A Tale of Two Genocides, Congo and Darfur: The Blatantly Inconsistent US Position

Possibly a quarter million people have lost their lives in Darfur, western Sudan, in ethnic conflict. The US government screams its head off in denunciation of genocide, in this case. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as many as five million have died since 1994 in overlapping convulsions of ethnic and state-sponsored massacre. Not a word of reproach from Washington. A human death toll that approaches the Nazi’s annihilation of Jews in World War Two — an ongoing holocaust — unfolds without a whiff of complaint from the superpower.

Why is mass death the cause of indignation and confrontation in Sudan, but exponentially more massive carnage in Congo unworthy of mention? The answer is simple: in Sudan, the US has a geopolitical nemesis to confront: Arabs, and their Chinese business partners. In the Congo, it is US allies and European and American corporate interests that benefit from the slaughter. Therefore, despite five million skeletons lying in the ground, there is no call to arms from the American government. It is they who set the genocidal Congolese machine in motion.

Active US Passivity

In 1994, Rwanda was on the brink. The Hutu majority, which had for a century been oppressed by Tutsi surrogates for European colonialists, feared that another massacre of their kin was imminent. There had been many massacres of Hutus, before, in Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, also under minority Tutsi control. Pent-up hysteria exploded in an orgy of violence that claimed the lives of as many as 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus that did not support the genocide.

The US did nothing to interfere, because they had two actors in the game. Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni was now the Americans’ guy in central Africa. Tutsi Rwandan exiles, headed by Paul Kagame, were an integral part of Museveni’s army. As the genocide began, Kagame’s forces launched an offensive from Uganda into Rwanda. It did not halt the massacre of Tutsis, but succeeded in driving the disorganized Hutus into neighboring Congo. The Americans now had another player in the African game: the new head of the Rwandan Tutsi-dominated state, Paul Kagame. His forces then invaded eastern Congo, chasing the fleeing Hutus.

The eastern Congo was up for grabs, and everybody grabbed some.

All hell broke loose. President Mobutu Sese Seko, America’s man in the Congo, then called Zaire, was terminally ill. He fled and died in exile in 1997. The eastern Congo was now up for grabs, and everybody grabbed some. Eastern Congo is one of the most minerally rich places on Earth, an extractors’ paradise. According to the CIA’s “Factbook,” the DRC abounds with “cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber.” All of these resources are exploited by European and American corporations that maintain their own mercenary armies to guard the extraction fields. For generations they have run their patches of Congolese land like governments, with the support of France, Belgium, the United States and other powers. The so-called civil war effectively gave them full autonomy in the wake of Mobutu’s corrupt demise, as the power of the central government in Kinshasa, crumbled. Mass carnage raged around them, but did not interrupt the extraction process.

Geopolitical Crimes

In the thirteen years since Rwandan Tutsi Paul Kagame’s forces — surrogates for the U.S. puppet president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni — invaded the eastern Congo, possibly five million people have died. President Bill Clinton, the man who stood aside while the Rwandan genocide took place, then presided over a far bigger mass murder in Congo. He has apologized for only one. In a visit to Kigali, capital of Rwanda, Clinton said:

“We come here today partly in recognition of the fact that we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred.”

But what occurred is not over. The bloodshed spread rapidly to eastern Congo, unleashed by U.S. surrogate forces, and continues to this day. Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, has served US imperial ambitions well. He supported the US invasion of Iraq, and continues to destabilize Congo with his forces in the eastern region. Multinational corporations, of course, operate their own airstrips and communications networks. Their patches of Congo proceed like business as usual, while the death toll mounts by millions among the people, who are overrun by militias of various ethnicities and Kagame’s Rwandan army.

A quarter million people have died in Darfur, compared to five million in Congo.

The Congolese genocide is not part of the American political discussion. When Africa is mentioned at all, it is about Darfur. A quarter million people have died there, compared to five million in Congo. Both holocausts are crimes against humanity, but only the smaller one, Darfur, is a fit subject for inclusion in the US political debate. During the June 3 CNN Democratic debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer demanded that the candidates “raise their hands” if they supported the imposition of a no-fly zone in Darfur — an act of war against the government in Khartoum according to international law. Only Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel declined to endorse the violation of Sudanese sovereignty. In the following Republican debate, the consensus was almost unanimous, except for Rep. Ron Paul: impose a no-fly regime over the western Sudan.

Imperial Chess Game

The Congressional Black Caucus follows the same script as Wolf Blitzer. Members have lobbied and demonstrated against the Sudanese regime, to the applause of the corporate press. But they have never said a word, as a body, about the hellacious carnage in Congo. It is a taboo subject, too close to “vital American interests.” But the Sudanese conflict is fair game, and so the Black Caucus joins in the general mob attack. They make common cause with imperial ambitions in the Horn of Africa, while ignoring the murder of millions in central Africa.

“The Black Caucus makes common cause with imperial ambitions in the Horn of Africa.”

