Using rebels as a pretext to cling onto power and illegally exploit African mineral resources

Kagame-and-MuseveniOn Friday 9/4/10 Press TV invited me to contribute to a debate on an incident from December 2009. Lord Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony, a rebel movement against the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni, was apparently the culprit according to the report from Human Rights Watch which brought the story in the open several months after it happened.

The focus of the discussion was on ‘why everyone did keep silent about such atrocity?’

People aware of political contexts in the Great Lakes region of Africa are well familiar with pictures of atrocities periodically associated with rebel movements, particularly in Eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.).

LRA has been in the region for almost as long as the reign of Joweri Kaguta Museveni in Uganda, which is 24 years. The Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) are another rebel movement further south in Kivu provinces of D.R.C. They are a reminiscence of Rwandan refugees who fled their country after the 1994 genocide.

These two rebel movements have been accused of atrocities year on year by the international community. But who is this international community? It is generally the developed world with its forces of intoxication of the world opinion about everything man can think of. This reminded me of stories of atrocities in countries as disparate as Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, but all located on the ‘wild and dark’ continent.

Some common characteristics to all these countries are the fact that they have huge reserves of minerals needed by strategic industries of the West. It was only that Friday, sitting and listening to my colleague from D.R.C. when I started realizing and questioning the roles of multinationals in these atrocities. I had always suspected dictatorial governments in Rwanda and Uganda to stage such atrocities and ensure they were blamed on rebels that oppose them. Never had it come to mind that while acting that way they had foreign accomplices in such horrible crimes, or only them being their proxies.

Until my colleague from DRC on the panel insisted that multinationals were responsible of violence, rape of women, illegal looting of Congolese minerals, I could not link them straightforwardly to these crimes. It is common knowledge Rwanda and Uganda have immensely benefited from raping the Congo. Though their criminal intervention in the country could rationally be explained, it was a different matter understanding how the longevity in power of the leaders of these two countries could be justified by the existence of the rebels.

LRA has according to some sources 1,500 combatants. In October 2007, International Crisis Group indicated FDLR men were 6,000. In eastern Congo, the biggest UN contingent (17,000) of peacekeepers has been deployed there since 2000. This force was established further to the UN resolution 1279 (1999). Rwanda and Ugandan armies count tens of thousands of soldiers well trained and equipped with the money provided by the West through several channels. In recent years, they have been able to run joint military operations with the Congolese, even with the help of the UN forces to crash these rebellions.

I came to this conclusion that Rwanda and Uganda leaders, if they did not have existing rebel movements publicly against their dictatorships, they would create them. They need them to justify their clinging onto power. This serves their purpose in staying in charge and at the same time serving their masters, at the expense of their citizens undoubtedly.

6 thoughts on “Using rebels as a pretext to cling onto power and illegally exploit African mineral resources

    1. I am not sided with killers but what I am saying is this. Before the region experienced political leaders who use systematic violence and oppression as major policies to rule, for ages people hadn’t seen such scale and recurrence of atrocities these rebels are claimed to be responsible for.
      This is not to say that rebels are not responsible of the crimes they commit on the ground. My reasoning is based on the fact that whatever the horrible crimes they commit, who benefit from them? I don’t think it’s the rebels in the first place, but the governments they are fighting against, or those who are exploiting minerals in the regions they occupy. Then why not taking a step further and looking at other beneficiaries of those crimes.
      It is essential to look at the bigger picture. For example the multinationals, or local businesses in neighboring countries which are flourishing because of prevailing situation. Why wouldn’t you suppose that those who are profiting from it would make it last as longer as possible? Maybe I forgot to mention the ICC indictment hanging over the head of LRA leader. This is another element to take into account. How would it play into recurrence of atrocities? I don’t think he did call for it. There were stakeholders to prevailing situation who wanted him indicted.


  1. Annie, it is policies of these leaders and the way they rule their countries which create these rebels. In the case of Rwanda, recent escapes from Rwandan prison (figuratively) of General Nyamwasa and Lt. Colonel Karegeya a few years ago would certainly an easily the creation of a rebellion these two coul lead. Once created, these rebellions would continue to receive deserters from government ranks because the dictators don’t change their style of leadership after some of their opponents have left them. Instead they try to benefit from the newly created situation by taking advantage of it through demonization. This is when you hear people who were like saints before they flee their dictators being called names from nowhere. Even factual incidents will be mounted by government services against these people to justify their demonisation. These tactics have been used and perfectioned particularly by the duo Kagame/Museveni.


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