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The Congo Challenge

FILE PHOTO: UN troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Why Congolese leaders should be wary of US and UN involvement in their country’s affairs

THE LAST WORD | Andres M. Mwenda | We start from where we stopped in this column last week. The American embassy staff in Kampala deliberately distorted my conversations with them about the M23 rebels. They stated that I called them to request the withdrawal of sanctions against the M23. However, the M23 did not talk to me about sanctions, and I did not talk about sanctions with American diplomats either. The M23 wanted to take advantage of American influence in Kinshasa to reopen talks with the Kinshasa government with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the civil war in that country. Who in their right mind would not take advantage of such an opportunity?

However, although I disliked this cheap manipulation of my conversation with them, I was not surprised by their actions. It is difficult to guess what dirty plans the US embassy in Kampala and its government in Washington DC are hatching for Uganda and this region. And the use of lies in pursuit of hidden agendas is a common practice in American foreign policy.

The United States went to war in Vietnam over lies that a Vietnamese ship had sunk an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. The United States spent ten years, lost 58,000 soldiers and billions of dollars over this lie. They then claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al Qaeda. They manufactured “intelligence” to “prove” these claims. They invaded that country, killed millions of its citizens, spent over 3 billion dollars on that war and lost 6,000 soldiers based on these lies.

However, just eight years later, they claimed that Muammar Gaddafi was going to exterminate the Libyans and intervened in that country under the pretext of the “responsibility to protect.” They overthrew Gaddafi, drank him to death, and installed extremist militias in power. Today, Libya is in chaos as these militias engage in mass murder. However, the United States and its allies will not invoke the “responsibility to protect” to intervene and save lives. The list of American lies as an instrument of foreign policy is too long to list here.

These distortions are now happening in the United States as well. Two weeks ago, the United States convicted its former president of falsifying financial records, but freed presidents who sent American children to die in foreign wars and emptied their coffers based on lies. I wonder how many American officials can sleep comfortably in the face of all these distortions. I also wonder how they manage to claim moral superiority against all the evils that their State has orchestrated in this world based on lies.

No country presents itself to the world with as much glamor as the United States does. When I was young I was fascinated by this American self-image: liberalism, democracy, freedom, charity, human rights, etc. But the older I got, the more nuanced my view of this great nation became. The United States is not exceptional. As Barack Obama would say, it is a human experiment with idealism and realism, illusions and deceptions, truths and lies, kindness and cruelty, generosity and meanness. I have been a beneficiary of American generosity. That’s why I criticize it with some moderation.

I try as much as possible to avoid moral judgments about the behavior of the United States. Instead, I seek to understand their policies and actions as a great power with clinical detachment. What are your interests? What are the forces, ideological and economic, that drive their leaders? Like those he often criticizes, Americans are caught in power dynamics, forced by circumstances to act in certain ways. That is why they condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s violence in Ukraine, but aid and reduce Israel’s genocide in Gaza, even inviting Israel’s genocidal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “special guest” this week to address to a joint session of congress.

The retreat from idealism to realism freed me from the self-righteous moral indignation I used to express at bad events. He made me stoic, seeing bad things as normal and sometimes even inevitable. But in a way, it also made me cynical. For example, I don’t believe that anyone or any group can change the world, at least not as suddenly and perfectly as we think. That’s realistic. Human society is too complicated to be reduced to an experiment. Those who have tried: Stalin in Russia, Mao in China, George Bush in Iraq, Pol Pot in Cambodia, etc. They have ended up committing mass killings without achieving their utopian dreams.

I have spent years reflecting on the small role I can play in improving the fortunes of our region. Therefore, when the M23 leaders approached me, I saw an opportunity to help Congolese people talk to each other to resolve their problems peacefully. However, in a moment of unabashed idealism and naivety, I thought that Americans can be allies in such an effort. I forgot that they have interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that they would manipulate the situation to promote their hidden agenda that I would not know about. I am saddened that the leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to trust the United Nations, that arm of the United States, despite its atrocious role in their country’s sad history. Kenya’s William Ruto should be careful!

Immediately after independence in 1960, Congo’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, invited the UN to stabilize his country, which had descended into chaos. The United States manipulated the UN to carry out its agenda. He was the mastermind behind Lumumba’s death, thus laying the foundations for the current instability in the Congo. For 32 years, the United States supported Joseph Mobutu, one of the most brutal and kleptocratic leaders Africa has ever had.

Growing up, I avidly read the giants of Africa’s anti-colonial struggle: Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral, Samora Machel, etc. Portraits of him hang in the office and at home. Curiously, the United States was hostile to all of them. When the M23 leaders asked me to talk to the United States to help find a peaceful solution for the Congo, I forgot this fact. I invited the hyenas to the meat market.

However, I have no regrets. I would be very happy if the United States sanctioned me, took me to the ICC and served the rest of my life in prison or even hanged me. I would have paid my dues by doing something great: trying to help bring peace to the Congo. It would be an honor to follow in the footsteps of Lumumba whose portrait hangs in my office and home. I would love to fly to Washington to be publicly executed. It would bring me satisfaction, meaning, purpose and fulfillment.

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