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Criminalizing the Charitable
Jenna e. Ziman
I Dreamed I Was In â€¦
Welfare Rights Activism
John potash and laurel Carpenter
Rural Prison as Colonial Master
New Party Report: Making Work â€¦
Human Rights Watch World Report â€¦
Haiti: The Roof Is Leaking
Word Tricks & Propaganda
Liggett Narcs Joe Camel
Cleaning up the Hamptons
Mobuto Was Chaos
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Mobuto Was Chaos
As this article is being written in early May, the 32-year regime of Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko is coming to an end. A guerrilla offensive carried out by the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire-Congo (ADFL), led by Laurent Kabila, has control of 75 percent of the country, including the major cities of Kisangani and Lubambashi, and is very close to the capital, Kinshasa. The ADFL has been effective largely because the Zairean military has disintegrated in the wake of the rebel offensive, which started in October 1996. The populace is responding to the ADFL as liberators, but many citizens still question whether Kabila can bring peace and stability to the country. Significantly, the United States has declared that Mobutua long-time clientshould step down. In addition, the international community has been trying to orchestrate a political transition involving the ADFL and Mobutu. Another telling sign that Mobutu is on his way out is that multinational mining corporations, which have been reluctant to reinvest in Zaire in recent years because of deteriorating economic conditions there, are eagerly negotiating new terms with the ADFL.
Mobutu has dominated Zairean politics since the United States orchestrated the overthrow of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1960, soon after he came to power in that countrys first national elections. The United States opposed Lumumbas nationalist and non-aligned policies, and simplistically viewed him as an extension of the Soviet Unions foreign policy. While serving as Lumumbas army chief-of-staff, Mobutu carried out the CIA-backed coup détat on September 5, 1960, in which Lumumba was dismissed, and played a central role in Lumumbas assassination in January 1961.
Lumumbas assassination sparked populist uprisings in different parts of the country, forcing the U.S. to decide on the best way to contain those revolts. Between 1961 and 1965, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations supported several civilian governments to prevent the Lumumbists from gaining political power, while still backing Mobutu. The U.S. also promoted a paramilitary campaign which used anti-Castro Cubans and white mercenaries to defeat the populist revolts. In 1965, the political strategy was questioned after President Joseph Kasavubu dismissed Moises Tschombe and appointed Evariste Kimba prime minister. The Johnson administration perceived Kimba to be a Lumumbist. Therefore, a second coup détat was carried out, putting Mobutu into power. By 1967 the pro-Lumumbist elements were effectively suppressed. Since the 1965 coup détat Mobutu has been among the most autocratic, repressive, and corrupt dictators in the Third World, commanding a kleptocracy that has siphoned billions of dollars from the national treasury.
In addition to backing Mobutu, the United States considered him vital in protecting the enormous mineral wealth (cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, cadmium, and uranium) that French, Belgian, South African, and United States multinationals exploit in Zaire. In fact, the United States came to the defense of his regime whenever Mobutu was threatened by militant opposition. The U.S. rationale was that if Mobutu lost power, Zaire would revert into "chaos." The U.S. often collaborated with France and Belgium in those operations, despite competing interests the three countries might have had at that time. What is significant about the developments occurring in Zaire now is that, for the first time, the United States has not come to Mobutus rescue. What current developments led to Mobutus downfall? What does the end of Mobutu mean for Zaire?
Origins Of Current Anti-Mobutu Revolt
The current anti-Mobutu coalition emerged in South Kivu province in eastern Zaire amidst two intersecting crises. The first crisis centered on violence perpetrated by Rwandan Hutu militia forces and members of the former Hutu dominated Rwandan army in the refugee camps in eastern Zaire against the current Rwandan army and Zairean-based Tutsis. This conflict spilled over from the April-June 1994 Rwandan genocide, where the Hutu militia slaughtered between five hundred thousand to one million Rwandan Tutsis and Hutus willing to work with Tutsi political organizations. At the time, an estimated two million Rwandan Hutus fled Rwanda, ending up as refugees in internationally supervised camps in eastern Zaire, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania. Mobutu allowed these armed elements to enter Zaire with their weapons, where they used the camps to carry out raids into Rwanda against the Tutsi-controlled Rwandan government that came into power in the summer of 1994 and increasingly attacked the local Tutsi population. Throughout this episode, the United Nations and the major powers were preoccupied with feeding the refugees, including the killers, but did not search for a solution to the crisis.
