Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fighting Congopessimism...

(Someone that most readers of this blog will recognize, wrote this interesting piece.
x-posted at Le Salon, and published on Black Commentator)


The case FOR the Congo
A response to There is No Congo, by Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills, posted March 2009, Web Exclusive, http://www.foreignpolicy.com

by Ali M. Mamina

Foreign Policy magazine recently published a rather disturbing article on the Congo (There is No Congo, posted March 2009, Web Exclusive, http://www.foreignpolicy.com), by Jeffrey Herbst of Miami University of Ohio, and Greg Mills who directs the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation. The article makes a case against Congo as a unified entity. As a Congolese citizen, I could not disagree more with their arguments, and I believe they warrant an appropriate rebuttal. Their article is a perfect illustration of the flawed approach with which much of the so-called international community, and some scholars on Africa, have analyzed the situation in the Congo since its nominal independence in 1960, and frankly, part of the reason why they never get it right. It is often not due to inaccurate facts, or lack of knowledge on the region, but more due to inadequate prisms molded in the inside-think of Western-world-centric academia. In my view, and to illustrate some of the points I am rebutting, the article boils down to the following citations:

" … And indeed, for centuries, this is precisely what Congo's colonial occupiers, its neighbors, and even some of its people have done: eaten away at Congo's vast mineral wealth with little concern for the coherency of the country left behind. Congo has none of the things that make a nation-state: interconnectedness, a government that is able to exert authority consistently in territory beyond the capital, a shared culture that promotes national unity, or a common language. Instead, Congo has become a collection of peoples, groups, interests, and pillagers who coexist at best."

"The very concept of a Congolese state has outlived its usefulness. For an international community that has far too long made wishful thinking the enemy of pragmatism, acting on reality rather than diplomatic theory would be a good start."
There is one general sense in this article that is right: the Congo has been a disappointment. With the vast swathes of fauna, flora, mineral, agricultural, hydroelectric, and human resources it inherited at its independence, one would expect the Congo today to rival if not exceed such rising powers as South Africa, Brazil, India, China, Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Instead, as the article justly points out, the level of deliquescence in Congo today is almost unprecedented; not acknowledging that reality would be intellectually dubious.

Nevertheless, what is equally dubious, is the misdiagnosis of the root causes of the current situation. The authors of this article repeatedly, and I believe questionably, confuse causes and consequences, to support and justify a desire, long-held in certain circles, for the balkanization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The authors point out the weakness of the Congolese central state in governing the vast country, without fully and honestly addressing the international geo-strategic reasons why that reality came to be. The authors point out the various secessions and minor uprisings during the past 40+ years to justify their diagnosis of the Congo. Yet they fail to shine a light on the multiple foreign state and corporate backers that participated in those early attempts at derailing the Congo. The authors claim that " the Congolese government's inability to control its territory has resulted in one of the world's longest and most violent wars", without actually addressing the reasons why the government was - and still is - not able to control its territory in the first place.

My contention is quite simple. The current conflict(s) in the Congo, the deliquescence of the state, the lack of infrastructures and "interconnectedness", are not merely unforeseen, pathological consequences of bad colonial and/or cold war policy gone awry. The current situation is a direct, calculated, and progressively manufactured result of a long-standing operation by Western nations to maintain a weak state in this vast mineral rich swath of land in the heart of Africa and perpetuate the systematic plunder of Congo's resources by various foreign interests, and their proxies in the local elite.

Seems far-fetched? Let us consider that, until proven otherwise, the Congo is a sovereign country, recognized as such by International law, the United Nations, and, in theory, every country on the planet. Yet despite that, over the past five decades, these very countries, (including supposed champions of the rule of law like The United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and South Africa), have allowed their mining companies (like Banro, Freeport-McMoran, Anglo American, DeBeers, and others) to enter into odious contracts with corrupt elements of the leadership in Kinshasa, and worse, with murderous warlords, and near-genocidal militias, unhindered, and unpunished. Furthermore, several of these very countries and their corporations have provided the military, logistical and ideological support to the secessionist regimes in the 60's and 70's, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, their proxy militias AND/OR their rival militias, thus destabilizing and creating a de facto partition of the country, and further guaranteeing maximized profits through cheap/slave/child labor under warlords. That is not happenstance, but cold, calculated, predatory business planning. In fact, one only has to examine the history of the ties between the Oppenheimer mining magnate family of South Africa - which founded, and finances, the Brenthurst foundation that one of the authors of There is No Congo, Greg Mills, leads - and the various regimes and rebellions we have seen in the Congo, to understand how integral these foreign corporate and state interests are to the conduct of ANY business in the Congo.

