The Democratic Republic of the Congo in Crisis
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today before
this subcommittee on the grave situation in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo. The Congolese war--an unprecedented regionalized war that has drawn at
least six armies onto Congolese soil--is potentially among the most dangerous
conflicts on the globe. The ongoing fighting threatens regional stability,
hampers economic progress, endangers the lives of millions of people,
perpetuates human rights abuses, and impedes the democratic transformation of
Africa's third-largest country. Credible reports of inter-ethnic violence,
communal massacres, and attacks against non-combatants because of their
ethnicity echo the tragedies of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the subsequent
alleged massacres inside Zaire in late 1996 and 1997. There are credible reports
that rebel forces in the east have killed civilians, including women and
children, believed to be sympathetic to the government. There are also reports
of mass graves left by departing government soldiers. All these allegations need
to be thoroughly investigated.
The political, economic, and humanitarian stakes in the Congo are high. The
Administration thus looks forward to working in concert with Members of
Congress, and this subcommittee, to continue encouraging regional states and
Congolese leaders to achieve a peaceful and lasting resolution to this crisis
and to address the key issues that have plagued the region over the years.
As I testified before this subcommittee in March, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo is one of the most important countries in Africa. Its political course and
economic prospects will have enormous implications for not only the people of
the Congo but also for many in the Central and Southern African regions as well.
The Congo is home to roughly 50 million people and borders nine other countries.
With its vast mineral, agricultural, and water resources, the country has the
potential to serve as an economic powerhouse--to improve the lives not only of
its own citizens but of many of its poor and troubled neighbors.
Our policy objectives in the Congo have been consistent and clear. We have
sought peace, prosperity, democracy, and respect for fundamental human rights.
We have worked to counter those who would perpetuate genocide in the region. We
have encouraged the establishment of an inclusive political transition that
would end the cycle of violence and impunity; build respect for the rule of law
and human rights; and create the conditions for a credible democratic
transformation, economic reform, and the stability required for lasting
development and reconstruction. As a consequence, we have been committed to a
policy of engagement in support of the Congolese people who suffered so much
under Mobutu Sese Seko's tyranny. We have sought to do this notwithstanding the
difficulties we have had in working with the new government in the Congo.
The current conflict is the newest chapter in Central Africa's tragic history.
The Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which over half a million Tutsis and moderate
Hutus were brutally murdered, set the stage for the recent crisis. Technically,
the Rwandan genocide ended when the current Rwandan Government came to power in
July 1994. Yet, those who committed the genocide continued to attack inside
Rwanda from the security of the refugee camps of the former Zaire. Congolese,
Rwandan, and other forces disbanded these camps and overthrew the long-time
dictator President Mobutu. The 32-year regime of Mobutu was marked by economic
and institutional decay and by corruption and repression on an enormous scale.
It left the Congo and all of Central Africa weakened and vulnerable.
In May 1997, the new government, headed by Laurent Kabila, seized control by
force of a country that was divided, demoralized, and bankrupt. The fall of
Mobutu offered new hope for the Congolese people and for all of Central Africa
that serious economic and political reform could unleash the country's vast
potential, allowing the Democratic Republic of the Congo to take its rightful
place as a constructive regional power. Viewed as the catalyst who brought an
end to Mobutu, President Kabila initially enjoyed the widespread support and
goodwill of the Congolese people and many in the international community. The
United States Administration joined the international effort to try to assist
the Kabila government to achieve its stated goals of constitutional reform,
democratic elections, respect for fundamental human rights, and economic
recovery. But, unfortunately, the promise of the post-Mobutu era has yet to be
Indeed, many of the roots of the current crisis stem from the failure of
President Kabila's government to implement a credible, open transition and to
respect the human rights of all Congo's citizens. The continuing ban on
political party activity and the continuing pattern of the arbitrary arrests and
detentions of political and civil society leaders stand in stark contrast to the
government's professed commitment to democratic values and goals. The new
government has improved the personal security for many Congolese and implemented
much-needed currency reform. But its consistent interference with the work of
the United Nations investigative team on human rights, its political repression,
and its reluctance to work with international financial institutions have made
it very difficult for the international community to be of meaningful assistance
to the Congo.
Today's crisis, which has internal as well as external antecedents, threatens
not only to undermine any hope of early reconstruction and reconciliation in the
Congo, but also to engulf Central Africa and the Great Lakes region in a bloody
and protracted regional war--a war that could leave the Congo divided and the
neighboring states openly hostile to one another for years to come. The conflict
also is causing a serious humanitarian emergency. Shortages of food, medicine,
electricity, and water in Kinshasa, Kisangani, and elsewhere have been prevalent
and are threatening hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
In addition, we are gravely concerned by the detention by Congolese security
forces of hundreds, if not thousands, of Congolese ethnic Tutsis and others
believed to be Tutsis or rebel sympathizers. Many reportedly have been tortured
and summarily executed simply because of their presumed ethnicity. Congolese
Government radio has broadcast hate messages, sometimes issued by senior
government officials, that are reminiscent of those that incited genocide in
Rwanda in 1994. It should be noted that some Congolese Government officials have
courageously responded to appeals from the United States and others in the
international community to intervene to save the lives of innocent non-
combatants. However, ethnic tensions, already high, are now greatly exacerbated
on both sides of the conflict.
Mr. Chairman, the United States remains deeply concerned about the effect of the
fighting on non-combatants of all backgrounds and the potential for a resurgence
of war crimes, including genocide. We reiterate our call to all parties and
armies to ensure the safety and protection of innocent civilians.
Although there have been several regional efforts to end the conflict, notably
two summit meetings in Victoria Falls, two Southern African Development
Community (SADC) meetings, and talks on the margins of the Non-Aligned Movement
(NAM) summit in Durban, the rebels have been excluded, and regional parties
remain at an impasse. The second meeting in Victoria Falls, mediated by Zambian
president Frederick Chiluba and involving OAU Secretary General Salim Salim,
resulted in an agreement on the desirability of a cease-fire, but the rebels
were excluded and fighting continues. Further discussions on implementing the
agreement in Addis Ababa on September 10 by regional defense ministers and again
at a SADC summit over the weekend in Mauritius resulted in no progress. Despite
the gravity of the situation, recent negotiations have floundered on several
obstacles. Kabila has refused to enter into good faith negotiations with rebel
representatives. Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, the Congo's strongest backers,
have apparently not supplied sufficient pressure on Kabila to find a political
accommodation with the rebels. Rwanda and Uganda, for their part, have refused
to acknowledge the full extent of their role inside the Congo.
The United States has repeatedly urged all parties to the conflict to implement
an immediate cease-fire. We share the perspective of regional leaders that a
lasting resolution of the conflict will require the withdrawal of all foreign
forces and the launching of comprehensive negotiations to address both issues of
border security for all parties and issues of inclusive governance for the
The United States has been active in efforts to assist the countries of the
region to resolve this crisis. In numerous public statements and through
energetic diplomatic action we have affirmed our strong and unyielding support
for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Congo. We condemn any
violation of this fundamental principle of both the United Nations Charter and
the Organization of African Unity. Mr. Chairman, let me be clear: The United
States in no way supported, encouraged or condoned the intervention of Rwandan
or Uganda forces in the Congo, as some have suggested. This is a specious and
ridiculous accusation that I want to lay to rest once and for all. We have
indicated to both Uganda and Rwanda that we fully understand their legitimate
security interests in countering insurgent attacks from Congolese soil. We also
share regional and international frustration with the Kinshasa government's
failures with respect to both democratization and human rights. Nevertheless, we
have firmly expressed the United States' conviction that foreign intervention to
topple the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not acceptable.
It has substantially increased the dangers of wider regional conflict and
destabilization and allowed the Kinshasa authorities to divert attention away
from critically needed political and economic reform. To emphasize our concern,
we withdrew a short-term training team and an assessment team that were in
Rwanda at the time.
