Rwanda continues to destabilise DRCongo /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

Another war has broken out in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In April 2012 about 600 soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied and seized weapons and territory in eastern DRC. Within four months the mutineers had swelled to over 2,000 soldiers. Over 270,000 people have been displaced. The total number of displaced people since 2009 is now 2.2m. There are reports of systematic massacres of civilians. Behind the rebellion is Rwanda, an important regional ally of Britain and the US.

DRC, sharing common borders with nine sub-Saharan African countries, is a potentially vital strategic prize in Africa for the advanced capitalist countries. DRC has the world’s largest deposits of copper, cobalt, coltan and cadmium, and significant deposits of oil, gold, uranium, tungsten and diamonds, and accounts for at least 7% of global tin supplies.

Control of these resources and transportation routes, by the imperialists and their local allies, lies behind the wars that have raged in DRC since 1996. There is growing US and EU military engagement in Africa, usually under humanitarian cover, reflecting their intention to control strategic raw materials. The creation of the US Africa Command (Africom), the resurrected hunt for Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony and the war in Somalia are examples of this.

Neighbouring Rwanda has invaded DRC at least four times under the pretext of hunting those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda invaded DRC (then called Zaire) in 1996 with the secret but direct support of Britain and especially the US. A second invasion in 1998 saw Rwanda and Uganda attempt to create rival proxy administrations in eastern DRC using loyal armed groups. Rwanda continues to maintain troops and auxiliaries in eastern DRC through which it plunders the country’s resources. These invasions have led to over six million deaths (some say ten million) from killings, disease and malnutrition, and mass horrific rapes of men and women, often repeatedly. The UN and Amnesty International estimate 94,000 victims of rape between 1998-2010. Rwanda’s goal is the ‘secession’ of North and South Kivu, the eastern mineral-rich region of DRC.

Britain supports Rwanda

Britain and the US are the two largest bilateral donors to Rwanda, giving over $350m in 2011. Following the reports of Rwanda again destabilising DRC and strong regional criticism, the imperialists made a show of suspending ‘aid’. On 29 July Britain announced a £16m (from £75m a year) suspension in budgetary support, following a $200,000 cut in US military aid to Rwanda and a £4m cut from the Netherlands. By 4 September Britain’s outgoing international development minister, Andrew Mitchell, praised Rwanda for ‘constructively’ engaging to resolve the crisis, saying: ‘Britain will partially restore its general budget support to Rwanda’.

Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president has long been a favourite of Britain’s Africa ministers, especially Clare Short, his ‘number one fan’. Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair is a special adviser to Kagame. Blair called him a ‘visionary leader’. Rwanda has received over £1bn in direct budget support from Britain since 2003, and Britain is the single largest contributor of foreign aid. Rwanda is heavily dependent on international aid (45% of current expenditure in 2010). Other ‘advisers’ to Kagame include Bill Gates and former US President Bill Clinton.

UN report exposes ‘mutiny’

A leaked report from a UN Group of Experts in June 2012 revealed that since February – well before the official outbreak of the ‘mutiny’ – poor unemployed youth have been recruited and trained in Rwanda, then used to transfer ammunition and heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons, to the ‘rebels’, always escorted by Rwandan soldiers. An annex to the report which names the Rwandan military hierarchy and details their provision of political and military support to the rebels has been blocked by the US and Britain. Rwandan officials called military and political Congolese figures, urging them to support the mutineers based on ‘ethnic solidarity’.

The Rwandan military maintains contact with other Congolese armed groups, such as the Mai Mai, and even Hutu extremists from the FDLR (including leaders responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide of mostly Tutsi people) who were repatriated to Rwanda, demobilised, then subsequently rearmed and returned to DRC. It was the DRC’s efforts to break up these gangs that sparked the current mutiny.

Mutiny déjà vu

In August 2008, a Congolese army General Laurent Nkunda, led a ‘rebel’ group, CNDP based in Kivu, that mutinied, massacred civilians and displaced over 250,000 people. He claimed to be fighting to protect the Congolese Tutsi minority. A UN report showed he had direct support from the Rwandan army. A bogus military operation to ‘protect Rwanda’ was nothing more than a pretext to loot DRC. At the time, Britain’s Labour government Minister for Africa, Lord Malloch-Brown, ‘completely reject[ed] allegations that CNDP is a Rwandan force’.

