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Letter to Bush Regarding Kansteiner

March 28, 2001

The Honorable George W. Bush
The United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

I am writing to express my great concern that public comments and policy statements in recent years by your new appointee for Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Walter H. Kansteiner III, could be a harbinger of a nightmarish U.S. foreign policy for the resolution of the tragic war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I hope that this is not the case and I respectfully request your immediate and most forceful assurances that these statements do not reflect your view on the resolution of the current crisis in Congo.

As you no doubt know Mr. President, the United Nations Security Council has found that the international crisis in the Great Lakes region has been brought about by the illegal invasion of eastern Congo by the armed forces of Rwanda and Uganda, who are the real powers behind various armed Congolese rebel groups. The United Nations has resolved that all parties to the conflict should cease fighting and that Rwanda and Uganda should unilaterally withdraw from the Congo.

Mr. Kansteiner's first statement regarding this crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo which causes me concern was a written view in an Eastern Zaire Issue Brief (10/15/96) for The Forum for International Policy. In this issue he posited an idea for the resolution of the war in Congo that he himself characterized as "radical." Mr. Kansteiner wrote:

"A more radical approach would be to divide territory between the two primary ethnic groups. Creating homogeneous ethnic lands would probably necessitate redrawing international boundaries and would require massive 'voluntary' relocation efforts, shifting Tutsis to a newly created Tutsi state and likewise for Hutus."

Mr. Kansteiner's second statement of concern to me was made on August 23, 1998 in a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article in which Mr. Kansteiner was quoted as saying that "the breakup of the Congo is more likely now than it has been in 20 or 30 years."

Not only are Mr. Kansteiner's ideas "radical," I find them shocking and even reprehensible. I cannot agree with him that the best and only prescription for peace in Congo should come at the expense of the territorial sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The partitioning of Congo in the way prescribed by Mr. Kansteiner would amount to a reward to Rwanda, Uganda and their allies whose combined invasion has now cost the lives of two million Congolese men, women and children and the displacement of an estimated 500,000 civilians in eastern Congo. In my view Mr. Kansteiner, and indeed all persons of good conscience, should be demanding that at a minimum and as a prerequisite to any peace in Congo, the armed forces of Rwanda and Uganda completely withdraw from the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo and that all persons responsible for the commission of grave crimes against civilians in eastern Congo be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I never cease to be amazed by the fact that a man who kills another can be prosecuted for murder in a domestic court but a man who orders the killing of 200,000 or more men, women and children won't be prosecuted but instead would be invited for peace talks. Mr. Kansteiner's prescription for Congo only reinforces my perception that international diplomacy has very little regard for the violations of international law and widespread abuse of the world's civilian populations.

As I write this letter, I'm reminded of your father's steadfast and much celebrated defense of Kuwaiti sovereignty after the illegal invasion by Iraq. Surely, your Administration is not now ready to allow or perhaps even reward the invasion, occupation, and dismantling of Congo or indeed any other country on the African Continent.

Mr. President, the scale and nature of the crimes which have been and are still being committed in eastern Congo rival anything being committed in the world today and they warrant our nation's strongest condemnation and firm action. Human Rights Watch has consistently reported on the widespread torture and murder of civilians in eastern Congo. Incidents of women being raped and tortured in front of their children abound. Even reports of women being raped with branches and then being buried alive have been documented. Human Rights Watch even reported on a case of a Congolese woman being raped and then forced to stand in a pit full of water in which a dead infant was already floating from another woman who had miscarried earlier during her torture.

Just this week on March 22, 2001 the Rome based Catholic missionary news agency, MISNA, reported that Rwanda was now operating concentration camps in eastern Congo in which slave laborers brought from Rwandan prisons are being forced to work in underground mines to gather Congo's precious resources for sale to U.S. and other foreign corporations. This is clearly a grave violation of international law and is evidence of the fact that Rwanda and its conspirators may be about to reduce African human rights to a whole new low by following Nazi and Japanese precedents of enslaving civilian populations to produce wealth.

As you well know, far too many foreign business interests behave like screwworms eating out the healthy flesh of Africa's body politic. Unfortunately, they sate themselves on Africa's minerals while leaving only rot behind.

I have a long-standing and deep commitment to human rights worldwide and Africa in particular. This commitment transcends partisan politics. I have publicly stated my hope for the success of your Administration and the improvements in Africa policy that I hoped you would implement. I have met with leaders on your foreign policy team and I have great respect for them.

The United States has much to offer the world. Our values are a beacon around this planet. Our foreign policy should be consistently and fairly applied and make the American people proud. I hope and pray that your Africa policy will uphold international law and put an end to Congo's pain.

I respectfully request a briefing on your Africa policy in general and your Great Lakes policy in particular.

I await your thoughtful response to my concerns.


Cynthia McKinney
Member of Congress

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