September 2008


Nicolas Postal/EPA

Child soldiers from the Mai-Mai militia guard the headquarters of their leader in Kisharu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photograph: Nicolas Postal/EPA

In the Eastern DRC Laurent Nkunda, mentioned in the previous post, Part 1 of DRC- Minerals, militaries, money and violence, is the leader of the Tutsi militia. There are also Hutu militias, one of the largest of which is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The Guardian has a couple of image galleries of the people displaced by the violence in the eastern DRC, here and here. All of these militias conscript and indoctrinate child soldiers. From Chris McGreal in the Guardian:

… the extremist Hutu rebels who control large areas of eastern Congo and are among the most important causes of the conflict there that has claimed an estimated five million lives or more over the past decade and continues to kill about 45,000 people each month in Congo through the effects of war – principally starvation and disease.


While the rank and file of the FDLR survives by plundering, their leaders are involved in altogether more lucrative ventures. A 2007 World Bank-funded study estimates that the FDLR leadership makes millions of dollars a year from taking over mines in parts of North Kivu, such as Masisi and Walikale, or from those doing the hard labour through levying “taxes” of gold, coltan, diamonds and other minerals on mine owners.

The study estimates that the FDLR controls half of the mineral trade in the Kivus outside of the main towns, and oversees the smuggling of gold and diamonds for sale in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Burundi. It is not alone in this. The Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundi armies, as well as warlords and militias, have also carved up the mineral plunder and smuggling rackets.

You can read the entire account of the FDLR with pictures here at the Guardian.

Also as mentioned in the previous post, the World Bank and the IMF have praised both Rwanda and Uganda for increasing their gross domestic product from illegal mining of DRC resources. Both the World Bank and the IMF know neither Rwanda or Uganda has these mineral resources in their own countries. Such praise, and the accompanying financial incentives exacerbate the violence and exploitation.

The violence that erupted last week may be cooling down. Alan Doss, who represents the UN in the DRC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

says calm has returned to Rutshuru in the country’s volatile North Kivu province following last week’s clashes between Government forces and armed rebel groups. … The clashes that broke out on 28 August between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and the National Congress for People’s Defense, known by its French acronym CNDP, was some of the worst fighting since a peace deal was signed by the parties in January.

But there is a new player in town. The Chinese have come into the DRC in a big way with contracts to extract copper and cobalt, and in return build roads, railroads, clinics, schools, and two universities. This 20 minute video from the BBC describes the huge copper and cobalt mine they plan to exploit, and the network of roads, rail, schools and clinics the Chinese have promised to build in return. So far the Chinese seem to be very image conscious. However, this 12 minute BBC video from Zambia describes the Zambian public as highly disillusioned with the Chinese presence, particularly labor practices and safety issues, and Zambians say the Chinese management purposely ran the large clothing factory into the ground so it would not be competitive with subsidized textiles from China. China is doing the same thing the EU and US have been doing, destroy African markets by dumping subsidized goods. And the Zambians say promised schools and training never materialized.

Below is the map from the BBC video on China in the DRC with all the infrastructure promised in the Chinese contract for copper and cobalt in the DRC. The large icons are the promised universities. The second map is the same, but just shows the roads and rail promised.

DRC map with infrastructure projects promised by the Chinese

DRC map with infrastructure projects promised by the Chinese

DRC roads and rail line promised by the Chinese contract

DRC roads and rail line promised by the Chinese contract

In the map the roads run north and south, along the eastern side of the DRC. The rail line runs from east to west.

IF China actually builds the roads, rail, and actually builds schools and the two univeristies called for in the contract with the DRC, that would be quite remarkable and provide a long overdue genuine step to positive development. It would also provide a positive challenge to the west. Mostly the west, when it noticed at all, has bemoaned the fact that people are killing and raping in the DRC, but ignored the ongoing western role in subsidizing and encouraging this violence.

And how will the west react to this Chinese presence? As you can see, the road network is north and south, up and down the mineral rich eastern DRC, and the rail, west to southeast, can take minerals to the coast. Will the US and other foreign business and governments who are profiting from the current situation in the DRC allow the Chinese to build this infrastructure without interference?

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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.

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