Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Letter From a Congolese Journalist

Dear friends,

-I have been receiving hundreds of mails and phone calls asking me about the Congolese Crisis and what I think about the whole situation…
-Some of you asked me if my relations back in Congo were safe?
-I thank you all for your concerns…

1) You may notice that am rather silent about the ongoing Congo “war and crisis”
-My silence simply means that am sad, furious and tired of talking about this endless and useless Congolese crisis which keep killing us every day…
-Yes, I have lost quite a good number of friends and relations I knew and cherished to this endless and useless crisis…

2)If you could only read the reports from the International Human Rights Activists and Amnesty International on DR Congo …you will understand why I say the Congolese crisis is useless…it is rather an outside story and a created crisis to make business…
-Local Congolese people in the villages do not understand why this “endless war” has been going on and why they have to flee all the times…
-According to the Amnesty International reports, there has never been real war in Congo…all this crisis going on for years has just been an excuse to confuse the world and plunder the country’s mineral ressources
-While pretending there is “war”…booming business, big deals and smuggling of minerals have been going on for years…The International Community seems to know about all this…
-Congolese innocent people will continue to be victims and suffer the consequences of this “fake war” for a long period of time…
-When will this “useless war” end?…maybe only when there will be no minerals and important ressources left in the country…?
-It is rather complex to understand, analyse this situation and to identify different players…
-Rebels only can’t afford this war…there may be many other secret players
behind this crisis who do not want to be identified…I don't want to give any comment beyond these points…

3)Just guess how humiliated I feel when I see all these Humanitarian aids and big lorries distributing energy biscuits to fellow Congolese men, women, children in the outskirts of Goma, Kiwandja, Rutsuru, Saki, Buhimba…and yet if you watch the background of the same areas on TV, it is all green and fertile land for farming…which means if given a chance and a good opportunity of peace, Congolese people can be able to grow all sorts of crops and nobody will need all these temporary foreign biscuits and water…

4)If you can, keep praying for peace in Congo …We started praying for peace in Congo as a family when I was 5 years old…and up to now nothing has ever improved or changed…the situation has been worsening instead…

Faustin Chongombe

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Does Nkunda Repeatedly Call for the Renegotiation of the Chinese Contract?

In his meeting with Special United Nations Envoy to the Congo, Olusegun Obasanjo, rebel leader Laurent Nkunda repeated as one of his demands the renegotiation of the $9 billion Chinese contract. A deal that swaps Congolese minerals (mainly copper and cobalt) for infrastructure development (road, rail, schools, hospitals, etc).

There are two possible explanations for Nkunda's repeated call regarding the Chinese contract. One is that he is trying to endear himself to the West as western nations and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund consider the Chinese deal to be a threat to their economic interests in the Congo. A second possibly reason is that the West is actually in support of Nkunda's destabilization efforts in order to send a sign to Congo's president Joseph Kabila that he had strayed too far off the plantation by signing such a bold deal with the Chinese without prior consultation or approval from the West. It is not clear which of the two options is correct but time will certainly tell.

It is rather interesting however that in spite of the myriad egregious western contracts (Katanga Mining, Anvil, Banro, Freeport McMoran and many more) that work against the interests of the Congolese people, Nkunda is silent.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Congo: One Hundred Years of Colonialism, Dictatorship and War (1908 - 2008)

Saturday, November 15, 2008 marked the 100-year anniversary of the removal of the Congo from King Leopold II of Belgium as his own personal property. Global outrage of the King’s brutal rule resulted in his losing the Congo treasure trove on November 15, 1908.

Leopold II accumulated spectacular wealth for himself and the Belgian state during his 23-year dominion (1885 – 1908) over the Congo. During this period an estimated 10 million Congolese lost their lives while Leopold systematically looted the Congo of its rubber and ivory riches. Congo was handed over to Belgium who ruled as a colonial power from 1908 to 1960. Congo finally got its independence on June 30, 1960 when Patrice Emery Lumumba, its first democratically elected prime minister took office. Unfortunately, the western powers, primarily the United States and Belgium could not allow a fiercely independent African to consolidate his power over such a geo-strategic prize as the Congo. He was removed from power in a western backed coup within weeks and assassinated on January 17, 1961. Belgium apologized for its role in Lumumba’s assassination in 2002 and the US still downplays its role in Lumumba’s assassination. The US replaced Lumumba with the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and backed him until he was overthrown in 1997. The overthrow of Mobutu unleashed an ongoing resource war that has caused deep strife and unbearable suffering for the Congolese people, particularly the women and the children. It is estimated that Congo has lost nearly six million people since the 1996 invasion by Rwanda and Uganda with support from the United States and other Western nations.