I contend that it is not so much that there is No Congo; nor is it that the Congo as a country is not possible. I contend that since 1959, it was deemed too much of a potential threat to several world and regional powers, and to the coffers of their corporate acolytes, to allow the rise of a strong, large, potential Brazil-type power, in the heart of Africa. And we can see why. Let us consider the Congo today. Despite being one of the poorest, badly-managed countries in the world, by virtue of its position and of its potential, the country is poised - should there be a great deal of change in leadership - to be a major guarantor of the development of a truly functional African continent, and African Union. As Herbst and Mills themselves justly point out, "the country is the region's vortex". Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki notes “There cannot be a new Africa without a new Congo.” President Barack Obama himself rightly notes “If Africa is to achieve its promise resolving the problem in the Congo will be critical.”

Over the years, despite all the adversity the Congo faces, and despite the desires they secretly harbor to see the Congo disintegrate to begin annexing its pieces, its neighbors in the region were forced to recognize its central and crucial position for the advent of further economic development for the entire continent. As a result, despite currently being, admittedly, an economic drag on all of them, the countries of Southern, Central, and Eastern Africa have all secured some form of regional economic/political supranational alliance with the Congo, whether through SADC, CEPGL, CEEAC or COMESA (all groups that constitute regional clusters in the building of the larger African Union).

There lies the issue for this country. Left to its own devices, a big, strong, unified Congo would be a powerful engine for the development, and the industrialization of the entire continent. Herbst and Mills, I believe justly state that "economically, the various outlying parts of Congo are better integrated with their neighbors than with the rest of the country." But that is not in Congo's disfavor. Whether in terms of its abundant precious and strategic minerals, the tremendous amount of renewable energy that could be generated by the Inga dam project on the Congo river, the natural gas in Lake Kivu or the geo-thermal potential of the volcanic mountains in the east, the second lung of our planet that is its rainforest, or the extraordinary - and exhaustively demonstrated - resilience of its people, the Congo has everything to be the central pillar around which Africa rises. Should the people of the Congo find a way to build the infrastructure to interconnect its outlying parts, the country would instantly become the key piece in regional development. That prospect has always unsettled many, whose interests might not be as well served should there be a strong government, a functioning army and police, and rule of law.

Herbst and Mills claim that "the very concept of a Congolese state has outlived its usefulness." When was it ever truly - and democratically - implemented, I ask? When, since 1885, have the affairs of the Congo ever truly been left to the Congolese people? See, I contend that the Congo has, intentionally, never even been given a fighting chance to live up to its potential. Its challenge since 1885 has been both an internal and external one. Under colonial rule, the people were voluntarily under-educated, and the infrastructure built was limited to basic transportation needs for minerals, and the comfort of colons. Under Mobutu, the regime, backed by Western powers, ruled with an iron fist, promoted corruption, allowed the deliquescence of the already meager infrastructure and mining industry, and progressively engineered a weakening of the state apparatus, the army and the police, in order to strengthen and impose Mobutu's personal rule, and better protect the mechanisms of the systematic plundering of the country's resources. The Congo today is the result of a systematic, documented, and fully reversible process of manufactured under-development, with roots in colonial and neo-colonial policies, but more importantly, in greed. Fomenting and perpetuating misery, turmoil, tribalism, destructive autocratic rule, and angling for the "Somalization" of the Congo, was more profitable to key greedy domestic elites and foreign groups, and more dependable for key foreign powers, than actually allowing this country to build the infrastructure it needed - and still needs - to succeed.