The CNDP became a legal political party in DRC and integrated into the state army (FARDC) as part of a ‘peace agreement’ between Rwanda and DRC on 23 March 2009. The current mutiny is led by Bosco Ntaganda and consists of former fighters from CNDP. The mutineers call themselves 23 March Movement (M23) after the date of the 2009 ‘peace deal’, alleging ill-treatment in the FARDC. Since April the M23 rebels have committed barbaric abuses against civilians and plundered natural resources. This gives the lie to their bogus claims.

The current military rebellion is a mirror image of the one in 2008: the cycle of rebellion, pardons and ‘integration’ into the army, needs to be broken or DRC will remain a source of cheap raw materials for the imperialist powers.         

Charles Chinweizu

DR Congo: Imperialists organise war and plunder / FRFI 192 Aug / Sep 2006

FRFI 192 August /September 2006

DR Congo: Imperialists organise war and plunder

On 30 July 2006, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) will go to the polls for presidential and national assembly elections against a background of a war that has ravaged the country since 1998 and in which over four million people have died. IRENEE KAYEMBE reports.

The DRC, in central Africa, is the third biggest country in Africa with a population of approximately 60 million; it borders nine other countries. The British media occasionally reports the war as an ‘ethnic’ war – this is not true. The DRC has the world’s largest deposits of copper, cobalt, coltan and cadmium, as well as chrome, timber, tin, rubber, oil, uranium, germanium, diamonds and gold and the war is to control these resources.

In 1998 DRC’s eastern neighbours, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, illegally invaded the country with the tacit backing of the US, EU and UN. Armed groups from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and Angola, plus the Congolese army, have been fighting ever since for control over mining rights. American William Swing, UN ambassador to the DRC, commands 17,000 men; Belgian Louis Michel leads an 1,600-strong EU mission. These ‘peacekeepers’ are more powerful than presidents.

According to a 2005 UN report, the armed forces of the DRC and the other foreign armies/militias are committing war crimes, including massacres of civilians, mass rapes of women and girls and summary executions. Since January 2006, 90,000 people have fled violence in Rutshuru in eastern DRC. 80% of Congolese women of all ages have been raped at least once by military forces. Mass graves are found all over DRC by UN officials containing the remains of thousands of people killed after beatings, torture, rape and extortion. Between 15,000 and 30,000 children, many aged between 14 and 16, serve the armed groups as forced labour, porters, combatants, and sex slaves.

To control DRC, the US and EU are using the same strategy used at the turn of the 19th century by King Leopold II of Belgium who sent in the notorious early imperialist Henry Morton Stanley. In 1885 the king turned Congo into his private state, exploiting the boom in rubber with violent oppression. In 1905 the Belgian state took over and repression continued as the colony was milked of its resources.

Formal independence from Belgium came in 1960, but in 1961 the US and Belgium assassinated Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically-elected Congolese prime minister. As the world market in copper and cobalt boomed, they organised a number of rebellions and ended up putting Joseph Mobutu in power after a coup d’état in 1965. His rule was sustained through terror, including televised hangings of opposition members.

Eventually Mobutu was booted out, after the war in 1997 and Laurent Desiré Kabila became the new imperialist-backed president, deploying Rwandan troops, military chiefs and civil servants.

Though a drunkard and a womaniser, Laurent Kabila shocked the imperialists by turning out to be a nationalist. He nationalised the diamond industry and wanted to get rid of Rwandan military and civil servants. He made links with Libya and prepared to sell uranium to the Arab world. As a result, he, like Lumumba, was assassinated.

The current DRC President, Joseph Kabila, a Rwandan employed in Laurent Kabila’s administration, is no relation but simply an imperialist puppet with a convenient name-tag. The imperialists continue to give the instructions through Rwanda and Uganda.

The production of laptops and mobile phones depends on coltan and cassiterite, found only in the DRC, Australia and in one Asian country. In the DRC these vital minerals can be mined with no taxes and no need to respect working conditions or human rights. The UN has blocked attempts to investigate the illegal exploitation of DRC’s resources.

Meanwhile, the looting continues – every day corrupt DRC politicians and western corporations conclude new business deals. According to a UN report in October 2003, high level political, military and business networks are stealing the DRC’s mineral resources, and by 2002, they had transferred at least $5 billion of assets from the state mining sector to private western companies, including 18 British firms such as Anglo American, DeBeers, Afrimex and Barclays Bank (The Observer, 6 February 2005).

