Wayne Madsen

How America ran, and still runs, the Congo war

.. America's covert activities in the Great Lakes Region exposed!

Last September, New African reported: "...America has a military base in Rwanda, and top American marine officers are involved in intense training of the Rwandan military elite. The US has also offered substantial military supplies to Kigali."

Last December, New African reported the US Congresswoman, Cynthia Mckinney, as saying: "The whole world knows that Uganda and Rwanda are allies of the United States and that they have been given a carte blanche for whatever reason to wreck havoc in the Congo."

This March, New African reported (quoting the British daily, The Independent): "Secretly funded by the CIA, Rwanda has military operations [in Congo] far above its means. [It] has 10,000 troops in [Congo]."

This May, New African reported (Baffour's Beep): "...The interests of America, Britain and their allies are being served by the Ugandan and Rwandan activities in Congo... We also know that America has a military base in the Bugesera district of Rwanda. So what are the Americans doing there? To train the Rwandans to fight in Congo? In, or for, whose interest?"

On 17 May, New African's reports were confirmed when the American investigative journalist and author of the book, "Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999", Wayne Madsen (photo, right), testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights Committee on International Relations.

Madsen's "prepared testimony and statement for the record" was so revealing that the mainstream Western media, supposedly famed for their "press freedom", have refused to print it.

We print it here in full. Madsen tells how America, right from 1996, ran, and still runs, the Congo war - "destabilisation for profit" is how he puts it.

For legal reasons, we have withheld certain names of people and companies in Madsen's original. Please sit back and treat yourself to some of the reasons why Africa is still on its knees.

"My name is Wayne Madsen. I am the author of `Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999, a work that involved some three years worth of research and countless interviews in Rwanda, Uganda, France, the United Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Canada, and the Netherlands.

I am an investigative journalist who specialises on intelligence and privacy issues. I am grateful to appear before the Committee today.

I am also appreciative of the Committee's interest in holding this hearing on the present situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC].

I wish to discuss the record of American policy in the DRC over most of the past decade, particularly involving the eastern Congo region.

It is a policy that has rested, in my opinion, on the twin pillars of military aid and questionable trade. The military aid programmes of the United States, largely planned and administered by the US Special Operations Command and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), have been both overt and covert.

1996: Rebellion against Mobutu

Prior to the first Rwandan invasion of Zaire/DRC in 1996, a phalanx of US intelligence operatives converged on Zaire. Their actions suggested a strong interest in Zaire's eastern defences.

The No.2 person at the US embassy in Kigali, [Rwanda], travelled from Kigali to eastern Zaire to initiate intelligence contacts with the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL-CZ) rebels under the command of the late President Laurent Kabila. The Rwandan embassy official met with rebel leaders at least 12 times.

A former US ambassador to Uganda - acting on behalf of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) -- gathered intelligence on the movement of Hutu refugees through eastern Zaire.

The DIA's second ranking Africa hand, who also served as the US military attache in Kigali, reconnoitred the Rwandan border towns of Cyangugu and Gisenyi, gathering intelligence on the cross-border movements of anti-Mobutu Tutsis from Rwanda.

The DIA's African bureau chief established a close personal relationship with an ethnic Rwandan [name withheld,] who would later become the foreign minister in the Laurent Kabila government. Moreover, the DIA's Africa division had close ties with an Alexandria, Virginia, private military company whose vice president for operations is a former director of the DIA.

The political officer of the US embassy in Kinshasa, [Congo], accompanied by a CIA operative, travelled with AFDL-CZ rebels through the eastern Zaire [forests] for weeks after the 1996 Rwandan invasion of Zaire.

In addition, it was reported that the Kinshasa embassy official and three US intelligence agents regularly briefed Bill Richardson, Clinton's special African envoy, during the rebels' steady advance towards Kinshasa.

The US embassy official conceded that he was in Goma to do more than meet rebel leaders for lunch. Explaining his presence, he said: 'What I am here to do is to acknowledge them [the rebels] as a very significant military and political power on the scene, and, of course, to represent American interests.'

In addition, [the Alexandria, Virginia, based company] was reportedly providing covert training assistance to [the Rwandan president, Paul] Kagame's troops in preparation for combat in Zaire.

Some believe that [the Virginia-based company] had actually been involved in training the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] from the time it took power in Rwanda.

American base in Rwanda

The covert programmes involving the use of private military training firms and logistics support contractors that are immune to Freedom of Information Act requests, is particularly troubling for researchers and journalists who have tried, over the past several years, to get at the root causes for the deaths and mayhem in the DRC and other countries in the region.

