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world war III:
Johann Hari on the Congo, with links to the things he's talking about:
The United Nations established a panel of experts, once the war had completely spiraled, to find out what really happened. And what they said, what the panel of experts found, is that in fact these countries all acted as, in their words, armies of business. They went into Congo not to track down killers, but to seize the country's unbelievably immense mineral wealth, to grab it and to sell it out to New York, to London, to Paris, to the developing world. So they seized, for example, coltan, which at that time had a huge market spike. Coltan is a metal that's extremely good at conducting heat. You have it in your cell phone, in your remote control, and so on, and your laptop. And Congo has one of the largest stocks of it anywhere in the world. And there was at that point a big spike in the global price, partly because of Sony Playstations, which contain coltan, so as one human rights campaign in Congo put it: so kids in New York and London could play imaginary war games, kids in Congo were enslaved and sent down coltan mines.
So, we know that this story is the real story, partly because the Rwandan army, when it went into Congo, didn't go to where the Hutu Power people who committed the genocide were. They went to where the mines were. And, indeed, we have memos that were unearthed by Human Rights Watch that show that the Rwandan army actually gave orders to collaborate and cooperate with the Hutu Power people in the rape of Congo.
This continues right to the present day. You still have -- I went to mines that were controlled effectively by slave labor, where they were owned by the militias. So you can't ever have a unified state in Congo, while you have this situation. The government doesn't control the resources. You’ve got a situation where the government is trying to get the country to be united by bribing, paying soldiers to join the national army.
The problem is, you go to the camps, the Congolese National Army camps, as I did, people are paid $5 a month, if they're lucky. There were people dying of AIDS just in the barracks. There were people are starving, people with their children there starving. And they were saying, “Well, look. If we join the national army, we get $5. If I go out and join one of the militia groups that control a gold mine or a diamond mine or cassiterite mine or a coltan mine, I can get $60 a month. What should I do?” So, it guarantees that Congo -- the fact that we in the outside world are still buying these blood-soaked minerals guarantees that Congo can't be unified.
And the United Nations identified some of the most core multinationals as responsible for this: Anglo American, De Beers, Barclays Bank. And what's really shameful is this a war fought for us, so that we can have these resources. But when our governments were informed by the United Nations that they were cooperating with some of their -- that their corporations were collaborating and indeed causing some of the worst human rights abuses anywhere in the world, our governments didn't react by holding these corporations to account. They reacted by saying to the UN, “Why has our company been put on this list?” The companies lobbied very hard, not just in the Bush administration, but in Britain, in Germany, all over the developed world, to say, "Get us off the list." And lots of them were taken off the list. It's a disgrace.
And it's a real disgrace to us, because last time there was this scale of mass slaughter in the Congo, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Belgians colonized it and killed ten million people, basically turned the country into a giant rubber plantation, there were mass campaigns across the developed world, led by people like Joseph Conrad, Arthur Conan Doyle [, E. D. Morel, Mark Twain]. There were questions asked in the Senate. There were huge mass meetings in London. The same thing has happened in our lifetimes, and we've done virtually nothing.
Of course we do something! We sell them our guns! GlobalSecurity has a long list of reports on the numerous mineral concessions that are used to buy said guns used to control said mineral concessions, as well as reports on the questionable UN mission there. I'd be remiss not to at least mention in passing the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in some old, awful prose.
Metzel brings up an episode I don't recall:
This was the impetus which led Etienne Tshisekedi and 13 members of Parliament, at that stage, to form a second political party, which was against the law under Mobutu. But they succeeded after many years of struggle. Etienne Tshisekedi was imprisoned more than ten times by Mobutu, and this is the first trained lawyer in Congo.
He succeeds in 1990 in getting the UDPS recognized as a second political party, so this is the basis for his popularity. But the international community and the U.S., in particular, has played a role in stifling this people's movement dedicated to nonviolence from even participating here in this election, but also in earlier attempts to bring about democracy. Tshisekedi was elected by over 70% of the Sovereign National Conference on August 15, 1992, but was only allowed to serve as prime minister for several months before Mobutu threw him out of office using force, when he tried to move to control the central bank at that point, which was essentially Mobutu's piggy bank. At that stage, rather than backing the elected prime minister, the U.S. chose to back a "third voice," it was called, and through our diplomats, Herman Cohen, in particular, moved into place Kengo Wa Dondo and essentially ignored the democratic movement in favor of someone closer to Mobutu's liking.
:: posted by buermann @ 2006-08-08 12:09:28 CST |