By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare
For those who say Zimbabwe joined the Second Congolese war for looting and personal interests of its leaders, here are a few facts to debunk this western narrative.
Firstly, Zimbabwe joined the Second Congolese War as an SADC mandate that was informed by the SADC mutual defense philosophy emanating from the Frontline States Alliance of 1992, the resolutions of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference of 1995 and SADC ORGAN (Organ of Politics, Defense and Security) resolutions of 1996.
At this juncture, it’s important to note that this war has now gone down in history as the biggest war in terms of casualties since the Second World War, hence it’s known as Africa’s World War, in which over six million people have perished and more than seven nations were involved.
When Congo was assaulted by foreign Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebels [Rally for Congolese Democracy, Banyamulenge and others] from the north and east; Laurent Kabila in retaliation, appealed to Cuba and SADC for military assistance as the rebels made quick progress toward Kinshasa to overthrow him and install Rwandan and Ugandan proxies as the new governors.
In response an emergency SADC meeting was held in Zimbabwe in August of 1998 and three nations: Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia emerged to honor their ORGAN defense resolution obligations. They were joined by three northern regional block countries: Libya, Sudan and Chad. Ironically, the majority of SADC countries curiously chose to remain neutral in the conflict.
Why Did Zimbabwe Go To Congo?
Zimbabwe’s decision was reached to honor the ideals of African unity that were enshrined in the preamble of the OAU founding philosophy which were to defend African people and liberate the continent from colonialism and its counterpart neo-colonialism.
The decision also illustrated Zimbabwe’s commitment [in deed], to the principle of maintaining the spirit of regional and African solidarity [with the Congolese people], that saw it and countries like South Africa, Angola and Namibia benefit from the support of frontline states like Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique during the struggles for liberation.
Strategically, these three SADC states were also against the trends witnessed in west Africa, where that bloc has failed to maintain cooperative regional stability in fighting civil unrest, coups and terrorism in that region, to a point where interregnums have opened up for France and AFRICOM to have military presence and political influence in the region.
Why Did Other SADC Nations Not Participate?
As to the reasons why some SADC countries did not participate in defending Congo in line with the principles of the Frontline States Alliance, African solidarity and SADC ORGAN mutual defense resolutions. Assumptions have been made that a few of those who sat it out like Zambia and Mozambique, chose not to take part because they had played a big enough role in assisting other SADC countries achieving independence. This is why, on this occasion, they passed the baton onto these countries that they liberated, to pay it forward on their behalf.
However, questions remain around the non-participation of a regional power like South Africa, which was liberated by boarder wars fought by other SADC states, resulting in the loss of over 600 000 SADC lives at a cost of over $120 billion.
Various speculative conclusions have been made. Some cite a lack of commitment to regional cooperation by South Africa and Botswana because their western handlers wanted Laurent Kabila to be removed so that a puppet leader, partial to western and white South African corporate interests would replace him.
There is also the notion that the west, had asked South Africa not to interfere because besides removing Kabila, they wanted Congo to descend into turmoil that would push through the UN proposal to divide Congo into five separate states controlled by Tutsi leaders in pursuit of Museveni and Kagame’s Hima Tutsi Empire in the Great Lakes.
The jury is still out on the truth surrounding the reasons why these nations never participated, however, what we know is that the Zimbabwean led SADC intervention in Congo, resulted in Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebels failing to overthrow Kabila, Congo remained as one nation and the war did not spread through out the region after the warring parties were pushed into peace negotiations in Sun City South Africa.
South Africa The Peace Keeper.
The path to peace, all began with the 10th of July 1999 cease fire agreement (Lusaka Protocol) reached in Lusaka Zambia. Albeit, hostilities continued for a while and culminated in Rwandan backed RCD factions breaking into two and one falling into Ugandan control, as they jostled for exclusive power sharing negotiation rights and control of Eastern Congo.
As Rwandan and Ugandan RCD were killing each other for position, Lauren Kabila was assassinated on the 21st of January 2001 by his Tutsi bodyguard and replaced by his son Joseph Kabila, the son of a Tutsi woman.
