The law is clearly explicit on what the US government is obliged to do if certain conditions apply. The UN experts have pointed on June 27th at evidence showing the role ofRwanda in current rebellion situation in DRC. Kigali has been recruiting for M23 and providing weapons.
One would then question why there has been constant lack of enforcing this law of making accountable countries which contribute to the destabilization of DRC.
Obama in his inaugural speech as USpresident, on January 9th, 2009 pledged to work with history against dictators.
‘To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills to the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extent a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.’
We remember how in the last weeks of his presidential campaign Obama had to rebuild bridges in the Democratic Party by reaching out to the Clinton camp.
Furthermore we also know that some of the Clinton administration from 1992 onwards who worked with the two dictators of Rwanda and Uganda are still around protecting a diversity of particular interests they have developed along the years.
There is as well the pentagon which also exercises its significant influence in US foreign policy by promoting the country strategic security against all external threats from wherever they can come from.
And unfortunately the department is apparently ready to work with whoever can make it achieve its objectives of US strategic security, whatever tactics being used.
But as Obama first presidential term comes to a close in 2012, can we assess positively that he has lived up to his promises with regard to dictators like Museveni and Kagame. The answer is obviously no.
He is currently campaigning for his re-election in November. Can he be trusted once more particularly by Afro-Americans whose brothers and sisters on the continent are being killed in the millions by US foreign policies in the Great Lakes region of Africa? This is an open question.
Could he redeem himself?
The earlier mentioned law [SEC 101 (6)] acknowledges that
“the real and perceived presence of armed groups hostile to the Governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi continue to serve as a major source of regional instability and an apparent pretext for continued interference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by its neighbors.”
Consequently, using some leverage towards these countries, US and other donor countries could pressure Kagame and Museveni, and Nkurunziza [president ofBurundi] at a lesser degree, to sit with their political and armed opponents if they want to continue receiving external support.
Can Barack Obama untangle the complex situation of DRC and redeem himself? I stated at the start that he could. But will he? That’s the dilemma that he is faced with and which is defined by the battling of what his conscience calls him to do and overall US involved interests that need to be preserved.