news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Congo (Kinshasa): Arms Past and Present

Congo (Kinshasa): Arms Past and Present
Date distributed (ymd): 000126
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +security/peace+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains the executive summary of a new report from the Arms Trade Resource Center of the World Policy Institute, citing past and present U.S. military connections to countries involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report calls for greater restrictions and transparency in U.S. programs of arms sales and military training, and for refocusing resources on civilian development.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Deadly Legacy:
U.S. Arms to Africa and the Congo War
A Report of the Arms Trade Resource Center

January 2000

William D. Hartung
World Policy Institute
65 Fifth Ave. Suite 413
New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212)-229-5808, ext. 106
Fax: (212)-229-5579

Executive Summary

As the Clinton administration moves into the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, it is declaring January 2000, "the month of Africa." Hoping to counter criticisms that it has been engaged in a rhetorical promotion of U.S.-Africa relations over the past two years without substantive follow-up, the administration has announced its intent to prioritize finding solutions to the ongoing conflicts in the region, including a 30-year civil war that trudges on in Angola and the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It has not, however, accepted its own responsibility in helping to create the conditions that have led to these seemingly intractable conflicts.

Over the past few years, the administration has made considerable effort to put a new and improved face on its relations with African countries. High-level visits to the region -- first by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, then President Clinton himself in the spring of 1998, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke this past December -- have reinforced the idea of a new partnership with the continent based on promoting "African solutions to African problems." The reality, however, is that the problems facing Africa and her people -- violent conflict, political instability, and the lowest regional rate of economic growth worldwide -- have been fueled in part by a legacy of U.S. involvement in the region. Moreover, the solutions being proposed by the Clinton administration remain grounded in the counter-productive Cold-War policies that have defined U.S.-Africa relations for far too long.

Unfortunately, the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo presents a vivid example of how U.S. policies -- past and present -- have failed the people of Africa. After more than two years of devastating war, African leaders are struggling, with little success, to implement the Lusaka peace accord. Signatories to the treaty continue to call for UN peacekeeping support even as they prepare for continued fighting. Despite its demonstrable role in planting the seeds of this conflict, the U.S. has done little to either acknowledge its complicity or help create a viable resolution. Official tours of the region and impressive rhetoric will not be enough to contribute to lasting peace, democratic stability, and economic development in Africa.

Major Findings

Finding 1

Due to the continuing legacies of its Cold War policies toward Africa, the U.S. bears some responsibility for the cycles of violence and economic problems plaguing the continent. Throughout the Cold War (1950-1989), the U.S. delivered over $1.5 billion worth of weaponry to Africa. Many of the top U.S. arms clients -- Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC) -- have turned out to be the top basket cases of the 1990s in terms of violence, instability, and economic collapse.

Finding 2

The ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) is a prime example of the devastating legacy of U.S. arms sales policy on Africa. The U.S. prolonged the rule of Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Soko by providing more than $300 million in weapons and $100 million in military training. Mobutu used his U.S.-supplied arsenal to repress his own people and plunder his nation's economy for three decades, until his brutal regime was overthrown by Laurent Kabila's forces in 1997. When Kabila took power, the Clinton administration quickly offered military support by developing a plan for new training operations with the armed forces.

Finding 3

Although the Clinton administration has been quick to criticize the governments involved in the Congo War, decades of U.S. weapons transfers and continued military training to both sides of the conflict have helped fuel the fighting. The U.S. has helped build the arsenals of eight of the nine governments directly involved in the war that has ravaged the DRC since Kabila's coup. U.S. military transfers in the form of direct government-to-government weapons deliveries, commercial sales, and International Military Education and Training (IMET) to the states directly involved have totaled more than $125 million since the end of the Cold War.

Finding 4

Despite the failure of U.S. polices in the region, the current administration continues to respond to Africa's woes by helping to strengthen African militaries. As U.S. weapons deliveries to Africa continue to rise, the Clinton administration is now undertaking a wave of new military training programs in Africa. Between 1991-1998, U.S. weapons and training deliveries to Africa totaled more than $227 million. In 1998 alone, direct weapons transfers and IMET training totaled $20.1 million. And, under the Pentagon's Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program, U.S. special forces have trained military personnel from at least 34 of Africa's 53 nations, including troops fighting on both sides of the DRC's civil war -- from Rwanda and Uganda (supporting the rebels) to Zimbabwe and Namibia (supporting the Kabila regime).

Finding 5

Even as it fuels military build-up, the U.S. continues cutting development assistance to Africa and remains unable (or unwilling) to promote alternative non-violent forms of engagement. While the U.S. ranks number one in global weapons exports, it falls dead last among industrialized nations in providing non-military foreign aid to the developing world. In 1997, the U.S. devoted only 0.09% of GNP to international development assistance, the lowest proportion of all developed countries. U.S. development aid to all of sub-Saharan Africa has dropped to just $700 million in recent years (roughly one-third the cost of one B-2 bomber!).


Recommendation 1

By restricting the flow of weapons and training and increasing support for sustainable development policies, the U.S. could help create the conditions needed for peace and stability to take root. Although Congress recently passed legislation requiring the President to begin negotiations toward an international arms sales code of conduct based on human rights, non-aggression, and democracy, the U.S. continues to exempt its own exports from these same standards. The Clinton administration should make good on its acclaimed commitments to human rights and democracy by supporting passage of the bipartisan McKinney-Rohrabacher Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers (HR 2269), a measure which would take U.S. weapons out of the hands of dictators and human rights abusers.

Recommendation 2

All U.S. military training programs should receive congressional oversight and approval, with effective mechanisms in place for reviewing and assessing their impact on human rights and democratic consolidation in the recipient countries. Despite congressional action to restrict military training from units engaged in human rights abuses, the Pentagon still carries out largely unmonitored Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) operations under a special forces exemption. Congress should take immediate steps to close the loopholes in JCET and other training programs by passing the International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act (HR 1063). This bill, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and supported by a strong bi-partisan coalition, would prohibit all forms of military training and services to countries that are already ineligible for International Military Education Training.

Recommendation 3

The Clinton administration should provide increased unconditional debt forgiveness to African nations and encourage them to shift resources away from military build-up and toward human development. The U.S. should immediately forgive the hundreds of millions of dollars in military debt accrued by governments in Zaire, the Sudan, and Somalia. It should also take steps toward further debt relief by passing the HOPE for Africa bill introduced by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) in the House (HR 772) and Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) in the Senate (S 1636). President Clinton should also commit to the Jubilee 2000 campaign's call for developing a plan, in conjunction with local non-governmental organizations and civil society, for full and unconditional debt relief this year.

Recommendation 4

The U.S. should provide increased development assistance to Africa and encourage civil-society building. President Clinton and Congress should restore the previous level of $800 million in development assistance to Africa in the FY2001 budget and work to increase funding to a more responsible level in coming years. The U.S. should strive to raise African development funding to $2 billion by 2003, and consult directly with non-governmental institutions to ensure that these funds are dispersed and used appropriately.

For a copy of the full report, contact Frida Berrigan (212-229-5808, ext. 112, or; or consult our website,

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen international policy debates around African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

URL for this file: