UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The UN sent special envoys–both former presidents of African nations–to Kinshasa to consult with President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to Goma, the provincial capital of eastern part of the country, to consult with militia leader Laurent Nkunda on halting recent violence.
According to news reports, Mr. Nkunda told former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Tanzania’s former President Benjamin Mkapa Nov. 16 he was willing to seek a ceasefire with President Joseph Kabila’s regime. As the talks were held, heavy fighting continued, according to a spokesman for the UN peacekeep- ing mission in the Congo.
Human Rights Watch reports that 250,000 people had fl ed their homes after 10 weeks of fighting in North and South Kivu between the Congolese army and their Rwandan Hutu allies against the 6,000-man Tutsi militia com- manded by Mr. Nkunda–all com- peting for territory and control of mineral interests. Mr. Nkunda insists his troops are protecting his tribal kinsmen from Hutu attacks.
Analysts have said the ongoing warfare could be an attempt by the Congo’s neighbors and some non-African nations to undermine national consolidation.
“Should the government of President Kabila succeed in bringing order to the nation’s eastern districts, Congo’s neighbors will lose the opportunity to exploit its mineral wealth,” said diplomats in Nezavisimaya, a Russian newspaper.
According to the Global Policy Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that monitors the United Nations, “the international public remains oblivious to the ravaging” of the Congo. There are dozens of rebel armies fighting throughout the Congo, vying for products sold largely to the international community, Global Policy Forum said, in its report “Looting of Eastern Congo: Role of Coltan in the African World War.”
Lonzen Rugira, a former analyst for Africa Action, told The Final Call the “absence of good governance” in the Congo allows for grabbing of the nation’s vast mineral resources, particularly in the eastern region.
The Kabila government is said to lack the political and military wherewithal to bring these groups under control.
Two years ago, a group of Congo experts determined there is a “clear connection” between the atrocities of armed groups and “natural resource exploitation” in the Congo, a nation of 67 million, or roughly the size of western Europe, in a report to the UN General Assembly.
“This is not a political problem. It is a resource-based conflict,” said the president of the National Inter-Relations Forum in the DRC, in a speech before a Nov. 10-13 gathering of the Lutheran World Federation meeting in Entebbe, Uganda. The federation said it will be approaching the Kabila administration and demanding that foreign armed groups plundering the Congo’s mineral wealth be brought to justice.
Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general under President John F. Kennedy and founder of the International Action Center, told The Final Call, “What we are seeing in the DRC is the survival of geopolitics as the West escalates its imperialist stampede in Central Africa.”
Inter Press Service reported in October that a European-led oligarchy is interested in getting out of paper financial instruments and into hard commodities–precious metals, such as gold, and strategic metals, such as cobalt, copper and zinc, energy supplies and increasingly scarce food supplies. “They want to exercise a food/raw materials dictatorship in a post economic-collapse world,” said the IPS story.
Executive Intelligence Review, a publication by Lyndon LaRouche, reported years ago that British-backed “counter gangs” were unleashed to depopulate areas in the DRC that possessed gold, copper and cobalt. EIR also said a “third force” was at work in the DRC, supported by outside paramilitary groups and instigating Black-on-Black violence. The publication’s report, “George Bush’s Heart of Darkness–Mineral Control of Africa,” charged there was a connection between former President George Herbert Walker Bush’s company Barrick Gold and British-owned Anglo Gold Ashanti’s metal grab in northern Congo and the Rwandan/Ugandan invasion of the DRC in 1996.
In October 2002, UN Security Council document S/2002/1146 criticized the role mining companies, such as Anglo Gold played, in exploiting the DRC’s resources and causing confusion and civil war. Anglo Gold protested its inclusion and the next year the Security Council apologized in a revised version of the report.
Human Rights Watch, in a 2005 report called “Curse of Gold,” accused Anglo Gold Ashanti of violating a UN arms embargo in the DRC by making payments to a militia group, a charge the company admitted was true.
The DRC is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cobalt. It is the second in the world in exporting diamonds, fifth in copper, twelfth in tin exports and twentieth in zinc exports. The National Assembly of the DRC has asked President Kabila to organize “a sacred union of natural resources” to help get Congo’s citizens more involved in the economy, according to South Africa’s Business Day.
Mr. Clark told The Final Call he is sure the British were behind incursions from nations such as Uganda into the DRC back in the 1990s. But, he said, there isn’t evidence the British are behind the recent outbreak of violence. “I see the hand of the Americans and the French,” said Mr. Clark.
Akbar Muhammad, a radio host, writer, lecturer and activist who specializes in African affairs agreed with Mr. Clark. The British are sitting this one out, he said. “The British have learned a lesson from Rwanda 1994 and are leery of open involvement today, but the U.S. is definitely there openly,” Mr. Muhammad said. His greatest fear is that the DRC will become partitioned similar to what happened in the Sudan. “It seems that Nkunda is pushing for a co-federation in the mineral-rich Kivu region,” Mr. Muhammad said.
“A very important dynamic has also emerged out of the Congo conflict, UN troops cannot stop the suffering of African people when others are determined to loot the resources of the indigenous people,” Mr. Muhammad said.
According to IPS, Europe is another force in the DRC mineral sweepstakes.
The European Union has already come under criticism from human rights advocates for a recent 100 million euro investment in a DRC mining project north-west of the city of Lubumbush in the Katanga province. The EU plans to exploit the Tenke Fungurumu vein thought to be the largest unexplored seam of copper and cobalt in the world.
The EU financed the joint mining project headed by Tenke Fungurume Mining SARL; with Gecamines, the DRC’s state mining concern; Lindin, a Swedish mining company, and the U.S.-based Phelps Dodge, which has been mentioned in several reparations lawsuits in U.S. federal courts.
Phelps Dodge has since merged with gold and copper giant Freeport-McMoran. The company boasted on its website of potential operating cash flows of $3.5 billion in 2008, assuming consistent prices for cooper, gold and molybdenum through the end of the year. There is a video presentation of the company’s DRC mining operation on its website.
Human rights watchers are concerned about recent multi-national consumption of DRC mining resources and fighting in camps where Congolese have fled to escape combat. They fear a tense atmosphere that permeates the nation and remember the bloody five-year open conflict between government forces, backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels supported by Uganda and Rwanda. The conflict claimed almost six million Congolese lives and its impact lingers.
Mr. Clark told The Final Call the looting of DRC resources is a serious problem that could persist for decades if Africa’s leaders don’t unite to find a solution. “I see a way out if voices of African leaders such as Kofi Annan and Jerry Rawlings can be raised and if people will adhere to their leadership model. Through African unity, a resistance to the plundering of the continent’s resources may be achieved,” Mr. Clark said