What it means for America and our allies.
“Like making a pyromaniac the town fire chief.” That’s the verdict from Hillel Neuer, executive director of the NGO UN Watch, on the controversial decision to appoint the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the UN Human Rights Council. It’s a view shared by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who said that the DRC’s appointment proved that the HRC could not possibly view itself as a unified voice of moral clarity with the integrity to call out abusive governments. The US, which is rightfully reviewing its membership in the council, has called for competitive elections to put pressure on countries with such abysmal human rights records.
Unfortunately, it is not only atrocities within its own borders that the DRC is fueling – it is also sponsoring terrorism overseas. According to a new report, “The Terrorists’ Treasury,” the BGFIBank DRC – which is operated by the brother of Congolese President Joseph Kabila – has been diverting assets to enable the financiers of the Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist organization, Hezbollah.
This is not the first time that the DRC has been exposed as a state sponsor of terrorism. Earlier this year, the NGO Global Witness exposed how Congo Futur, a lumber company owned by major financiers of Hezbollah, had clandestinely created new companies and transferred ownership to proxies in order to circumvent sanctions and export more than $5.5 million worth of luxury timber from the DRC to the US market.
The news that the DRC continues to provide indirect support for Hezbollah comes at a time when the terrorist organization poses a greater threat than ever. First, Hezbollah has been boosting its stockpile of weapons across Lebanon, stoking tensions in the region and raising the prospect of war with Israel. Given the fact that since 1993 every confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon has grown increasingly intense, the next inevitable clash will end up wreaking havoc in both countries.
Second, in addition to expanding its military capacities in Lebanon, Hezbollah has been playing an ever prominent role alongside Syrian government forces in the eastern region of Deir ez-Zor, where the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces and regime troops are competing for Islamic State territory. Hezbollah has also been exploiting the de-escalation of conflict in south Syria as a vehicle to carry out reconnaissance work in the region, identifying areas in the country from which it could easily strike Israel without needing to be physically close to the border.
However, it is not only towards key US allies that Hezbollah is posing an increasingly menacing threat – it is also towards America itself. The terrorist group was recently caught conspiring to attack the US on its own turf, conducting fundraising operations in the country and positioning “sleeper agents” in places like Michigan and New York.
That the DRC feels emboldened to help Hezbollah restock its war chest should not come as a surprise. After all, the Obama administration and other Western governments have already taught the country – and specifically its President Joseph Kabila – that it can behave how it likes without risking censure.
In 2011, when Kabila came to power in an election marred by electoral irregularities and vote rigging, the US chose to turn a blind eye, believing that for all his faults, Kabila was the best guarantee for stability in the country.
Unsurprisingly the chickens are now coming home to roost. Kabila, a leader who achieved power by corrupt means, is now ensuring that he retains power through equally underhanded methods. Taking Western governments’ past acquiescence as carte blanche, Kabila recently announced that presidential elections originally slated for last December would be delayed until 2019.
Since Kabila’s refusal to step down, the DRC has been tumbling deeper and deeper into political and economic turmoil. Conflict between anti-government movements and Congolese security forces is reverberating throughout the once-peaceful Kasai region, with more than 3,000 people – most of them Christians -- killed in 12 months of violence, according to the Congolese Catholic Church. Meanwhile, as the political crisis drags on, growth has stagnated, poverty has surged, and mistrust in financial institutions has skyrocketed.
“Congo is losing every day, every minute, every second Mr. Kabila is in office,” exiled presidential candidate Moise Katumbi said at a recent conference in London. He has said he is the only man Kabila fears and is widely seen as the best contender to replace the DRC’s strongman. Both he and fellow opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi have called for a “transition without Kabila” if elections are not held this year, and Katumbi has said that he will return to his homeland in December 2017 in order to force the matter. However, whether this will happen and what impact it will have remains to be seen, since the aspiring president-for-life is certainly not going to hand over the reins of power quietly.
It’s clear that the West is now reaping what the Obama administration has sown: the UN has elected to the HRC a state that is not only purging Christians, but is also supporting a designated terrorist group. This, in turn, could set off another Middle East conflict, as well as deal a death blow to the legitimacy of the already-embattled HRC.