Rwanda


According to JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association, in a study covering 2005-2007, Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the soldiers of the DRC, the FARDC, were responsible for 56% of rapes and crimes of sexual violence reviewed in the study. JAMA has just released a more extensive study: Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The new study lists the main perpetrators of crimes of sexual violence, but the FARDC and state military have disappeared from this list of perpetrators.  They are completely missing from the tables of results.

CAMP BASE, KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo - Lieutenant Colonel Pepe Tongawa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) commander of troops, awaits the beginning of the graduation ceremony for more than 750 DRC soldiers trained by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa as part of Operation Olympic Chase September 15, 2010. Operation Olympic Chase was a nine-month course designed to form a fully professional light infantry battalion with supporting medical and engineering elements. Instruction included small unit tactics, communications, medical care, HIV/AIDS prevention and humanitarian de-mining. Tongawa is the commander of the Kisangani military garrison. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Eric S. Elliott)

What happened between 2007 and the present? Have the DRC state military ceased entirely committing the crimes that caused the citizenry throughout the eastern DRC to fear them.

In October 2008 The United States stood up its Africa Command, which has begun partnerships and training with the FARDC, the DRC state military. The pictures included here are from recent training exercises in which the US Africa Command is training DRC soldiers, the same state military implicated in much of the massive sexual violence that has taken place in the Congo’s civil wars since 1995.

Did the FARDC stop committing rape and crimes of sexual violence? Or did the fact that they are now US allies cause them to disappear from the list of perpetrators in the JAMA report: Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. How did that work?

CAMP BASE, KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo †Charlie company of the newly designated 391st Commando Battalion parade before Congolese and U.S. dignitaries at the conclusion of the ceremony marking the end of their training by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa September 15, 2010. The battalion includes three light infantry companies and a headquarters element. The battalion was trained by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa as part of Operation Olympic Chase. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Clark)

Here is the portion of the table of results that lists the named perpetrators from the 2005-2007 study:

selection from JAMA table, click to enlarge enough to read

And here are the perpetrators as listed in the study from the August 4, 2010 issue of JAMA:

Prevalence of most active perpetrators of abuse:
Mai-Mai___________18.8
FDLR_____________11.3
FNI______________10.3
MLC______________7.8
Interahamwe_______5.7
UPC______________13.5
You will notice that these percentage add up to 67.4%
That means 32.6% of the perpetrators are not named or unknown. While I’m sure some percentage is unknown, I doubt it is as large as 32%. It also seems unlikely that the soldiers of the DRC have suddenly and completely stopped committing crimes that they have commonly committed in the past.
Why did the DRC state military disappear from the listed perpetrators of some of the worst abuses and sexual violence in Congo’s civil wars? It looks to me as if that information was omitted because they are now US allies. And it does not look good for the US to openly ally itself with the unimaginably brutal violence that has been taking place in the DRC since 1993.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo - Major General David R. Hogg, commander of U.S. Army Africa, arrives at the mass casualty event site, September 17, 2010, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hogg was greeted by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo military police and music battalion. (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant James D. Sims)

Is hiding this association and granting impunity those who commit gross abuses of law and human rights the best way to deal with the problem? Will pretending “our” side didn’t do this stop the crimes? The reason the crimes have continued and escalated is because of the almost complete impunity of the perpetrators. I don’t know why the FARDC was not listed among the perpetrators in the recent JAMA report. But it is difficult not t0 conclude that the US relationship with the FARDC, the DRC state military, has something to do with it.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice in early September following a meeting discussing recent incidents of mass rape in the DRC:

“From the U.S. point of view, we will take up the mantle of leadership… in ensuring that the perpetrators of the violence are held accountable, including through our efforts in the sanctions committee – to add them to the list that exists and to ensure that they are sanctioned,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after the meeting.

Over 500 rapes have now been confirmed in the North and South Kivu provinces since Jul. 30, with scores more unconfirmed and still others certainly unreported

For there to be peace and reconciliation, there must be truth. People must be able to both tell and hear what actually happened. Obscuring or skewing the description to omit certain parties or perpetrators will hide truth and encourage the impunity that permits and perpetuates this level of violence.  It is most certainly not holding people accountable.

KINSHASA, Congo - Residents of Kinshasa, Congo wait in line to receive medical and dental care at the Humanitarian Civic Action site, September 14, 2010. Approximately 2,000 residents were seen over a four-day period during MEDFLAG 10, a joint medical exercise between the U.S. military and the Congo armed forces which provided humanitarian assistance to the local people. (Photo by Staff Sergeant Kassidy Snyder, Illinois National Guard)

On October 1 the United Nations released: DRC: Mapping human rights violations 1993-2003.  Links to the full text PDF in French and English are available at the link.  The events described in this report are evil beyond imagining.
“Very few Congolese and foreign civilians living on the territory of the DRC managed to escape the violence, and were victims of murder, mutilation, rape, forced displacement, pillage, destruction of property or economic and social rights violations,” underlines the report.

Among those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide in the report are Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, three countries whose armed forces were involved in the different wars that racked the DRC between 1995 and 2003.

The Rwandan government, which had threatened to withdraw its troops serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Sudan if the report was published, characterised the document as dangerous. According to the country’s foreign affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo told the press, the report is “a moral and intellectual failure, and an insult to history.”

Rwanda, which suffered a genocide in 1994, refuses to accept that its army could be accused of having committed acts of genocide in eastern DRC just a few years later. The report’s methodology, with human rights officers drawing on meetings with more than 1,200 witnesses from across the country, and excluding incidents that could not be corroborated by at least two independent sources, cannot be easily dismissed.

Alan Stam, a political science professor at the University of Michigan in the United States, who has done extensive research on the Rwanda’s civil war violence and its aftermath in the Great Lakes region, believes the report will change how the government of Paul Kagame is perceived.

This is the largest, most systematic effort to catalogue the abuses that have taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to link them back to people [connected to] the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front].”

The events documented by the Mapping Project are well known he says, but the report presents them in a systematic way that INDICTS the perpetrators.

Stam says that President Kagame has been praised internationally for his role in ending the 1994 genocide and stabilising Rwanda since the RPF took control in 1994; and for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. In Stam’s view, Kagame and the RPF won the war rather than ending the genocide.