These US contractor support programmes have reportedly involved covert assistance to the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries - the major backers of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD factions), and - as reported by the UN `Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the DRC' - are responsible for the systematic pillaging of Congo's most valuable natural resources.

The UN panel - chaired by Safiatou BaN'Daw of Cote d'Ivoire - concluded that: `Top military commanders from various countries needed and continue to need this conflict for its lucrative nature and for temporarily solving some internal problems in those countries as well as allowing access to wealth.'

There is more than ample evidence that elements of the US military and intelligence community may have - on varying occasions -- aided and abetted this systematic pillaging by the Ugandan and Rwandan militaries.

The UN Report named the United States, Germany, Belgium and Kazakhstan as leading buyers of the illegally exploited resources from the DRC.

Sources in the Great Lakes Region consistently report the presence of a US-built military base near Cyangugu, Rwanda, near the Congolese border. The base, reported to have been partly constructed by the US firm, [name withheld], is said to be involved with training RPF forces and providing logistics support to their troops in the DRC.

Additionally, the presence in the region of black US [African-American!] soldiers supporting the RPF and Ugandans has been something consistently reported since the first invasion of Zaire-- Congo in 1996.

On 21 January 1997, France claimed it actually recovered the remains of two American combatants killed near the Oso River in [Congo's] Kivu province during combat and returned them to American officials.

The US denied these claims.

'Killers training killers'

As US troops and intelligence agents were pouring into Africa to help the RPF and AFDL-CZ forces in their 1996 campaign against Mobutu, Vincent Kern, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for African affairs, told the [Congress] International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee on 4 December 1996 that US military training for the RPF was being conducted under a programme called Enhanced International Military Education and Training (E-IMET).

Kathi Austin, a Human Rights Watch specialist on arms transfers in Africa, told the [Congressional] Subcommittee on 5 May 1998 that one senior US embassy official in Kigali described the US Special Forces training programme for the RPF as `killers...training killers'.

In November 1996, US spy satellites and a US Navy P-3 Orion were attempting to ascertain how many Rwandan Hutu refugees were in eastern Zaire.

The P-3 was one of four stationed at Old Entebbe Airport [in Uganda] on the shores of Lake Victoria. Oddly, while other planes flying over eastern Zaire attracted anti-aircraft fire from Kabila's forces, the P-3s, which patrolled the skies above Goma and Sake, were left alone.

Relying on the overhead intelligence, US military and aid officials confidently announced that 600,000 Hutu refugees returned home to Rwanda from Zaire. But that left an estimated 300,000 unaccounted for. Many Hutus seemed to be disappearing from camps around Bukavu.

'Americans participated in Goma massacre'

By December 1996, US military forces were also operating in Bukavu amid throngs of Hutus, less numerous Twa refugees, Mai Mai guerrillas, advancing Rwandan troops and AFDL-CZ rebels.

A French military intelligence officer said he detected some 100 armed US troops in the eastern Zaire conflict zone. Moreover, the DGSE [the French equivalent of the CIA] reported the Americans had knowledge of the extermination of Hutu refugees by Tutsis in both Rwanda and eastern Zaire and were doing nothing about it.

More ominously, there was reason to believe that some US mercenaries may have actually participated in the extermination of Hutu refugees.

The killings reportedly took place at a camp on the banks of the Oso River near Goma. Roman Catholic reports claim that the executed included a number of Hutu Catholic priests. At least for those who were executed, death was far quicker than it was for those who escaped deep into the [forest]. There, many died from tropical diseases or were attacked and eaten by wild animals.

Jacques Isnard, the Paris-based defence correspondent for Le Monde, supported the contention of US military knowledge of the Oso River massacre but went further. He quoted French intelligence sources that believed that between 30 and 60 American mercenary 'advisers' participated with the RPF in the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees around Goma.

Although [Isnard's] number of Hutu dead was more conservative than the French estimates, the UN Chilean investigator, Roberto Garreton, reported that the Kagame and Kabila forces had committed `crimes against humanity' in killing thousands of Hutu refugees.

It was known that the planes the US military deployed in eastern Zaire included heavily armed and armoured helicopter gunships typically used by the Special Forces. These were fitted with 105 mm cannons, rockets, machine guns, landmine ejectors, and, more importantly, infra-red sensors used in night operations.

US military commanders unabashedly stated the purpose of these gunships was to locate refugees to determine the best means of providing them with humanitarian assistance.

