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Ebola and R2P: An unfolding epidemic or an unfolding crime against humanity?

22-Oct-2014:  R2P or the Responsibility to Protect was invented by the most powerful countries to demonstrate their humanitarianism, but in reality to provide themselves with yet one more weapon in its endeavor to dominate the world.

Is it not reasonable to think that R2P would have been invoked to rally world support against the spreading Ebola virus in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone?  After all, even the head of the World Bank has criticized the failure of the rich Western countries to respond adequately to the epidemic.  But given the gravity of this failure, this “mea culpa” ends up being a sort of cover up.  Was the head of the World Bank, the IMF and like-minded institutions with a global reach willing to remember the role they played, through Structural Adjustment Programs, in further weakening all African health infrastructures, rendering them completely inadequate to a serious epidemic?  Dr. Paul Farmer, a personal friend of the head of the World Bank has described these infrastructures as “medieval”.

Given that recent history and the one that preceded it, would it be an exaggeration to describe the Structural Adjustment Program a crime against humanity? However, again, given the history of the relationship between the Western countries and Africa, the former are likely to be outraged at being called perpetrators of such a crime for their failure to respond adequately to the spreading epidemic.  For the Western countries, R2P is supposed to be used against perpetrators of crimes against humanity.  By definition, given their own self-serving, utilitarian narratives, these most powerful nations are not prepared to look at themselves as actively involved in perpetrating such a crime.

The way the Ebola epidemic is being dealt with by the most powerful countries of the world can only be understood if one approaches it through the mindset that emerged from the history of conquest, slavery, colonization and apartheid.  The Western countries enriched themselves through these historical processes that were rooted in systemic injustices.

For these injustices, no tribunal was ever set up.  One of the consequences has been an ongoing impunity with regard to what occurred in Africa.  Yet, the same Western countries have been quick to set up an International Criminal Court to make sure that crimes against humanity are punished.  The question is: who decides on whether or not a given behavior, a given historical process, should be investigated for creating an environment conducive to a crime against humanity?

How the most powerful countries have responded to the Ebola epidemic is not unlike the manner in which they have responded to the evidence of climate change.  The concentration of power, wealth into the hands of a tiny segment of humanity has led to the growth of an understanding of justice, truth, solidarity that is completely contrary to the maintenance of humanity.

The norm inscribed in the three pillars that constitute the foundation of the R2P automatically enjoins us to pose tough moral questions for those who have assumed the responsibility to execute that decision. President Sirleaf’s passionate letter to the world carried on BBC last Sunday, October 19, 2014, reminded the global community that ebola ‘respects no borders’. And the ‘bitterly disappointed’ Kofi Annan, another darling of neo-liberalism with impeccable credentials, was enraged to go further—‘if the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently’. This difference, shaped by centuries of history, teaches that one part of humanity is expendable while the other is not.

The one billion basket fund launched by the UN to reduce the rate of transmission has failed to attract donor support outside the $20 million pledge and the $100,000 donated by Columbia. But the cost of two F-22 Raptor stealth jets—going at $412 million a piece— gulping a whopping $67 billion to develop could eradicate ebola and malaria combined in one go.  From 8 August to 24 September the US spent nearly one billion dollars bombing ISIS in Iraq.

Jacques Depelchin, Berkeley, California
Ibrahim Abdullah, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Newsletter #1

This is the first of a series of newsletters sent to friends and supporters of the Ota Benga Alliance. We hope they will be of interest to web site visitors.

February 5, 2008

Dear Friends,

As 2008 unfolds, I have promised to stop procrastinating and communicate more frequently through regular newsletters. In this first one, we are pleased to announce the (nearly) new website of Ota Benga Alliance:, where you’ll find articles from and about the DRCongo, and other issues related to peace, healing, and dignity.