While we note that the Southern African states--Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe--
that have intervened did so at the request of the Congolese Government, we,
nonetheless, regard their involvement as destabilizing and very dangerous as
well. From our perspective, foreign cross-border military activity is
dramatically exacerbating an already volatile situation. For this reason, we
have been pressing all concerned for a cessation of hostilities and the quickest
possible withdrawal of all foreign military forces.
The United States has been working actively with regional states to urge them to
end the fighting in Congo and to keep the lines of communication open among all
relevant players. Our immediate goal has been to stop the bloodshed and protect
the lives of innocent civilians. The United States also has sought to alleviate
the humanitarian consequences of the crisis. We are monitoring closely the
situation in the Congo and are in regular contact with humanitarian agencies in
the region. In particular, we are working with the World Food Program, which
plans to provide food aid for Kinshasa. A substantial amount of this food is
being donated by USAID's Food for Peace Program. We also have urged all sides to
ensure the safety of noncombatants and to take actions to stop ethnic violence.
We have strongly pressed the Congolese Government to stop its inflammatory
statements inciting ethnic hatred. We have called on all sides to cease actions
aimed at depriving innocent civilian populations of essential goods and
services, and we are working with the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) to ensure the safety of atPrisk groups being detained in the Congo.
Our diplomatic efforts have been constant and multifaceted. President Clinton
urged President Kabila to implement essential internal reforms during their
meeting at a summit of six African leaders in Entebbe, Uganda in March.
Secretary Albright has personally and repeatedly pressed our concerns about the
crisis in conversations with President Kabila, President Museveni, United
Nations Secretary General Annan, and other African leaders. My staff and I have
been in contact with the Rwandan leadership, met with an envoy from President
Kabila, and discussed these issues regularly with representatives of the
Angolan, Zimbabwean, Namibian, and Ugandan Governments. We sent the President's
Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Howard Wolpe to the Congo, Zimbabwe,
Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, and Angola to press regional leaders to halt their
involvement and to achieve a negotiated political settlement that deals
comprehensively with the internal and external issues at stake in the Congo.
Assistant Secretary Princeton Lyman consulted closely with the United Nations
Secretary General and others on the margins of the Non-Aligned Movement summit
in Durban with the aim of encouraging a swift peaceful resolution.
We have also been active in the UN Security Council to focus attention on the
strife in Central Africa. The United States helped lead efforts to adopt the
August 31 Security Council Presidential statement calling for a cease-fire and
withdrawal of all foreign forces as well as highlighting concerns over ethnic
Although the Administration had to suspend operations at our Embassy in Kinshasa
on August 15 for security reasons, after consultation with the Senate, we took
the rare step of sending President Clinton's nominee, William Swing, to the
region as Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a recess
Ambassador Swing has established contacts with President Kabila's government,
diplomats, and the United Nations and non-governmental organizations--NGOs--on
both sides of the Congo River. He and a small team in Brazzaville are working to
promote a peaceful end to the conflict and a cessation of human rights abuses.
They also are assisting American citizens in the Congo. Ambassador Swing will
resume operations in Kinshasa as soon as the security situation permits.
Mr. Chairman, as we approach this crisis we must bear in mind that a sustainable
resolution of the region's problems requires addressing both the issues of
internal governance and the issues of external security that underlie the
current conflict. Internally, there will never be long-term stability in the
Congo and neighboring states until there is a more inclusive government and a
political process firmly based on democracy and a healthy respect for the human
rights of all of Congo's citizens.
Externally, there will never be long-term regional stability until meaningful
action is taken to address the threat that Congolese-based insurgents and
genocidaires pose to regional states. A way must be found to bar the Democratic
Republic of the Congo from being used as a base for insurgent attacks into other
countries, including movements that carry out genocide. Given the political and
administrative vacuum that exists in the eastern Congo, any solution to the
current crisis will depend upon creating new border security arrangements. The
Congolese Government has thus far failed to prevent UNITA as well as Rwandan
genocidaires and Sudanese-backed Ugandan rebels from operating out of Congolese
territory. The Congolese Government has failed to resolve the crucial issue of
the Banyamulenge citizenship, to ensure that ethnic Tutsis who have lived in the
Congo for generations enjoy national rights and privileges. These failures have
undermined regional security and contributed to the current perilous situation.