According to the French magazine, Valeurs ActuelLes, a French DC-8 Sarigue electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft circled over eastern Zaire at the time of the Oso River massacre. The Sarigue's mission was to intercept and fix the radio transmissions of Rwandan military units engaged in the military operations. This aircraft, in addition to French special ground units, witnessed US military ethnic cleansing in Zaire's Kivu Province.

American training

In September 1997, the prestigious Jane's Foreign Report reported that German intelligence sources were aware that the DMA trained young men and teens from Rwanda, Uganda, and eastern Zaire for periods of up to two years and longer for the RPF/AFDL-CZ campaign against Mobutu.

The recruits were offered pay of between $450 and $1,000 upon their successful capture of Kinshasa.

Toward the end of 1996, US spy satellites were attempting to ascertain how many refugees escaped into the [forest] by locating fires at night and canvas tarpaulins during the day.

Strangely, every time an encampment was discovered by the space-based imagery, Rwandan and Zaire rebel forces attacked the sites. This was the case in late February 1997, when 160,000, mainly Hutu refugees, were spotted and then attacked in a swampy area known as Tingi Tingi.

There was never an adequate accounting by the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies of the scope of intelligence provided to the RPF/AFDL-CZ.

An ominous report on the fate of refugees was made by Nicholas Stockton, the emergencies director of Oxfam UK & Ireland. He said that on 20 November 1996, he was shown US aerial intelligence photographs which `confirmed, in considerable detail, the existence of 500,000 people distributed in three major and numerous minor agglomerations'.

He said that three days later, the US military claimed it could only locate one significant mass of people, which they claimed were identified as former members of the Rwandan armed forces and the Interhamwe militia. Since they were the number one targets for the RPF forces, their identification and location by the Americans was undoubtedly passed to the Rwandan forces. They would have surely been executed.

Moreover, some US military and diplomatic personnel in Central Africa said that any deaths among the hutu refugees merely constituted `collateral damage'.

Why Kinshasa was easy meat

When the AFDL-CZ and their Rwandan allies reached Kinshasa in 1996, it was largely due to the help of the United States. One reason why Kabila's men advanced into the city so quickly was the technical assistance provided by the DIA and other intelligence agencies.

According to informed sources in Paris, US Special Forces actually accompanied ADFL-CZ forces into Kinshasa.

The Americans also reportedly provided Kabila's rebels and Rwandan troops with high definition spy satellite photographs that permitted them to order their troops to plot courses into Kinshasa that avoided encounters with Mobutu's forces.

During the rebel advance toward Kinshasa, [an American-based firm] provided Kabila, at no cost, high technology intelligence, including NASA satellite data.

The second invasion

By 1998, the Kabila regime had become an irritant to the United States, North American mining interests, and Kabila's Ugandan and Rwandan patrons.

As a result, Rwanda and Uganda launched a second invasion of the DRC to get rid of Kabila and replace him with someone more servile.

The Pentagon was forced to admit on 6 August 1998 that a 20-man US Army Rwanda Interagency Assessment Team (RIAT) was in Rwanda at the time of the second RPF invasion of Congo. The camouflaged unit was deployed from the US European Command in Germany.

It was later revealed that the team in question was a JCET [Joint Combined Exchange Training] unit that was sent to Rwanda to help the Rwandans `defeat ex-FAR (Rwandan Armed Forces) and Interhamwe units.

The US Special Forces JCET team began training Rwandan units on 15 July 1998.

It was the second such training exercise held that year. The RIAT team was sent to Rwanda in the weeks just leading up to the outbreak of hostilities in Congo [in August 1998].

The RIAT, specialising in counter insurgency operations, travelled to Gisenyi on the Congolese border just prior to the Rwandan invasion. One of the assessments of the team recommended that the United States establish a new and broader military relationship with Rwanda.

National Security Council spokesman, P. J. Crowley, said of the RIAT's presence in Rwanda: 'I think it's a coincidence that they were there at the same time the fighting began.'

Soon, however, as other African nations came to the assistance of Laurent Kabila, the United States found itself in the position of providing military aid under both the E-IMET and JCET programmes.

US Special Operations personnel were involved in training troops on both sides of the war in the DRC - Rwandans, Ugandans and Burundians (supporting the RCD factions), and Zimbabweans and Namibians (supporting the central government in Kinshasa).


As with the first invasion, there were also a number of reports that the RPF and their RCD allies carried out a number of massacres throughout the DRC.

