Friday, February 29, 2008

Shake Down or Down With the People

The Congolese government accelerated the mining review process and gave the 60 odd companies whose contracts were under review until February 26, 2008 to respond to the assessment by the review panel.

Victor Kasongo, Deputy Minister of Mines said all the contracts established during the war and the transition process were flawed and had to be renegotiated.

A great deal of uncertainty looms over the process however. Although individual companies were given the review results of their respective contracts, no public release of the review has been made to date. The Congolese parliament has not been engaged in the process to serve an oversight role and represent the interest of the Congolese people. No structure has been established for civil society organizations to be engaged. The Financial Times reported that "behind closed door" deals may be being struck as the Congo government seeks more cash. Is the government using this process as a cash grab or is it genuinely interested in the Congolese people finally benefiting from the wealth of their country?

Thus far, there are no benchmarks that would indicate that the acceleration of the review process was done in the interest of the people of the Congo. According to a coalition of Non-Government Organizations, there are a lot of questions yet to be answered. Read about outstanding questions here...

What seems to be unfolding is that the government has its favorites and will sell out the Congolese people's wealth to its favorites while posturing and playing hardball with those companies that are in disfavor or lack the necessary connections to the elite who will undoubtly fill their pockets from the latest shake down in the name of the Congolese people.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Congo Mining Review: Chaos or Progress?

The Congolese government recently made details of the mining review available to mining companies in the Congo. According to the deputy mining minister, Victor Kasongo, none of the country's 60-odd mining contracts were found to be properly constituted. The government delivered its findings to the companies ahead of the scheduled February 20, 2008 delivery date.

The government claims it is the next phase in the mining review process, however, no one really knows where this is heading. The report that was produced by a commission made up of international institutions such as the Carter Center and Soros Institute has not been made available to the parliament or the Congolese people. Nonetheless, Kasongo says "We intend to institute a brief and open administrative appeal process, to a specially constituted panel, through which a company can present its case for reclassification, while minimizing confrontation and shortening any delay to renegotiation." Apparently the companies will have one week to analyze the results.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's At Stake in the Congo? Not Merely Mining Contracts

Although much has been written about the Congo's contract review process, the essence of what is really at stake has hardly been discussed.

The central question for the Congo and Africa is who will control the Congo for the next 25 to 50 years? Will it be institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, corporate barons such as George Forrest, Dan Gertler, Benny Steinmetz, Arthur Ditto and Richard C. Adkerson or will it be the Congolese people? This has been the central question for the last 120 years of Congo's history. It is the reason why Lumumba was assassinated in 1961; Mobutu installed; Rwanda's and Uganda's double invasion of the Congo (1996 & 1998), supported by the West; and finally, the reason why the world's deafening silence in the face of 5.4 million dead Congolese and the heinous rape and abuse of hundreds of thousands of women and children.

The question for Kabila, Kasongo, Gizenga and others is will they sell out the Congolese people like Mobutu sold out Lumumba and an entire generation of Congolese?

Will they go down in history as the modern day Tshombe and Mobutu who collaborated with the West to condemn their people to four decades of sheer hell?

For all the students of development and those who lament the poverty on the African continent, this is how it happens. This is where Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine meets John Perkin's Confessions of an Economic Hitman. What we are witnessing in the Congo today is the impoverishment of yet another generation of Congolese and the institutionalization of dependency under a neo-liberal regime.

One key antidote is to shine a light on one of the greatest heist at the dawn of the 21st century and support the Congolese people who are resisting the theft of their patrimony day and night.
Become a friend of the Congo and support the people >>

Friday, February 08, 2008

Mining Review Process to be Accelerated

Congolese deputy mining minister Victor Kasongo announced last week that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will accelerate the mining review process. The commission set-up to review the contracts submitted the final report to the government since the Fall of 2007. However, the government has yet to move on the prescriptions outlined by the review commission. Leaked reports indicated that the commission recommended that the 61 contracts under review ought to be renegotiated or outright canceled. The mining minster revealed that "We had expected to be able to concentrate our efforts on rectification of a few contracts. We actually found that we had [not a single contract that was properly constituted]. What was meant to be a minor corrective has turned out to be multiple, major surgery.”

The results of the review process will be announced in two weeks according to the government. Companies will have three months to address the concerns raised in the review. Congolese politicians have raised concern that the report has not made it to parliament for its input as this issue is of central concern to the people of the Congo.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Earthquake Rocks Congo

Two deadly earthquakes rocked the Congo and Rwanda on Sunday, killing 39 people and injuring hundreds. As if war and displacement was not sufficient, now a natural disaster has plagued the beleaguered people of the Congo.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the one earthquake registered 6.0 on the Richter scale and the second 5.0.