But human rights groups have accused his administration of suppressing independent media and his political opposition, most recently in elections held in August.

“History may look back at this as the tipping point in the international community’s perception of the Kagame government.”

Uganda rejected the report in an official communiqué released on Sep. 30, saying its findings are based simply on the statements by NGOs and that Kampala should have been consulted before publication.

Rwanda and Burundi have also rejected the report. Statements by their respective foreign affairs ministries said the United Nations was risking gains of integration and reconciliation in the heart of the Great Lakes region.

“Aside from its historical contribution to documenting these serious violations and fact-finding during this period, the ultimate purpose of this inventory is to provide the Congolese authorities with the elements they need to help them decide on the best approach to adopt to achieve justice for the many victims and fight widespread impunity for these crimes.”

As covered in the Black Agenda Report:

The pro-government Rwandan press has been busy attacking the researchers who drew up the report as part of a mapping project to pinpoint the sites of military actions and massacres of civilians in Congo and Rwanda. Rwanda’s media defenders have been especially frantic in their attacks on Christopher Black, [author of] “Who Was Behind the Rwandan Genocide?” … Mr. Black is also a lawyer for a Hutu general on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Based largely on the UN’s research into the times, places and victims of mass murder in Rwanda and Congo, Mr. Black concludes that Rwandan Tutsi rebels, attacking from Uganda, initiated the slaughter in Rwanda that left hundreds of thousands dead, and then invaded the neighboring Congo to exploit its mineral resources.

Black’s version of the conflict gives context to the UN’s report that Rwanda’s Tutsi army in the Congo slaughtered Hutu civilians, both Rwandan Hutu refugees and native Congolese Hutu. And he further charges that Uganda and Rwanda coordinated their invasion of the Congo with their military and political ally, the United States, for the benefit of multinational mining corporations.

Rwanda and Uganda are major active partners of the US Africa Command. 

How well is democracy working in four of the US government’s partner/client/proxy states in East Africa? Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda are all presently in election cycles. Are US military partnerships enabling these countries to become more representative and democratic?

Kagame’s leading challenger in the presidential election scheduled for August is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Kagame, who has not allowed her to register her candidacy, jailed her briefly a month ago, and today (May 28, 2010) he jailed her American attorney, Peter Erlinder, lead defense counsel in the Military-1 trial at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.

Opposition leader and former judge, Birtukan Mideksa, has again been imprisoned (Dec. 2008) by the US-backed regime of Meles Zenawi

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia held elections in May.

When human rights Watch criticized the results of Ethiopia’s May elections, in which the ruling coalition “won” an improbable 545 out of 547 seats, leaders in Addis Ababa didn’t ignore the influential NGO. Instead, they paid tens of thousands of demonstrators to gather in the capital and denounce the report. (Newsweek)

And from:

ADDIS ABABA, July 20 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s highest court on Tuesday rejected a case brought by the country’s opposition against the ruling party’s landslide May election victory, finally exhausting legal appeals for the defeated parties.

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies won 545 seats in the 547-member parliament. Both a European Union observer mission and the United States criticised the overwhelming victory.

Medrek and other opposition parties alleged widespread pre-poll intimidation during a campaign in which both sides claimed candidates and activists were murdered. Medrek also said there was some vote rigging.

Eight-party Medrek won just a single parliamentary seat in the poll. The other seat went to an independent candidate.

The aftermath of the May 23 poll is being watched by Western diplomats in a country that is a growing destination for investment and is Washington’s key ally in the Horn of Africa, where it is seen as standing against Islamic militancy.

So do you think Washington will do anything to encourage more free and representative government in Ethiopia? Ethiopia has been one of the principle US and western proxies for interfering in Somali affairs. I’m willing to bet that looking, and not all too carefully at that, is all the US and western governments will do for Ethiopian democracy. So far the US and EU have blithely ignored the electoral regularities and atrocious human rights record of Ethiopia’s Zenawi.

EU and U.S. say poll short of international standards

The 2005 elections ended with the then opposition disputing the government’s victory. Riots broke out in Addis Ababa in which 193 protestors and seven policemen were killed. The top opposition leaders were jailed until 2007.

The lone opposition member to win a seat in parliament:

Girma won his seat in Addis Ababa’s Mercato district, seen as Africa’s biggest open-air market and one of the city’s poorer areas.

“I won because a lot of my voters were merchants who are economically independent,” he said. “They weren’t civil servants or unemployed and subject to the same forms of intimidation as a lot of other people. I was lucky.”

Girma’s victory was slim, however, and he only beat his ruling party opponent by a margin of 114 votes in a constituency where both he and his father were born.
(Reuters)

The strongest of the opposition leaders, Birtukan Mideksa, is still in jail serving a life sentence. The conditions in Ethiopian prisons are dreadful, as I wrote in Guantanamo in Ethiopia. Birtukan Mideksa’s health is deteriorating. Meles Zenawi and his western allies may not have to worry about the threat she poses to their political expediency much longer if she does not get proper medical attention and care.

In Ethiopia the US has acted as an enabler of anti democratic practices, pouring aid and encouragement on Meles Zenawi, regardless of his dreadful human rights record. Meles is also a great favorite of US Senators and Congressmen who are members of the politically powerful religious cult, The Family, who help appropriate and funnel millions of US taxpayer dollars to his regime.

the Ethiopian government got its fingers burnt when it held multi-party elections in 2005 that it almost lost — and has been busy clamping down on opposition parties and free speech ever since.

________

UGANDA

In Uganda elections are coming up in the next year, in early 2011. Uganda is a great favorite of the US Africa Command, and of the Pentagon in general. Along with Burundi, Uganda provides the proxy warriors acting on behalf of the US and EU in Somalia known as AMISOM. Uganda also provides soldiers employed by US military contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. Uganda’s President Museveni is also a great favorite of the Senators and Congressmen who are members of The Family, who help appropriate and funnel millions of US taxpayer dollars to his regime.

Both Uganda and Ethiopia are virtual military dictatorships, regardless of whether they hold elections or not. In May 2009 President Museveni:

told NRM Members of Parliament that while he would be “happy” to hand over power, he saw “nobody” ready to take on the daunting responsibility of leading Uganda.

Museveni already had presidential term limits removed so he could continue to run for President. The opposition is trying to reinstate term limits along with some other electoral reforms:

The bill will mainly be seeking to restore the two-term limit on incumbency, reform of the electoral commission and removal of the army representatives from parliament,” he said.

It would also compel the president to seek the opposition’s opinion before appointing senior leaders of the electoral commission, a measure the opposition hopes will make the body more independent.

There are also some other interesting developments among Uganda’s opposition.

If passed it would prevent Museveni, who has already served for 24 years, from seeking re-election.

The main opposition candidate:

Besigye said:

… the reforms before the 2011 elections should include the appointment of an independent elections commission and the removal of the military from monitoring elections.

We will be watching with interest. The US Africa Command has found Museveni and his military a particularly valuable partner and proxy. Will it see political opposition as a danger to this relationship? Will it help Museveni label and treat his opposition as terrorists. The stakes are even higher since the discovery of large quantities of oil in Uganda’s great lakes region.

And the bombings in Uganda, allegedly by Al Shabab, complicate the situation. The Somalis declared the bombings were retaliation for the continued deaths of civilians due to the indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighborhoods by AMISOM troops in Mogadishu, Killing of Civilians by UN Supported Troops in Somalia Admitted But Not Acted On. So far the US has seized on the bombings as evidence of international terrorist aspirations. The real story is far less clear. See the July africa comments for more detailed background and a more complete picture.

Some Ugandans are calling for withdrawal from engagement with Somalia:

It is not yet clear what effect this gruesome attack will have on the Ugandan government’s assessment of its ability to effectively deal with this aspect of its involvement in Somalia, or whether such an assessment will induce it to take real leadership within the region by forcing a rethink on this continent-wide challenge of viability.

Under former US President George Bush’s war on terror, they were able to use American money for upgrading their security apparatus, which was then turned on the local opposition, thus dividing local security resources between looking for terrorists and terrorising government opponents.

The other big risk is whether the militarists in Uganda’s government will be able to resist the temptation to take advantage of this security problem and develop another strategy for regime preservation.

________

BURUNDI

Burundi is just concluding its electoral cycle. The opposition boycotted the presidential poll in June, and the parliamentary poll on July 23.

All the main opposition groups boycotted the June presidential election, which Nkurunziza won with more than 90 percent of the vote.

Former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, who had been regarded as his main rival, went into hiding and later explained in an audio message that he feared for his life after claiming the polls were fixed.

In Bujumbura’s southern Kanyosha district, one group of friends said that they planned to shun polling stations and democracy has deserted Burundi.

“There is no democracy with a single party. This has never been seen anywhere,”

The central African state had hoped the polls would prove its democratic credentials and consolidate a fledgling peace deal but they have instead left the political landscape in ruins and heightened fears of civil strife.

The international community largely endorsed the results of the May local polls despite the fraud claims and urged the opposition to end their boycott and return to the fray for the presidential vote. (h/t, and more information at Breaking the Cycle)

Burundi is awash in small arms, a legacy of years of civil war. A grenade costs about $3, and grenade attacks on politicians are common. Both the ruling party and the opposition blame each other for grenade attacks. Burundi is the other country, in addition to Uganda, that supplies troops to AMISOM in Somalia. The arms and military assistance the US taxpayers provide to this key partner/proxy of the US Africa Command, cannot have a beneficial effect on this divisive political situation. It looks like the Burundi government and military are looking for terrorists by terrorizing government opponents. And the international community seems comfortable with that. This is certainly not a prescription for democracy and US policy appears likely to exacerbate authoritarian rule and a divided terrorized population. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government is:

… ranked by graft watchdog Transparency International as the most corrupt in east Africa.

________
RWANDA

Rwanda’s presidential election is coming up in August.

For many Western observers – Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates among them – Rwanda’s economic growth is the foundation of its democratic transition. Yet, as Rwandans head to the polls next month to elect a president, Paul Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has perverted the very democratic ideals it claims to uphold.

Over the last 16 years, the RPF has centralized power into a one-man dictatorship. … The Hutu community, making up some 85 per cent of the population, is largely excluded. … politics, business and the civil service are all dominated by military personnel or former members of the RPF.

In advance of the upcoming presidential elections, many “friends” of Rwanda have remained supportive of its so-called “democratic transition.” They ignore the repeated arrests of journalists and opposition politicians, the closing of independent local newspapers, the ejection of a Human Rights Watch researcher, an assassination attempt against exiled Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, who fell out with President Kagame earlier this year, the murder of journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, who attempted to report on Nyamwasa’s assassination attempt in the online version of a Rwandan newspaper the print edition of which the government closed down, and the murder of Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, vice-president of the opposition Democratic Green party. While diplomats from some countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have cut their aid, the U.S. and the U.K. continue to publicly support Kagame. Canada’s position is vague as it encourages Rwanda to adopt policies that promote a pluralist society.

Under the watch of a sympathetic and supportive international community, Kagame has done everything within his power to ensure that the August elections consolidate his political power.

The US has been among the most sympathetic supporters of Kagame. With the RDF, he has acted as a US proxy in the Congo, DRC. Many of the minerals mined in the DRC are marketed by Rwanda, and controlled by the RDF or its subsidiary militias.

According to Charles Onyango-Obbo, who generally has succumbed to Kagame’s spell, TRI-STAR corporation is:

… “the business arm of the RPF”. He goes ahead to tell us that TRI-STAR has business interests worth more than 20 billion dollars “making the RPF the richest party in Africa”. So much power and wealth in very few hands.

Another optimistic sign, he reveals, “the party’s local and international assets could be equal to or larger than Rwanda’s gross domestic product.” A classic example of Fascism!

He even sheds more light into the much publicized Lake Kivu “energy” investment. Apparently, the locals will not reap a cent. The investment is a joint venture between TRI-STAR , a British and an American firm.

What is worrying to many of us is the fact that TRI-STAR as a private entity seems to enjoy unfair support from the government. If TRI-STAR is owned by the RPF, then Kagame’s role in securing TRI-STAR’s business interests is a serious conflict of interest.

Now, also worrisome is the fact that TRI-STAR owns more close to 40% of MTN Rwanda. MTN is the country’s sole internet and mobile phone provider. That is why when the banned newspaper, “Umuvugizi” went online, the government quickly blocked its website.

I’ve said it again and again, that the much praised development in Rwanda is simply for the benefit of a very tiny minority. Corruption is deep but runs undetected due to the absence of a civil society. Beyond the façade of wealthy elites, the majority of Rwandans are dirt poor and the government has done almost nothing to improve their lives. (Nkunda)

Kagame had international human rights lawyer Peter Erlinder arrested in Rwanda. He was there defending opposition leader Ms. Victoire Ingabire accused of the crime of genocide ideology, a “crime” that appears common to all Kagame’s opponents, at least according to his justice system.

I have written more about Kagame here, Paul Kagame, Warlord of Congo’s Wealth. With access to the Congo’s minerals, partnership with the Lake Kivu energy project, and alliances with Tri-Star, the US has a lot invested in Kagame and his control of Rwanda. Rwanda is also a key partner of the US Africa Command:

… since year 2000, Rwanda received “$1,034,000,000 billion in United States taxpayer-funded foreign assistance”and that “an additional $240,200,000 is proposed in the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget. (AFJN)

Much of this has been military assistance, which includes occasional photo op humanitarian activities with little coordination or followup. What the military assistance does is help Kagame fight terrorism by terrorizing the opposition and the general citizenry.

And as Nii Akuetteh writes:

The millions who have already sounded the alarm publicly that Kagame is getting away with (mass) murder include The Economist; The New York Times; three different expert panels assembled by the U.N. Security Council; U.S. Sens. Durbin and Feingold; Mrs. Clinton’s State Department – although theirs may be just crocodile tears; the world’s best experts on the Great Lakes region – renowned researchers and thinkers such as Nzongola-Ntalaja, Howard French, Rene Lemarchand, Gerard Prunier, Thomas Turner and Allan Stam; and ADNA, a network of Africa-focused advocacy nonprofits monitoring U.S. foreign policy.

And the critics include millions of individual Rwandans and other Africans – like me.

Kagame’s leading challenger in the presidential election scheduled for August is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Kagame, who has not allowed her to register her candidacy, jailed her briefly a month ago, and today he jailed her American attorney, Peter Erlinder, lead defense counsel in the Military-1 trial at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.
… right now Kagame’s regime is shutting down newspapers, is kidnapping the homeless and is demonizing and pronouncing Victoire Ingabire guilty – before her sham trial even begins.

In Washington’s current relations with Mr. Kagame, we are seeing the replay of a tired old movie. Since 1960, Africa’s year of independence, each and every U.S. administration has praised, financed and kept in power its own set of brutal African strongmen that, in its secret files, it has labeled “friendly tyrants.” Mobutu sese Seko of Zaire, Siyaad Barre of Somalia, Hissene Habre of Chad, Samuel Doe of Liberia and Jonas Savimbi of Angola – these are just five of the dozens.

Zenawi, Museveni, Nkurunziza, and Kagame are some of the most recent of these brutal “friendly tyrants”, a form of government the US still seems to favor for Africans. That tired old movie remains a favorite in Washington. And even if the US State Department has said a few harsh words, the US taxpayer money and the military partnering and the proxying energetically roll on, amassing power and wealth for client dictators.

Greed is the reason for the violence in the Congo. The violence is funded by the mining companies and all those, in many countries, who benefit from minerals and resource wealth extracted from the Congo. As a result of this violence, 1500 people die per day, 45000 die per month, 5.4 million have died in the last 10 years.

From the documentary Culture of Resistance two people who know the Congo tell us:

Maurice Carney -
The Congo is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II. Congo is a geological scandal because of the mineral wealth within its soil. The conflict is based on who is going to control the resources of the Congo.

Kambale Musavuli -
If one person is brutalized in front of everyone, by the time that ends, everyone in the area are going to take their baggage and leave the community.
They have been displaced.
That is the cheapest way to move the people. So there are two rapes taking place, the rape of the land and the rape of the people. And these two rapes are inextricably linked.

[The above added February 22, 2012]

The [Democratic Republic of the Congo's] significant mineral reserves coupled with corrupt management of the mining sector helped fuel the 1998-2003 civil war leading to the death of some 4 million people. Conflict and massive displacement continues in the eastern part of the country. (UN 2007)

Map of Coltan ore locations in the Eastern Congo, DRC (click to enlarge) -1-

What is Coltan?

Columbite-tantalite, coltan for short, is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of Congo. When refined, coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. These properties make it a vital element in creating capacitors, the electronic elements that control current flow inside miniature circuit boards. Tantalum capacitors are used in almost all cell phones, laptops, pagers and many other electronics. The profits from mining have fueled a brutal civil war and severely damaged the forest and wildlife.

Map of mineral deposits in the eastern Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -2-

For over a century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources. The greed for Congo’s wealth has been a principal driver of atrocities and conflict throughout Congo’s tortured history. In eastern Congo today, resources are financing multiple armed groups,many of whom use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and drive the local population away from mines and other areas that they wish to control.

Specifically, the conflict in eastern Congo – the deadliest since World War II – is fueled in significant part by a multi-million dollar trade in minerals. Armed groups generate an estimated $180 million each year by trading four main minerals: the ores that produce the metals tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. This money enables the armed groups to purchase large numbers of weapons and continue their campaign of brutal violence against civilians, with some of the worst abuses occurring in mining areas. These materials eventually wind up in electronic devices, such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers, including those sold here in the United States. Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain, American consumers continue to indirectly finance armed groups that regularly commit arocities and mass rape.
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

Map of sites of coltan and other mining exploitation in Kivu, Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -3-

You can see the geographical relationship between the mining, the mineral deposits, and the armed groups in these maps.

Map of four of the armed groups operating in the eastern Congo, Kivu North and South, the DRC, as of the end of 2007 (click to enlarge) -4-

The majority of the violence in the eastern Congo has been carried out in mineral-rich areas, by armed groups and military units on all sides of the conflict. This includes units of the Congolese armed forces, as well as the Rwandan rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, of FDLR, as well as an array of other militias.
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

These armed groups profit from the trade in two primary ways:

  • Controlling the mines, forcing miners to work in deadly conditions and paying them a pittance, an average of $1 to $5 per day.
  • Exacting bribes from transporters, local and international buyers, and border controls.

