I did a story about the crisis in Congo for today’s show. There’s tons more to be said than I squeeze into those 4 minutes. For starters read Tony Gambino’s excellent report for the Council on Foreign Relations: Securing Peace, Sustaining Progress. I interviewed him for my story and he had lots of interesting things to say including this succinct wrapup of US interests in eastern Congo:
We clearly have a humanitarian interest; the United States has a strong record across Republican and Democratic administrations for trying to respond based on need to humanitarian emergencies. This is a huge and growing humanitarian emergency right now.
Next, just ten years ago, the Congo was the location for a regional war in Africa with African states literally from A to Z, from Angola to Zimbabwe, fighting on Congolese soil. So, states that are important to the United States, like Angola, from which we get a substantial amount of oil, were fighting other states with which the United States has friendly relations like Rwanda, in the Congo. This was causing great instability throughout Africa, not just the Congo; that’s clearly against United States interests.
Next, the Congo is one of the richest places in the world in terms of natural resources. In addition to resources like copper, cobalt, coltan, silver, gold, diamonds, tin, the Congo also has the second-most important forest in the world after the Amazon. So as people think about climate change issues, biodiversity, the Congo is one of the most important places on earth for that forest to be preserved for the good of all of us.
I asked him, given those US interests, how he assessed the US response to the crisis. Here’s his answer:
The Bush Administration has been engaged and remains engaged in the Congo, but the hard problem, and where I would be critical not only of this administration as well as others on the Congo, is they have not been willing to face the fundamental issue from which in my analysis the other problems of the Congo flow. And that is, the eastern part of the country which is in turmoil right now is basically lawless. And the Congolese Army which should have the responsibility for controlling Congolese territory is utterly incapable of doing so. Rather, as various press reports have demonstrated recently, the Congolese Army has participated in abuses, looting, raping, murdering civilians, and not fighting. If eastern Congo is not secured then we will not find any kind of durable solution to the Congo crisis. That must be part of any solution. Given that the Congolese Army cannot do it, another group has to be found. Luckily we have the U.N. peacekeeping force known as MONUC on the ground in the Congo and they have an urgent request before the security council right now for 3000 more troops and police, so that they can undertake this mission. It is my view that that must be authorized by the Security Council as rapidly as possible, so that MONUC can go forward and secure eastern Congo. Once that happens, then other necessary actions to get the Congo back on the right track can take place but without it we’re going to be fighting this crisis for a long time.