In addition, we are gravely concerned about reports of the Kinshasa government's
close collaboration with pariah regimes that are known supporters of
international terrorism, including Libya and Sudan.
A comprehensive political solution is necessary to meet the security needs of
both the Congo and its neighbors. Thus, the United States will continue to press
issues of concern both with the Government and the people of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo and with its regional neighbors. We will continue to
insist upon the need for a broad-based transitional government, free and fair
elections, and the protection of human rights for all Congolese citizens. We are
prepared to work with civil society leaders to ensure that the Congolese people
have a voice in their future through, for example, electoral assistance
programs. Progress on this front will require the selection of truly
representative constituent and legislative assemblies, the lifting of the ban on
political activity, and the adoption of a constitution that provides for
representative government and citizenship for all ethnic groups.
We also will continue to urge genuine economic reform and good governance. And
we will continue to cooperate with the World Bank, the IMF, other multilateral
and bilateral donors, and NGOs to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of the
Finally, we will continue to work to prevent a resurgence of genocide and to
ensure the protection of human rights in the Great Lakes region. We are pursuing
the creation of an international coalition against genocide, called for at the
Entebbe Summit attended by President Clinton in March. We support the
International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda and are pleased that it recently
issued its first sentence. This is an important step in breaking the cycle of
violence and impunity in the region. With Congress' support, we intend to
implement the President's Great Lakes Justice Initiative to further this goal.
Drawing on African support and expertise, we aim to help the public and private
sectors throughout the region develop justice systems that are impartial,
credible, and effective. And we will continue to stress the imperative that the
Governments of the Congo and Rwanda investigate thoroughly and seriously the
human rights violations committed during the 1996P97 war, and hold accountable
those who have committed these abuses.
Mr. Chairman, the United States wishes to assist the Congolese people and their
neighbors resolve this conflict swiftly and urgently. Africa cannot meet the
demands or seize the opportunities of the 21st century without viable and stable
Central and Southern African regions. The important strides that many African
nations have made toward economic and political transformation could be thwarted
if widespread hostilities continue. The Congo began this decade under repressive
dictatorship, yet, last year, it enjoyed a window of opportunity to achieve
significant renewal and change. The quick closing of this window is testimony to
the continuing economic and political fragility of many African states. It would
be tragic if the Congo ends this decade further fragmented and destabilized.
These are all reasons why the Congolese people must resolve and then recover
from this conflict and eventually reclaim the promise of an inclusive society, a
democratic government, and a sustainable and growing economy. The United States,
for our part, must continue to work with the Congo and other fragile African
nations and governments, especially during the most volatile and vulnerable
stages of their development. Africa's progress will not be linear, nor is it
assured. Yet, our own national security is tied too closely to the continent's
economic and political success for the United States to be a passive bystander
at such a critical stage in Africa's history.
However, the United States must also emphasize and acknowledge that Africans
themselves will plot their own destiny--their own path toward peace and
stability. Neither the United States nor any external actor can resolve this
conflict for the people of the Congo or for the region. They must do so
themselves, and we will continue to try to help in this regard as best we can.
Mr. Chairman, all the African countries and the leaders of the Congo who have
contributed to the crisis have reached a perilous crossroads. They themselves
must determine whether to continue on the present violent path to the detriment
of their people or pause and step away from armed military action and work in
concert to find a viable solution. We strongly support recent African diplomatic
initiatives to bring all sides to the negotiating table. We also fully support
the significant efforts being made both by OAU Secretary General Salim Salim and
by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Their efforts are essential to
resolving the current crisis in Central Africa. I look forward to working with
Members of this subcommittee, as always, to lend support to regional states as
they work to address the challenges before the Democratic Republic of the Congo
and, more broadly, before Central and Southern Africa. Thank you.
[end of document]
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