The armed groups trade in the 3T minerals – tin, tantalum, and tungsten, as well as gold:

Tin is used inside your cellphone and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards. Fifty-three percent of tin worldwide is used as a solder, the vast majority of which goes into electronics. Armed groups earn approximately $115 million per year from trading in tin.

Tantalum (often called “coltan”) is used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cll phones. A majority of the world’s tantalum – 65 to 80 percent – is used in elecronic products. Armed groups earn an estimated $12million per year from trading in tantalum.

Tungsten is used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate. Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo, with armed groups currently earning approximately $7 million annually.

Gold is used mainly in jewelry but is also a component in electronics. Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle, armed groups are earning approximately $50 million per year from gold.

Gold from Ituri, used in jewelry and electronic components (click to enlarge) -5-

For one comparison, the amount of gold that Uganda exports in relation to the amount of gold it produces, see the following chart* (click to enlarge):
chart comparing small amout of gold Uganda produces with the large amount it exports

Ethnic rivalries are often blamed for the violence in eastern Congo, but they are a tool rather than a cause. The main reason for the violence is:

greed, the primary cause of the so-called “second war,” which began in 1998. A number of “elite networks,” as defined by a hard-hitting U.N. report, comprising military commanders, political leaders, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs in Kigali, Kampala, and beyond, backed up by international mafias, plundered the resources of eastern Congo (coltan ore, diamonds, gold, hardwoods) and turned the region’s economy to their personal profit. To accomplish their aims, they had to resort continuously to force, but without betraying their true objectives. In the “second war,” Rwanda and Uganda masked their predatory intentions by clandestinely maintaining regular or irregular troops, and above all by fostering armed bands, organized along ethnic lines, forming and reforming according to the current needs of their masters. The battles among these bands have rarely led to major victories or defeats; the whole idea is to maintain insecurity and justify the militarization that enables the massive plundering. Amid all this, the local people have paid a terrible price.

According to the U.N. report, which was published nearly a year ago, the number of “excess deaths” in Congo directly attributable to the Rwandan and Ugandan occupation can be estimated at between 3 million and 3.5 million. This conflict has been the deadliest since World War II. … Finally, acts of sexual violence accompanying the carnage have been without precedent in their frequency, their systematic nature, their brutality, and the perversity of the way they’re planned and staged.

… In this hospital, the sexually assaulted victims are two or three times as numerous as civilians treated for gunshot wounds, and four or five times as numerous as wounded soldiers. These are very significant ratios concerning the victims of eastern Congo’s interrelated conflicts.

… in eastern Congo, rape—extremely violent rape—“is soldiers’ work,” one of the rapists told one of his victims.
from Congo: A Hell on Earth for Women

Out of this violence, looted minerals are transported both by land, air, and water.

Map of mineral transportation routes out of the Congo, DRC (click to enlarge) -6

Air routes of minerals taken from the Eastern Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -7-

From the eastern Congo the minerals are:
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

  • Transported through neighboring countries including Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.
  • Mainly shipped to East Asia, particularly to multinational smelting companies in Malaysia, Thailand, China, and India.
  • Once processed, bought by electronics manufacturing companies, turned into usable components such as capacitors, and added into the electronic devices.

The highest-selling devices with the 3T minerals are:
Cell phones and Blackberries * MP3 players * Digital cameras (also, TVs, computers, monitors)

Countries importing gold and 3T mineral ore from the Congo -8-

Crisis in Congo PDF cites the average annual wage of a civilian worker in the Congo as about $184 per year. It estimates the profits of the armed groups that trade in the Congo’s contraband minerals at $180,000,000 per year.

Rwanda and Uganda benefit most directly from the trade in contraband minerals from Congo. I have written about this previously in posts listed below. According to Crisis in Congo PDF, since January 2009 more that 900,000 people have had to flee their homes because of the violence. 7000 rapes have been reported, most rapes are not reported. Armed groups try to drive out local citizens and other armed groups. There are only 2 hospitals in all of eastern Congo that are able to perform surgury on fistula, a common result of the rapes. These rapes seem to fit the definition of genocidal rape, including:

… in genocide, rape is under control. It has become a tool, not an accident. In genocide, men rape in groups because they are ordered to or because they are systematically permitted to do so. It is calculated. The men rape not as individual men, but as members of their race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. They sexually assault women (and sometimes other men) of a particular group.

The goal in genocidal rape is not merely to hurt people. Much less is the goal simply to have sex. Group destruction is the goal. Sexual violence is not simply some ancillary tool to this goal. Indeed, because of the peculiar nature of rape and sexual torture, it is particularly suited to genocide. In war, the destructive effects of rape are largely beside the point. In genocide, the destruction is the point.

I am wary of the word genocide. I think in recent times it has been appropriated for political reasons, and thereby robbed of some meaning. What is happening to ordinary people living in the Eastern Congo is devastatingly painful to read about or contemplate, and I find it difficult to research or write about. Too much of it is happening because you and I enjoy our cellphones and other electronics.

For more detail on the violence against women there are quite a number of links on this page: women in conflict. It includes a video, and this article, Silence=Rape, which is hard to read but describes the problem. US demand for electronics helps fuel the problem. And the US isn’t helping, for example:
Congo’s Rape Epidemic Worsens During U.S.-Backed Military Operation
U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement: Lessons from the Operational Level in Africa

The training and weapons support the US provides to both Rwanda and Uganda, both active partners of the US Africa Command, is just more fuel for the violence in the Congo. This is even more questionable policy due to the profits and benefits US companies and consumers derive from the contraband minerals of the Congo.

________
Maps from:
L’économie minière au Kivu et ses implications régionales, PDF [Maps 1,6]
*Etude sur le rôle de l’exploitation des ressources naturelles dans l’alimentation et la perpétuation des crises de l’est de la RDC, PDF [Maps 2,3,4,5,7,8] see the Abstract
Both documents contain a great deal more information and more maps.
Check out a great powerpoint overview of coltan and the coltan trade with maps and photos PowerPoint by Dr. John Katunga of the Wilson Center.

________
Previous posts with related information and more links:
Paul Kagame, Warlord of Congo’s Wealth
DRC – Minerals, militaries, money and violence – part 2
DRC – Minerals, militaries, money and violence
Women in Rwanda and DRC – development vs military assistance
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy

Canada funding and profiting from Congo’s wars
And more in this category:
http://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/category/congo/

one of the most destructive wars in modern history has been going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s third-largest country. During the past eleven years millions of people have died, while armies from as many as nine different African countries fought with Congolese government forces and various rebel groups for control of land and natural resources.

