The main Tutsi militia leader in eastern Congo, Laurent Nkunda, gestures at his mountain base, in Kachanga

The main Tutsi militia leader in eastern Congo, Laurent Nkunda, gestures at his mountain base, in Kachanga

Michael Klare writes in Rising Powers Shrinking Planet:

What makes Africa so enticing today is precisely what made it so attractive to foreign predators in previous centuries: a vast abundance of vital raw materials contained in a deeply divided, politically weakened continent, remarkably open to international exploitation.

… As in previous centuries, resource-consuming nations will extract as much of Africa’s wealth — in this case, oil, gas, and minerals — as they can, often jostling with one another for access to the most prolific sources of supply. In doing so they will repeatedly proclaim their deep interest in African development, insisting that the exploitation of raw materials will contribute to the improvement of living conditions for the masses of ordinary citizens. If past experience is any guide, however, few of those living in Africa’s resource-producing countries will see any significant benefit from the depletion of their continents natural bounty. (p 146, 149-50)

In addition to the mineral wealth, because of Africa’s oil wealth, George Bush created the Africa Command, AFRICOM. As Bush said: African oil is of strategic interest to us. (p. 149) But long before the Africa Command the US has been arming and looting in the Congo. It is the reason the US sponsored Mobutu for 30 years.

No country has the combination Klare describes of wealth and vulnerability in greater proportions than the Congo. None has suffered more from resource hungry predatory nations than the Congo, you can read some of this history in King Leopold’s Ghost. Businessmen from the US and round the globe flock to the Congo in order to get a piece of the resource pie.

This is all money,” says a Western mining executive, his hand sweeping over a geological map toward the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He is explaining why, in 1997, he and planeloads of other businessmen were flocking to the impoverished country and vying for the attention of then-rebel leader Laurent Kabila. The executive could just as accurately have said, “This is all war.”


The interplay among a seemingly endless supply of mineral resources, the greed of multinational corporations desperate to cash in on that wealth, and the provision of arms and military training to political tyrants has helped to produce the spiral of conflicts that have engulfed the continent – what many regard as “Africa’s First World War.”


These minerals are vital to maintaining U.S. military dominance, economic prosperity, and consumer satisfaction. … In the mid-1960s, the U.S. government installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, which ensured U.S. access to those minerals for more than 30 years.

Today, the United States claims that it has no interest in the DRC other than a peaceful resolution to the current war. Yet U.S. businessmen and politicians are still going to extreme lengths to gain and preserve sole access to the DRC’s mineral resources. And to protect these economic interests, the U.S. government continues to provide millions of dollars in arms and military training to known human rights abusers and undemocratic regimes. Thus, the DRC’s mineral wealth is both an impetus for war and an impediment to stopping it.

Both Rwanda and Uganda provide arms and training to their respective rebel allies and have set up extensive links to facilitate the exploitation of mineral resources. Along with their rebel allies, the two countries seized raw materials stockpiled in DRC territory and looted money from DRC banks. Rwanda and Uganda also set up colonial-style systems of governance, appointing local authorities to oversee their territories in the DRC. Meanwhile, high-ranking members of the Rwandan and Uganda military (including relatives of Kagame and Museveni) retain significant control over illegal mineral exploitation. Local Congolese, including children, are forced to work in the mines for little or no pay, under guard of Rwandan and Ugandan troops. Rwanda prisoners also participate in mining. To transport weapons to the rebels in the DRC, and to fly resources out of the DRC to Rwanda and Uganda, the authorities rely on private companies owned or controlled by Kagame’s and Museveni’s friends and relatives.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have knowingly contributed to the war effort. The international lending institutions praised both Rwanda and Uganda for increasing their gross domestic product (GDP), which resulted from the illegal mining of DRC resources.

For the west, the extraction of the wealth is what matters, where it comes from, or who gets hurt, is a matter of indifference.

This summer Refugees International published the report U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement. Contrasted to the nearly $50 million the US is spending on rebuilding the Liberian army:

it only plans to spend $5.5 million in 2009 to help reform a 164,000-strong army in the DR Congo, a country with 65 million people where Africa’s “first world war” claimed the lives of over five million people.

In the DR Congo, the State Department has played a very active role in facilitating dialogue among belligerents and is concerned about the humanitarian situation in the east, but the Defense Department is virtually ignoring the nation’s desperate need of military reform. As a result, an inadequately resourced security sector reform program has contributed to the Congolese army becoming a major source of insecurity for civilian communities

Violence has flared up again in North Kivu province the DRC. The Africa Faith and Justice Network sent out an email on Friday August 29 that said:

Since yesterday, the Congolese army has been fighting with Laurent Nkunda’s pro-Rwanda rebel group in eastern Congo in the Rutshuru territory. Last year, it was around this time when the violence resumed, forcing the same people from Kanombe, Mutovu, and the surrounding areas to leave. It was just last month that we got news that people were beginning to go back to their villages to see what remained of what they left behind last year.
Now they are on the run, going back into displacement camps again. Sustainable peace is what we, and mostly importantly the Congolese people, are asking for so that they can bring their kids back home and attend school in classrooms instead of temporary displacement tents.
Please take action now. Call the White House today at 202-456-1111 and tell President George Bush that you demand action for peace in the D.R. Congo.

Laurent Nkunda is sponsored by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and funded indirectly by the US. His militia is responsible for vast numbers of atrocities, and is a key participant in the ongoing violence and unrest.

I shall continue this topic tomorrow, The picture of Laurent Nkunda above is from this picture gallery at The Guardian.

Read Part 2 of DRC – Minerals, militaries, money and violence here.