In 2007, we continued to support the Center for Human Dignity, our sister organization in Kinshasa which struggles valiantly in extraordinarily difficult times to build community structures (Mbongi) bringing people together in ways that help and heal. More on this later. On the website you can read some of the bulletins they have put out, as well as commentary from the director, Ernest Wamba dia Wamba.

The bottom line has not changed: namely, how to bring people inside and outside of the DRCongo to change their attitudes toward the situations lived daily by millions of people in the Congo and too many other places in the world.

For the average Congolese, 2007 was a horrendous year once again. Elections took place, a new government was installed—yet, for most of the 60 million people, daily life has remained the same or gotten worse, especially for the most vulnerable ones, like women and children. They, more than any other group, deserve our attention, and we will focus on them in subsequent newsletters.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, it is hard to remember a year when one didn’t hear of women being raped, some in conflict situations, some not. But in 2007, especially in the eastern part of the country, around the city of Bukavu, the rape of women went beyond anything heard before. Some have called it feminicide…and no amount of shared information, even of the most shocking kind, even when the stories are personalized, seems to budge anyone from their apathy—or is it paralysis, cynicism, despair?

Reading what happened to the women who are hospitalized in a special ward of a hospital in Panzi, about 10 km south of Bukavu, the capital city of South Kivu Province, leaves one aghast. How could someone inflict such destruction on a human being, leaving her with no control over the functioning of the most intimate, sensitive, fragile parts of her body? One of the persons who inflicted such unbearable trauma stated he wanted to do something which would put him (and his victims) beyond the pale of recovery or healing, pariahs in their own society. The victims of rape lose everything within the community: respect and dignity. What’s worse, in a world that thinks rape is not such a big deal, they have no one to turn to…unless a campaign is mounted to declare rape a crime against humanity.

Short of this, the battle against this mindset leading to the desacralization of life is likely to remain at the level of blahblahblah. For healing to be taken seriously, not just by a few, but by all living beings, it will help the Congolese to know one of the routes by which the sacredness of life was destroyed—going all the way back to when the richest resource of the Congo was siphoned off, long before the system which emerged from that turned its savagery toward things like coltan, diamonds, and gold. Healing is not just for the Congolese people, it is also for those who have most benefited from the dominant narrative/history, a history they would prefer to forget. Healing requires knowing everything about how the wound was inflicted, so that healing can take place without reproducing any part, however small, of the mindset which led to the wound.

A passage from Henri Christophe’s personal secretary, who lived more than half his life as a slave, describes the crimes perpetrated against the slaves of Saint-Domingue by their French masters:

“Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in
sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in
mortars? Have they not forced them to eat shit? And, having flayed
them with the lash, have they not cast them alive to be devoured by
worms, or onto anthills, or lashed them to stakes in the swamp to be
devoured by mosquitoes? Have they not thrown them into boiling
cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside
barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into
the abyss? Have they not consigned these miserable blacks to man-eating dogs until the latter, sated by human flesh, left the mangled victims to be finished off with bayonet and poniard?”

–Robert Heinl, Written in Blood: The History of the Haitian People (University Press of America: Lantham, Md., 1996)

These are the wounds from which we all must heal, perpetrators as well as victims.

Peace and solidarity,

Jacques Depelchin
Executive Director

The Profits of Famine: Southern Africa’s Long Decade of Hunger

grain being loaded in Mozambique

In the first of two articles, OBA Executive Board member Raj Patel describes how IMF/World Bank policies, backed by the US, have led to a corporate stranglehold on the world food system, bringing malnutrition and famine to the countries of southern Africa. In the second, “Exploration on Human Rights,” he covers the response of the international peasant federation, La Via Campesina, and other social movements, to these conditions and their call for food sovereignty. Patel explores these and other topics in greater detail in his recently published book, Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World Food System”.

“The Profits of Famine” first appeared as a Food First Backgrounder in the fall of 2002. “Exploration on Human Rights” was originally published in
Feminist Economics 13(1) January 2007, 87-116 and is attached below as a PDF document.