The second crisis was generated by hostility between Zaire and the Zairean Tutsi population, called Banyamulenge. The Banyamulenge are relatively prosperous businesspeople and cattle ranchers whose ancestors started migrating into eastern Zaire over 200 years ago. Because of their relative business success and their support for Mobutus anti-Lumumbist counter-offensive in the mid-1960s, Mobutu supported the Banyamulenge through the 1970s. But in 1981, the Zairean parliament, controlled by Mobutus Popular Revolutionary Movement Party, stripped the Banyamulenge of their citizenship, rendering them stateless and, thus, preventing them from running for national political office. This decision fed into resentment that eastern Zairean ethnic groups have against the Banyamulenge, partly because of their relative wealth, but also because the Banyamulenge supported Mobutu against the pro-Lumumbist Muelist revolt in 1964. Growing tensions between the Banyamulenge and the local Zaireans in the east persisted.
Starting in April 1995, those tensions exacerbated when Zaires Transitional Parliament decided to prevent refugees from acquiring citizenship. This decision treated the Banyamulenge as migrants. Feeding off local resentment toward the Banyamulenge, government officials began carrying out repression against them, including assassinating and arresting them and confiscating their land. The Zairean army and local Zaireans began attacking the Banyamulenge, whom they held responsible for the refugee crisis in the country. In response, the Banyamulenge formed militias to defend themselves. The violence in eastern Zaire heightened in September 1996 when local opportunist politicians like the South Kivu deputy governor, declared that the Banyamulenge must leave Zaire or they would be interned in camps. Repression by the Zairean army in eastern Zaire added to violence by the Rwandan Hutu militia, causing the two crises to appear to meld. These developments also intensified hostilities between Zaire and Tutsi-controlled Rwanda, leading to clashes between the two countries.
During October and November 1996, the fighting in eastern Zaire was reported in the Western media, interpreted as ethnic conflict which had spilled over from Rwanda. This assessment was partly correct. However, the Banyamulenge were viewed as Rwandan pawns, while not having a legitimate political role in Zaire. Thus Mobutus repression of the Zairean Tutsis was not factored into those accounts. The focus of the media attention was concern for the hundreds of thousands of refugees caught in the middle of the fighting.
In response to the humanitarian crisis, the international community discussed sending a United Nations-sponsored multinational force to Zaire to protect the refugees and assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid. At first the Clinton administration was hesitant to participate in a United Nations operation in Zaire. The presidential elections were scheduled for early November, and Clinton was reacting to the perception of public aversion to the U.S. participating in United Nations peace keeping or humanitarian operations, mainly because of the failure of the Somali intervention earlier in the decade. Nevertheless, once Clinton won re-election, he announced that the U.S. would participate in the operation in Zaire. Two days later the Security Council passed Resolution 1080 calling for a "temporary" multinational force to protect a "safe corridor," allowing international organizations to deliver humanitarian assistance to the refugees. However, the United Nations resolution did not call for the Hutu militia to be separated from the refugees and contained by UN troops. The southern African advocacy community and international humanitarian NGOs felt that the only way the violence could be stopped was to root out and disarm the Hutu militia.
In October, amidst violence in North and South Kivu provinces, the ADFL was formed with the explicit objective of overthrowing Mobutu. When the Western media first noted the ADFL, it was viewed as an extension of Rwandan politics, not as a Zairean manifestation. This interpretation was reinforced in early November, when Banyamulengeassociated with the ADFLentered the refugee camps and overwhelmed the Hutu militia and members of the former Rwandan army. This allowed 500,000 Hutu refugees to return to Rwanda in late November. Many Rwandan Hutu refugees also fled to other parts of Zaire. With the return of the refugees to Rwanda, the United Nations multinational humanitarian intervention was stillborn.
