Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns

Background from Wikipedia
The original people in Rwanda and the Congo were the ancient hunter-gatherers of Africa. They were the ancestors of both the Mbuti people of the Ituri rainforest, and the Twa of the African Great Lakes region. The Hutus arrived from West Africa, as part of the Bantu expansion. Lastly came the Tutsi, a Nilotic herding and warrior people, who became the rulers of the Hutu. Due to mixed marriages with the Bantus, the Twa have become somewhat taller than their Mbuti brethren. The Twa do not own land or cattle, but instead support themselves as game hunters, guards and potters. Thirty percent of the Twa were killed during the 1994 genocide.

The First and Second Congo wars, which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during late 1990s and early 2000s, is the subject of this book. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has also been known as Zaire and the Belgian Congo. The Congo wars have killed five million people. Most of the deaths were civilians, not soldiers. Most of the civilians deaths were caused by displacement from farms, food requisitions by the army, malnutrition, poor sanitation and disease. There were also 200,000 rapes. The United Nations did not make a military intervention to stop either the Rwandan genocide or the Congo wars, but instead provided only humanitarian aid. The book begins with the Rwandan genocide, because that was the trigger for the Congo wars.

Hutus and Tutsi
A social stratification, with the Tutsi herders above and the Hutu farmers below, existed in Rwanda before the arrival of the Europeans. However, this stratification was fluid, and a Hutu could become a Tutsi by making enough money to buy cattle. When the European colonists arrived in the 19th century, they introduced identity cards, which were labeled with the person’s ethnicity: Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. The Europeans favored the Tutsi with jobs in the colonial administration. Even after colonization, marriages between Hutus and Tutsis were still commonplace. The Kiga (the mountain people) of Uganda and Rwanda were classified as Hutus by the Europeans, but they saw themselves as Kiga not Hutu. There are also many ethnic Tutsi, called Banyamulenge, living in the Congo, near Lake Kivu.

Rwandan Genocide
Juvénal Habyarimana was president of Rwanda from 1973 to 1994. The French shipped weapons to the Hutus in the civil war between the Hutu Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The cease-fire in the civil war ended when Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down on April 6, 1994. The genocide was organized by the Hutu government in Kigali. Much of the genocide was performed by the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi Hutu youth militias. There were about two hundred thousand killers. The Rwandan Patriotic Front, lead by Paul Kagame, invaded from Uganda and captured the Rwandan capital of Kigali in July, 1994. The Hutu soldiers then fled to the African Great Lakes region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Hutu Refugees
One of the main problems in the refugee camps near Lake Kivu, was that the Hutu refugees from Rwanda included both the machete killers and innocent Hutus who fled for fear of being killed simply because they were Hutus. They were mixed together in refugee camps. The international aid brigades could not differentiate between soldiers and civilians, so they gave food and medical aid to all. Cholera was a major problem in the camps. The Rwandan Patriotic Front raided refugee camps, killing FAR militiamen, and forcing the repatriations of Rwandans. Half a million Rwandans eventually returned home. There was much more foreign aid given to refugee camps in the Congo, than to the orphans and widows in Rwanda.

Mobutu Sese Seko
Mobutu Sese Seko (Joseph Mobutu), ruler of the DRC since the 1960s, was supported by the West because he opposed the socialist countries Angola, the French Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania. There was lots of mineral wealth in the Congo: turquoise, copper, cobalt, zinc, tin, tungsten, and diamonds. But the mineral revenues went mostly to the rulers, and not to building, or even maintaining, the country’s infrastructure. Mobutu Sese Seko had supported the Hutu-dominated FAR in the Rwandan civil war. Mobutu also provided a haven in the DRC for Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of Juvénal.

First Congo War (1996-1997)
In 1996 a regional coalition formed to overthrow Mobutu: Angola, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda, and Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, sought out Laurent Kabila in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, to be the head of the new Congo government, replacing Mobutu. In October 1996 the Rwandan army invaded the Congo, starting at the African Great Lakes region. The overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko happened in May 1997. Mobutu fled across the Congo river to the Republic of the Congo.

Regime of Laurent Kabila
Laurent Kabila was sworn in on May 29, 1997 in Kamanyola stadium. Congolese who had fled abroad during the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko returned to take up government appointments. Laurent Kabila ruled the Congo from May 1997 to August 1998. During this time, Kabila did nothing to help the people, but only consolidated his power. On the plus side, he was not as bad as Mobutu.

Second Congo War (1998-2003)
The Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) was formed in 1998 to remove Laurent Kabila from power in the Congo. It was made up of leaders from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Once they crossed the border into the Congo, the RCD soldiers received insufficient supplies from Rwanda, so they had to pillage the countryside, making enemies of the villagers. Many Bantu Congolese saw the Banyamulenge Tutsi as foreigners, who were not loyal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Local (Mai-Mai) militias fought the RCD, because they saw that army as a proxy for Rwanda. Laurent Kabila armed these Mai-Mai militias, and said that any Tutsi with a weapon, whether soldier or civilian, should be shot. Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad supported the Kabila regime. In particular, Robert Mugabe, dictator of Zimbabwe, supported Kabila, because Kabila owed him money and so should stay in power long enough to pay Mugabe back. Also, Mugabe made money by selling arms to Kabila.

Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC)
Part of the second Congo war was a rebellion in the northern Congo by the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), lead by Jean-Pierre Bemba. Bemba was a businessman, involved with coffee, air transport and mobile phones. The MLC was more homegrown than the RCD, but it did receive some backing from Uganda. The MLC gained control of the northwestern province of Equateur, then moved eastward to the northeastern province of Orientale. In the Ituri region of the Orientale province, the MLC got bogged down in the local ethnic conflict between the Hema herders and the Lendu farmers, so it retreated back to Equateur.

End of Second Congo War
Kabila was assassinated in January 16, 2001. Laurent’s son Joseph Kabila took over the reigns later that month. An agreement signed in April 2002 at the Inter-Congolese Dialog in Sun City, South Africa, made Joseph Kabila president and Jean-Pierre Bemba premier. A second agreement was reached at the Inter-Congolese Dialog in December 2002. The transitional government specified by this treaty started governing in July 2003.

This entry was posted in Africa.

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