That is a far more accurate prism to consider the events that have befallen the Congo over the decades. It explains the secession of Katanga, the mineral rich southern province, only 7 days after independence in 1960, with the help of Belgium, the very colonial power the people of the entire country had just successfully sought to get rid of. It also explains the assassination of the first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice E. Lumumba, with, at the very least, the tacit backing of Belgium and the United States. It explains, for instance, the documented contacts between the Oppenheimer family of South Africa and Albert Kalonji Mulopwe, the "Emperor" of the secessionist South-Kasai, Moise Tshombe, leader of the Katanga secession, and rebel groups of more recent years. Finally, and most tragically, it explains how the Congo's neighbors - Rwanda, Uganda, and to some degree Angola, their proxy militias, their rival militias, and corrupt elements of the so-called leadership of the Congo and their militias, have been not only allowed by the international community, but backed and supported primarily by the United States and Britain:
  • to systematically destroy, ransack and plunder an entire country, unhindered and unpunished;
  • to brutally rape and sexually terrorize tens of thousands of women in front of their sons, fathers and husbands, unhindered and unpunished;
  • to turn children into soldiers, unhindered and unpunished;
  • and to cause the death of nearly 6 million people - a scale for another century - to this day, seamlessly, unhindered and unpunished.

All the above has been accomplished in blatant violation of every principle of International Law, and every principle of human decency, and in full view of the inadequately-led, inadequately-sized, ineffective, inept, overhyped, overpriced and overpaid so-called "largest United Nations peacekeeping force" (MONUC), and with logistical support from Western powers, and recently, the dreaded AFRICOM of the United States. Herbst and Mills argue that "the international community does not have the will or the resources to construct a functional Congo"? It seems more accurate to say that over the years, the international community has been - more or less intentionally - actively, and systematically undermining a functional Congo. It is for this reason that Antonio Guterres, High-commissioner of the UNCHR reminded us in his interview with the Financial Times, in January 2008, that we must not forget that “the international community has systematically looted the Congo” and that is a far different and, in my opinion, far more easily remediable problem.

The ultimate solution to the Congolese situation lies in investing on a key element that Herbst and Mills discount too quickly, and wrongly so: the Congolese people, its sense of citizenship, and its resilience. Through all the humiliations of colonialism and dictatorships, the scheming, the gaming, the profiteering, the raping, the oppression, the daily humiliations of poverty, the hunger, the injustice, the corruption, the tribalism and the morbid reality of living in a needlessly war-torn country, the Congolese people have emerged as quite the resilient people, AND quite the cohesive people; at least as cohesive as can be expected for any multi-cultural people, whether in the Congo, in South Africa, or in the United States. Congo may yet have "none of the things that make a nation-state", but I contend that you would be hard-pressed to find a Congolese citizen, rural or urban, who does not identify with the Congolese nation, and the "boundaries that the king of Belgium helped establish in 1885 ".

Yes, the lack of infrastructures makes the task to establish and solidify the regal functions of a strong, centralized state on the entire territory, unusually daunting. But the Congo is not the first, and will certainly not be the last, multi-cultural nation, that has to, in its formative years, struggle with translating their sense of national identity into stable, and accepted state institutions. It may be hard, but the argument that it is not worth thriving for, fighting for, and supporting, is simply untenable; especially coming from two scholars from the two countries in the world - the United States and South Africa - that symbolize the most (and I admire them for that) the possibility of overcoming tremendous and varying odds to build united and strong countries, that combine multi-cultural peoples, and effective, democratic states. Maybe the Congolese can learn from them, and Brazil, and India, and establish a strong, but truly federal state. When the Congo's affairs are left to the Congolese people, the possibilities are endless.