At the end of September, Colin Powell requested an altogether earthly intercession from Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican foreign minister. The Secretary of State wanted the Vatican to persuade the Zambian government to accept U.S.-supplied genetically modified (GM) food aid. With a population under 10 million and with the vast majority of people earning under $1,000 a year, (1) Zambia is a mouse that has roared. In refusing to accept U.S. GM corn, and by dealing with its famine by sourcing grain from within the region, the Zambian government has sent a clear signal that it understands both why famines happen and that U.S. aid is part of the problem, not the solution.

By the end of 2002, a little under 15 million people will have faced starvation in Southern Africa. (2) Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are among the most severely affected. Thus, while the U.S. State Department blames the Zimbabwean government for the famine there, that explanation is clearly inadequate to account for a famine that has affected the entire region. For a meaningful explanation, we need to understand what a famine means, and put it into the context of a phenomenon that has affected the entire region–structural adjustment.

How to Define a Famine

Definitions of famine run a gamut. The World Health Organization (WHO), for example, declares a famine when “the severity of critical malnutrition levels exceed 15 percent of children aged 6 to 59.9 months.”(3) The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines famine as “an extreme collapse in local availability [of] and access to food that causes [a] widespread rise in mortality from outright starvation or hunger-related illnesses.”(4)

These definitions focus on the threshold a situation crosses in order for chronic hunger to be officially declared acute. But this threshold is essentially arbitrary. For example, because rates of acute malnutrition have remained stable in most Southern African countries, the WHO has not yet declared a state of famine in every country.

Mike Davis, who has written on famine in recent history, points us away from this sort of threshold thinking: “We must acknowledge that famine is part of a continuum with the silent violence of malnutrition that precedes and conditions it, and with the mortality of the shadow of debilitation and disease that follows it.”(5) Famine does not arise spontaneously with the failure of a harvest season; rather it is the outcome of a system that places greater importance upon the market than upon those going hungry.

The Silent Violence of Malnutrition

It’s no wonder the people of Southern Africa are starving in 2002–they have been starving for over a decade. The Southern African Development Community reports that in Zambia in 1991, the chronic malnutrition (stunting) rate of children between the ages of 6 and 59 months was 39 percent.(6) Since then it has increased to (and leveled off at) about 55 percent. At the same time, acute malnutrition (wasting) rates have thus far remained stable at 4.4 percent in Zambia. In Malawi, the rate of chronic malnutrition has remained at 49 percent since 1990.(7) It is only acute malnutrition that has slightly increased over the same period, by 1 percent for a total rate of 6 percent. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated in 2000 that 35 percent of the people in the famine region were undernourished, with 54 percent of Mozambique’s population undernourished.(8) Among those most vulnerable to chronic hunger are women, children, and the elderly. The UNDP reported in 2000 that 20 percent of children in the region under the age of five were underweight.(9)

In 2002, rampant Southern African hunger was tipped over the official “famine” threshold by two years of bad harvests. That’s one reason we’re now hearing news of it. Another likely reason is that some Southern African countries aren’t behaving as the U.S. would want them to, and the word “famine,” with the desperate urgency it conveys, helps put pressure on those governments. That sense of emergency also masks the question we must ask: why, even before the current food crisis, have so many people suffered for so long from chronic malnutrition?

The Ingredients for Hunger

Man-made famine isn’t new in world history. For example, an 1878 study published in the prestigious Journal of the Statistical Society found thirty-one serious famines in 120 years of British rule in India and only seventeen recorded famines in the entire previous two millennia.(10) The reason for the change? According to Mike Davis’ recent commentary, it happened because the British integrated the Indian food system into the world economy while simultaneously removing the traditional supports that had existed to feed the hungry in times of crisis–supports that were rejected as the trappings of a hopelessly backward and indolent society. And so, by the end of the 1800s, “Millions died, not outside the `modern world system,’ but in the very process of being dynamically conscripted into its economic and political structures. They died in the golden age of Liberal Capitalism.”(11)

This lesson was not lost on the first generation of African governments. At the beginning of the 1980s, African states had a very clear idea of what their economies and societies needed in order to flourish. In the Lagos Plan of Action,(12) heads of state called for a type of economic growth disconnected from the vicissitudes of the world market, relying on import-substitution policies, food sovereignty and trade within Africa, and, critically, a reduction in the level of external indebtedness that was systematically siphoning value out of Africa.