Few realize that a main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda, along with several Congolese groups supported by Rwanda. (New York Review of Books)

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda addresses the UN (UN Photo/Mark Castro)

… some of Kagame’s greatest admirers are Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz. American evangelist Rick Warren considers him something of an inspiration and even Bill Gates has invested in what has been called Africa’s success story. Yes, Western liberals, reactionary evangelicals, and capitalist carpetbaggers alike tout Paul Kagame as the herald of a new, self-reliant African prosperity. (Pulse)

Africa’s World War is the most ambitious of several remarkable new books that reexamine the extraordinary tragedy of Congo and Central Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Along with René Lemarchand’s The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa and Thomas Turner’s The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality, Prunier’s Africa’s World War explores arguments that have circulated among scholars of sub-Saharan Africa for years. … In all three, the Kagame regime, and its allies in Central Africa, are portrayed not as heroes but rather as opportunists who use moral arguments to advance economic interests. And their supporters in the United States and Western Europe emerge as alternately complicit, gullible, or simply confused. For their part in bringing intractable conflict to a region that had known very little armed violence for nearly thirty years, all the parties—so these books argue—deserve blame, including the United States. (NYRB)

These books:

depict the forces of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front as steely, power-driven killers themselves.

Prunier calls the Kagame regime’s use of violence in that period “something that resembles neither the genocide nor uncontrolled revenge killings, but rather a policy of political control through terror.”

And it is that terrorism that continues in the Eastern Congo, ethnic cleansing, really political terrorism to move people out of the way of those acquiring the minerals. That is the reason for the murders and mutilations of Congo’s people, all genders, all ages and all ethnicities, and the overwhelming rapes and mutilations of women and children. These are political terror to move people out of the way of the mining interests. The US Africa Command is helping train and arm the Rwandan RDF. Keep in mind, as the quote above states, the: main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda.

KIGALI, Rwanda - General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (left of center), claps along to the spirited singing of Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) soldiers celebrating the conclusion of a live-fire demonstration at the RDF's Gabiro School of Infantry in Gabiro, Rwanda, April 21, 2009. The demonstration was part of a tour for a U.S. Africa Command delegation led by General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The Gabiro School is the RDF's primary facility for infantry, armor, artillery and engineering training of RDF officers and enlisted members. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Kenneth Fidler)

Most alarming is the integral role that Kigali has played in the Second Congolese War which has claimed upward of three million lives. The Rwandan government has been lending significant support to rebels within the Congo, especially in the mineral-rich north. There, the objective is widely considered to be securing the valuable resources of the region which have been trafficked through Rwanda during the conflict. While some press attention has been given to the horrendous plight of women in the area and the massive and mounting casualty figures, little connection seems to be drawn between Kagame and his complicit fans in Europe and North America.

Even The Economist took exception with his heavy-handed domestic policies and accused the new hero of Clinton and Blair as being more repressive than Robert Mugabe. (Pulse)

From the Financial Times:

It is likely that your mobile phone contains coltan mined in Congo’s east, the crucible of the conflict. It is unlikely this was exported by legitimate means. Only a fraction of revenues from the country’s prolific mineral exports are captured by the state.

Here is a map of the routes of coltan and other looted minerals out of the eastern Congo through Rwanda and Uganda to the Indian Ocean ports:

Map of routes of looted coltan and minerals (from INICA, click to enlarge)

________

Added 2/26 – There is much more information at this page:
The Real Authors of the Congo Crimes. Nkunda has been arrested but who will arrest Paul Kagame ?

________

Minerals supply chain from Raise hope for the Congo PDF, http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/files/pdf/crisis_in_congo.pdf

________

Pulse has an excellent bibliography, reproduced below:

(1) “Rwanda Rising: A New Model of Economic Development.” Fast Company, Wednesday, March 18, 2009. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/134/special-report-rwanda-rising.html
(2) This comes on the heels of reports that Rick Warren and his reactionary cohorts where involved with neighboring Uganda’s efforts to execute homosexuals. http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/11/rick-warren-silent-enabler-of-hatred.html
(3) This BBC report is from the end of the election when Twagiramungu called on Kagame to “accept freedom of speech and association and also to accept democracy.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3104092.stm
(4) Reporters Without Borders profile of Paul Kagame (http://www.rsf.org/en-predateur13640-Paul_Kagame_.html) and also a brief report on the issue of fees for free press (http://www.rsf.org/Government-to-demand-exorbitant.html).
(5) “A Flawed Hero”, The Economist, August 21, 2008
(6) The New York Review of Books printed an extensive article on the matter by Howard W. French in their September 24, 2009 issue (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23054). The UN has also issued annual reports on the Second Congo War every year which allude to the influence Kagame has played in the conflict.
(7) “Looted Wealth Fuels Congo Conflict”, Financial Times, November 30, 2009. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8ae76ab0-dde6-11de-b8e2-00144feabdc0.html

The New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.  Graph: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Two graphs, the New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. Graphs: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Julie Hollar has written a superb analysis of why the conflict in the Congo is ignored by the media; Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, When 5 million dead aren’t worth two stories a year. She covers when and why coverage was better, and what is going on now. I won’t repeat all she writes, it is well worth reading. Near the end she includes this paragraph:

Paying attention to the Congo would also mean reporting on the main factor fueling the conflict: the plunder of the country’s resources, which primarily benefits multinational corporations. The conflict areas of the Congo are rich with minerals like copper, tin, gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan, a mineral used for cell phones and other common electronic devices. Rebel groups who hold these areas sell off the minerals at cut-rate prices, using the profits to maintain power as big companies look the other way. As happened with conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone and Angola, activists are pushing for a mechanism to make corporations verify that they aren’t buying the Congo’s conflict minerals.