Rwandan exports of coltan, cassiterite, gold and diamonds have increased fivefold, yet none of these are found in Rwanda. There are 15 flights a day transporting minerals from the DRC to EU and the US via Rwanda and South Africa. Since the start of the ‘transitional’ government of dictator Joseph Kabila in June 2003, armed groups linked to Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, together with DRC government officials, have continued their illegal plunder of the people and resources of the DRC.

Now the imperialists plan to intensify the plunder by legitimising their puppet president in the forthcoming fake elections. They have already succeeded in overturning the previous constitutional stipulation that the Congolese state is the sole owner of all mineral resources.

Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, a nationalist in the mould of Lumumba, embodies the people’s aspirations. His political party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, has held demonstrations, pickets, campaigns and boycotts denouncing imperialism. He has been forced out of the elections. In March 2006 in Kinshasa, Tshisekedi said:

‘In this country there is an independent people, free and sovereign, a people with an opinion, a people with legitimate aspirations just like those of the people of developed countries, a people with social and political forces and leaders representing their interests and claims. If the USA and EU continue to ignore these people, their force and their leaders, we, the representatives of the people will continue ignoring the US and EU.’

The June 2005 Lutundula Commission found that most mining and other business contracts signed by ‘rebels’ and government authorities are either illegal or ‘of limited value for the development of DRC’, and should be terminated. The UN and Belgium have refused to publish their own information regarding illegal deals. Meanwhile, on the ground, UN trucks, aircraft and helicopters are being used to carry weapons into Congolese territory in order to carry out massacres.

Congo: Imperialists plunder gold / FRFI 189 Feb / Mar 2006

FRFI 189 February / March 2006

Congo: Imperialists plunder gold

The subsoil of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) is so gorged with minerals that it is Africa’s richest country. DRC has the world’s largest deposits of copper, cobalt, coltan and cadmium, as well as chrome, timber, cassiterite, rubber, oil, uranium, germanium, diamonds and gold. Mongbwalu, capital of the north-eastern Ituri district, contains Africa’s largest gold seam. Control over these vast resources, not ‘ethnic rivalry’, is behind the civil war which started in 1998 soon after the US and British-backed dictator Mobutu died, and which has cost over 3.8 million lives, mostly from starvation and disease.

Looting the gold
Every month, hundreds of kilograms of gold are extracted from the mines around Mongbwalu, taken illegally to neighbouring Uganda and then flown to Europe, usually to Metalor Technologies in Switzerland, a leading European dealer in precious metals. (Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2005). DRC ministers are directly involved in the smuggling, with stolen wealth, worth millions of dollars, stored in offshore bank accounts. In 2003, although local Ugandan gold production was worth $23,000, gold exports were worth $45 billion. Gold is Uganda’s second biggest export after coffee.

The gold smuggling is controlled by the Ugandan-armed militia, the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI), which takes a percentage and a dollar a day from the workers. FNI is responsible for some of the worst atrocities in DRC, including child abduction, rape and torture. In June 2005, Human Rights Watch revealed that the British company AngloGold Ashanti made payments to FNI, and gave it ‘meaningful financial and logistical support’. This gave AngloGold Ashanti access to the gold-mining concessions in the north-east. AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s second biggest gold producer, with sales of about $2 billion and profits of $10 million in 2004, is part of the international mining conglomerate Anglo American, controlled by the apartheid-supporting Oppenheimer ‘dynasty’.

Looting the coltan
Coltan (short for columbite-tantalum) is a rare precious ore found only in DRC and Australia, and is a key component in nuclear reactors and small electronic devices, such as mobile phones, pagers, laptop computers, etc. With US backing, Rwanda invaded DRC three times in 1996, 1998 and 2004, ostensibly to look for Interahamwe rebels responsible for the 1994 genocide. Once in eastern DRC they began looting diamonds and coltan instead. Tonnes of precious metals were flown to the capital, Kigali, each week and exported to Europe and China via routes in Mozambique, South Africa and Thailand. Rwanda made $20 million a month between 1999-2000 from coltan sales, despite having no coltan deposits.

Burundi and Uganda have also been behind the coltan and diamond plunder, using either their armies or trained militia, many of them children. After signing worthless peace agreements in 1999 and 2003, the invaders officially withdrew their armies, but left behind their militia to continue the pillaging. Rwandan and Ugandan troops and militia are responsible for killing, raping and torturing people in north and south Kivu and Maniema Provinces. In some places, the Rwandan army has actually formed alliances with the Interahamwe rebels in order to control the mines.

