Tillerson's Africa Tour: Rights Coalition Demand Action to Pre-empt War in Congo

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Rex Tillerson.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition, a comprising U.S.-based African human rights activists calls upon Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to make it categorically clear during his upcoming trip to Africa that the Trump administration will hold accountable and sanction any state and non-state parties responsible for the deteriorating security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where imminent war is brewing, according to credible reports.

The last major conflict in Congo, which killed some six million people, was sparked by a joint invasion by Uganda and Rwanda; both countries are playing a similar negative role in the current insecurity.

African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition welcomes the recent US arms embargo on South Sudan but demands that Secretary Tillerson also end U.S. support for the oppressive and dangerous regimes in the region including Kenya and Uganda, that continue to fuel the conflict.

Tillerson is expected to visit Chad, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Nigeria during his March 6 - 13 trip, his first to Africa as Secretary of State. These countries are U.S. partners in what has been billed as a war against Islamist "extremists."

African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition demands that the Trump Administration take a broader view in its relations with Africa by rejecting authoritarianism and corruption which are themselves the primary source of terror and instability.

It must honor its recent policy position on Africa as announced in the U.S. National Security Strategy document (December, 2017) which states: “If necessary, we are prepared to sanction [African] government officials and institutions that prey on their citizens and commit atrocities. When there is no alternative, we will suspend aid rather than see it exploited by corrupt elites.”

African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition lauds the policy directive but laments its selective implementation. The Trump Administration has imposed sanctions on some government officials in Congo and South Sudan, but the leaders of these countries, along with those of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, all responsible for grave human rights abuses, have escaped sanction.

Such selective impunity only emboldens human rights abusers elsewhere, such as in Zambia and Tanzania, where opposition figures face threats to their lives, not to mention longstanding dictators in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Togo.

African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition will monitor Tillerson's statements while in Africa -- and subsequent U.S. actions-- to see if the Trump Administration is serious about the Africa strategy announced in December.

Maurice Carney and Kambale Musavuli, executive director and national spokesperson, respectively, of Friends of the Congo state: "The people of Africa's Great Lakes Region have been caught in a death trap financed and buttressed by U.S. taxpayers through US support for authoritarian strongmen Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Joseph Kabila of DR Congo who prey on their populations. American citizens have the power to positively affect the lives of millions of Africans by pressuring their government to stop supporting these tyrants. Furthermore, the current U.S. administration should issue sanctions to Rwandan generals James Kabarebe, Charles Kayonga, and Jack Nziza who have been involved in the destabilization of the Congo, while general Alex Kagame should be investigated and sanctioned for his alleged role in the massacre of Congolese refugees in the Kiziba refugee camp in late February 2018."

Milton Allimadi, Ugandan-born publisher of The Black Star News and coalition member states: "In September 2017, Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s shock troops invaded Parliament during a debate on a controversial constitutional amendment that would allow him to rule indefinitely and violently arrested about 30 MPs. During the fracas, Betty Nambooze, an immensely popular Parliamentarian was hustled down to the basement where operatives manipulated her spine, rendering her crippled. Regionally, Uganda continues its destructive role in South Sudan by siding with President Salva Kiir's forces and pursuing a military solution against ousted Vice President Riek Machar's supporters. This has led to mass killings of civilians and undermined regional efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict. Museveni has also once again clandestinely invaded Congo to divert attention from his domestic problems. He and his regime are prime candidates for U.S. sanctions. Yet Uganda's military continues to be trained by the U.S. and the Museveni regime gets more than $1 billion in U.S. taxpayers' money each year. This must stop."

Claude Gatebuke, Rwandan genocide and civil war survivor, executive director of the African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN) states: “Paul Kagame and his government's role in destabilizing the Democratic Republic of Congo cannot be understated and must be addressed. Besides that, currently the Rwandan government is involved in a $5,000 per refugee deal to receive refugees and migrants expelled from Israel, while at the same time Rwandan soldiers and policemen were involved in a massacre against crowds of Congolese refugees in Western Rwanda. The country is so unaccountable for these atrocities that  it has decided not to renew its agreement with Human rights watch; an organization that has highlighted many of Rwanda's human rights abuses. The US must use its leverage as a top donor to address these issues or withhold aid in line with the administration's policy.”

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