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United Nations
The U.N. in April pulled out from the Congo the Secretary-General’s Investigative Team (SGIT) which was probing massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees there during President Kabila’s rise to power. The decision followed months of government obstruction of the SGIT’s work, including harassment of witnesses and the detention of an investigator. The Investigative Team’s June 30 report, admittedly incomplete, cited individual massacres of refugees and called for more investigations and a tribunal to try the perpetrators. In a weak response, the Security Council issued a presidential statement on July 13 condemning the massacres, but stopped short of authorizing an independent investigation and prosecution of perpetrators. It referred these tasks to the Congolese and Rwandan governments and required them to report back to the council by mid-October. When his country’s relations deteriorated with Rwandain August, the Congolese Foreign Minister Jean-Charles Okoto Lolakombe in an address before the U.N. General Assembly admitted for the first time that massacres did occur during the 1996-97 war, and entirely attributed these to the Rwandan Patriotic Army.

For the second consecutive year, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Congo, Roberto Garretón, appointed under a 1994 resolution of the Commission on Human Rights, remained persona non grata in Kinshasa. His January 1998 report to the commission concluded that President Kabila’s government “has eliminated the civil rights to life, liberty, physical integrity, etc.”; and that “the rights of political participation have been suspended.” The commission voted in April to continue the special rapporteur’s mandate for another year.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights maintained a field office in Congo, with a focus on monitoring, cooperating with the authorities in implementing the relevant international instruments, strengthening NGOs, and reporting to the special rapporteur. In March, several ministers and high officials participated in a three day seminar organized by the field office and hammered out an official “national plan for the defense of human rights.” The severity of the government’s attack on ASAHDO and other national rights groups which coincided with the announcement made a mockery of that promise.

The U.N. backed regional initiatives seeking a peaceful resolution to the renewed Congolese conflict. On August 31, the Security Council issued a presidential statement that expressed alarm at the plight of the civilian population throughout the country and urged all parties to respect and protect human rights and respect humanitarian law. The statement also called for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of foreign forces, and the engagement of a political dialogue to end the war in the Congo.

Donors pledged U.S.$ 32 million by mid-year to a Trust Fund set up by the World Bank to support the health, education, and transportation sectors.

Regional Organizations
The war in Congo shattered the regional alliance that backed President Kabila’s own rebellion less than two years before. Several rounds of regional talks between leaders of the six countries with troops in the Congo broke down, among other factors, over the representation of the rebels. Human rights issues did not figure prominently in these initiatives, and a cease-fire remained elusive by the end of October. President Mandela of South Africa spurred SADC all along to push for the opening up of the political process in the Congo if lasting solutions to that county’s problems were to be found. Like the U.N., the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) followed the lead of sub-regional states in the search for peace.

European Union
The European Union (E.U.) repeatedly voiced some rhetorical commitment to human rights in the Congo, with little results. A high-level E.U. delegation visited Congo in June and stressed in discussions with the government the need for a transition to democracy, an impartial judiciary, and human rights improvements. A 1992 freeze from the E.U. on direct development aid, in protest against the slow pace of democratic reforms and rampant human rights abuses under Mobutu, remained in force. Despite the freeze, the E.U. provided $100 million for road construction and health infrastructure in the Congo in 1998. This mirrored the $400 the E.U. provided from 1992 to 1997 for a wide range of programs implemented by nongovernmental organization in Congo. The E.U. pledged $33 million to help organize elections on condition that all political parties be allowed to participate, and allocated about $150 million to humanitarian assistance to the Great Lakes region as of September.

In presidential statements on August 11 and 27, the E.U. expressed its concern about the growing crisis in the Congo, called for political dialogue among all the parties involved, and strongly condemned human rights violations by all of the forces involved. The E.U.’s special envoy to the Great Lakes, Aldo Ajello, toured the troubled region in an “evaluation mission” in September. Although he did not dwell on the human rights aspects of the crisis, he called in public statements for a solution that would guarantee the long term security of the Congo and its neighbors. At the political level, he called for dialogue between all the Congolese political factions, and their participation in the transitional process.