The GDP of both Rwanda and Uganda include minerals stolen from the Congo. So far both countries are rewarded for this theft by praise for their economic progress, and of course by the money these minerals bring. Too many people in too many countries are profiting from Congo’s wealth. Canada is the largest mining interest in the Congo, and funds a lot of the conflict. Mostly all parties are perfectly willing to see the conflict continue. Despite the massive number of deaths, the use of rape as a form of terrorism, used along with murder and dismemberment to threaten and depopulate areas, and the conscription of children as soldiers by all sides, most of the media coverage of the Congo conflict involves endangered gorillas or Angelina Jolie. Media coverage discounts and ignores the people of the Congo.

The Congo conflict is sometimes known as Africa’s world war. Here is a list from 2001 of many of the parties involved, from Natalie Ware at American University.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
    * Hutu Interhamwe militia – mostly from Rwanda and responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Former Hutu members of the Rwandan military – also responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Mai Mai – group of traditional Congolese local security forces
    These groups operate inside the DRC supporting the government “often as guerillas operating inside territory held by antigovernment forces” (U.S. State 2001)
  • Libya – provides arms and logistical support but no troops
  • North Korea – sent advisors to train government troops
  • Rwanda – supports Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Goma (RCD/Goma) and Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Bunia (RCD/Goma); majority Tutsi
  • Uganda – supports the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC); mainly non-Tutsi
  • Burundi – fights against various Hutu groups based in the DRC that are against the Tutsi-led Burundi government
  • Angola – supports the government of the DRC
  • Namibia – supports the government of the DRC
  • Zimbabwe – supports the government of the DRC
  • Sudan – supports the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF); Ugandan expatriates against the government of Uganda

The conflict in the DRC is often characterized as an ethnic conflict. It is a resource war. The various sides exploit ethnicity when it works to their advantage in the pursuit of mineral and other natural resources. All the groups engaged in fighting in the Congo engage in terrorism and conscript children.

China is missing from the above list, its presence has expanded greatly since 2001. The west is entirely missing from the list. Canada, the United States, the UK, countries of the EU, are all players in one form or another, and have been for some time. They are a huge market for the stolen mineral wealth of the Congo, and home base for the multinational corporations who fuel the plunder. Canada is the biggest player in mining. China is also heavily involved in mining in the Congo. The US is supplying a great deal of military training and arms transfers to Rwanda and Uganda, which extend their reach and power into the Congo.

Thousands of civilians fleeing to Goma to escape the fighting.

Thousands of civilians fleeing to Goma to escape the fighting.

UN agencies have stepped up efforts to assist those displaced by the violence.

UN agencies have stepped up efforts to assist those displaced by the violence.

Pictures from a photogallery at allafrica.com

Mahmood Mamdani asks:

And the politics around genocide is, when is the slaughter of civilians a genocide or not? Which particular slaughter is going to be named genocide, and which one is not going to be named genocide? …
the mass slaughter in Congo, which, in terms of numbers, is probably ten times what happened, what has been happening in Darfur.

and answers:

Well, I think that what’s happening is that genocide is being instrumentalized by the biggest power on the earth today, which is the United States. It is being instrumentalized in a way that mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends or its proxies are not being named as genocide.

On Friday Slate published an article about the war in the Congo: Five Million Dead and Counting – The disaster in Congo is all the more tragic because it was utterly avoidable. By Michael J. Kavanagh:

“There are only girls left in the schools in my village,” one 13-year-old boy told me. The day before, he and three friends had run from rebel soldiers who’d come to kidnap them.

There are now more than 1 million displaced people scattered throughout the province. In the last 10 years of fighting, more than 5 million people have died in the Congolese conflict—mostly civilians who haven’t had access to enough food or health care because of the fighting. And let’s be clear: That’s 5 million and counting.


Power-hungry Nkunda, his shameless Rwandan supporters, and the feckless Congolese government are primarily to blame. But the Rwandan and Congolese governments remain in power only because of the foreign powers that support them with enormous amounts of aid and diplomatic support. The failure of the United Nations and the international community—by which I mean the European Union, the United States, and the African Union—is massive.


It was no secret that the army was only willing and able to disarm the FDLR, their erstwhile allies against Nkunda, with support from the United Nations and the international community and with cooperation from the Rwandans themselves.

But exactly when it was needed most—exactly when they had the chance to put the legacy of the Rwandan genocide to rest—the support and cooperation and pressure from the international community never materialized.


Eastern Congo is a place of vast wealth in land and minerals, and all sides have their hands in the pot—or in the mines or forests or in the slaughterhouses. Rarely does any side negotiate in good faith, which is perhaps understandable after 14 years of war. But in the past, the parties involved have proved responsive to diplomatic and military pressure—if it’s credible.

Right now, it’s not.


The most obvious solution would be to send an EU rapid-reaction force to fill the security vacuum, but EU diplomats are dithering because—well, there’s no other way to say it: DRC is not a genuine priority. Instead, Angola is sending troops to fight alongside the Congolese army. Rwanda is essentially already fighting alongside Nkunda. And if, in a few weeks, Uganda and Zimbabwe join in as well, we can all party like it’s 1998-2003.

Over the years, many world leaders have made the trip to Rwanda to stand before the gravesites of genocide victims and apologize for their inaction in 1994. But if the worth of an apology is measured not in words but in actions, most of these apologies have been rubbish. True repentance for Rwanda has always meant ending the Congolese conflict—especially in the Kivus.

So far there is no sign of any country with genuine intention to end the conflict. And there is a lot of indication that more nations will get involved, or get more involved. The Slate article seems to say that the US and EU diplomats became tired of the peace process. Was it tiredness, or complacency with the status quo? After all, the coltan and other minerals are still coming out. The US and EU and others continue to profit from access. The current head of the U.N. mission in Congo, Alan Doss, is widely viewed as incompetent, maybe clueless would be as correct a description, not a choice calculated to achieve any positive result.

As long as there is this level of violence and unrest in the eastern Congo, It will be very difficult for the Chinese to mine copper or build the infrastructure projects they have promised in return for the copper. Is this result welcomed by the current US administration? The US has tended to treat China as a rival in African countries. Does the US see the current escalation of violence in the eastern DRC operating to its benefit? Rwanda, in sponsoring Nkunda, is the prime instigator of this current wave of violence. And Rwanda is a US ally, some might say client or proxy. As Mamdani said of the US, quoted above:

… mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends or its proxies are not being named as genocide.

