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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World
Number 8 June 2001

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 · Great Lakes (Congo)
 · Juan Carrero Saralegui
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Towards a Culture of Peace

World War in the Great Lakes
In spite of a genocide in Rwanda and the established massacre of millions of people in the D.R of Congo since 10 years, the international community is in hiding ... Why? Till when?

The editorial team of Caravan decided to publish the two interviews that you will be reading in the following pages. These are completed with two explanatory boxes on genocide in Rwanda and war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Why?

Firstly because these interviews of two crusaders for peace - J. K. Murhula of Congo, in-charge of programme at Nairobi Peace Initiative - Africa and Juan Carrero Saralegui, president of the Fundacion s' Olivar and candidate for the Nobel Prize for peace - bring a sincere and precious perspective on the current conflicts in the Africa of the Great Lakes. Their resolution will probably surprise you since they defend a vision that is very different to the one generally suggested by the international media. But gradually as truth uncovers, it is obvious that the media was not up to the level of their mission to inform regularly and give a complete picture to the citizens on this major drama of the 90s.

Secondly because the international community has not yet shown a true will to act towards peace in this devastated region where more than 3 million people died in the past ten years. It failed to put an end to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 - during which ¾ of the Tutsi Population perished - whereas today all reports converge to say that it had the means to stop it; and it is helpless today in terminating war that has been ravaging the DRC for two and a half years - "the biggest battle field of African history, the subject of a conflict that has been named as the 'first world war' of Africa"1.

As J. K. Murhula says: "This war is a war of leaders. It is not a war of people". Today these arsonist leaders act in impunity in spite of a number of evidences of their exaction and repeated violations of human rights2. There has also been a delay in the judgement of Hutu leaders responsible for genocide due to the slowness of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda3 and some other leaders have been killed before replying for their acts.

The DRC is "probably the richest territory in the planet: diamonds, petrol, uranium. gold, lot of water, fertile lands and a wonderful wild life."4 And then there is coltan - rare and much wanted mineral - used in the composition of mobile phones5 as well as other rare metals used in aeronautical and space industries. "The potential in Congo can fill Africa with joy" says J. K. Murhula. But so far this hamper has only contributed to the misfortune of the people in Congo. In this conflict, one cannot help questioning the responsibility of some international mining firms, suspected to have financed the rebellions or stirring up strife6. It is also important to clarify the role played by the United States who, as Juan Carrero reminds us, no longer hides the fact that "Africa interests us"7.

By signing the Lusaka agreement in July 1999 that anticipated a cease-fire controlled by the United Nations and the withdrawal of foreign forces from the DRC, a small ray of light appeared at the end of the tunnel. April 2001 witnessed the arrival of the first UN forces as well as the beginning of disengagement of Rwandan forces from East Congo. Nevertheless, this first gesture of the international community is too fragile and measured for it to reinstate peace in DRC whose territory is as big as the European Union. That the civil population of the region continues to suffer the acts of their irresponsible leaders, comforted by the silence of big powers who are concerned only with their own immediate interests is a possibility. The fear remains.

A major effort on the part of the international community is absolutely vital in order to end this "world war" of Africa. This effort demands that truth, the complete truth prevails on the events that have ravaged the region of the Great Lakes for the past ten years now. As it goes in the song of the Congolese singer Koffi Olomidé: "truth takes the stairway while lies opt for the elevator", we would like to believe that there are few steps to climb now.

It is in this very spirit that we publish the interviews here below as contributions to a debate all the more necessary to arrive at reconciliation within central Africa and Africa with the rest of the world. The opinions expressed by J. K. Murhula and Juan Carrero in the interviews are not necessarily those of Caravan. But we decided to listen to these voices who have struggled for peace and let them express themselves in these columns.

The editorial team

1 "Congo: an African World War", investigated by New York Times published by International Herald Tribune on February 7, 2000.
2 Cf. in particular "Un rapport de l'ONU accuse Kinhasa et Kigali de crimes contre l'humanité"(UN report accuses Kinhasa and Kigali of crime against humanity), Le Monde, July 2, 1998, as well as the 2001 report of Human Rights Watch which is overwhelming for the Governments and the rebel forces involved in the Congolese conflict.
3 Cf. "Une grave crise", Ubutera/Diplomatie Judiciaire, September 18, 2000, as well as the right to reply by the spokes-person of the TPIR. (
4 International Herald Tribune, op.cit.
5 Cf. "Congo - le coltan, nouveau nerf de la guerre", Colette Braeckman, Le Soir, 27 march 2001.
6 Cf. "L'enjeu géopolitique des transnationales minières au Congo", Pierre Baracyetse, Report of SOS Rwanda-Burundi asbl.
7 "The era of the economic dominion and commercial hegemony of Europe over Africa has ended. Africa interests us"., Ronald Brown, US secretary for commerce, 1996. For further evidence, the creation of the prestigious Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) which brings together big American firms operating in Africa. The first page of the presentation document of the CCA specifies that the African continent has the best rate of returns on investment: "According to UN figures, US companies earned 29% on African investments between 1990 and 1997, more than any other continent".

map showing mining companies operating in Congo
Map taken from "L'enjeu géopolitique des transnationales minières au Congo", a report by SOS Rwanda Burundi asbl.
The green indications refer to companies operating in Congo

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Light on the genocide in Rwanda

Two reports have thrown light on the genocide in Rwanda in 1994: the report of the Organisation of African Unity called "Rwanda: the genocide that could have been stopped" published on July 7, 2000 (, the serious and exhaustive analysis of the Human Rights Watch that appeared in March 1999 entitled "Leave none to tell the story" ( The last report establishes that in the thirteen weeks following the assassination of the Rwandan President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, at least half a million people had perished. This figure undoubtedly represents three quarters of the Tutsi population. It also shows the deliberate and systematic nature of genocide that was planned by a small elite close to the president. This elite began the movement "Hutu Power" constituted in 1993 by a coalition of parties and militia in order to comfort the power threatened by the advancing troops of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in rebellion since 1990. This strategy of exacerbation of ethnic division with a political aim led directly to genocide.

This report also establishes that the Tutsi dominated RPF led by General Paul Kagame (now Rwanda's president) certainly put an end to the genocide in July 1994, but is also responsible for the death of tens of thousands of people (about 25 000 to 60 000 according to sources) between April and August 1994 including massacres and executions.

Finally, the report validates that the answerable among the French, Belgian, American and UN authorities were aware of the preparations of massive massacres against the Tutsi minority since January 1994; this did not prevent them from delaying in recognizing the reality of the genocide during the first few weeks and withdrawing the core of their troops in a crucial moment1.

1 See also the Carlsson Report on "the United Nations actions during the Rwandan genocide", UN, 15/12/99.

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