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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 96 12:18:20 CST
From: bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Washington, Ottawa Plan Zaire Intervention
Organization: InfoMatch Internet - Vancouver BC

Washington, Ottawa Plan Zaire Intervention

By Megan Arney, Militant, Vol. 60, no. 42, 25 November 1996

On November 12, Ottawa offered to lead a force of 10,000 to 15,000 troops from about a dozen countries to intervene in eastern Zaire under the flag of the United Nations. One day later, the Clinton administration announced its initial approval of sending up to 4,000 U.S. troops as part of the UN intervention force with a Canadian commander and a U.S. officer as his deputy.

Using the pretext of securing "humanitarian aid" for more than 1 million refugees, Paris and other imperialist governments have been pushing for military intervention since the beginning of November. An earlier French initiative to send 4,000 UN troops to Zaire faltered when Washington rejected the plan.

Paris has been pushing for intervention to shore up the declining power of Zairian president Mobutu Sese Seko, who has ruled the mineral-rich country as a dictator for three decades and is one of the main allies of French imperialism in central Africa. Mobutu is currently recovering from prostate cancer surgery in his luxurious villa in southern France. He backed the proposals for an international military force.

Mobutu faces rebellion in eastern Zaire, where groups based among local Tutsis, known as Banyamulenge, have taken over a section of Kivu province. They did this after being threatened with expulsion from Zaire by local pro-government politicians. The rebels are backed by the government of neighboring Rwanda, which has relied on U.S. support since it came to power in 1994.

One thousand of the U.S. troops Clinton committed are to be stationed around rebel-held Goma in Zaire. They are to take over Goma's airfield and control a three-mile corridor from there to the Rwandan border. Another 2,000 to 3,000 GIs would be dispatched in neighboring countries like Kenya and Uganda

Washington displaced Paris as the main imperialist power in Rwanda two years ago, and is pushing to expand its influence throughout central Africa, an area where French domination has been prevalent until now.

The Rwandan government has announced that any French units sent to the region are unwelcome in that country, because of close ties Paris had with the former regime in Rwanda that organized massacres of 500,000 people in 1994. "The French have been part of the problem of this region, they cannot be part of the solution," said Rwandan presidential adviser Seth Kamanzi.

Washington wields veto power

An official announcement of the Canadian-led deployment was canceled at the last minute November 12, when the Clinton administration did not approve the plan. While UN officials said that 1,500 Canadian troops could be on their way to Zaire within days, U.S. government representatives continued to block approval at the UN Security Council.

Washington is wielding its military superiority, along with its veto power at the Security Council, to put its stamp in the course of events.

"U.S. planes key for Canadians to get to Zaire," was the headline of an article in the Canadian daily Globe and Mail. "Canada simply doesn't have the capacity to move even a small, lightly armed force a third of the way around the world," the article said. 'Unless the Americans get us there, we won't be there, or at least not in time,' a senior Canadian military officer acknowledged yesterday."

The story continued, "Even France and Britain will be hard pressed to transport the 1,000 or so troops that each is expected to contribute to the 12,000-plus force. Smaller countries, such as the Netherlands and the Scandinavian nations, will also need the help of the U.S. Air Force."

Raymond Chre'tien, Canada's ambassador to the United States, has been assigned by Ottawa to serve as the go-between in the Canadian effort to play a major role in any imperialist intervention in Zaire. The Canadian rulers aim to reverse their army's tarnished public image as "peace makers."

Canadian troops took part in the U.S.-led invasion of Somalia in 1992-93, and Ottawa's "peacekeepers" tortured and killed civilian Somalis. The revelation of these murders provoked a major public scandal in Canada. The elite airborne regiment involved was disbanded, and after months of investigations Canada's minister of defense and the army's chief of staff were forced to resign in early October.

After all, "We are a French speaking country," commented Canadian prime minister Jean Chre'tien, referring to his government's proposal for heading the intervention in Zaire, according to the Montreal daily La Presse. The November 13 issue of the paper paraphrased Chre'tien saying that "Canada never went through dark periods in that part of the world." The article also pointed out that Ottawa has troops in Haiti, where it has replaced a U.S.-dominated invasion force.

What most articles in the big-business press fail to point out is that the refugee crisis in Zaire, touted as the reason for intervention, was caused by many of the same imperialist powers preparing to send military forces into central Africa.

Imperialism to blame for crisis

The government of Belgium - the former colonial master of Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo (now Zaire) - promoted the divisions between Hutus and Tutsis to maintain control of the colonies. In Rwanda, about 85 percent of the population is considered Hutu, and 15 percent Tutsi. The composition of Burundi is similar. Members of the Rwandan capitalist class who are Hutu had ruled the country since colonial rule ended in 1962.

In the three decades since formal independence of those countries, French imperialism became the dominant neocolonial power. Paris had 2,500 troops in Rwanda backing the brutal 20- year reign of former Rwandan president Juve'nal Habyarimana, who died in an airplane crash in April 1994 along with the president of Burundi. The Hutu-dominated regime then unleashed troops and vigilantes in massacres of hundreds of thousands. In addition to political opponents of the government, many of those killed were of Tutsi origin.

In July 1994, the government was defeated by the forces of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Washington backed the new RPF regime and set up a military basis in Kigali, the country's capital. Prior to the RPF victory, government officials ordered a massive exodus into neighboring Zaire and other countries, alleging the RPF would kill anyone suspected of being Hutu.

That's when the camps near Goma and other Zairian cities were set up. These camps are under the military control of the Interahamwe vigilante militias and former officers of the Hutu- dominated Rwandan army, who were heavily involved in the 1994 massacres.

Both groups are still well armed and use the camps as bases to launch raids into neighboring Rwanda and Burundi. They had also persuaded some Zairian Hutus to join them and launched attacks against Zairian Tutsis in Kiva province, forcing thousands to flee their homes.

In another development, the government of South Africa said it is considering sending troops to Zaire as part of an international UN force. South African deputy president Thabo Mbeki met with the Zairian president at Mobutu's villa on the French Riviera November 12, according to Johannesburg's Business Day. Mbeki said later in Rome that his government will participate in a UN military deployment.

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