The role of the imperialists
Behind the pillage lie the arms, training and political support of Britain, Belgium, France and the US in particular. Soon after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, it was revealed that France had armed and trained senior figures who directed some of the massacres. According to a UN Security Council report in October 2002, high level political, military and business networks were stealing DRC’s gold, timber, coltan and diamonds, and had transferred at least $5 billion of assets from the state mining sector to private western companies, including 18 British firms such as Anglo American, DeBeers and Barclays Bank, as well as US, Belgian, Canadian, Swiss and German firms (The Observer, 6 February 2005). A more critical report in 2003 was suppressed.

Both Rwanda and Uganda are heavily dependent on western ‘aid’; for example 52% of Uganda’s national budget comes from EU countries. Uganda is a useful proxy state for US imperialist interests in the resource-rich region. The US has a permanent military base in northern Uganda, from which it chases ‘Al Qaida terrorists’ and the Sudan-based, Christian fundamentalist Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), itself set up by the US. The LRA have now entered DRC to escape Ugandan forces in southern Sudan. Uganda and DRC have agreed joint operations against the LRA inside DRC, threatening a wider conflagration.

The illegal invasion of DRC by Uganda and Rwanda in 1998 had the backing and support of the US and Britain. Large quantities of arms were transferred to Rwanda via eastern Europe from Israel, Britain and the US. These arms ended up in the hands of ‘rebels’ in eastern DRC (The Guardian, 5 July 2005). Britain’s arms sales to Africa neared £1 billion in 2004.

A token UN observer mission, MONUC, set up in 1999, is confined to barracks and restricted to a few patrols. It ignores the gold smuggling and has admitted not knowing what is going on in the mines. Britain, France, Belgium and the US have blocked attempts to strengthen the 15,500 force (3,300 are civilians, observers or volunteers), insisting instead on targeted sanctions, useless arms embargoes and elections to legitimise the transition government of Joseph Kabila, which has western backing, having accepted IMF ‘reforms’.
Charles Chinweizu

Congo: Nothing changes after DRC elections / FRFI 197 Jun / Jul 2007

FRFI 197 June / July 2007

Congo: Nothing changes after DRC elections

In December 2002 a peace agreement to put an end to five years of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was signed in South Africa. It set five main targets:

• reunification of a country torn apart by different rebel factions
• rebuilding the country
• restabilising state power across the whole country
• national reconciliation
• formation of a trained and integrated national army.

These were preconditions for the organisation of free, transparent and democratic elections in 2006 to bring about new and reliable structures for a safe and stable country.

By 2006 none of the recommendations had been implemented. There were plenty of warnings of the lack of will to effect change. The opposition called on the population to boycott the elections, but underestimated the force imperialists were prepared to use to ensure it happened.

The so-called CIAT (Comité International d’Accompagnement de la Transition), made up of the US, UK, German, French and Belgian embassies, spent more than $450 million supporting the government. Only President Kabila had the right to use UN vehicles, planes and helicopter for campaigning.

It was easy for CIAT to manage the polling booths, especially in the eastern part of DRC where Rwanda has more control than the government. The outcome of the elections is that Kabila’s alliance controls Parliament, the government and ten out of 11 provincial governments. The July and October 2006 elections were a cover to legitimise recolonisation.

There is a plot sustained by imperialism against the country, which begs the question of the role of the United Nations mission in DRC. The imperialist strategy is very simple: prevent the country organising and unifying so that plunder and looting continue unhindered.

While the population waits to see the promised change from the elections the nightmare continues unabated. In January 2007 more than 200 people had been massacred in the southwest of Congo (Bas-Congo) alone. Neither the newly elected President nor his Prime Minister bothered to send their condolences to the victims’ families. In March 2007 a fight broke out in the middle of Kinshasa to disarm an opposition militia. Over 600 civilians were killed, with the knowledge of the UN mission troops who only managed to pick up the corpses afterwards.

Why aren’t the UN doing or saying anything about the increasing human rights violations when they are mandated to protect civilians? Harassment of the opposition continues with over 80 people arrested without trial. Countless journalists, human rights activists, opposition leaders, university lecturers and scientists have been killed, and girls and women raped daily in the east. Those who do this dirty work are known, but are untouchable by the so-called government or the international organisations meant to bring peace.

