Whatever happened with The Congo

A report conducted a decade ago, about transnational corporations taking control of natural resources inside the troublesome area of the Congo.  Should this story still be considered a major issue in western journalism? What ever happen to the Congo?

 

Dollars and Sense
July/August 2001
Title: The Business of War in the Democratic Republic Of Congo: Who benefits?
Authors: Dena Montague, Frieda Berrigan

Voice (Pioneer Valley, MA)
March/April, 2001
Title: Depopulation and Perception Management (Part 2: Central Africa)
Author: keith harmon snow

Honorable Mention: From Previous Censored Yearbook 2001
Title: U. S. Military and Corporate Recolonization of the Congo
Source: CovertAction Quarterly
Date: Summer 2000
Title: U. S. Military and Corporate Recolonization of the Congo
Author: Ellen Ray

Faculty evaluator: Philip Beard,
Student researchers: Arinze Anoruo, Chris Salvano

Western multinational corporations’ attempts to cash in on the wealth of Congo’s resources have resulted in what many have called “Africa’s first world war,” claiming the lives of over 3 million people. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been labeled “the richest patch of earth on the planet.” The valuable abundance of minerals and resources in the DRC has made it the target of attacks from U.S.-supported neighboring African countries Uganda and Rwanda.

The DRC is minerial rich with millions of tons of diamonds, copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, uranium, niobium, and tantalum also known as coltan. Coltan has become an increasingly valuable resource to American corporations. Coltan is used to make mobile phones, night vision goggles, fiber optics, and capacitators used to maintain the electrical charge in computer chips. In December of 2000 the shortage of coltan was the main reason that the popular sale of the Sony Play Station 2 video game came to an abrupt halt.

The DRC holds 80% of the world’s coltan reserves, more than 60% of the world’s cobalt and is the world’s largest supplier of high-grade copper. With these minerals playing a major part in maintaining US military dominance and economic growth, minerals in the Congo are deemed vital US interests.

Historically, the U.S. government identified sources of materials in Third World countries, and then encouraged U.S. corporations to invest in and facilitate their production. Dating back to the mid-1960s, the U.S. government literally installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, which gave U.S. corporations access to the Congo’s minerals for more than 30 years. However, over the years Mobutu began to limit access by Western corporations, and to control the distribution of resources. In 1998, U.S. military-trained leaders of Rwanda and Uganda invaded the mineral-rich areas of the Congo. The invaders installed illegal colonial-style governments which continue to receive millions of dollars in arms and military training from the United States. Our government and a $5 million Citibank loan maintains the rebel presence in the Congo. Their control of mineral rich areas allows western corporations, such as American Mineral Fields, to illegally mine. Rwandan and Ugandan control over this area is beneficial for both governments and for the corporations that continue to exploit the Congo’s natural wealth.

American Mineral Fields (AMF) landed exclusive exploration rights to an estimated 1.4 million tons of copper and 270,000 tons of cobalt. San Francisco based engineering firm Bechtel Inc. established strong ties in the rebel zones as well. Bechtel drew up an inventory of the Congo’s mineral resources free of charge, and also paid for NASA satellite studies of the country for infared maps of its minerals. Bechtel estimates that the DRC’s mineral ores alone are worth $157 billion dollars. Through coltan production, the Rwandans and their allies are bringing in $20 million revenue a month. Rwanda’s diamond exports went from 166 carats in 1998 to 30,500 in 2000. Uganda’s diamond exports jumped from approximately 1,500 carats to about 11,300. The final destination for many of these minerals is the U.S.

UPDATE BY AUTHOR DENA MONTAGUE: Nearly four million people dead in four years of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the world remains silent in the face of an abominable atrocity. The war in the DRC is not only significant because of its infamous status as the world’s deadliest war; but also because of the active participation of an international contingent of multinational corporations, terrorist networks, arms brokers, and governments all clamoring for the legendary wealth of the Congo while exacerbating the war.

Ugandan and Rwandan backed rebels and the Congolese central government met for nine weeks beginning in March 2002 in Sun City, South Africa to negotiate aspects of the Inter-Congolese dialogue as a part of the Lusaka Peace Accords. In a significant development emerging from the Dialogue – Jean Pierre Bemba, a known Mobutuist and leader of Uganda sponsored rebel party, Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), has been appointed Prime Minister of the DRC in a power sharing agreement strongly encouraged by western governments. Rather than being held accountable by the international community for war crimes committed against Congolese civilians and the massive exploitation of Congolese natural resources detailed by the UN during the four-year war, Bemba, a multimillionaire will be leading the country he helped decimate.

In response to its isolation from the power sharing agreement, Rwandan backed RCD has formed an alliance with veteran Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. Rwanda has not ceased discussions of an enduring armed partition of the DRC, of which it remains in control of approximately one third of the country. The power sharing agreement emerging from Sun City has effectively marginalized civil society groups who have been organizing peacefully for democracy, and instead rewards armed struggle in the country. Meanwhile, Rwanda and Uganda continue to attract international investors as well as military assistance from the U.S. and others. Thousands of Rwandan troops are currently engaged fighting in the eastern region of the country at the continued expense of civilian lives.

The war in the DRC is layered in such a way that it appears as a wartime telenovella. Its complexity tends to distract the layman observer from the fundamental facts. This war is yet another stage in international efforts to control the wealth of the Congo-a story that dates back to the 19th century.

The only major U.S. media response to the war in the DRC has been a weeklong Nightline report, “The Heart of Darkness” that was originally scheduled to air the week of September 11th and was postponed until February. Although the Nightline special was significant in drawing attention to the neglected story and the unbearable suffering of the Congolese people, it did little to explain the root causes of the war. Other than the Nightline report, only an occasional story on the fledgling peace process appears in major newspapers.

There are few outlets that give a comprehensive account of the war. International Crisis Group has published a series of in-depth reports about the conflict. http://www.intl-crisis-group.org/

Occasionally the Washington Post covers the DRC. Reporter Karl Vick was one of the first to uncover the story of coltan mining. http://www.allafrica.com/ compiles daily reports on the DRC. Other magazines that are less accessible frequently cover the war – New African Magazine and Africa Confidential.

For an historical perspective on conflict in the Congo- Books: King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, and The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba by Ludo De Witte.

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