The preferred narrative of Darfur fits nicely with that of the Israeli lobby in the United States. Although all the antagonists are Black Africans and Muslims, the aggressors are classified as “Arabs.” A regional inter-African, inter-Muslim conflict is made to appear as part of the “clash of civilizations” — the new Cold War. The proof is that the Chinese are partners with the Khartoum regime, having engaged in oil contracts. The evil Chinese menace threatens American interests, and it follows that any country that deals with the Chinese is involved in an anti-American conspiracy. If they are Arabs (although black as my shoe), then the narrative is complete. Arabs have collaborated with Chinese to kill Africans just as black as themselves. Let’s declare war on them, beginning with a no-fly zone that violates their sovereignty.

The scenario is the same as Iraq: take control of their skies and the land beneath it, and bomb at will. Remove any semblance of government authority, under the guise of ending genocide. Extend the reach of the US military’s paws in the Sahel region. The African Union has tried mightily to put an effective peace-keeping force on the ground in Darfur, but the United States and the Europeans refused to supply the logistical forces that are necessary; the C-130s to reinforce and supply the African troops. The Americans and Europeans held out until the African contingent was at the breaking point, and then forced through the UN Security Council a plan to place 26,000 US and European-led soldiers on the ground. Another piece of Africa will pass into foreign hands.

Darfur has been made into a stage-set of anti-Arab conflict, which perfectly suits the pro-Israel lobby in the US. Congo, where far more people have died, remains a gargantuan killing field, uncovered by the corporate media and ignored by the Congressional Black Caucus and the array of Democratic presidential candidates. Genocide depends on who is doing the killing, apparently.

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. sk said on July 19th, 2007 at 8:18am #

    David Peterson has been writing about the Darfur conflict for many years on his blog. Check out the two recent postings and ensuing discussion with links here and here (comparison of coverage of Darfur with coverage of Congo in latter).

  2. B. J . Sabri said on July 19th, 2007 at 5:55pm #

    Despite a few excellent points where you pointed out to the hypocrisy of the United States when dealing with violence in some spots of the world, you irreparably weakened your pertinent argument and even, to a certain extent, annulled conclusions that one may draw from the situation in Darfur. The problem is that you did not analyze the situation from factual historical perspective but relied on generic opinions that were either not substantiated by reasonable evidence, at least an extrapolation of the same, or simply supplied by the organs of propaganda of the state you set to prove its consistency and double standards, that is, the United States.

    The following are just a few points:

    One: you state in reference to the human cost in Darfur with the following, “Possibly a quarter million people have lost their lives in Darfur”

    Comment: Without ever trying to devalue the human cost in a Darfur, I submit to you that you did not provide any substantiation of such a number that incidentally is the mantra of U.S. imperialism and Israel. Throwing out such numbers so carelessly is disservice to your research and implies that that you indict Sudan as the genocide maker while it is known that both sides are paying high price for a conflict ignited and financed by mainly the United States. In addition, while it is safe to say that the United States is inflicting genocide on the Iraqi people to conquer their country and its resources, Sudan, despite the dimension of the current war and human loss never targeted the Darfurians until the United States ignited that conflict with the obvious purpose to partition Sudan and control its oil, uranium, and water resources. Also, you did not mention the human loss on the side opposing Darfur sessions. At any case, qualifying depicting the human cost in the war in Darfur with word “possibly” is abstract and not reliable especially in absence of data not supplied by the United States and its vassals.

    Two: you say, “In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as many as five million have died since 1994 in overlapping convulsions of ethnic and state-sponsored massacre A human death toll that approaches the Nazi’s annihilation of Jews in World War Two — an ongoing holocaust — unfolds without a whiff of complaint from the superpower.”

    Comment: again, you are concluding your argument as per ready-made parables. The conflict in Congo is a civil war (and you stated that indirectly by calling it “overlapping” with many actors and each side to the conflict is losing a lot of its own population. Yet, calling it genocide is not correct. The Soviet Union lost 20 million in WW2, but we cannot call that genocide, while certainly the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima with over 158,000 people incinerated instantly was THE GENOCIDE. Furthermore, by comparing that number of People killed in Congo to the sacred cow number of six million European Jews killed by Hitler is erroneous since in Congo we are talking a period that extends over 13 years of time. In addition, the number of six millions Jews killed by Nazi violence is dubious and the debate is now raging to define it without Zionist and Israeli propaganda. Further, you isolated the Congo tragedy from its historical origins when the United States Killed Patrice Lumumba and then supported the 20-year long dictatorship of Mobuto. You see, it was the United States at the origin of the killing in Congo and bringing that to light instead of making just a spectator who is waiting for an opportunity to interven put that tragedy in the right historical frame.

    Three: you state, “the answer is simple: in Sudan, the US has a geopolitical nemesis to confront: Arabs, and their Chinese business partners.”

    Comment, your use of the word, “nemesis” in this context is not only erroneous but also derogatory and pointless. Let me explain, when one states that this or that one is the nemesis of a particular entity you assign to this entity a quality of goodness since its has a enemy. You could have simply stated that the Chinese are now the capitalist rivals of the United States while the U.S. turned all Arabs into enemies after the suspicious event of 9/11. Nemesis, means also an enemy durable in time and epochal length. Such thing does not apply to the United States vs. the Arabs or Chinese.