However, both the composition of the ADFL coalition and its soon to be evident military thrust challenged the view that it was a pawn for Rwanda. In fact, the ADFL was a Zairean-based multi-ethnic coalition consisting of the Peoples Revolutionary Party, headed by Kabila (a Luba from the Shaba Province); the Peoples Democratic Alliance, headed by Deogratias Bugara, (representing Zairean Tutsis, including the Banyamulenge and the Nayamasisi from North and South Kivu); the Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Zaire, headed by Massu Nindaga (a Bashi); and the National Democratic Resistance, headed by Andre Kassasse Ngandu. Rebel groups representing the Luba from Shaba, the Lumba from Lubambashi, and the Bashi from South Kivu also joined the coalition. Furthermore, many deserters from the Zairean army joined the ADFL, further broadening its ethnic representation.
The ADFL quickly made impressive military gains. The guerrillas captured the main towns in the east, including Bukuvu on November 1 and Goma the following day. The ADFL then moved north to Bunia, west toward Kisangani (the countrys second city), and south to Mbuji-Mayi and Lubambashi in the mineral-rich Shaba Province. The objective was to capture those cities, thinking that would pressure Mobutu to step down. If he did not step down, the alliance intended to capture Kinshasa, forcing Mobutus regime to collapse. The ADFL met little resistance from the Zairean army, mainly because the soldiers were not willing to die for the regime. As the guerrillas captured each town, the ADFL appointed new administrators, reestablished order and civic life (often for the first time in decades), and negotiated economic terms with local business interests. In late December, the ADFL captured Bunia, the center of the gold mining sector. The ADFL forces continued to move toward Kisangani, the base for the governments army300 kilometers to the west, and toward the Shaba Province.
As the revolt in Zaire expanded, central and east African heads of state became increasingly concerned. The humanitarian implications were grave: hundreds of thousands of refugees were in Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Zaire, and Uganda, and the political implications throughout the Great Lakes region were potentially disastrous. Already civil conflicts existed in five of the nine countries that border Zaire, including the Central African Republic, the Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, all of which could be linked to developments in Zaire. Clearly, who controls Zaire could affect events throughout the region. Significantly, the United States did not want the Sudanese Islamic government to penetrate into sub-Saharan Africa; therefore, the Clinton administration fostered relations with Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda, including providing financial and military assistance and military advisors.
Angola to Zaires southwest is also integral to the developments in Zaire. Both the Angolan government (headed by Eduardo Jose dos Santos) and Jonas Savimbi, who heads the Union for the Total Independence of Angola, were preoccupied with developments in Zaire. Because the internationally sponsored peace agreement in Angola was not completely resolved, owing to Savimbis refusal to participate in a government of national unity with the Angolan government, the threat of renewed violence existed. Savimbi had been dependent on Mobutu since the mid-1970s when Zaire sided with the unsuccessful covert U.S. operation aimed to prevent the MPLA from gaining control of Angola. Throughout the 1980s, Mobutu allowed Zaire to be a conduit to supply UNITA with weapons and munitions, as Savimbi destabilized Angola in concert with South Africa. Subsequent to the 1992 Angolan elections, in which Savimbi was defeated by the MPLA, UNITA used Zaire as a base for its renewed attacks on Angola. Savimbi understands that, if Mobutus regime collapsed, he would lose Zaire as a base for his machinations. The Angolan government supports the ADFL as a means to finally end UNITAs military lifeline, as well as Zaires support for secessionists in the oil-rich Cabinda Enclave.
On November 5, 1996, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi fostered an African diplomatic initiative when he held a regional summit in Nairobi, under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity, to discuss the developments in the Great Lakes region. Six weeks later Moi hosted another summit, attended by the Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and South Africa. This delegation encouraged Presidents Moi and Nelson Mandela to initiate dialogue with Mobutu and Kabila, leading to a cease-fire and a negotiated settlement, based on a power-sharing arrangement involving Mobutu and the ADFL. This proposal was backed by the United States, which had been reluctant to take the lead in orchestrating a resolution. The United Nations Security Council and the Organization of African Unity also supported a settlement.
Meanwhile, Mobutu, who had been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in France and Switzerland for four months, returned to Zaire on December 17, 1996, intent on finding ways to maintain control of the Zairean state.
Seeing that his military was not capable of fighting, Mobutu began a series of maneuvers to shore up his regime. He requested military support from Moroccan King Hassan, but King Hassan, who had been a close ally and had come to Mobutus defense numerous times in the past, refused to provide support. Mobutu did recruit white mercenaries from Europe and South Africa. He also received military support from Savimbi, who dispatched guerrillas to fight with the Zairean army. On January 22, 1997, the Zairean government declared war against the rebels, claiming it was going to recapture the "liberated" territory. That effort was not going to effectively challenge the ADFL.