The Vatican reported a sizeable killing of civilians in August 1998 in Kasika, a small village in South Kivu, that hosted a Catholic mission station. Over 800 people, including priests and nuns, were killed by Rwandan troops.

The RCD response was to charge the Vatican with aiding Kabila. The Rwandans, choosing to put into practice what the DIA's PSYOPS [psychological operations] personnel had taught them about mounting perception management campaigns, shepherded the foreign press to carefully selected killing fields.

The dead civilians were identified as exiled Burundian Hutu militiamen. Unfortunately, many in the international community, still suffering a type of collective guilt over the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, gave the Rwandan assertions more credence than was warranted.

The increasing reliance by the [US] Department of Defence on so-called Private Military Contractors (PMCs) is of special concern. Many of these PMCs - once labeled as 'mercenaries' by previous [American] administrations when they were used as foreign policy instruments by the colonial powers of France, Belgium, Portugal, and South Africa - have close links with some of the largest mining and oil companies involved in Africa today.

PMCs, because of their proprietary status, have a great deal of leeway to engage in covert activities far from the reach of congressional investigators. They can simply claim that their business in various nations is a protected trade secret and the law now seems to be on their side.

All for profit

America's policy toward Africa during the past decade, rather than seeking to stabilise situations where civil war and ethnic turmoil reign supreme, has seemingly promoted destabilisation.

Former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, was fond of calling pro-US military leaders in Africa who assumed power by force and then cloaked themselves in civilian attire, 'beacons of hope'.

In reality, these leaders, who include the current presidents of Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Angola, Eritrea, Burundi, and the DRC preside over countries where ethnic and civil turmoil permit unscrupulous international mining companies to take advantage of the strife to fill their own coffers with conflict diamonds, gold, copper, platinum, and other precious minerals, including one - columbite-tantalite or 'coltan' - which is a primary component of computer microchips and printed circuit boards.

Some of the companies involved in this new `scramble for Africa' have close links with PMCs and America's top political leadership.

For example, [a big] American mining company [name withheld], that was heavily involved in promoting the 1996 accession to power of Kabila, was, at the time of its involvement in Congo's civil war, headquartered in Hope, Arkansas.

Its major stockholders included long-time associates of former President Clinton going back to his days as governor of Arkansas.

[The company] also reportedly enjoys a close relationship with a major international diamond brokerage [name withheld] whose president remains a close confidant of past and current administrations on African matters.

American duplicity

The United States has a long history of supporting all sides in the DRC's civil wars in order to gain access to the country's natural resources. The Ba-N'Daw Report presents a cogent example of how one US firm was involved in the DRC's grand thievery before the 1998 break between Laurent Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan backers.

Also troubling are the ties that some mining companies in Africa have with military privateers. UN Special rapporteur, Enrique Ballesteros of Peru, concluded his March 2001 report for the UN Commission on Human Rights, that mercenaries were inexorably linked to the illegal diamond and arms trade in Africa.

He stated: `Mercenaries participate in both types of traffic, acting as pilots of aircraft and helicopters, training makeshift troops in the use of weapons and transferring freight from place to place.'

Ballesteros added: `Military security companies and air cargo companies registered in Nevada (USA), in the Channel Islands and especially in South Africa and in Zimbabwe, are engaged in the transport of troops, arms, munitions, and diamonds.'

In 1998, [the big American mining company mentioned above] purchased diamond concessions in the Cuango Valley along the Angolan-- Congolese border from a mercenary firm [name withheld] based in Curacao and headquartered in Belgium. According to [the American mining company's] press release: `In May 1996, [the company] entered into an agreement with [the mercenary firm based in Curacao], under which the [American] company may acquire 75.5% of the common shares of [the mercenary company].

`In turn, [the mercenary company] has entered into a 50-50 joint venture agreement with the Angolan state mining company. The joint venture asset is a 3,700 km mining lease in the Cuango Valley [in Angola], and a 36,000 sq km prospecting lease which borders the mining lease to the north. The total area is approximately the size of Switzerland.'

The [big American mining company] directly benefited from America's initial covert military and intelligence support for Kabila.

It is my observation that America's early support for Kabila, which was aided and abetted by US allies - Rwanda and Uganda - had less to do with getting rid of the Mobutu regime than it had to do with opening up Congo's vast mineral riches to North American-based and influenced mining companies.

Presently, some of [the big American company's] principals now benefit from the destabilisation of Sierra Leone and the availability of its cutrate `blood diamonds' on the international market.

