Humanitarian aid and counterinsurgency : the case of the Simba revolts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1964-1967
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The journal of the middle east and africa, Vol. 11, no. 3, 2020, p. 229-250
This article demonstrates how the U.S. and Congolese governments successfully used humanitarian aid in their counterinsurgency campaign against the rebel Conseil National de la Libération (CNL) in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1964 to 1967. Washington orchestrated an effective military counteroffensive through the use of mercenaries and extensive logistical support. Though relief organizations claimed to be apolitical, they allowed Congolese and mercenary forces to use access to food and medical aid to entice rebels to surrender and to turn popular support away from the insurgents. The fighting created a major crisis, as famine took hold in rebel-held areas cut off from supplies. Although government abuses of civilians appalled Red Cross and Protestant aid personnel, they kept quiet about the army’s indiscriminate use of violence. One major reason for this willingness to partner with the Kinshasa government was the CNL, which treated humanitarian organizations as if they were mere tools of U.S. imperialism. Ultimately, the rebels bungled negotiations with the Red Cross over the fate of foreigners they held hostage in Stanleyville in 1964. These errors pushed humanitarian organizations further toward siding with the Congolese military. Moreover, Congolese military officers allowed humanitarian organizations to operate in only government-controlled territory.