Now, that is definitely not to say it will be a cakewalk. The Congo we envision, thrive and advocate for is possible, but it will entail a great deal of work and investment from the Congolese people. Those in the “learned class” – economists, agronomists, engineers, teachers, doctors, etc - that have managed to maintain their integrity by not partaking in the plunder of the Congo, will have to outgrow this sense of cynicism, hopelessness and apathy that has seeped into their consciousness due to years of despair and lack of prospects for change, and roll-up their sleeves. The Congolese will need to revitalize the education sector, so as to ensure that the coming generations have access to the knowledge they need to continue the task of rebuilding their country. They will also need to organize education/training initiatives for urban and rural adults, in various fields, among which – and most importantly – sustainable agriculture, construction, urbanization, sanitation, and salubrity. They will need to reinforce notions of civics, citizenship, human rights, civil and civic rights, law and order, and respect for women, which years of oppression and mis-education, of Leopoldism, colonialism, Mobutism and other -isms have caused to somewhat crumble away in the general consciousness. Finally, on a national level, they will need to seek worthy partners to do all the above, and also begin the work of reconnecting the Congo to the main grids of modern technology, starting with the electrification of the country, through the rehabilitation and completion of the Inga hydroelectric complex. The task is not complex for the Congolese people; it is simply tedious. The prescriptions we put forth imply a laborious, time-consuming but necessary grassroots work, that needs to start yesterday, but is absolutely achievable. And given a true opportunity, I believe the Congolese people are up to the task.

So, instead of giving up on the Congo, and dismissing it as an irredeemable failure, I say let the Congo and its people truly amaze you. Give the Congo a fighting chance. It is quite simple, really. Intel, Nokia, Dell, T-Mobile, IBM, Banro, Freeport-McMoran, Anglo American, Chevron, Tullow and all the other companies identified in the Financial Times and United Nations Reports from 2001 – 2003, that romp through Congo for coltan, cassiterite, tin cobalt, gold, diamonds, oil, etc, should cease and desist from buying minerals illegally from warlords, from neighboring countries that have looted our resources, or through odious or illegal contracts. By all means, invest in Congo, but be deliberate and intentional about doing it through the proper channels. Stop financing and arming warlords. All people of goodwill should discourage the Congo's neighbors from meddling in its affairs and support and finance education and healthcare institutions. Support local institutions, and help the civil society hold the central government, the provincial governments and the security forces truly accountable.

And finally this time, this time, help the Congolese ensure that they conduct truly free, fair, transparent and democratic elections in 2011. The International Crisis Group's 2007 report "Congo: Consolidating the Peace", shows quite clearly that the last time around, the International community was more concerned about access to lucrative mining contracts as opposed to a democratic process that would reflect the interests of the people. Let us all thrive to prevent a repetition of that. The Congolese have an imperfect constitution, with imperfect prescriptions, and imperfect institutions, but they are all theirs to perfect. Let the Congolese people choose its own leaders, and manage its own territory. Give them the chance they have never had: to demonstrate their capacity to be a viable nation, and establish for themselves a state that helps their country live up to its full potential. Is that really a concept that has outlived its usefulness? I dare think not.

Ali Mamina is a Congolese Political Sciences graduate with an international focus from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and an adviser to The Friends of the Congo

The FOTC was established at the behest of Congolese human rights and grassroots institutions in 2004, to work together to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Author can be contacted at this address (FOTC), a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.



10 comments:

BRE said...

Hello Ali (aka The Malau!). I didn't realize that you had begun to write at The Salon again after such a long pause. I can understand the need to take a long break from writing/publishing on a regular basis to one's personal blog as I am about to do the same at Jewels this year.

I have read every word of your editorial/rebuttal/critique "Fighting Congo-pessimism: the case FOR the Congo" and of course appreciate your thoughts and ideas on the future of your country. Last month I had read and bookmarked the article "There Is No Congo" at Foreign Policy Magazine online and continue to follow news and reports about your country.

A few months ago I completed reading the book 'Blood River' by journalist Tim Butcher and am contemplating purchasing the new book by Gérard Prunier "Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe". See the link below to the book review by the NY Times East Africa Bureau Chief Jeffrey Gettleman.

In addition, Jeffrey Gettleman has just published a rare interview with the President of the RDC, Joseph Kabila. I am certain that you have already read that piece along with the excellent reporting on the DR Congo by NY Times correspondent Lydia Polgreen. Jennifer Brea has just published to Global Voices a great roundup of reactions from Congolese bloggers to Joseph Kabila's interview at the New York Times.

All of this is to say 'Welcome back Malau!' to the blogosphere, you were sorely missed. It is great to see that you are working closely with 'Friends of the Congo', a respected U.S.-based NGO working hard to bring a lasting peace and good governance and prosperity to your country.