Also, according to the findings of a commission headed by the Canadian UN ambassador, Robert Fowler, Rwanda has violated the international embargo against Angola's UNITA rebels in allowing them `to operate more or less freely in selling conflict zone diamonds and making deals with weapon dealers in Kigali.

Mining concessions

One of the major goals of the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma faction, a group fighting the Kabila government in Congo, is the restoration of mining concessions for [a Canadian mining company, name withheld]. In fact, the rebel RCD government's `mining minister' signed a separate mining deal with [the Canadaian company] in early 1999'.

Currently, [the Canadian company) and tens of other mining companies are helping to stoke the flames of the civil war in the DRC. Each benefits by the de facto partition of the country into some four separate zones of political control. First, the mineral exploiters from Rwanda and Uganda concentrated on pillaging gold and diamonds from eastern Congo. Now, they have increasingly turned their attention to coltan.

It is my hope that the Bush administration will take pro-active measures to stem the conflict in the DRC by applying increased pressure on Uganda and Rwanda to withdraw their troops from the country.

The Bush man

However, the fact that President Bush has selected Walter Kansteiner to be assistant secretary of state for African affairs, portends, in my opinion, more trouble for the Great Lakes Region. A brief look at Mr. Kansteiner's curriculum vitae and statements calls into question his commitment to seeking a durable peace in the region.

In a 15 October 1996 paper written by Mr Kansteiner for the Forum for International Policy on the then eastern Zaire, he called for the division of territory in the Great Lakes Region `between the primary ethnic groups, creating homogenous ethnic lands that would probably necessitate redrawing international boundaries and would require massive voluntary relocation eforts.'

Kansteiner foresaw creating separate Tutsi and Hutu states after such a drastic population shift. It should be recalled that the creation of a Tutsi state in eastern Congo was exactly what Rwanda, Uganda and their American military advisers had in mind when Rwanda invaded then-Zaire in 1996, the same year Kansteiner penned his plans for the region.

Four years later, Kansteiner was still convinced that the future of the DRC was `balkanization' into separate states. In a 23 August 2000 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Kansteiner stated that the `breakup of Congo is more likely now than it has been in 20 or 30 years'.

Of course, the de facto break up of Congo into various fiefdoms has been a boon for US and other Western mineral companies.

And I believe Kansteiner's previous work at the Department of Defence where he served on a Task Force on Strategic Minerals - and one must certainly consider coltan as falling into that category - may influence his past and current thinking on the territorial integrity of the DRC.

After all, 80% of the world's known reserves of coltan are found in eastern DRC. It is potentially as important to the US military as the Persian Gulf region.

However, the US military and intelligence agencies, which have supported Uganda and Rwanda in their cross-border adventures in the DRC, have resisted peace initiatives and have failed to produce evidence of war crimes by the Ugandans and Rwandans and their allies in Congo.

The CIA, NSA, and DIA should turn over to international and congressional investigators intelligence-- generated evidence in their possession, as well as overhead thermal imagery indicating the presence of mass graves and when they were dug.

In particular, the NSA maintained a communications intercept station in Fort Portal, Uganda, which intercepted military and government communications in Zaire during the first Rwandan invasion.

These intercepts may contain details of Rwandan and AFDL-CZ massacres of innocent Hutu refugees and other Congolese civilians during the 1996 invasion.

There must be a full accounting before the Congress by the staff of the US defence attach.6's office in Kigali and certain US embassy staff members in Kinshasa who served from early 1994 to the present time.

War crimes

As for the number of war casualties in the DRC since the first invasion from Rwanda in 1996, I would estimate, from my own research, the total to be around 1.7 to 2 million - a horrendous number by any calculation.

And I also believe that although disease and famine were contributing factors, the majority of these deaths were the result of actual war crimes committed by Rwandan, Ugandan, Burundian, AFDL-CZ, RCD, and military and paramilitary forces of other countries.

It is beyond time for the Congress to seriously examine the role of the United States in the genocide and civil wars of Central Africa, as well as the role that PMCs currently play in other African trouble spots like Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Cabinda.

Other nations, some with less than stellar records in Africa - France and Belgium, for example - have had no problem examining their own roles in Africa's last decade of turmoil.

The British Foreign Office is in the process of publishing a green paper on regulation of mercenary activity. At the very least, the United States, as the world's leading democracy, owes Africa at least the example of a critical self-- inspection."

Copyright International Communications Sep 2001
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