Ugandan and Rwandan backed rebels and the Congolese central government met for nine weeks beginning in March 2002 in Sun City, South Africa to negotiate aspects of the Inter-Congolese dialogue as a part of the Lusaka Peace Accords. In a significant development emerging from the Dialogue – Jean Pierre Bemba, a known Mobutuist and leader of Uganda sponsored rebel party, Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), has been appointed Prime Minister of the DRC in a power sharing agreement strongly encouraged by western governments. Rather than being held accountable by the international community for war crimes committed against Congolese civilians and the massive exploitation of Congolese natural resources detailed by the UN during the four-year war, Bemba, a multimillionaire will be leading the country he helped decimate.
In response to its isolation from the power sharing agreement, Rwandan backed RCD has formed an alliance with veteran Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. Rwanda has not ceased discussions of an enduring armed partition of the DRC, of which it remains in control of approximately one third of the country. The power sharing agreement emerging from Sun City has effectively marginalized civil society groups who have been organizing peacefully for democracy, and instead rewards armed struggle in the country. Meanwhile, Rwanda and Uganda continue to attract international investors as well as military assistance from the U.S. and others. Thousands of Rwandan troops are currently engaged fighting in the eastern region of the country at the continued expense of civilian lives.
Yoga for Congo Women is a free yoga session that tells the story of the civil war in Congo and of the women who have been helped through the program.
Photo by Ann Richmond.
Congo’s civil war has been a constant fluctuating conflict of interests since its independence in 1960, when an army mutiny attempted to separate the country.
Although Western European powers granted aid to African nations, they also coerced governments to support their agendas and instigated and aided coups against democratically elected governments. They also fomented civil unrest to ensure that governments friendly to their Cold War agenda remained in power and those that were not were removed by political machinations or assassination. In the Congo, for example, Joseph Mobutu took a strong anti-communist position and was subsequently rewarded by Western powers. It mattered little that in 1960 he helped orchestrate the coup that removed and ultimately brought about the murder of Patrice Lumumba, was among the most anti-democratic leaders on the continent, and siphoned Western aid and revenue from the nation's natural resources into personal accounts. Mobutu's rise to power and economic and political damage to Congo in the process—with the help of his Western allies—demonstrates that the politics of the Cold War, more than anything else, defined the successes and failures of African decolonization.
BYU graduate Ann Richmond founded the organization “” in order to tell the story of the Congo civil war and help the women who still live there. The organization holds free yoga sessions that allow people to become educated on the conflict and to donate money to the cause, which helps sponsor Congolese women through their program.