U.S. and World Politics

U.S. Policy Led to Two Million Rapes, Six Million Deaths in Congo

By Glen Ford

Americans are taking note of a recent study on massive rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but most fail to connect the horror with U.S. policy in Africa. Mass rape is one aspect of a genocide that has taken six million lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. American proxies carried out Washington’s aims of creating chaos for the benefit of multinational corporations.

What should be the human response to a new study that estimates two million women have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo? The natural reaction is horror, anger, and to demand that somebody do something. But of course, one cannot do anything effectively, unless one has some understanding of why this atrocity against womankind occurs at such horrific levels in this particular country.

The study has gotten a fair amount of media coverage since the American Journal of Public Health announced the findings, last week. I suspect that much of the American public reaction has been: Oh, those Africans are incapable of behaving like civilized human beings. It would not occur to these Americans that their own country is the principal perpetrator in the crimes that have made parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo such a hellish place for women and girls. The United States is mainly responsible for the even larger crime of which mass rape is just one aspect: the death of six million people, the largest loss of life in any conflict since World War Two, and the second genocide of Congolese in the space of a century.

The first Congolese genocide came under the Belgians, beginning in 1885. King Leopold brought about the death of fully half the population—some estimate as many as 20 million people. Then it was the Americans’ turn. In 1961, the United States plotted with the outgoing Belgian colonizers to murder Congo’s first elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. The Americans then installed Joseph Mobutu as strongman to safeguard multinational mining interests and to act as an American base of operations to subvert independence movements all over Africa.

Mobutu served the Americans well, and helped himself to possibly $4 billion of the Congolese people’s money. When Mobutu left the scene in 1997, Washington switched to what has always been its Plan B for Africa: wherever it cannot rule through its chosen strongman, the U.S. creates chaos.

In 1998, Uganda and Rwanda, America’s client states in Africa, invaded the eastern Congo, plunging the country into the chaos of the second Congolese genocide. The United States, through its proxies and its deliberate policy of creating chaos for the benefit of multinational corporations, is complicit in every single one of those six million deaths. It is U.S. policy—not just past, but present policy—that has unleashed bands of armed men and child soldiers to inflict unspeakable horrors on women and girls.

What can Americans do to help the women and girls of Congo? They can demand that Washington call off its surrogates in Rwanda and Uganda who continue to loot the country on behalf of minerals corporations. They can tell the U.S. to stop interfering in Congo’s affairs, so that a democratically elected central government could tax the corporations and use the revenue to build a state that can protect its people. And Americans that recoil at the rape of the Democratic Republic of Congoits women, its resources and its sovereignty—should demand the U.S. pay reparations, not aid, for all it has stolen from that country.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Black Agenda Report, May 17, 2011