A range of reports by the UN, World Bank and NGOs such as Global Witness, RAID etc condemn the looting in DRC and conclude that this is the reason why they can’t help the country organise itself. Ahead lies a total paralysis of government, fewer and fewer government meetings and weakness of the state allowing militias to continue terrorising people in the east. The main imperialist actors are: Belgium, the former colonial power with geo-strategic interests; the UK, now the largest aid donor; the US with growing economic interests; and France which funded the election campaigns. Puppet countries are South Africa, seeking to keep regional political leadership; Angola, which formerly controlled the region’s mining and oil sectors; Rwanda and Uganda, under the pretext of chasing forces responsible for genocide now hiding in the east, plus China, the third largest buyer of Congolese minerals and other resources.

With rising mineral prices, these countries are struggling to impose their influence on the DRC and take its resources. So now there is a corporate battle over who is going to get the big returns between Eskom SA, Phelps Dodge, Adastra, Banro, First Quantum, De Beers, BHP Billiton, Anglogold Ashanti, Kinross-Forrest and Mwana Africa.
Irenee Kayembe

DR Congo: repression continues / FRFI 199 Oct / Nov 2007

FRFI 199 October / November 2007

DR Congo: repression continues

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) president Joseph Kabila is desperately trying to get international support for his puppet government to give it some legitimacy. That is why in late September, on his way to the General Assembly of the United Nations, he visited Belgium, where he was met by demonstrations of the Congolese diaspora . Not that the Belgian government was a reluctant host: with the DRC’s huge natural resources up for grabs, it does not want to miss out on the action, especially as China had just agreed to invest $5bn in infrastructure and mining. The upshot was that Belgium agreed to send an economic mission to the DRC capital Kinshasa with the aim of boosting Belgian investment in its former colony.

Since Joseph Kabila’s inauguration as the DRC president in December 2006, security has been precarious: the regime is using fear and terror to keep the population’s mouths shut. The new government’s relations with the opposition have resulted in a drift to authoritarianism and urban unrest in the west of the country, while militias continue to clash with the weak national army in the east, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, many of whom continue to succumb to hunger and disease. The new governing institutions remain weak and abusive or non-existent.

In early 2007 the population of southwest Congo suffered massive and violent repression with hundreds of deaths after a protest about irregularities in the elections of regional deputies. The UN’s human rights office in DRC has just published a report of what has been called the ‘massacre of Bas-Congo’. The report underlines the fact that those responsible for the atrocity are known, but no judicial action has yet been taken against them. ( 15423#top)

A couple of months later, in March 2007, war blew up in the middle of Kinshasa. Four hundred people were killed, mostly civilians caught up in the cross-fire as they went about their daily and domestic business. The reason for this second massacre after inauguration was to disarm the former rebel JP Bemba, who came second in the presidential election and thus became the official leader of the opposition. Not only was Bemba a threat because of his militia, but as an indigenous Congolese he had much popular support against Kabila who is still seen as Rwandan in origin. The opposition’s capacity to organise remains severely weakened by the recurrent use of force against its supporters and Bemba’s exile in April 2007. The government uses force to crack down on its opponents entrenching animosity and creating further urban unrest.

The so-called integrated army, which the United Nations mission (MONUC, in fact a front for US, Belgian, British and French interests) in Congo claimed to merge and train, has become the worst human rights abuser, and no one is doing anything to stop it. In the last week of August, militia chief Laurent Nkunda launched a successful attack on North Kivu; he now controls the Kivus region. Nkunda’s troops use rape as a weapon of war, and neither the national army nor the United Nations have succeeded in putting an end to the activities of this former regional commander of the Congolese army. He has 14,000 to 18,000 militiamen and is backed by the Rwandan government.

Although elsewhere the government has used force to crack down on militias, in the Kivus Nkunda remains powerful, refusing to surrender heavy weapons; there are Rwandan fighters among his troops. Both Kabila and MONUC are ignoring Nkunda’s activities; this has led to a rise in anti-Tutsi feeling because the situation demonstrates the alliance Kabila has with both Nkunda and Rwandan president Kagame.

More and more Congolese are being turned into refugees in their own country, especially those living in the east. The population is suffering the consequences of the passivity of the government and Kabila’s tacit complicity with the international mafia network determined to plunder DRC forever. This will be exacerbated with the recent discovery of oil in the lake separating Congo and Uganda. With China trying to settle as an alternative super power, US and European imperialist powers will be using every strategy possible to maintain their dominant position in the country.

The good news is that they can fool the entire population some of the time, but not all the time. Things are changing little by little. It can take a long time, but people are definitively determined to free themselves, whether the neo-colonialists like it or not.
Irenee Kayembe