As 1997 began, international diplomatic initiatives, focusing on a negotiated settlement, proliferated. President Moi continued his efforts to mediate the Great Lakes crises, meeting with Mobutu in early February for a briefing. On February 18, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for a five-point peace plan, which included negotiations between Mobutu and the ADFL, the withdrawal of all foreign forces (including mercenaries), and convening of an international conference on peace, security, and development in the Great Lakes region. Algerian Mohammed Sahnoun was also appointed Joint UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes. His mandate was to: (1) promote a peaceful settlement; (2) prepare a conference for peace and development; and (3) preserve the territorial integrity of Zaire. The Clinton administration also called for negotiations between Mobutu and the "disaffected" groups in Zaire. Moreover, President Mandela held "proximity talks" involving Kabila and a Zairean envoy. United Nations Special Representative Sahnoun and United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose oversaw those meetings. Furthermore, after seeking advice from South Africa in early March, Mobutu stated that he would be willing to negotiate with the ADFL based on the United Nations plan. All these proposals involved a power-sharing formula, which would preserve Mobutus influence in a transitional government.
On March 15, the ADFL captured Kisangani, putting Mobutu in a position where he had to seriously deal with Kabila. South Africa quickly took the initiative to mediate negotiations when Deputy President Thabo Mbeki met with Mobutu in Kinshasa on March 23 and with representatives of the ADFL several days later. Mobutu was also being pressured by the United States to cooperate. Kabilas position at that time was that Mobutu must step down and the ADFL would be willing to participate in peace talks with democratic forces, leading to the formation of a transitional government and elections. The results of the OAU summit in Lome on March 26 assured that negotiations between the ADFL and Mobutu would occur in South Africa.
Mobutus political vulnerability became obvious when he tried to divide the political opposition in Kinshasa by appointing his opponent, Etienne Tshisekedi, prime minister. Tshisekedi quickly dissolved parliament and proposed a plan that offered the ADFL six positions in a new government. His intent was to isolate Mobutu and coopt the ADFL, while maintaining the current transitional political process set in place in the early 1990s as an attempt to transfer Mobutus power. (Mobutu had refused to accept that process, and kept control of the military, bureaucracy, and economic resources.) Two days later Mobutu fired Tshisekedi and appointed General Likulia Bolongo as prime minister, for all intents and purposes establishing a de facto military government. As these developments were occurring, the meeting between Mobutus representative and the ADFL commenced in secrecy in Pretoria. No settlement was reached; however, the two parties did agree to: (1) the urgent need for a political solution; (2) territorial sovereignty and unity; (3) multi-party elections; (4) peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. The ADFL captured Mbuji-Mayi on April 5 and Lubumbashithe provincial capital of mineral-rich Shabafour days later. On April 10, the United States publicly severed support for Mobutu when White House spokesperson Michael McCurry stated "Mobutism is about to become a creature of history." McCurry added that it is time to move "into the next chapter of [Zaires] history."
- The United States could afford to tell Mobutu to step down for the following reasons:
- With the Cold War over, policy toward Zaire was no longer viewed through that filter;
- The United States could not prevent the ADFL from making dramatic military gains because of the weakness of the Zairean military;
- The United States, France, and Belgium could not intervene militarily to prevent the rebels from winning due to the domestic political and economic costs (reports indicate that France, however, did provide Mobutu with weapons during this period);
- The Clinton administration was confident that it could manage a political transition in Zaire, while getting the parties to agree to political and economic terms acceptable to the U.S. The United States had already managed political settlements in Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa in the 1990s, and it expects to use the same formula in Zaire. Conveniently, in mid-March UNITA finally agreed to joining a government of national unity with the Angolan government, a development which implied that Savimbi would not operate out of Zaire in the future.