A month later, US unilateral sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe by the US Congress, for Zimbabwe accepting Kabila’s call for assistance and the government fast tracking land expropriation from white farmers back home.
That same year, South African Defense Forces began their UN peace keeping mission in Congo after the signing of the Declaration of Fundamental Principles in Lusaka by the warring factions on the 4th of May 2001. The Gaborone Act of Commitment in August 2001 would follow and lead to the Sun City talks and the accord being signed in 2002 and ratified in 2003 to bring peace to Congo.
SANDF Corporate Security Duty.
With the UN and SANDF now serving as a rampart in Congo and Joseph Kabila having abandoned his father’s wish to give Congolese resources to his people, South African mining companies belonging to global capital, mining houses like Glencore and politicians, made a beeline to negotiate for concessions with Joseph and soon after many established operations in Congo.
The Bush, Clinton and British Royal Families are rumored to have acquired a 1500 square kilometer copper and cobalt concession, which was turned into a mining giant known as Tenke Fungurume in 2006. This mine is one of Congo’s biggest mining operations.
It’s from these developments that many read South Africa’s entry into peacekeeping in Congo, as South African soldiers being used as a security force to protect the same western interests that had supported Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebels in Congo.
The only difference now is, they are simultaneously protecting the interests of western companies belonging to capital that was behind sponsoring the war in the first place.
South Africa’s Knife In The Back.
This is such an irony when you consider that South Africa never saw the importance of defending a regional partner when it was under attack, but now they don’t mind going in to protect the commercial interests of the same whites (who funded apartheid) who have caused the deaths of over 6mil Africans.
This puts paid to the suspicions that South Africa did not enter the Congolese war with Zimbabwe and other regional partners because they wanted Lauren Kabila to be removed for his desire to protect Congolese resources for his people. When this is put alongside South Africa’s 1973 UN Resolution vote against Gadaffi, a clear pattern begins to emerge.
To date, in Eastern Congo, Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebels continue to fight Interahamwe, ex-FAR and other rebel factions, hustling for territory in areas like Goma and Kisangani where millions of civilians have been massacred and vast minerals (coltan, gold and cobalt) smuggled out of Congo into Rwanda and Uganda, despite UN peacekeeper presence.
Over the past 23 years, reports have put deaths at over 6mil Congolese and Hutu refugees, with another 5mil people displaced all across the world. Meanwhile Kagame, Museveni and Burundian (all Tutsis) rebels continue fighting the Congolese for the wealth of their country.
Zimbabwe Sacrificed For Congolese Peace.
As a conclusion, we can not have unity in Africa without the citizens of Africa understanding their geopolitical history and neo-colonial reality. We also can not have African progress without unity, solidarity and common contribution to causes like mutual defense and economic collaboration.
That’s why it’s important for Zimbabweans in particular, to understand that the participation of their army in Congo was critical in building regional stability and continental unity by stopping the balkanization (breaking up) of Congo for western interests.
More critically, it was important to limit the potential conflagration which could have spread to the entire region in pursuance of Tutsi tribal ambitions to control the Great Lakes as a springboard to dominate the rest of Africa.
Today, even though Kagame might have fallen out with Museveni and they both failed to establish their western sponsored Hima Tutsi, Great Lakes Empire by force; his [Kagame] rebels (made up of his army) continue to control parts of eastern Congo. Alongside that, he has generated a lot of goodwill among the African people through effective propaganda, hence now he is steering AFCFTA (the Africa Free Trade Agreement) under US and western tutelage, and African leaders need to be aware of his tribalist ambitions and prejudice towards the so-called bantu people.
Yes, as with every war, selfish reasons motivated some leaders to participate in Congo, however, the fact that Congo was not fragmented, it remains a functional country today, Tutsis have not taken over Africa and Africa did not descend into war; our government’s reasons for going to Congo were bonafide, sound, critical for continental peace and our national security.