United States
The December 1997 visit by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Kinshasa solidified an uncritical policy of engagement with the Kabila government. The lack of attention during the secretary’s visit to human rights and democratization in Congo drew wide criticism which the secretary sought to deflect by arguing, in a Los Angeles Times article of December 24, that working with leaders who are “at best, imperfect democrats” requires the U.S. not to sit on the sidelines. In the absence of public U.S. condemnations of rampant rights abuses, the Congolese authorities could easily discount protests forwarded to them through the channels of quiet diplomacy. Relations between the U.S. and Congo began to visibly deteriorate in February, when Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. special presidential envoy for promoting democracy in Africa, met with leaders of civil society and the opposition and, as a consequence, Kabila and his foreign minister refused to meet him. Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi was arrested and internally exiled shortly thereafter.

Secretary Albright announced during her visit that the administration would pledge $10 million for the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Congo, and would seek an additional $35-40 million in aid to the government. In fact, the administration faced legislative constraints on providing significant aid to the Congo, including the Faircloth amendment to the Foreign Assistance Appropriation Act tying any assistance to the Congolese government to its full cooperation with the U.N. probe in accounting for civilian massacres in Congo. A waiver obtained under the authority of the secretary of state, for aid going to the central government, allowed the U.S. to provide the $10 million it had pledged to the World Bank Trust Fund in addition to $10 million for the regional small-scale development programs overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and another $10 million for heath, environment,and private sector activities. The U.S. also earmarked $500,000 for eventual constitution drafting, elections, or judicial reform initiatives.

During President Clinton’s Africa trip in March, he held a short, private meeting with President Kabila at the summit in Entebbe, Uganda, attended by other African leaders. Clinton reportedly told Kabila that he had followed Kabila’s march across Zaire with great interest, and that he had come too far to fail. Apparently, no specifics were discussed. However, no sooner did Kabila return to Kinshasa than he began spinning his participation in the Entebbe summit and his short meeting with Clinton as an endorsement of his policies. This further soured his relations with the U.S. Relations continued to slide following the withdrawal of the U.N. investigative team in April. On April 23, the White House press secretary issued a statement expressing concern about the withdrawal of the team. It went on to note that the lack of progress on political reform, including the banning of political parties and of a leading human rights organization, the exiling of a prominent opposition leader, and the trial of civilians before military courts, “calls into question the commitment of the government to democratic principles.” Despite the stronger rhetoric, the U.S. failed in July to push for a stronger Security Council resolution on the investigative team’s report.

The rules of quiet diplomacy still governed U.S. relations with Rwanda and Uganda, its staunchest allies in the region. At the outbreak of the current Congo crisis, the administration initially adopted a remarkable silence on the two countries’ military involvement, even faced with evidence that their troops were part of the rebellion which was feared to be responsible for serious abuses against civilians. It was not until August 19 that a State Department spokesman acknowledged Rwandan and Ugandan military intervention, and even then it was couched in terms apparently intended to justify their actions. “Countering genocide is in the national security interest of Rwanda and other countries in the region. The failure of the Congolese government to deal with border security and citizenship for the Banyamulenge population has undermined regional security. Nevertheless, we can in no way condone or accept military intervention into Congo by Rwanda, Uganda or any other government in the region.” The statement called on the Congolese government, the rebel leadership, and foreign forces to prevent human rights abuses in areas under their control, and to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers.

At the same time, U.S. policy toward the Congolese government was increasingly forceful, focusing not only on the protection of Americans but also on the protection of other civilians caught in the conflict. The U.S. quickly condemned abuses perpetrated by government forces against Tutsis in Kinshasa, and pushed for access to the detainees by the ICRC.

The policy of the United States came under increasing attack in many parts of Africa, with many voices—including heads of state like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe—accusing the U.S. of supporting the Rwandan and Ugandan actions in Congo. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice responded to such allegations in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Africa on September 15, calling them “specious and ridiculous.” She reiterated that the U.S. “fully understands their legitimate security interests in countering insurgent attacks from Congolese soil,” and shared “regional and international frustration with the Kinshasa government’s failures with respect to both democratization and human rights.” Nevertheless, she contended that foreign intervention to overthrow the government was “not acceptable.” Rice said nothing about reports that Rwandan or Ugandan troops might have themselves been implicated in rebel abuses against civilians. She went on to state that the U.S. considered Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean intervention as “destabilizing and very dangerous as well.”




The Democratic Republic of Congo







Sierra Leone

South Africa





Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Abduction and Enslavement of Ugandan Children

Human Rights Causes of the Famine in Sudan


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