    Four: You state, “The US did nothing to interfere, because they had two actors in the game.”

    Comment: your statement is some what preposterous and appears to be interventionist”, why do you think that the United States has to interfere in everything. Why did not you invoke the United Nations, the Conference of the European Unity, or other? Besides, you seem critical that the US did not interfere but you attribute that because it has two actors in the game. Well this is reductionist at best, because you cannot make such an argument without explaining first the American imperialist thinking.

    Good work, Glen

    B J Sabri

  3. andrew r said on July 19th, 2007 at 11:32pm #

    “All of these resources are exploited by European and American corporations that maintain their own mercenary armies to guard the extraction fields.”

    Holy cow! You really should be naming names here. Which corporations and armies? This could go a long way to showing people just how exploitative the US and Europe is of African countries.

  4. andrew r said on July 19th, 2007 at 11:35pm #

    “In addition, the number of six millions Jews killed by Nazi violence is dubious and the debate is now raging to define it without Zionist and Israeli propaganda.”

    The number is agreed upon by historians who are very critical of Israel, including Norman Finkelstein and Raul Hillberg. Plus, it’s generally accepted that 11 million people died in Nazi concentration camps, in addition to Jews, Gypsies, Russian POWs, and Polish.

  5. Max Shields said on July 20th, 2007 at 11:13am #

    For those who need a clear definition (per international law/UN designation), here is an excellent article cited a number of times on this blog; but apparently bares repeating:
    The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency
    Mahmood Mamdani (London Times Review of Books

    Glenn is accurate in his designating DRC killing as a genocide based on this clear and legal definition. As far as Soviet Union, Sabri, I think the term “genocide” as noted is realtively new. Certainly, there were many cases of Genocide perpetrated by the US in “settling” North America, but there was no international law, or court, or UN, or human rights watch back then to call it.

    Mamdani in his article goes further than Glenn. He states that while there is genocide in the Congo, what is happening in Darfur is different. That difference is critical from a legal perpective. The perpetrators of genocide (an international crime) could be tried and convicted. Darfur is a mix of civil and tribal conflict with no clear categorical “victim”. Certainly those civilians are victims but they are not being killed with the intent of eliminating a category or ethnicity/race of people. There in lies the difference.

    But in some ways this is all tragic and sadly silly because organized war has been outlawed by any and all nation-states who have signed onto the major treaties over the last 60 years (including the US). Only self-defense is seen as a possible reason for a nation-state to be involved in conflict. This cannot be twisted into a “preemptive” assumption of a threat. Once again, the real criminal is right here.

  6. CR said on July 20th, 2007 at 11:48am #

    A link to to an audio (MP3) interview of Mamdani:


  7. Rick said on July 20th, 2007 at 1:42pm #

    This is what Mahmood Mamdani also had to say about Rwanda in his article:
    “What the humanitarian intervention lobby fails to see is that the US did intervene in Rwanda, through a proxy. That proxy was the RPF, backed up by entire units from the Uganda Army. The green light was given to the RPF, whose commanding officer, Paul Kagame, had recently returned from training in the US, just as it was lately given to the Ethiopian army in Somalia. Instead of using its resources and influence to bring about a political solution to the civil war, and then strengthen it, the US signalled to one of the parties that it could pursue victory with impunity. This unilateralism was part of what led to the disaster, and that is the real lesson of Rwanda.”

    A good summary of this lesson is contained in a Non-Aligned Movement resolution condemning what the resolution termed “unilateral coercive measures” (http://www.nam.gov.za/resolutions/coerce.htm):
    1. Urges all States to refrain from adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, in particular those of a coercive nature with extraterritorial effects, which create obstacles to trade relations among States, thus impeding the full realisation of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular the right of individuals and peoples to development;
    2. Rejects the application of such measures as tools for political or economic pressure against any country, particularly against developing countries, because of their negative effects on the realisation of all human rights of vast sectors of their populations, inter alia children, women, the elderly, disabled and ill people;
    3. Reaffirms, in this context, the right of all peoples to self-determination, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development

    Keep in mind the timing of the writing of this resolution, April 23, 1999. This was at the time of the Clinton led “humanitarian” crusade against the “genocide” in Kosovo. So this is what they were talking about in the resolution. They we’re calling on a White Knight in shining armor to save the non-white Third World from “genocide”, but rather for the non-white Third World to be left alone by the White Knight in shining armor.

  8. pub said on December 28th, 2008 at 4:43pm #

    The people of these regions are responsible. Blame America for everything — and then in the next sentence you’ll blame us for getting involved. People and countries need to take responsibility for themselves or they’ll end up pathetic crybabies blaming the USA for everything.

    If you want to save Darfur or the Congo or whoever — YOU go die for them.

  9. kahar said on December 28th, 2008 at 5:43pm #

    pub, there has not been a single year since ww2 that the US has no been waging war on one nation or another. There are documented at least 50 assassinations (or attempts), on leaders of sovereign nations around the world, perpetrated by US government agents. Look around you pub, where do think all the natural resources that create the modern lifestyle in the west have been (and are being) plundered from?