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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.