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Date: Thu, 25 Sep 97 16:25:29 CDT
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Subject: Behind the Sanctions Against the Congo

Behind the Sanctions Against the Congo
id RAA23010; Thu, 25 Sep 1997 17:19:04 -0400

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the October 2, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper

Behind the Threat of U.S.-UN Sanctions against the Congo

By Monica Moorehead, Workers World, 2 October 1997

The United Nations General Secretary is demanding from the newly formed Congolese government that he be allowed to send an investigative team to the Congo to look into human rights abuses, including reported massacres of Hutus by the Tutsi- dominated Rwandan military. The Rwandan military played a decisive role in helping to bring to power the current president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laurent Kabila, who replaced the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

At this time, President Kabila is refusing the UN access to the Congo, at least under their terms. According to the Sept. 15 New York Times, Kabila wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan requesting that any investigation be restricted to eastern Congo, where the armed insurrection against Mobutu began; that Congolese officials accompany the UN team; and that the Organization of African Unity be allowed to send along a parallel group of investigators.

Annan replied to Kabila's request by complaining that "promises and assurances given are being reneged upon." The UN is considering pulling back altogether on the idea of an investigation and may be preparing punitive actions against the Kabila government.

Why is this issue being raised now by the UN, nearly a year after some of the events are said to have taken place? And why is it being linked to possible economic sanctions on the Congo? Sanctions have become the preferred way for U.S. imperialism to attack countries that refuse to do its bidding.

Biyoya Makutu Kahandja, a senior official with the Congolese foreign ministry, said, "The history of our country and the United Nations is the history of a failed romance. At independence in 1960 the United Nations banned our own prime minister from the radio, and a United Nations peacekeeping force took sides in our civil war. We have reasons to suspect the worst." The prime minister referred to was the martyred revolutionary leader Patrice Lumumba.

The UN was used by the U.S. and other imperialists in the 1960s to crush Lumumba's attempts to achieve genuine independence. The end result of UN intervention was the assassination of Lumumba and the ascendance of Mobutu to power.

For years, Mobutu acted as a U.S. puppet while lining his own pockets. However, beginning in 1992, Washington showed its displeasure with him by imposing sanctions on what was then called Zaire. It did nothing to prop him up this year and in fact is widely seen as aiding in his downfall.

At first, U.S. big business thought the new Kabila regime would be so desperate for capital to rebuild the Congo's economic infra-structure, left in shambles after Mobutu's 32-year reign, that they could dictate the terms. There was excited anticipation among big investors that the new government would privatize everything, including the state mining company, Gecamines. At that time, despite many reports of large-scale killings, Washington showed no interest in making an issue of human rights violations.

Now, however, there are indications that President Kabila may be attempting to exercise some independence and some right to self-determination over the internal affairs of his country despite the pressure of Western imperialist powers, especially the U.S.

Kabila vs. "debt" to imperialist banks

One area of contention is the $14-billion "debt" to imperialist banks accrued under the Mobutu regime. President Kabila has said the new Congolese government cannot be held responsible for it. The banks are retaliating by withholding new loans.

President Kabila is taking his case to the rest of Africa, where this past July a number of African leaders pledged some short-term financial support without any strings attached to help rebuild the Congo. These leaders represented Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozam- bique, Eritrea and Central African Republic. Kabila met with President Nelson Mandela in South Africa to establish closer relations and economic cooperation.

This type of solidarity is one way of showing appreciation for President Kabila's role in ousting Mobutu, who was not only despised by the terribly impoverished Congolese people but by the African peoples as a whole. Mobutu's downfall was celebrated throughout Africa and much of the world.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries in Eastern Europe left Africa at a particularly great disadvantage. Some of the African countries now hope that Kabila and the Congo can spur a new political realignment on the poorest continent with the objective of aiding economic development on their own political terms.

It will become more and more important for the U.S. political movement to remain vigilant on the question and to demand that the U.S. not interfere in the affairs of the African peoples. Africa owes no debt to imperialism. On the contrary, the African peoples should receive reparations to overcome the enormous problems due directly to the centuries- long impact of colonialism and neocolonialism.

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@workers.org. For subscription info send message to: info@workers.org. Web: http://workers.org)