P.S. In my humble opinion, you are misleading people in claiming that there has been a long-standing Western conspiracy to undermine, loot, pollute, rape, pillage, and plunder the bountiful natural resources and enslave the people of the Congo (Zaire) since independence in 1960.

Belgium's murderous King Leopold II, the Free Congo State, and the Belgian Congo are practically ancient history. The same fate (forgotten history) awaits the terrible legacy of longtime Congolese ruler Joseph Mobutu (Mobutu Sese Seko). It is almost common knowledge that Mobuto was installed into power by the Belgian government working in concert with former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, with a little help from Allen Dulles and Richard Bissell of the fledgling U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Several previously classified CIA documents and memos concerning the assasination of Patrice Lumumba and the rise of Mobutu are now part of the public record, as are the findings of the 2001-2002 Belgian Commission. Larry Devlin, the former CIA station chief for the Congo in the 1960's, has published his memoirs and given interviews on the subject (see New York Times article below). Devlin died last year in Virginia at the age of 86, or perhaps he was bumped-off for talking too much. You never know with the CIA.

Western governments and corrupt business entities have been guilty of a host of dirty dealings both politically and economically in the Congo since its independence. Yet today many of those same Western governments, civil society organizations, businesses, along with caring individuals are working their asses off to help the people of the DR Congo realize their potential and move the country onto the path of a sustainable, democratic, and prosperous state in the Heart of Africa. It is the citizens and taxpayers from predominately Western governments that have paid billions of $$$ and €€€ (Euros) to help the DR Congo back on its feet over the past decade. This amount of support has not come from any other region of the world, not African countries, not China and Asian countries, not Russia, not the Middle East, Iran, and South America.

Millions of innocent people in the Congo (Zaire) have been misused, abused, raped, enslaved and murdered for decades if not for centuries. The living who remain today (70 million strong) have been lied to for far too long___ many times suffering at the hands of their own leaders, their own people, and their neighbors.

"Our brothers, who have come to kill us." (quote from a Congolese in the mineral-rich, bloodsoaked Province of Ituri, DRC - March 2003)

New York Times - Book Review
'Africa's World War' by Gérard Prunier - reviewed by Jeffrey Gettleman April 2, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/books/review/Gettleman-t.html

New York Times - Africa section
'An Interview with Joseph Kabila' by Jeffrey Gettleman April 3, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/04/world/africa/04kabilatranscript.html

Global Voices Online
'D.R. of Congo: Furor over Kabila's New York Times Interview' by Jennifer Brea April 16, 2009
http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/04/16/dr-of-congo-kabilas-new-york-times-interview/

New York Times
'Memories of a CIA Officer Resonate in a New Era' by Scott Shane February 24, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/world/africa/24congo.html

TheMalau said...

Hey BRE,
What I appreciate with you is that you are always very encouraging to me, even when you disagree with me. And I appreciate that.

First of all, I have read all the links/books you suggested, and will suggest a few of my own at the end of this comment. Thank you, for I believe anyone reading this blog will be well-informed by these pieces.

Now, you say I mislead people about a Western conspiracy... I am not sure I see it as a conspiracy, as much as a collection of concerted actions, motivated by self/national interests. But you have the right to disagree. I think I can prove my point if need be.

But more importantly, maybe there is a point I did not make well. Any indictment I make on the West is not mutually exclusive with the fact that many people of goodwill are trying to help the Congo. As a member of FOTC, I have seen quite a few, believe me. But see, if we do not diagnose the root causes of the crisis correctly, then all this aid/help/money/investments will be - and I believe already is - often misdirected.

I am sure you have followed the issue of mining companies in Eastern Congo. Many do not realize the influence these companies - most Western, and recently, a few Chinese - exercise on the warlords, their militiamen, the local authorities, etc. There are areas of Eastern Congo where the Congo-Rwanda and Congo-Burundi borders are entirely controlled by these mining companies. Planes illegally fly out of private (and public) airfields filled with Colatan and Cassiterite, diamonds and gold, every hour. They are looting my country's resources with the full knowledge of their home-countries' governments, and with the complicity of the West's ally in the region, Gen. Paul Kagame.

