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.