Sunday, July 9, 2006

More on the DR of Congo

/ colonialism / new and improved /
PambazukaNews interviews Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, Director of UNDP Oslo Governance Centre, regarding the DRC, in which he portrays the situation in the DR of Congo as it is - and it is colonialism repackaged:

...What is evident is that France and its allies, African as well as non-African, do not wish to see the DRC become a regional power in Central Africa, and thus constitute a threat to French hegemony and Western interests in the sub-region. A strong state in the Congo will not only threaten French control over the resource-rich countries in the sub-region, namely, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. Moreover, the DRC has enough arable soil, rainfall, lakes and rivers to become the breadbasket of Africa, and enough hydroelectric power to light up the whole continent from the Cape to Cairo. While its mineral resources are so abundant that a young Belgian geologist declared the country a geological scandal at the beginning of the last century, the real scandal of the Congo include the facts that its uranium was used to build the first atomic bombs in the world and its wealth has since the days of King Leopold II been used not in the interests of its people but to the benefit of its rulers and their external allies...

...The forthcoming election means more to the international community, which is spending heavily on it and even sending in European Union forces to supplement MONUC to ensure that it is being held, than to the Congolese people. The major powers of the world and the international organizations under their control would like to legitimize their current client regime in Kinshasa so they can continue unfettered to extract all the resources they need from the Congo...

...Since the current transitional government has not fulfilled the requirements laid out in the Sun City/Pretoria accord for free and fair elections, the ritual of 30 July is likely to confirm Joseph Kabila as President, but it will not change the political situation of the country for the better. Violence will continue in the northeast, and corruption and incompetence will remain the most salient features of a government with an externally-driven agenda...

[via Black looks]

I needn't add too much here, just point out a Global Witness Report, on "Fraud, abuse and exploitation in Katanga’s copper and cobalt mines", confirming empirically the gist of the African political scientist's main claims:

...The mining sector in Katanga is characterised by widespread corruption and fraud at all levels. A significant proportion of the copper and cobalt is mined informally and exported illicitly. Government officials are actively colluding with trading companies in circumventing control procedures and the payment of taxes. The profits are serving to line the pockets of a small but powerful elite – politicians and businessmen who are exploiting the local population and subverting natural riches for their own private ends. Large quantities of valuable minerals are leaving the country undeclared, representing a huge loss for the Congolese economy and a wasted opportunity for alleviating poverty and enhancing development. A local source estimated that at the end of 2005, at least three quarters of the minerals exported from Katanga were leaving illicitly...

[via Eurotrib]


Renegade Eye said...

A sharp addition to, one of your best postings.

Black River Eagle said...

I for one have enjoyed reading your recent postings about the DRC and welcome your points-of-view. There are a few things that you have pointed out along with comments from your readers that are very helpful to my own understanding of the problems facing the people of the DRC in the runup to these important national elections.

As international press and media networks increase their coverage of the DR Congo this month, blog authors writing about the DRC have also come front-and-center in the debates. The more that people know about the various issues confronting the people of the DRC and how our respective governments and shady business entities may be involved in the continuing rampid corruption and exploitation as described in the June 2006 Global Witness report on Katanga, the more we know the better for everyone. Of course, few people are in a position to do anything substantial to STOP the exploitation and suffering in the Congo, but at least we can no longer say "I didn't know".

Note that this is all in sharp contrast to the "Good Guy" image projected by mining giant Anglo-American CEO Sir Mark Moody-Stuart in his July 4, 2006 interview by the BBC News "Let Business Lift Africa Out of Poverty".

Thanks for the tip over at Black Looks about your friend's post, Renegade Eye.

talos said...

black river eagle: Ah yes, Anglo-American: a pillar of apartheid it seems. How ironic that they should be offering advice about Africa and they look "to promote itself as a company that can, along with government, play a role in the battle against poverty and disease in Africa"

Thank you BTW for your kind words. It was the non-news of the casualty figures in the DRC that flipped me out. I still can't fathom how this level of human loss and suffering not be news around the world. So I decided to do my insignificant part in raising some sort of awareness about the issue.
Add to that the fact that the EU (in my name) is sending a military force which runs the risk of legitimizing some rather dubious elections- and in fact aiding France's best political client, while very few Europeans know about it...

Anonymous said...

A strong state in the Congo will not only threaten French control

I had to stop reading at that point. There are very few strong states in SSA, and Congo will not join their number any time soon. Congo is as likely to threaten the France nuclear weapons as it is to threaten Franch interests with a strong state.

Talos, your point about the human suffering is well taken. I don't know what the answer is. The world simply doesn't care much about Africa.

As to the election support: I see the problems you point to, but I'm still waiting to hear what alternative you'd propose. No elections? No EU assistance for the elections? Different assistance? Different how?

I'm not trying to bait you; I'm sincerely asking. There are problems with the current intervention, sure. What's the alternative?

Doug M.

talos said...

DM: GNN simply stated that the West (and France in particular) has a disincentive to actually work for the DRC's independence. I can't see this as in any way far fetched...

The alternative to these rather hurried elections, with the predetermined outcome, should have been some sort of national unity government, in which the opposition should have had some say and some control in the matter of how things should proceed. Elections, during which opposition journalists are murdered and demonstrators are fired upon, are more of a problem than a solution - depending on one's priorities that is. The opposition representative I linked to in the previous article presents the problem and suggests what should have been done. Read it and note on the second page, the following:

You said before that you have the impression the international community does not want to see proper elections in the DRC. What do you mean?

This is painful for us. Liberia had an elected president who was arrested because of his implication in crimes. In Haiti, the rebels came into Port-au-Prince, but they didn't get power. But in Congo, we have a different solution. People who have guns have power, and they are backed by all the Western countries. They are in power not because they have shown us that they are good leaders. Reports by UN experts conclude that they are looters. But they are still there. Why? Because it will be difficult to find other puppets like those men.

Look at the mineral resources of Congo. Compare Chile, the world's largest producer of copper, which has a maximum ratio of 0.18 copper in its soil, to Congo, which has a minimum of 3 percent. Our mineral resources are making men crazy. No matter that we didn't properly organise the first elections in 40 years. It's Africa. We have a pretext to maintain mismanagement. And after this, they will say the Congolese people are not capable of managing such a big country and it would be better to have it in parts, like Yugoslavia.

The elections are like a showcase, but behind it is a masquerade to legitimise looters and their foreign supporters. I have [copies of] agreements, which I brought here for you to see. They are with Canadian, American, French and Belgian [companies]. How can you give 84 percent of all copper [concessions] to one man, [George] Forrest, a Belgian citizen working with multinationals? How can you give someone 90 percent of cobalt [concessions]? Congo has the largest deposits of cobalt in the world. It means you have given someone almost all the cobalt of the world, without a tender.

The Eu's presence is in fact legitimizing a very flawed election process, which is more likely to stir further trouble than to quell it. The only business that the EU units should have is helping disarm the militia - most of which are run by the people that will win this election and which the EU is implicitly supporting. This can only be done after a process in which the international community will not be interested in pushing puppets but in establishing a better (even if not ideal) background in which meaningful elections can be held, Then - by all means - send any troops requested.

Renegade Eye said...

Did you get the email I sent you? I want you to post at my blog, particularly about Congo now.