I am sure you read Catherine Phillips latest article on Kagame (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article6047744.ece). I agree wth her 100%. What I don't understand, for instance, is how Congo can still be under arms embargo, and it is expected to somehow police this huge country, while the main agents provocateurs in the region - the Museveni and Kagame regimes - are considered in the sale of M-16s, and receive military training from the US-military. It is this type of recurring double-standards that are suspicious.

People have been periodically, yet constantly and consitently, arguing for the demise of the Congo as a united country, for as long as I have been alive. And these very same people (yes, including Western governments, and such powerful interests as the Oppenheimers of South Africa) happen to be supporting the very people that are doing everything for that balkanization to become more of a reality everyday. Now if you were Congolese, what would you think? You, BRE, know that I have pretty reliable contacts in this region, and I am telling you, you wouldn't believe the extent of the systematic destruction of that country.

I am not anti-West, as I am sure you know. In the contrary. But I am still waiting to see the est live up to its own ideals in the Congo. I believe I said quite clearly in my piece that I fault our local elites about as much if not more, for going along with this, simply for their own greed. I guess I would like you to comment directly on the paragraph that starts with "Seems far-fetched?", and point out to me where you believe I err. I stand by my contention that since 1885, the affairs of the Congo have never fully been in the hands of the Congolese people, and that this needs to change.

BRE, you know I really appreciate you, but I sometimes feel like you see the Western powers as fundamentally good. Yes, they make mistakes, and they can be misguided, but ultimately they have a good heart, and they will always help, and look at all the aid they give, etc, etc. With my country's experience, I simply cannot share that position. Even in the aid front, Western powers act like pharmaceutical companies - they do disease-care instead of health-care, because that is what guarantees continuous benefits...

Any way, as always, I am still wondering...

Additional Resources:

Congo: Consolidating the Peace
Africa Report N°128, article
International Crisis Group
5 July 2007

Africa undermined: mining companies and the underdevelopment of Africa
By Greg Lanning, Marti Mueller
Published by Penguin, 1979

Glitter & Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Empire
By Janine P. Roberts
Published by The Disinformation Company, 2003
ISBN 0971394296, 9780971394292

Apartheid South Africa and African States: From Pariah to Middle Power, 1961-1994
By Roger Pfister
Published by I.B.Tauris, 2005
ISBN 1850436258, 9781850436256

Ernest Oppenheimer and the Economic Development of Southern Africa
By Theodor Emanuel Gregory
Published by Arno Press, 1977

The new unhappy lords: An exposure of power politics
By Arthur Kenneth Chesterton
Published by Candour Publishing, 1969

In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story
By John Stockwell
Published by Norton, 1978
ISBN 0393057054, 9780393057058

La chute de Mobutu et l'effondrement de son armée.
By Ilunga Shamanga
Published by General Ilunga Shamanga, 1998
ISBN 0620233257, 9780620233255

Various reports from the resources of the Friends of the Congo online library
http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/reports/index.php

TheMalau said...

Oh, BRE, I am sure you also read this piece: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4803

BRE said...

Sorry that it took a few days to check back with you and follow-up on your response to my comment. Been thinking about your post and the DR Congo all afternoon so here is what I want to say.

I don't have to remind you of how difficult the road to recovery and stability will be for your country___ just take a look at the recent history of other post-conflict countries in the region and all across the African continent. Sometimes we humans want things to happen "right now" when in fact real change and sustainable progress takes a lot of patience and time.

With that in mind it may be a good idea for you and other educated, highly-engaged young Congolese to focus more on the positive changes taking place in the DRC, building upon the fragile democracy and political structures and processes, strengthening the enforcement and rule of law by providing security for all people within your borders, improving public education and health care systems and building roads and rail transportation networks, a national electric grid, clean water supply, and other public infrastructure as is desperately needed.

The continuing exploitation of precious natural resources is granted a very serious problem, but it will take a concerted effort on the part of the Congolese government authorities, cooperation from the people of the Congo, together with the country's legitimate international partners to stop it. Stopping the rampid theft of valuable resources has not happened up to now despite assistance from a host of international experts and governments and the fact that the government in Kinshasa has signed-up to the Extraction Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Kimberly Process (Diamonds). Until serious action is taken by the government in Kinshasa and Congo's neighbors the country will simply be relieved of its natural resource wealth using the slave labor of children and dirt poor, destitute men and women.

In regards to "Western mining companies" being heavily involved with the illegal mining and export of precious minerals and timber, I'd look a little closer to home (Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, and South Africa) before I go pointing fingers at "the West". The vast majority of the middlemen (buyers, traders, transporters, and processors) working to illegally extract/export the Congo's resources are from Asia and Africa and not from Europe, North America, and Australia__ with the exception of the Russian and Ukrainian bush pilots who fly in the arms and fly out the booty. Hell, maybe I am just fooling myself but I don't think so. Why do you think that the Russian government is fighting so hard against the extradition of Viktor Bout from Thailand to the U.S.A.?

While you are at it, check the origin of manufacture of the AK-47's (primarily Chinese-made) and other small arms and munitions used by the various militias, warlords, and murderers that have plagued your country over the past decade or more. Chinese businessmen working hand-in-hand with the government in Beijing are exploiting both minerals and timber in the DR Congo. China has been flooding the region (and much of Africa) with cheap, illegal small arms and munitions___ a fact that has been well documented by the International Action Network for Small Arms Control (IANSA), and reported by Frontline/World (PBS network), the BBC News (Panorama), and a host of other investigative news sources. The trail out of the DR Congo for much of the illegally obtained booty runs through Sudan (Khartoum) and Egypt (Cairo) on to points in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE, etc.)

You have again regrettably left out these important facts and geography in your piece. So, as I have expressed to you before, please step back and look at the whole DR Congo picture from a wide-angle point-of-view. You may be surprised where the exploited mineral and timber wealth and trails of toil and blood from your beloved country lead___ or upon second thought maybe you will not be surprised at all.

P.S. That was an excellent rebuttal of Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills piece at Foreign Policy by the journalist Delphine Schrank. Just loved it!

Foreign Policy Magazine
68 Million Congolese Can't Be Wrong
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4803

PBS Frontline/World - Rough Cut
Congo: On the Trail of an AK-47
China's Calling Card in Africa
http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2007/08/congo_on_the_tr.html

Cabot Corporation
Tantalum Mining Statement (DR Congo)
http://www.cabot-corp.com/Tantalum

TheMalau said...

BRE, thank you for your comment. As usual, very insightful. Now, for the rebuttal. First of all, I am assuming that since you admired Schank's rebuttal, you are indirectly stating that mine was not valid. Correct me if I am wrong.

There is something you said that is very telling. You said: "The vast majority of the middlemen (buyers, traders, transporters, and processors) working to illegally extract/export the Congo's resources are from Asia and Africa and not from Europe, North America, and Australia__ with the exception of the Russian and Ukrainian bush pilots who fly in the arms and fly out the booty. Hell, maybe I am just fooling myself but I don't think so." I do not know why it is so hard for people to believe that Western companies and countries could be engaged in neferious activities on the African continent... I mean it's not like they have ever done it before... Oh wait, yes they have, and for as long, and most often far longer than the Russians, Asians, etc. The fact that the majority of the middlemen are not Westerners (which I READILY concede, by the way), is not mutually exclusive with there being Western corporate interests pulling their strings. If anything, the middlemen have to sell to someone right? You point out Cabot's statement, but you don't give the background of why they have had to put up that statement in the first place (the fact that they were on the UN mining-abuse list). And as connected to the Congo story as you are, I am sure you watched the Dan Rather report in Congo about Banro.

Closer regional middlemen plunderers, and multi-national plundering are not mutually exclusive, my friend. In fact, I contend that one (the middlemen, warlords, etc) are used as cover and/or tools for the other (multi-national interests, who are indeed based in the West, particularly in Canada, actually. But they also include, yes, Chinese, Arab, Indian, and other non-Western groups).

