CYNTHIA McKINNEY spoke to the Bulletin in Barcelona on Friday.

By Humphrey Carter

“IN 1796 George Washington, in his farewell address to the American people, talked about the notion of patriotism and the fact that there are people who will steal the applause of the people and yet they will sell the people's interests away all the while wrapping themselves in the flag. He warned the American people to beware of these false patriots and then he suggested that true patriots are the ones that will question their country, their government and these false patriots - the questioners are the true patriots who try to hold America to her stated ideals.” One of the leading questioners, patriots, of recent years in the United States has been “the voice of the voiceless,” Congresswoman Cynthia MacKinney, the first Afro-American congresswoman of the State of Georgia and President Clinton's special envoy to Africa, has become known as an outspoken leader in the area of human rights and demilitarisation, especially in the Great Lakes area of Africa.

Democrat McKinney, who will speak at Tuesday night's Club Ultima Hora conference about the economic and geo-strategic interests in the conflicts today, with special reference to the situation in the Great Lakes region. She is also in Spain championing the push for human rights and also to boost public awareness to the crimes committed against humanity in the region, the base of the biggest human rights case in history which is being perpared by a team of Spanish lawyers in Barcelona and will be lodged in a Spanish court.

Q. You first visited the Congo in 1994, why, and what did you discover?
A. When I first visited the Congo, it was against the best wishes of my government because there was about to be great changes to Zaire, as it was then.

But as a person who cares about American foreign policy in Africa, I wanted to witness the end of the Mobuto era and what I thought was going to be the inauguration of a new Africa, a new Zaire, and that it would ultimately become the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But, much to my great disappointment the course of events would not follow the Congolese national interests and the influence of outsiders, pressing personal interest, or at least non-Congolese interests became evident and as a result of that, my relationship with the leadership in Congo, which at that time was Kabila, became closer. The last words he told me, just weeks before he was murdered, was that, with regards to America, he would never betray Congo.

So the long sorry, sordid history of Zaire, Congo and the Democratic Republic I think begins with that country's riches and it ends in a lot of pain, suffering and sorrow. Along the way four brothers from Spain shed their blood on Congolese soil trying to defend the defenceless along with five other Spaniards.

So that's what brings me to Spain because Spain has a particular warrior who has shown a commitment to the Great Lakes in general and to the quest for justice for the Spanish nationals who have been murdered in that part of the world and that warrior is Juan Carrero. (Nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2000 and whose foundation is in Majorca.)
Q. Has anything changed since 1994?
A. Yes. In 1994 you still had Mbutu and the Congolese people were sick and tired of him and ready for real self government. Between the end of Mobutu and the invasion of the Domocratic Republic of Congo in 1998 you had the budding flower but that flower was not allowed to bloom. We merely saw the bud and the bud of freedom but self determination and Congolese nationalism and patriotism was cut short, nipped and all of those hopes for the future were nipped in the bud. August 2, 1998 Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo with assistance and complicity of the international community. As a result it has been estimated in official reports that as many as three million people have died in eastern Congo alone since 1998 and the whole world has turned a blind eye to the suffering of the people in Congo.

In fact, the IMF continues to approve loans and the World Bank gives money to Rwanda and Uganda and their leaders are hailed as new African leaders.
Why should the average person in Spain care, aside from the fact that nine innocnet Spaniards had their lives cut short because of the unrest and violence in this part of the world. This does just not happen because Africans love to kill each other, as Mitterand once said. That's not true.

There's been at least a century of intervention on the African continent providing weapons and leaders. A poor man today can be a rebel leader tomorrow if you're willing to stand for interests other than African interests.

Much has changed but much remains the same.
That's why we need the people of Spain and Europe to care because it's clear that the Africans, if they could, would have it another way. But they are powerless to defend themselves against these very strong foreign and special interests who covet the gold, uranium, diamonds and oil that Africa has but just don't want to pay for it.

Q. On the one hand western governments appear to want to help Africa and its problems, but on the other hand western multi-nationals are stripping Africa, is there a hidden mandate?

A. These governments have the power to change the situation in Africa and to work honestly toward providing dignity and hope through fair exchange and respect for governments of Africa.

But that does not happen.
Q.Why then doesn't the West want to let Africa solve its problems?
A. Why change things? We get our diamonds from Africa, but Africans don't control their diamonds or their oil, they don't get to see, control or benefit from the profits and it suits the west to have a state of confusion and power vacuums in Africa.

Let's take the case of Sierre Leone where little girls were being raped and little boys' hands chopped off. I crusaded in Washington to try and get the RUF declared a terrorist organisation and it never happened. Instead the US sent in Jesse Jackson to negotiate putting the RUF's leader in the democratically elected government in charge of diamonds... and the world was quiet until the situation got so out of hand, that just 50 British soldiers were sent in and mopped up the operation, taking care of the little kids.

Q.Has the International Community, the United Nations, forgotten Africa ?
A. Africa is not respected - the respect has been forgotten. I don't know what it will take to change that, but there is a growing consensus of the notion of justice around the world. But while under European law you go to court and get damages to try and repair that which has been done to wrong a party, why can't Africa and Africans seek damages for the slave trade - which was wrong.

