Thomas Lubanga, Minor Player, Convicted: What about his Sponsor Gen. Museveni?

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[Black Star News Editorial]

Yesterday the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the conviction of Congolese war-lord Thomas Lubanga, a leader of a Congolese group that engaged in well-documented terrorism against civilians.

He was notorious for forcefully recruiting boys and girls under the age of 15 into his bandit-army. Lubanga's forces attacked Congolese cities, burned homes with people alive inside, committed massacres and mass rapes,  and brutal acts such as beheadings. Lubanga wanted to drive competitors out of the mineral-rich region and to make remove it from the domain of control of Congo's central government.

Lubanga deserved his guilty verdict. Yet Lubanga was a minor league player. He was financed and trained by Uganda's U.S.-backed dictator, General Yoweri K. Museveni, who is the major leaguer. Lubanga's conviction, while welcome, exposes the hypocrisy of the ICC, which has engaged in selective prosecution, while shielding pro-U.S. war criminals such as Lubanga's sponsor, Gen. Museveni.

Lubanga following orders from his sponsor. Lubanga's campaign of violence occurred at a time when Gen. Museveni's army occupied parts of the mineral-rich Congo region of Ituri. During the occupation, gross human rights abuses occurred by Uganda's army and its allied militias, including the one commanded by Lubanga; they were well documented by international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, which produced a seminal report.

Without a major foreign backer and a supply line for re-stocking, Lubanga could not have been able to carry out the crimes for which he was convicted. The ICC is well aware of Gen. Museveni's role in carrying out the Congo crimes. After Congo's government, under Joseph Kabila, took the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the court ruled in favor of Congo finding Uganda liable for the war crimes and awarded $10 billion in reparations. Congo has yet to receive a dime.

The blood-letting unleashed by Lubanga's militia and Gen. Museveni's forces, coupled with a separate invasion and occupation of Congo from Rwanda, has contributed to the estimated six million deaths of Congolese.

After the ICJ's ruling, Kabila, then referred the alleged crimes to the International Criminal Court. One would expect that an investigation by Luis Moreno Ocampo's ICC, looking at the same evidence that led to a ruling against Uganda by the ICJ would arrive at the same conclusion.

The evidence is everywhere. Including at the ICC.

Indeed, Museveni himself was so concerned about a possible ICC action against him that, according to a June 8, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal, he personally contacted then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and urged him to block an ICC investigation.

Clearly, someone must have followed up on Museveni's request for the investigation to be blocked. Moreno Ocampo continues to sit on Gen. Museveni's files.

Museveni is backed by the United States because he has sent about 10,000 soldiers to help police Somalia on behalf of Washington, which fears that war torn-country will become a haven for al-Qaeda. This is also why the United States has ignored human rights abuses by Gen. Museveni's army while focusing exclusively on Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.

Lubanga's conviction had been impending. This means observers who are really in the know, in terms of who financed this war criminal, would start asking serious questions about Lubanga's true boss. Could it be that the timing of Invisible Children's KONY2012 also had the Lubanga verdict in mind?

Rather than now raising questions about Gen. Museveni's role in financing and supporting Lubanga, all the coverage since yesterday has compared Lubanga to Kony, whose name is now known globally thanks to Invisible Children.

Serious media must raise the big question: Joseph Kony and Thomas Lubanga have been indicted, and in the latter's case tried and convicted. What about the U.S.-backed dictator Museveni?

If anyone still needs more evidence, here's some extracts from the comprehensive report by Human Rights Watch, "Blood In Ituri."  It shows that Uganda actually was the director of the crimes committed in Ituri region and that Lubanga was just a bit player. Heritage Oil, who later became a major player in Uganda, was also involved in the intrigue in the region. Uganda's primary motive was the economic fleecing of Congo.

The Report also noted: "During its four years occupying the north-eastern DRC, the Ugandan army--the Ugandan Peoples Defense Force (UPDF)--claimed to be a “peacemaker” in a region torn by ethnic strife. In reality the Ugandan army provoked political confusion and created insecurity in areas under its control."

The Human Rights Watch report also said: "Uganda, the occupying power in Ituri from 1998 to 2003, failed in its obligation under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population. The Ugandan authorities played a direct role in political and administrative changes in Ituri, stimulating new political parties and militia groups to form. As this conflict expanded to encompass more people and wider areas, Uganda used it as a pretext to remain in the resource-rich area, exploiting its minerals and commerce."

The report included reference to an interesting admission of guilt by a Ugandan Army commander, Brigadier Kale Kayihura, who is now Uganda's national police chief. "On April 15, 2003 Ugandan army Brig. Kale Kayihura, addressing the Ituri Pacification Commission in the name of President Museveni, reportedly deviated from his prepared text to ask the delegates to excuse Ugandan troops for atrocities they committed in Ituri. If so, this represented an unusual recognition of wrongdoing by Ugandan military authorities who more frequently claimed to have acted as peacekeepers and perhaps even to  have prevented a genocide," the report stated.

"Trade statistics show the extent to which Uganda has profited from the riches of the DRC. Gold exports from Uganda more than doubled after their troops crossed into the DRC, although there was no increase in domestic production capacities. This upsurge coincided with a heavy deployment of Ugandan troops in mining areas in Ituri such those near Kilo Moto, described as one of the most productive gold mines in Congo. The record of diamond exports is even clearer. No diamond exports were recorded from Uganda in the decade before their troops arrived in the DRC. Then from 1997 to 2000, diamond exports jumped from 2,000 to 11,000 carats. In 2001 an estimated $3.8 million worth of diamonds was exported," the Report stated.

The report also continued: "The discovery of oil in the Semliki Valley, an area straddling the border between Uganda and  Ituri, ensures that competition over Ituri will increase. Heritage Oil, to which the DRC government has conceded exploration rights in Ituri, drilled test bores on the Ugandan side of the border. On March 31, 2003, the company announced it had struck oil in Uganda and said the area had the potential of being a new world-class oil basin. The Ugandan Director of Heritage Oil planned to start activities on the Congolese side of the border in March 2003 projecting that it would take 5 years and $15 to $20 million in investment to turn a profit.66 In addition to its contract with the DRC government, Heritage Oil maintains close links with Ugandan authorities. In 2002 agents of the company started to make contact with local chiefs in Ituri, including several in Burasi as well as Chief Kahwa of Mandro. 68 Chief Kahwa said “I have been contacted by the Canadian Oil people who came to see me. I told them they could only start work in Ituri once I had taken Bunia from the UPC.”

The Report also explained how the United States basically ignored Uganda's crimes. At that time, the Bush Administration saw Uganda as a bulwark against the Sudan; today, the Obama Administration relies on Uganda to police Somalia.

"The U.S. has long provided substantial support to Uganda, not just because of its ostensible success in economic development and combating HIV/AIDS, but also because it offered assistance in curbing the power of the Sudan, regarded by the U.S. as a major threat to stability in northeastern Africa. In the fiscal year 2001, the U.S. delivered some $81 million in development assistance and food aid to Uganda; in the fiscal year 2002, U.S. assistance totalled approximately $71.8 million; and approximately $70 million was requested for 2003.

"In December 2002, the Bush administration certified that Uganda was eligible for preferential trading status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a program which supposedly includes human rights performance among its criteria for selection. In 2001 the U.S. Department of State in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices criticized Ugandan soldiers for human rights abuses in the DRC, but the next year it said that there were “no confirmed reports” of further abuses there in 2002. The 2002 report did note that thousands of civilians had been killed in violence between Hema and Lendu in areas under Ugandan army influence.

"In March 2003 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter H. Kansteiner III met with President Museveni in Uganda to discuss bilateral and regional issues but he made no public reference to abuses associated with the Ugandan presence in DRC. Similarly the White House issued no statement critical of Ugandan actions in the DRC after a June 2003 meeting between Presidents Bush and Museveni. According to press accounts and other sources, however, Bush was said to have privately criticized the Ugandan role in Ituri."

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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