The World Bank disagreed, insisting in its Berg Report(13) that state interference in the smooth functioning of the market was precisely the cause of low levels of growth.(14) As most African governments were buried in debt, their futures mortgaged on declining commodity prices, the Bank’s plan prevailed.(15) Under the Bank’s regime, African nations are forced to produce foreign exchange-earning (i.e., cash) crops to pay off increasing debt, and find themselves importing more and more food. In a perfect, stable market, this ought not pose a problem: the farmer will grow an export crop in which she or he has a comparative advantage, and will use the cash to buy imported food, goods, and services. But in the real world, this model increases farming communities’ vulnerability to a number of risks:

1. Commodity price fluctuations and decline: Primary commodity prices have been falling consistently for thirty years, and have been exceptionally variable within this time frame. In part, the World Bank is to blame; its structural adjustment programs enforced the export of a few key commodities in high demand in the North, putting Southern countries on the receiving end of volatile and decreasing prices for their exports.(16)

2. Currency fluctuations: Southern countries have also suffered fluctuations in the currency market. Even the most efficient farmers are unable to buy food on the world market if their currency is undervalued. Yet this is what every economic model suggests will happen when countries follow World Bank recommendations to liberalize exchange markets: the currency will depreciate and require stabilization, which these countries, because of their debt burden and structural adjustment obligations, cannot provide.(17)

3. Loss of food sovereignty: The World Bank and the international aid community tend to use the term “food security” to talk about the availability of food and people’s access to it.(18) Since the 1996 World Food Summit, Via Campesina, the international farmers’ movement, has pushed for an alternative concept: food sovereignty, which it defines as “the right of countries and peoples to define their own agricultural and food policies which are ecologically, socially, economically, and culturally appropriate for them.”(19) The difference between these approaches lies in the issue of who controls access to food, seed, land, and the market. Movement towards a free trade economy takes control away from the majority of rural people. This is a fundamental issue of justice, dignity, and democracy.

Debt: The Tie that Binds

Vast debt was instrumental in forcing Third World governments to accept World Bank control. The level of debt is staggering. The Bank itself suggests that debt is “unsustainable” if it is above 5 percent of the total gross national product of a country.(20) Meanwhile, Zambia, for example, is paying three times as much in debt service as on health care.(21)

But the debt level isn’t the whole story. Debt is also a discipline wielded over Southern economies. High levels of external debt mean foreign creditors call the shots. And when countries with limited foreign cash decide which creditor gets paid and which has to wait, they always put the World Bank first. This special position gives the Bank considerable power. On behalf of itself and other creditors–and in return for an increased line of credit–it imposes conditions on the governments that owe it money. These conditions, though clothed in the language of impartial economics, are nevertheless political decisions. Ideas about interest rates, exchange rates, and the “appropriate” level of unemployment are always politically motivated,(22) and always justified by talking about untouchable, mysterious phenomena like “investor confidence.”(23) Governments transform their economies to make them “credible” places for investors to come, and to pull back capital that has flown the country in the wake of structural adjustment policies.(24) Investors who want to be “confident” about Southern economies essentially control those economies, overseeing outflows of resources and wealth that invariably make the lives of the people in those countries less democratic and less secure.