What is more, for years the United States admitted that acts of genocide were taking place in the Great Lakes, but not genocide. What's the difference? The difference is that once America admitted that genocide was taking place then the international community would have to act, while acts of genocide did not warrant the same response.

Q. What's the state of play bringing criminal charges against those responsible?
A.This is where Jordi Palou comes in and I suspect there will be some form of legal action to defend the rights of the families of the nine Spaniards who were murdered.

JORDI Palou, Barcelona-based lawyer and conflict resolution specialist explained that the legal wheels are in motion and that a case is being prepared, evidence being furnished based on the nine Spanish murder cases which will lead into investigating the crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the Congo and Rwanda where as many as five million people have been killed.

Against who the criminal charges will be pressed has yet to be decided, but Palou said it will be the persons responsible, be they political leaders or heads of multi-national companies. The case will be lodged in Spain, possibly the court of human rights in Brussels and if necessary the United States.

In short, the biggest hunman rights case of all time is being prepared and McKinney is in Spain championing this cause. “Spain took a bold step forward when they decided to prosecute Pinochet,” said McKinney. “And the entire world was looking at Spain and all human rights activists all over the world celebrated Spain, so Spain has set a precedent. “I can guarantee you that if Spain undertakes and supports such an action (the Palou case) all the eyes of the world, particularly Africans and those of African descent all over the world, our eyes will be trained on Spain.” Q.So Spain could offer Africa a new hope?
A: Yes, absolutely.
Having worked with the United Nations, McKinney admits that while she worked with Carlsson on his Inquiry into the Conduct of the United Nations in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, she spent most of the time working against the United Nations leadership up until Carlsson's appointment to investigate the failure of the United Nations in the Great Lakes, which, McKinney says in many cases shut down their investigations as they got close to answers they did not want to reveal.

Q: Here we are in 2003, what are you doing now?
A. I'm here with Jordi Palou and Juan Carrero, doing everything we can to place this issue before the Spanish, European people and the courts, a friendly court where somebody will finally listen and that's going to be in Spain.

Q. This is why you backed Carrero for the Nobel Peace Prize?
A. Absolutely, he's a warrior, a warrior for justice.
Q. What is the role Nelson Mandela could and should be playing in African politics?
A. Nelson Mandela is the moral godfather of the world and Nelson Mandela transcends African politics.
That's why his words against President Bush were so interesting and widely reported in the global press.
When Nelson Mandela speaks then everybody listens... at least for a minute.
Q. But why are the words of the multi-nationals still listened to more than Mandela by government?
A.Because Henry Kissinger teaches us that morality and politics don't mix and so while Mandela may be the moral godfather, when it comes down to money and power, that's hard ball politics and you've got people running the world right now who believe more in Henry Kissinger than Nelson Mandela. That's why it is important that Spain helps to rein these people in.

Pinochet was made accountable for his crimes, as best possible, and hopefully Kissinger will be held accountable for his crimes. When the world sees that these two icons of evil are held accountable, then it will be far easier for the rest of people like this who have helped to implement policies that have hurt or killed people, that they too can and will be held accountable.

And when that glorious day happens, then we can truly say that Nelson Mandela's words will not fall on deaf ears and people will realise and respect that politics and morality do go together.

Q. Are you worried about George Bush accusing you of not being a patriot?
A. No, I am a questioner, therefore a patriot.
But also where was George W Bush when America needed him, where was Dick Cheney and all the other warmongers who are pushing our country to war now?
Cheney took two deferments. He did not go fight, but he can send someone else's kids off to fight. George W Bush was AWOL, he was missing for a year-and-a-half. They did not know where he was and yet he says he served his country.

So all we need do is look at the hawks and see they really are chicken hawks and then answer the question, who are the patriots. In my mind the patriots are standing in the streets, in Washington DC in the dead cold of winter saying don't send our young men and women off to war.

Q. Now we've touched on Iraq, you've written that the US knew far more about the September 11 attacks before they happened.
A. Yes, but I think that's been drawn out by reports from the FBI agents themselves. One was living with two of the hijackers and Bush, who at first did not want an investigation, eventually gave in but asked for investigators not to probe too deep.

Q. Why did it happen, was it pay back time for US overseas policy?
A. I'm not prepared to say that, I would rather be asking who did it first and then how and then we get to why.
Q.We apparently know who...
A. You know who did it? We've reviewed the White Paper from Tony Blair which was not very convincing, about as convincing as Colin Powell's presentation.

Q OK, is the response attacking Iraq correct in your eyes?.
A. If we're talking about September 11 and Iraq, we're talking about two different things, we can't confuse the two. While many in the United States would like the world to believe that George W Bush is another JFK, I'm sad to say he's a long way off.

Q. Are we seeing the end of the United Nations?
A. No, it does have to be. Flawed as it is, it's the institution that gives voice to the world, to make decisions that are in the best interests of most countries. Perhaps we should think about how the UN can be more effective in serving the needs of more people, so it can be saved. But part of the answer is a stronger, more assertive Europe.