What Should President Bush Say About the Congo During His Trip to Africa?

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Carrie Crawford
202-584-6512
info@friendsofthecongo.org

What Should President Bush Say About the Congo During His Trip to Africa?

Washington, DC - February 15, 2008 - As president George Bush travels to Africa, the world's attention will be focused on the countries that he visits; Rwanda is one of those countries. Rwanda and its leader Paul Kagame are deeply implicated in what the United Nations say is the deadliest conflict since World War Two. Rwanda's and Uganda's 1996 and 1998 invasions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which were backed and supported by the United States and other western powers unleashed untold human misery and suffering.

According to the International Rescue Committee, 5.4 million Congolese have died, 50 percent of which are children five years old or younger. Amnesty International has reported that tens of thousands of women have been raped, some victims as young as 2 years old and as old as 70 years. Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says the Congo conflict is one of the ten most underreported stories of 2007. In those fleeting moments when the conflict is reported, it is done without context and often presented as wanton killing by Africans perpetually doomed to committing insane acts of violence and atrocities without any mention of what fuels the conflict.

American, Canadian, and European corporations' pilfering of Congo's natural resources is inextricably linked to the heinous rapes and appalling deaths. Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reminded the world in his January 2008 interview with the Financial Times of London that "The international community has systematically looted the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and we should not forget that."

A myriad of reports since 2001 has documented the pillaging of the Congo by neighboring countries and western corporations and its role in fueling the conflict in the Congo. To the chagrin of many human rights groups and people of conscience throughout the globe, western nations have refused to hold their corporations accountable and put the necessary pressure on their client states of Rwanda and Uganda to keep their hands off the Congo.

Congo's gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, chromium, germanium, nickel, and uranium are central to the functioning of many modern amenities such as cell phones, computers, electronic devices, our children's video game consoles, kitchen appliances, automobiles, airplanes, and numerous other devices. Its rainforest, often called the World's second lung, is central to the world's battle against climate change. Undoubtedly we in the West are indirectly benefiting from the pilfering and the widespread killing in the Congo.

President Bush has an opportunity to say and do a number of things that can make a positive difference in the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

1. Demand that Paul Kagame, a former Fort Leavenworth, Kansas military student, immediately cease his interference in the Congo.
2. Pressure Paul Kagame to open up democratic space in Rwanda and provide a path for the Hutu's in the Congo to return to Rwanda.
3. Call for a process of national reconciliation and justice throughout the entire Congo, not just in the east. Such reconciliation should institute a process where the victims of human rights abuses and atrocities are able to secure justice.
4. Call for U.S. and other western corporations who are poised to make spectacular profits in the midst of the rapes and killings to cease their pilfering of the Congo.
5. Declare that the natural wealth of the Congo belongs to and should benefit first and foremost the people of the Congo and not solely foreign multi-nationals.