And I believe I quite specifically addressed the issue of our meddling/pillaging neighbors (Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, etc). My problem is with the fact that their leaders (Kagame, Museveni, and even Dos Santos) are still being propped up - wrongly - as models, and backed financially by the very West you seem so eager to defend.

Now, I agree with you that we need to focus on positive action for the Congo, and I am a big fan of pragmatism, but not at all costs. The truth about perpetrators should not become a casualty of that pragmatism. They tried that in Rwanda, and I can tell you that there is a simmering situation waiting to explode there, I tell you.

So as I said in my piece, by all means, let us focus on positive changes. But you have more faith in the potential, power and reach of the Kinshasa government, and present-day democracy in Congo, than I do. I said in my piece that the task will be long and tedious, so that is something I fully recognize. What I contend is that there are people/groups/interests who are quite interested in us not even starting that task, and who have the means and the connections to enforce their will. We may disagree on who these interests are, BRE, but we cannot ignore them and pretend to just forge our way ahead... that's just me. Either way, they have to be exposed, and dealt with, concurrently with us focusing on positive action. That is my view.

Emilio said...

http://deciloquequierass.blogspot.com/

Good Bloog my friend!! Congratulations!!

good luck!! See you!

BRE said...

What, are you crazy? I loved your original piece, really.

What I am trying to say is that we bloggers who write about the DR Congo need to be honest and open-minded in our views and opinions. We must diligently search for the facts and the truth about what has happened in the past and what is happening now in the DRC. In the end it is the truth that will set your people free, no matter how painful the discovery and acceptance of those truths may be. Therefore yes, you and others must remain on the case in the pursuit of truth and justice for your people if that freedom is to ever be achieved.

I recommend only that you remain pragmatic and be realistic about your personal goals and dreams for the DRC, especially under the present political and economic conditions both inside and outside of the DR Congo. Work real hard, damn hard with the 'right people' to keep the Congo on the solid path of democracy so that caring, capable new leaders like yourself can take over the people's business (government) someday soon. Once a sense of real and lasting security sets into the people, functioning public services and institutions are serving the people, governance is practiced by elected and appointed officials in a transparent and responsible manner, the implementation of sound economic policies and support for business growth, private investment and entrepreneurship are in place the rest will be a cakewalk. It may seem like a tall order looking at the present bleak situation in the DRC I know, but with nearly 70 million people, half of which are under 25-30 years old, the Congo could 'bust it out' and shock the world with a period of even, sustainable economic growth and mindboggling social achievements. That's how I see the future of your country and the Congolese people. Unfortunately, I probably won't live long enough to see such a dream materialize___ but you very well may see it happen in your lifetime.

I'll leave you with the wise words of a strong Congolese woman from Kinshasa, a good friend of mine who lives over in Berlin. Some months back we were having a discussion about the huge increase in information online about the Democratic Republic of Congo generated by blog authors, respected international news services and independent journalists, columnists, experts and academics and NGO's, social networks, forums, and so on. I told her how excited I was to see so many people around the world, especially talented Congolese writers, exchanging information, thoughts and ideas about how to help her home country (RDC) get back on its feet again.

She said, "...the Congolese people have always been good storytellers (oral historians). There are many academics and philosophers in the diaspora here in Europe and in America who hail from the Congo___ but what the country needs now is for the Congolese people to rollup their sleeves and rebuild. The Congolese need to get to work rebuilding their country, and they need to do it in their millions, with their bare hands if need be. Who shall lead them in this monumental task?"

Peace and welcome back to 'The Sphere'. Signing-off on this post so that others may get in a word or two. Ethan Z. of Global Voices Online is tracking this post and conversation from his blog. Be sure to say hello and thanks to our old friend EZ. The original Congo Crew lives on!

BRE said...

Last word. Chris Blattmann, an assistant professor of economics and political science at Yale University (and a very respected and popular blogger on Africa) has been on top of that Foreign Policy Magazine article too. Checkout his brief post and especially the comments from his readers.

Chris Blattmann's Blog
Is Congo a Country? 27 March 2009
http://chrisblattman.blogspot.com/2009/03/is-congo-country.html

FromSweden said...

This was a truly excellent and very insightful article!

Kudos to you!

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