A century later, Congo is at another crossroads. In spite of the advances in technology and the shrinking of the world, it is curious that there is such silence around the suffering of the Congolese people due to the exploitation of powerful corporate and foreign forces beyond its people’s immediate control. Unlike the early 1900s, remarkably, today there are few if any voices the likes of Mark Twain who wrote King Leopold’s Soliloquy, Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness (PDF) (Often misread as Congo or Africa being dark but he was referring to the dark hearts of the exploiters of the Congo), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame who wrote Crime in the Congo. The Congo Reform movement that drew from the work of African Americans such as William Sheppard and George Washington Williams and led by European figures such as Robert Casement and E.D. Morel gave birth to the modern international human rights movement.

One hundred years later we are again calling on the global community to be at the side of the Congolese. This time, there is one fundamental difference, the Congolese are agents in this narrative and the call this time is not a hand-over to a colonial power or neo-colonial institutions but rather to the people of the Congo.

The clarion call is for the combating of the forces (local elites and rebels, foreign governments, foreign corporations, and multi-lateral institutions) that have the Congolese people in a death trap. The charity prism of the humanitarian industry is not the answer. It only perpetuates dependency and dis-empowerment. Should Congo be truly liberated, the Darfurizaton (emptying of agency from the afflicted people) of the global movement in support of the Congo
must be avoided at all cost. Congolese must be agents rather than objects in the pursuit of the control of their land and their lives. The sovereignty of the people and control and ownership of the riches of their land is the fundamental human right for which we must advocate. It is a call not only for the Congo but the entire African continent.

Becomea part of the global movement to Break the Silence as the Congolese pursue
true sovereignty and liberty.

Kambale Musavuli, Student Coordinator, FOTC
Maurice Carney, Executive Director, FOTC

Useful links:
Rapper and Spoken Word Artist
Omekongo's "Welcome to the Congo
Powerpoint Primer on the
History of the Congo (PPT)

Dan Rather All Mines Report on I-Tunes
FAIR on media coverage of Congo

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UN Special Envoy Obesanjo Makes the Rounds

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is making his rounds in the region. On Friday, he met with President Joseph Kabila of Congo. He also met with Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who told him no Angolan troops were in Congo. He plans to meet with Laurent Nkunda as well in an attempt to prepare a way for dialogue between the two gentleman. One should not expect much from these meetings as they almost always deliver less than expected or proclaimed.

Congo's problems are far more profound than shuttle diplomacy on the part of an envoy. The geo-strategic stakes are far too great to be left to talks mediated by an envoy even if it is a former African president.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where Things Stand

A few observations are warranted based on the week of activities inside and outside of the Congo:
1. The mainstream media appear to be moving towards a more accurate description of what is taking place in the Congo. The pathological prism through which they often view Congo in particular and Africa in general is broadening to include other factors than the ethnic rivalries narrative. Thursday's New York Times editorial and Time Magazine's article on the Congo presented three elements that moved those institutions in the right direction.
A. They noted that the conflict was a resource war
B. They acknowledge that Rwanda invaded the Congo twice before and was likely supporting the latest upsurge on the part of Rebel leader Nkunda
C. They recognized that only a political solution will resolve the crisis and part of that requires pressure on US ally, Rwanda.

2. African institutions such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union are primed to be more engaged in the Congo issue. Considering Congo's importance to Africa, it is remarkable that they have been silent around the Congo crisis for so long.

3. Rwanda's leader Paul Kagame cannot feel as secure or be as arrogant as he has been in the past. One of his top aid was arrested in Germany as a result of warrants issued by a French court and their is almost global consensus that pressure must be put on him to cease his support of the destablization of the Congo.

4. It is with amazement that we read that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the New York Times editorial board are concerned about another Rwanda occurring in the Congo. What do they think has been happening for the past 12 years, with an estimated 6 million dead and hundreds of thousands of women raped?

5. The internally displaced persons are finally getting food and care. The suffering is still enormous but at least those who were trapped behind rebel lines can now get support.

6. Keep an eye on the mining contracts. As we are all rightly focused on the crisis in the East, do not be surprised if the government moves to approve some of the odious contracts on the table, particularly the grand daddy of them all the FreePort McMoRan deal. See Dan Rather's incisive report on this deal (search All Mines on I-Tunes)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Kiwanja Massacres: UN Says Its A War Crime

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More Meetings, More Agreements, Less Change

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon best sums up the meeting around the Congo on Friday, November 7, 2008 when he said “It’s not a matter of how many agreements. It’s a matter of implementation. It’s a matter of political will.” The fact of the matter is there is little political will from the global community to cease the pilfering of Congo's wealth. At the root of the conflict is continued ease of access to Congo's vast mineral wealth at "dirt cheap" prices. It is for this reason that the West spent $500 million to install a rebel leader with Congolese blood on his hands so they would be assured of someone they can control; or as the International Crisis Group stated in their July 2007 report on Consolidating The Peace; someone who is reliable -- translation -- someone Western nations can rely on to serve their interests and keep the Congolese population in check.

Friday's meeting produced an agreement calling for an end to the conflict and an insertion of African Union troops if the UN troops currently in the Congo are not able to protect the civilian population. The meeting also called for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor so that aid can get to the people. Present at the summit were the DRC President Joseph Kabila and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, as well as the leaders of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Africa. European and American observers were also present.

The path to peace and stability is clear but the will is weak, Congo is too rich and too easy a prize for greedy elites, Western corporations and foreign governments to cease their backing of greedy, inept leaders and allow the Congolese people shape and determine their own destiny.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Regional Conflict A Distinct Possibility

On yesterday the United Nations clearly and unequivocally implicated Rwanda in the latest conflict in the Congo. The Associated Press noted that U.N. spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg reported "that Uruguayan peacekeepers saw Rwandan tanks and other heavy artillery fire into Congo on Wednesday as Nkunda's forces advanced toward the regional capital, Goma." Alan Doss, the top U.N. envoy in Congo, said in a videoconference Monday that the "fire had come across the border from Rwanda near the Kibumba (displaced) camp where hostilities were under way." Read entire article here>>

Today the Rwandan backed rebels of the Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) accused both Angola and Zimbabwe of mobilizing troops for entry into the Congo. Congo is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In the last major war in the Congo in 1998, Laurent Desire Kabila the father of current leader Joseph Kabila called on SADC to confront the invasion of Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has appealed to Angola for help but there is not yet any evidence that Angola has responded positively to the request. Last week SADC did issue a statement condemning the latest bout of fighting but did not go beyond statements of concern and condemnation.

The regional dimension combined with the great power interests ought to be closely watched as Congo becomes the pawn yet again in a regional and global competition for precious and strategic resources. The weakness of the Congo state and Congolese leadership is a prerequisite for Congo's neighbors and global powers to have their way in the Congo.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Huffington Post Journalist Says Next President Must Address Congo Crisis

The current tragedy in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not an "ethnic conflict," as reported by the US State Department and seconded by the candidates. It is a proxy war, fueled by international competition for the vast mineral wealth of Congo.

Over ten years of war propagated on a scramble for the vast resource wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo has intensified in recent weeks as "rebel" leader General Laurent Nkunda (CNDP) intensified his offensive against the regular Congolese army (FARDC) and threatened to take the city of Goma, headquarters of MONUC, the United Nations Mission to Congo.

Read entire article and make comments so that the Huffington Post can continue to report on the Congo in an in depth manner.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

NPR's Gwen Tompkins Gets to the Heart of the Matter

In recent days we have seen more honest reporting on the Congo. The true cause of the conflict is finally being revealed. This offers some modicum of hope because with correct analysis comes correct prescriptions. Click here to listen to Gwen Tompkins as she articulates the true source of the conflict in the Congo.

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