Laurent Nkunda (inset) and captured "terrorists"

Laurent Nkunda (inset) and defeated "terrorists"

Rwanda is a key partner in the US “War on Terror”. But the US is looking for coltan, and other precious mineral resources, not terrorists, and the coltan and other resources are located in the Congo DRC, not in Rwanda. Coltan is critical to cell phones. The reason that people are being displaced in the DRC is because the US, and its clients in Rwanda and Uganda want the resources in the DRC. The destruction of villages, and the brutal and pervasive use of rape, is terrorism used to depopulate areas and preserve access to precious coltan and other natural resources. This terrorism is barely known in the US, even though the US helps fund it. The sale of DRC natural resources benefits the elites of Rwanda and Uganda, and powerful players in the United States.

The really main important things that people should know that is the war in the Congo is directly connected to the United States …

From an interview with Kambale Musavuli at Democracy Now

the root cause of the conflict in the Congo is the scramble for Congo’s mineral resources … the strife is not more so of an ethnic strife, but more so of the scramble for Congo’s mineral resources.

The rapes are a direct result of the war. We’re seeing it—the latest spasm that we’re seeing right now has been going on since ’96. The rapes, the murders, they all are being done as a way of mass displacement, if you have to put it in the context. As one person is brutalized in a community, the people in the neighborhood will be afraid, and that will cause them to be displaced. As you mentioned, we have about 1.5 million people internally displaced in the Congo. As this strategy has been used in the eastern part, we’re seeing masses of people being displaced from the villages, from the cities, simply because they live in a area rich of minerals. Now we’re seeing it very clearly, The Virunga Park was taken over yesterday, simply because there are resources that Laurent Nkunda exploit into the Virunga Park.

So, to end the rape, you must end the conflict. And to end the conflict, you must stop the resource exploitation of the Congo … we do know that Rwanda is supporting proxy forces in the eastern part of the Congo. And we can use such people who have Kagame’s ear, such as Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Cindy McCain, Rick Warren, to put pressure on Kagame to make sure that not—we do not see another nearly six million people dying in the eastern part of the Congo …

The US has paid at least $7 million to Rwanda in military assistance this year.

Just before Bush visited Rwanda in 2008, Bahati Ntama Jacques and Beth Tuckey wrote:

Will the leader of the most powerful country in the world have the courage to discuss Rwanda’s negative role in peace and economic development in the DRC? Will Bush castigate Kagame for not providing the political space for Hutus to return to Rwanda? This is not likely because of the strategic value of coltan, a metallic ore extracted from Central Africa, without which cell phones, computers, and other technologies cannot be made.

From 1996-2003, the Congolese people suffered a great deal from two wars that pitted Rwanda and its allies against the DRC. A recent report from the International Rescue Committee estimates that 5.5 million Congolese have died as a result of this conflict. According to Inter Press Service journalist Tito Dragon, “to control coltan mines that was the principal, if not the only, motivation behind the U.S.-backed 1998 occupation of part of DRC territory by Rwanda and Uganda.” In fact, in 2004, after a three-year investigation, a UN Panel of Experts implicated three major U.S. companies (Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, and OM Group) for fueling war in DRC by collaborating with rebel groups trafficking coltan. In spite of major human rights violations, Bush administration assistance to Rwanda continues today largely due to Kagame’s willingness to be engaged in the so called War on Terror.

From an interview with Paul Rusesabagina:

PR: … And there was no infrastructure in the Congo, so everything was fleeing the Congo by Rwanda. That was very well known. Smuggling minerals, smuggling coffee… Rwanda was producing more coffee than Congo… If you planted coffee over the whole country of Rwanda, you cannot have produced what we were selling outside. That was smuggling.

KHS: So, the Congo pillage is still going on by Rwanda
PR: So, it is as I told you. That is why General Nkunda is there. Nkunda is on a mission.
KHS: His mission is to make sure the raw materials keep coming into Rwanda
PR: And also that Kagame controls Eastern Congo And he does.

The picture of gorillas at the top of this post comes from this report:

Rebels in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo have attacked and are now occupying the headquarters of Virunga National Park’s gorilla sanctuary. News is coming in that the forces of renegade general Laurent Nkunda are vandalizing the area, and are keeping the rangers trapped.

Sometimes it is easier to think about horrors on the small scale, as with the gorillas rather than the great numbers of people whose lives are being devastated. In some estimates 1.5 million people have been displaced just by the recent fighting. They are subjected to unimaginable brutality, and have lost homes, possessions and family. The press continues to portray the violence in the eastern DRC as ethnic conflict arising from the massacres in Rwanda in 1994. But that avoids mention of the true root cause, the scramble for resources. The ethnic issues could be resolved if it did not pay some people to keep them festering.

Right now the BBC is reporting thousands of people displaced. They have posted some current video here.

And there is also this report on the current situation:

The fighting had started on Sunday [Oct 26] when Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (NCDP) launched a major offensive in eastern North Kivu province.

Late on Tuesday Nkunda’s men claimed to have taken a town near Goma, the provincial capital.

… “There are at least 850,000 internally displaced people from North Kivu province, and that was before the latest wave of fighting started in August. We’re talking of another 250,000 displaced since.

“If the UN is forced to withdraw from North Kivu, you’re talking about nearly a million displaced Congolese, with basically no protection from what are about about a dozen armed groups in North Kivu.”

Those groups are brutal, ruthless, and well supplied with arms. The more they can terrorize and drive the population out, the better they can control the resources. The people at the top of the militias get a percentage of profits. Many of the soldiers are children, whose experience in life is almost entirely violence. The soldiers doing the fighting live off what they can take from the people they terrorize. Nobody should have to live this way, neither terrorists nor terrorized. And none of us should be paying to facilitate this violence.

Added Oct 30:
For some additional perspective here are some further words from Kambale Musavuli from this article:

… [Every month] 45,000 people continue to die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and that the scale of devastation seen in Darfur happens in the Congo every five and a half months.

In reality, the source of the conflict in Congo for most of its history has been the scramble for its enormous wealth, not the internecine, ethnic bloodletting more commonly blamed. In the late 1990s, Congo was invaded twice by Rwanda and Uganda with the backing and support of the United States, as documented in the 2001 congressional hearings held by Representatives Cynthia McKinney and Tom Tancredo. It was these invasions that unleashed the tremendous suffering that exists in Congo today.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers