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Congo

 

Liam O Ruairc • August 18, 2003

Yesterday's documentary on the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo broadcasted on Channel 4 brought light on the deadliest conflict since world war two. Four million people have been killed in the Congo since 1998. However, the documentary did not emphasise enough the responsability of Western powers and economic interests in creating this war.

In May 1997, Laurent Désiré Kabila, a long time Congolese guerilla fighter against Mobutu's dictatorial and kleptocratic regime took power in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Soon, Kabila frustrated the Western governments and multinationals' appetite for 'a second scramble for Africa'. As soon as he settled in Kinshasa, Kabila started to articulate clearly the aspirations of his people and summoning them to take their own destiny into their own hands, politically and economically. This was perceived by Western powers and their African allies as a covert declaration of independence. Kabila's nationalist stance immediately clashed with their interests, as he eventually reviewed all the contracts he had signed with American and South African mineral companies, demanded that they pay upfront for decades of future profits and subsequently nationalised all the mines.

The people of Congo enjoyed a short-lived time of respite during Kabila's first year in power. They could eat three times a day again as prices of essential commodities drastically dropped, roads and bridges were repaired, public transport restored, electricity extended to the suburbs of Kinshasa and people liberated from Mobutu's ill paid soldiers' ransoming (67 members of the new army who resumed the practice were arrested and jailed). The new currency, the Congolese franc, was launched and the inflation rate dropped from 8.828% in 1993 to 6% in 1997. Embezzlers were thrown into jail. Corruption was severely combated. All this was achieved in the absence of any help from the IMF and World Bank who conditioned their financial support to Congo normalising its relations with the institutions of Bretton Woods and pledging to pay all the debt the old regime contracted.

The new government embarked on an ambitious three year programme of national reconstruction and during the third summit of Comesa (common market community of central and southern African countries) held in Kinshasa on 29 June 1998, Kabila clearly outlined what role Congo would play within the common market and in Africa as a whole.

He explained that "more than 40 years of African independence have offered to the world a sad spectacle of a continent looted and humiliated with the complicity of its own sons and daughters". He expressed the wish "to see Africa entering the 21st century totally independent of foreign interference" and declared that the battle for Congo's independence and sovereignty is fought in the interest of Africa as a whole.

"Our country", he said, "has a vocation of exporting peace, development and security to the rest of Africa. A weak Congo means a vulnerable Africa from its centre, an Africa without a heart." The stakes were then raised. America and Britain branded Kabila a 'loose cannon that had to be restrained. But as Colette Braeckman (an expert who is for Congolese affairs what Robert Fisk is for the Middle East) who reports for the Belgian daily, Le Soir, wrote in her book, L'enjeu Congolais - l'Afrique Centrale après Mobutu, this "sudden animosity against Kabila could only be explained by the fact that his nationalist stance collided with or frustrated their economic interests in Congo…Kabila opposed all forms of investments that did not represent the interests of the people of Congo."

Upon Laurent Désiré Kabila's assassination in 2001, Michela Wrong, a former correspondent for Reuters, BBC and The Financial Times, and author of In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo, wrote in the Financial Times: "Laurent Kabila…alienated Western powers and African allies in his three-and-half years in power…He was welcomed as a liberator when his rebel forces marched into Kinshasa in 1997, toppling the late Mobutu Sese Seko, but diplomats and statesmen had come to view him as a man impossible 'to do business with', a key factor in central Africa's growing instability…The World Bank and the IMF found him so obstructive, talks on new aid were abandoned."

Consequently, on 2 August 1998, a Rwandan-Ugandan-Burundian coalition launched a war of invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo, logistically supported and financed by well known Western powers and multinationals, as well as with the complicity of the so-called Congolese 'rebels'. They are systematically looting Congo's fauna and flora, natural and mineral resources and destroying or transferring what is left of Congo's infrastructure to their own countries.

According to Wayne Madsen, an American investigative journalist and intelligence specialist, author of Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993 - 1999, the US military has been covertly involved in the war in Congo. Madsen on May 17 2002 told the US House subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, that the US was using Private Military Contractors (PMCs). Madsen said American companies including one linked to former President George Bush Snr are stoking the Congo conflict for monetary gains.

It should be made clear that what is at stake in this war is not some "ethnic conflict" between "rival tribes", but a fight between a popular nationalist regime and a Western-backed invasion force.


 



 

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Index: Current Articles



22 August 2003

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

A Pathological Political Disorder
Anthony McIntyre

 

Letter to the Blanket

Michael McKevitt

 

Deeply Flawed

Douglas Hamilton

 

The Prison Population Binge
Daniel S. Murphy

 

Going Native
Kathleen O Halloran

 

The Hall and State of Illusions
Davy Carlin

 

Congo
Liam O Ruairc

 

Mazen Dana
Sean Noonan

 

Michael Moore in Belfast: Stupid White Men
Anthony McIntyre

 

11 August 2003

 

Revenge, Not Justice
Anthony McIntyre

 

Statement of Michael McKevitt

 

Brutality in Maghaberry Extends to Visitors

Martin Mulholland, IRPWA

 

Federal Prisoner Becomes University Professor
Stephen C. Richards

 

What is the New School of Convict Criminology?
Jeffery Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards

 

Intellectuals and the Cold War
John Harrington

 

Kevin Lynch Commemoration Speech
Jimmy Bradley

 

Neo-Liberal Nicaragua: Neo Banana Republic
Toni Solo

 

 

 

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