Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congo on the Brink

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congo on the Brink

Article excerpt

All the big powers want Africans to shoulder their own burdens of war, and they are. But hardly with one voice. South Africa has failed to mediate the Congo crisis while Angola and Zimbabwe have sent troops and airplanes to help save Kinshasa from rebel capture. The West, meanwhile, is standing on the sidelines, not particularly caring whether or not President Laurent Kabila remains in charge.

Mr. Kabila has hardly endeared himself to the West or to the Congolese. His human rights record is mostly negative, his economic growth accomplishments few, his relations with the big powers and most of his neighbors poor, his people's affection for him limited, and his credibility thin. South Africa's President Nelson Mandela and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki have both soured on the man they helped install in power more than a year ago.

Rwanda and Uganda have sponsored the rebellion which a week ago appeared ready to drive Kabila from power. They feel doublecrossed. Having helped him invade Congo and overthrow dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, they sought secure borders and the end of raids on their territory from Congo. But Kabila has not produced stable frontiers. Nor has he gained much control over the far-flung reaches of Africa's third largest country.

Kabila and his ramshackle administration have disappointed their original benefactors. Kabila also made a fatal mistake recently when he dismissed Rwandans in senior positions in his armed forces. The die of war was then cast.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Eduardo dos Santos of Angola have calculated that keeping the Kabila regime intact is better for them and for their influence in Africa.

Zimbabwe is working at cross purposes with South Africa because of their rivalry for leadership within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which includes the Congo. Mr. Mugabe constantly attempts to play an outsized role on the African and international scene. …

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