The United States acted on its decision to drop Mobutu when Clintons special envoy, Bill Richardson, traveled to Zaire to arrange a meeting between Kabila and Mobutu. That meeting was originally scheduled for May 2, to be held on a South African icebreaker, the SAS Outeniqua, off the coast of Congo-Brazzaville. The United States wanted the two parties to establish a cease-fire, start talks that included Tshisedeki, and form a transition government, leading to elections. Many Zaireans expected the United States to ask Mobutu to step down thus allowing a political transition. The talks finally were held on May 4 with Mandela mediating. Mobutu stated that he was willing to hand over power to an elected government; Kabila demanded that the ADFL assume power over a transitional authority and Mobutu cede power to that body. The two parties agreed to meet within ten days for further talks. The United States prefers an agreement be made before the ADFL reaches Kinshasa, but all reports as of this writing indicate that Kabilas forces will "liberate" Kinshasa in a matter of days, giving Kabila more leverage in negotiations.
A Post-Mobutu Zaire?
The optimism the May 4 talks exuded among Zaireans and the Zairean exile community has not been felt in that country since the 1960 national elections. The imminent end of the Mobutu regime breeds hope. But what will the post-Mobutu Zairean political culture look like? The United States wants a political transition based on power sharing similar to that implemented in South Africa. Even if Mobutu disappears, the U.S. wants his cronies to participate in the transition, leading to multi-party elections. The U.S. is also trying to discredit Kabila, to prevent him from assuming power, by claiming that he lacks experience as a political leader. The U.S. is doing this because it does not know exactly what the self-proclaimed ex-Marxist will do once he gets power. The U.S. ploy is suspect (witness the long list of political leaders it has supported throughout the Third World. Despite Mandelas lack of experience in governing, the U.S. had no problem supporting his presidency).
Over the past seven months the ADFL, under Kabilas leadership, has not only stated what it intends to do in a post-Mobutu government, but has also given an indication of how the ADFL will govern. The primary message the ADFL has propagated is that it wants to eliminate Mobutus kleptocracy, rid the country of all vestiges of Mobutus Zaireanization project, and oppose "tribalism." Politically, the coalition is committed to multi-party elections. Kabila has assured the international community that the ADFL would prevent any regional secession, although he also claims the ADFL will extend greater autonomy to the provinces. As for the economy, Kabila claims the ADFL will pursue free market policies. He has also assured businesses that the ADFL wants multinational corporations to stay in Zaire and help rehabilitate the country; negotiations that the ADFL has already conducted with numerous corporations reinforce this.
However, a post-Mobutu Zaire faces an enormous task for the future. The most pressing problem will be establishing a democratic political system without ethnic bloodletting and vendetta. In recent African history, the hope of political change has often tragically reverted to extreme violence; Ethiopia, Uganda, and Angola are traumatic examples that come to mind. How the new leadership will address the legacy of hatred and violence rooted in colonial and neo-colonial rule will be crucial. This will require an adept political hand, one that Kabila seems to possess based on his performance since October 1996. Moreover, if peace and stability can be achieved in Zaire, perhaps political stability can be sustained throughout the Great Lakes region, the Sudan, and Angola.
The other problem facing Zaire is the reordering of the economy away from the nations wealth being siphoned to the multinationals and Mobutu. That can be accomplished by establishing honest, efficient, and accountable politics. This implies commitment to a national development plan, which aims to rehabilitate and reconstruct the social and economic infrastructure of the country. Zaire, rich in minerals, hydroelectric power, and fertile soil, has the resources. This also implies that the new regime must foster a populist democracy where womens groups, the human rights community, grassroots organizations, and the rest of civil society all have a say in the distribution of resources. This also means that the United States and the international financial community should consider all of Mobutus wealth as stolen and it should be repatriated to the country.
The problem with that scenario is that Zaires "second independence" isnt happening in the 1960s and the 1970s, where the Cold War allowed space for nationalist projects to consolidate (particularly in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Angola between 1977-1979, despite U.S. hostility). Instead, it is happening in the late 1990s, a decade characterized by globalization, structural adjustment, neoliberalism, and GATT. The U.S. foreign policy imperative has been to smash any nationalist development project, while the international financial organizations (IMF, GATT, etc.) destroy any vestige of national sovereignty, forcing countries to further integrate into the world capitalist system and subscribe to the neo-liberal prescription. The political mechanism for achieving this has been U.S. defined "democratization," the system the Clinton administration is trying to drive down Kabilas throat at this very moment. Recent history has shown that the United States will not let up until those goals have been achieved. If Kabila can prevent the United States from making these economic and political determinations, perhaps Zaires "second independence" may be the keystone to African resistance to the "New World Order." If Kabila doesnt succeed, things will get worse.