Originally published in Black Agenda Report.
Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ legislation has elicited worldwide condemnation. But that nation’s history of invading, pillaging, and killing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with U.S. blessings, is rarely discussed.The parliament of the Republic of Uganda recently passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023, which makes it a crime to identify as gay. Same sex relationships were already illegal in Uganda, but provisions of the new law include life in prison for same-sex relations and the death penalty for what is referred to as “aggravated homosexuality.”
The human rights abuses advocated in this legislation have quite rightly created shock and condemnation around the world. It is true that conservative evangelical groups from the United States encourage anti-LGBTQ policies in Uganda. These relationships should be pointed out in order to explain the Ugandan government’s focus on this issue, but there is another aspect of U.S and Ugandan relations which is largely ignored. For decades Uganda has committed war crimes on behalf of the U.S. and other Western nations. This relationship is responsible for the deaths of some 6 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and yet it receives scant attention.
Uganda has long been a beneficiary of U.S. military aid and works with its neighbor Rwanda to pillage Congo at will. Acting with the blessing of the U.S., Uganda and Rwanda sponsor the M23 militia, which regularly invades Congo and steals its mineral resources of gold, diamonds, and the cobalt that is used in all electronic devices. In 2022 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Uganda must pay $325 million in reparations for its crimes committed against Congo.
“The amount includes $225 million to be paid for ‘loss of life and other damages to persons’ that included rape, conscription of child soldiers and the displacement of up to 500,000 people.
The ICJ added another $40 million for damage to property and $60 million for damage to natural resources, including the plundering of gold, diamonds, timber and other goods by Ugandan forces or rebels they supported.”
These crimes directly benefited U.S., Canadian, and European corporations. Uganda, Rwanda and their proxies have been invading Congo since 1996. The goal then as now is to control that country’s mineral wealth, and they do so with the connivance of the U.S. and its friends. The Clinton administration began arming Ugandan forces and the end result was that corporations such as American Mineral Fields and Canadian mining conglomerate Barrick Gold ended up with huge concessions in Congo. In 2000 the value of Congo’s mineral wealth was estimated to be $157 billion. Barrick Gold has had advisory board members such as former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and former president George H.W. Bush. It is no exaggeration to say that global leaders in politics and finance make sure that Congo stays firmly within their control, and use the Ugandan military as their muscle.
But this well documented information is rarely mentioned by the corporate media. Doing so would mean investigating the links between the U.S. government, its Ugandan and Rwandan partners, and multinational corporations.
It is far easier to describe Africa as a backward continent run by dictators. Of course, the dictators in power there are always the beneficiaries of Western interference. Congo’s tragic history includes being the personal fiefdom of Belgium’s King Leopold, who was literally the owner of the colony and not the Belgian state. He is said to have helped kill 10 million Congolese people as they were worked to death to harvest rubber, or had their hands cut off if they didn’t meet quotas.
When Congo emerged from colonialism in 1960, the short-lived presidency of Patrice Lumumba ended with his assassination at the hands of the U.S. and Belgium. Lumumba wanted Congo’s wealth to benefit its people but that was unacceptable to the U.S. and its friends, and Congo has suffered through a series of dictators who serve the U.S. and Europe.
Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda, is cut from the same cloth. He owes his presence in office to the United States. Secretary of State Blinken may condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill but he won’t lay a finger on Museveni’s head because he acts on behalf of U.S. interests.
Corporate media in the U.S. are servants of the state. They don’t report on anything that would expose or even inconvenience Washington or Wall Street or mining companies in Toronto. Uganda doesn’t make the news unless it is writing anti-gay legislation. Its involvement in the deaths of millions of people is declared to be of little interest because exposing it would expose how the U.S. operates around the world.
In general Africa is of no interest to the press or to Washington either. Kamala Harris is sent on good will visits of minimal benefit because China and Russia are vying for influence there. Those rivalries will make the news but U.S. involvement in war crimes never does.It is important to rail against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Adding some righteous anger about millions of deaths on the U.S./Uganda ledger is a good idea too.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly at Black Agenda Report and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents. You can support her work at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and and also find it on Twitter and Telegram. Kimberley can be reached via e-mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.com.