On November 13, President Clinton announced initial approval of the deployment of several thousand U.S. troops as part of a multinational force to be sent to the Zaire-Rwanda border region, in the heart of Africa. Over the last several months, a complicated and dangerous situation has developed in east Zaire. Fighting between various armed groups forced more than a million people out of refugee camps and into the open countryside, leading to a mounting danger of mass starvation and disease.
Most of the refugees are Hutu people who left Rwanda in 1994 after the government was overthrown. That regime was responsible for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, mainly Tutsi people. When the government was defeated by a rebel force, led largely by Tutsis, many Hutu officials, soldiers and militias fled along with the refugees into camps in east Zaire. These armed Hutus--known as the Interahamwe--have held the refugees as virtual hostages and have carried out cross-border raids against the current Rwandan government. The Interahamwe, joined by Zairean government troops, have also attacked Tutsi people living in east Zaire. In recent months, an armed force opposed to the government of Zaire and made up of Zairean Tutsis and other people have been fighting against the Interahamwe. Meanwhile, there have been increasing tensions between the governments of Zaire and Rwanda.
As we go to press, there are further developments. The Zairean anti-government force, known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, has won a major military battle against the Interahamwe. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees are moving back toward Rwanda. U.S. officials said they were "reassessing" the sending of troops to east Zaire but had not ruled it out. The UN, France and others insisted that a military intervention was still needed. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still in the mountains and forests in east Zaire without adequate food or water.
It remains to be seen how deeply the U.S. will become involved in the current situation on the Zaire-Rwanda border. But in any case, the U.S. government has no intention of helping the people in the region figure out and carry through with a genuine solution to the life-and-death situation confronting them.
U.S. officials say that if any troops are sent into Zaire, their mission will be "humanitarian assistance." The suffering of the people in central Africa pains the hearts of people around the world. But it would be a big mistake to believe that the U.S. troops can do any good for the refugees on the Zaire-Rwanda border. Just look at the recent history of U.S. "humanitarian" operations:
Wherever the U.S. troops are sent around the world, they are a force that harms the interests of the people. They can never bring genuine peace, justice or liberation to the oppressed. This is because of the class nature of the U.S. military. This military is armed, trained and used to defend the interests of the U.S. ruling class. This army fights to preserve the domination of rich over poor, big powers over small countries, men over women. Above all, this military serves the global imperialist interests of the U.S. rulers.
In the central African region, the U.S. imperialists have a number of concerns. Zaire is rich in important mineral resources, such as copper, cobalt and diamonds. There has been a lot of political turmoil in this large country, and further "destabilization" or even breakup of Zaire could affect other pro-Western regimes in the region. There is also increasing contention between the U.S. and French imperialists over "spheres of interest" in Africa. Any U.S. intervention in Zaire and Rwanda will be based on these and other imperialist interests--not the interests of the masses of people.
The U.S. and other powers claim the fighting in east Zaire (and the nearby countries of Rwanda and Burundi) is caused by "centuries-old ethnic hatred." They portray themselves as "humanitarians" who are coming to the aid of a "helpless" people. They say the answer for these people is more reliance on aid and technology of the major world powers.
But in reality, the misery and bloodshed that the people of this region have gone through are directly rooted in intrigues and interventions by the imperialist powers. France, for example, was the main backer of the old government in Rwanda which massacred hundreds of thousands of people. When that regime fell, French troops protected the government soldiers and militias--whose activities in the refugee camps in east Zaire since then have been a key part of the current crisis. And Mobutu, the brutal and utterly corrupt head of Zaire, has received huge amounts of arms and aid from the U.S., France and other Western countries for decades.
Now, these international criminals are trying to pose as "protectors" of the refugees in east Zaire--even as they fight among each other over who will benefit the most out of the "humanitarian" venture.
Imperialist domination has led to incredible poverty and misery for the people of sub-Sahara Africa (between the Sahara Desert and South Africa). Every day, 10,000 children die in this region from preventable causes. Over a third of the 600 million people there live in "absolute poverty"--unable to adequately meet their most basic needs such as food and housing.
The situation in the Zaire-Rwanda region cries out for anti-imperialist unity among the people--so that a struggle can be waged against the real enemy. The crisis that has exploded to world attention now is a concentration of the horrors of imperialism that were already devastating the people of this region. For those who really have the interests of the oppressed people at heart, the conclusion is clear: More imperialist intervention is NOT the answer.