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Obama Ignores Atrocity and Tells Congo: Keep Up the Good Work

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It is night in the town of Kalembe, in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) North Kivu Province. North Kivu borders Lake Kivu in the eastern DRC. It is about as far as one can get from the capitol city of Kinshasa. There are very few roads in all of Congo and limited flights, unless you can hop a UN transport. The air distance from the provincial capitol of Goma is 1571 km (976 miles), and 2683 km (1667 miles) by land, if you can find a passable road. Imagine the driving distance from south Florida to northern Minnesota in the United States to get a mental picture.

Driving Distance from Kivu to Kinshasa
(image by Globe Feed)

A teenage girl is enjoying the evening air in Kalembe, but she soon finds herself as far as one can get from peace, quiet and safety. She is about to be sucked into the maws of hell.

The March 30 waxing moon floating in the starry sky is almost half full, but there is not enough light for the fourteen-year-old girl to see the man lurking in the shadows. He has been watching her for minutes, maybe more. The man is a soldier of the 3402nd Regiment of the Congolese Army (FARDC), and he has sworn to defend the constitution of Congo. He obeys orders that can be traced to the desk of Congo President Joseph Kabila, 2683 km away. The soldier pounces on the teenager and his dirty hand, probably reeking with the smell of gun oil and nicotine, covers her mouth as he drags her into the shadows. If she utters a word, he undoubtedly promises to kill her family. He rapes her and leaves her sobbing in the moonlight. (CLA Protection Working Group Meeting Report April 7 documented the rape. Details are surmised.)

On the following morning, President Barack Obama is on the phone with the president of Congo. The teenage girl is in a hospital in Goma. Obama most likely has no knowledge of the events of the night before. Our president has other things on his mind. He needs to pander to Kabila. Strategic minerals, mining interests and US prestige in the region are at stake.

Mount Nyiragongo Spews Steam With Goma in the Foreground
(image by Georgianne Nienaber)

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The "readout" or summary of the phone call says, "The President noted that President Kabila's legacy as a leader who brought the DRC out of war and set it on a path of continued democratic progress would be consolidated by free and fair elections in 2016." The two leaders reaffirmed "their shared commitment to ending the threat of armed groups, particularly the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)."

(It is important to understand the meaning of the acronym, FDLR. The FDLR were responsible for the murder of up to one million during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.)

Obama lauds Kabila's non-existent "leadership" and democratic progress for purposes of diplomacy, but he also wants to make sure that Kabila does not violate the Congolese constitution and try to grab an illegal third term, with civil war a probable outcome. The political pandering is completed. The sexual violation of the teenage girl is a mere mote in the dustbin of Congo's violent, pathetic history and does not figure in the conversation.

Within the same week, Kabila's "legacy" in the rape capitol of the world is still in motion. Members of the regiment that raped the teenager, and possibly other perpetrators from the International Intervention Brigade, were moving through the impenetrable darkness of Congolese nights; stealing phones, money, domestic animals and raping with impunity.

The UN Security Council authorized the Intervention Brigade (FIB) in March 2013 as part of the 20,000 plus MONUSCO force already stationed in DRC. The brigade is based in the Kivus and consists of 3,069 "peacekeepers" from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. Tanzania provides the artillery and special forces. The United States under Obama's watch, and as a permanent member of the Security Council, voted to authorize the FIB to eliminate armed rebel groups.

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20,000 UN forces could not prevent DRC from becoming the "rape capitol" of the world. This distinction was bestowed on DRC in 2010 by Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

Obama had to know this, or he should have known while he was speaking with Kabila.

At the very least he should have known about a December 2012 classified United Nations leaked document. This document counted as many as 6,000 armed troops of the FDLR perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 that were massing in North Kivu.

See this testimony from villagers from that time period.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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