Trade: The Gift That Keeps on Taking

Within Southern Africa–where, for example, tobacco production has expanded by 50 percent per year over the past three years in communal, small-scale, and resettlement areas(25)–the most desirable land is continually used for export agriculture, and food production is sacrificed to boost agricultural production. After each year’s harvest the soil is often left unprotected, accelerating erosion.(26) And small farmers are pushed ever farther into marginal land. This marginalization is not trivial: it affects the African majority, who remain wage laborers and small-scale farmers without savings or capital to devote to expansion.

Export and foreign exchange-oriented trade has consigned most African farmers to shrinking returns. The declining real price of all primary commodities forces many farmers to sell what land they have to pay the debts their crop income can no longer sustain. Still, even until the 1990s in Southern Africa, government-run marketing boards protected farmers by assuring a fixed price for their crops, published in advance. Structural adjustment decreed the effective elimination of marketing boards in favor of private buyers. Now, in addition to enduring direct exposure to international market fluctuations, farmers are often unsure when private buyers will next appear, and are thus forced to sell cheap to the first trader.(27) Finally, many remote areas remain unserviced by private traders, who prefer to buy from a few large farmers near better roads.

The World Bank’s policies of increased trade, lower government spending on health and education, and increased debt have made poverty blossom. As Giovanni Arrighi, a scholar of the world economy, has noted: “In 1975, the regional GNP per capita of Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 17.6 percent of `world’ per capita GNP; by 1999 it had dropped to 10.5 percent.” (28) And in these countries, the removal of social supports to redistribute what little there is has rendered the poorest destitute.

Between 1996 and 2001, population living below the poverty line in Zambia rose from 69 percent to 86 percent. Twenty eight million people, or 51 percent of those living in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, live below the national poverty lines.(29) And we know that the face of the poorest 10 percent is likely to be black and female:(30) since women are responsible for 70 percent of food production in Africa, the shift away from food production toward export production has been extremely detrimental to them.(31) Men’s leaving the farm for wage labor makes women responsible for all domestic responsibilities as well.

A Shortage of Food?

Famine is not caused by a lack of food, but by poverty.(32) For example, according to the World Food Programme (WFP) there are no shortages of food products in the markets in Lesotho. However, two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line and half are classified as destitute. Purchased cereals comprise 75 percent of annual food needs for Lesotho’s poor,(33) and over 70 percent of the households classified “very poor” in Lesotho have no cereal in reserve.(34) Rapidly escalating prices and vanishing incomes are a lethal combination. The people of Lesotho cannot afford to buy the food that is available.(35)

The situation is similar in Malawi where, in 2001, the IMF told the government to slash its strategic grain reserve from 165,000 metric tons (MT) to between 30,000 and 60,000 MT. The IMF advocated this on cost grounds, and because erroneous data persuaded them that the coming year’s harvest would increase stocks. A year later, when people were already beginning to die of starvation, the IMF denied disbursement of a $47 million tranche of loans to the Malawian government amid accusations of impropriety in the government’s efforts to mitigate the famine.(36) The government accused the IMF of causing the famine, while the IMF blamed the government for corruption before admitting that it had, perhaps, behaved insensitively. Horst Koehler, managing director of the IMF, said at a British parliamentary hearing:

[I]n the past we (the IMF) have not given enough attention to poverty and social safety nets when proposing structural changes. But structural changes are always accompanied by dislocation. We must live with permanent change in order to achieve economic growth in developing countries…[developing countries] should be able to produce food for themselves–and we should help them strengthen capacity to produce food.(37)

Meanwhile, thousands were starving, and grain was being stockpiled by speculators betting that the famine would drive up maize prices–behaving, in short, precisely as they ought in a free market with high demand and a tight supply.

Who Benefits from Famine?

It’s a continuing tragedy that still today, when we know what causes famine, we continue to witness it. Why does it persist? To answer this, we need to ask a still more painful question: Who benefits from famine?

Consumers in the U.S. and E.U. do well by having food and agricultural products that are cheap compared to the true cost of production. But the greatest beneficiaries are the transnational food corporations that market the food and control our food systems. Altria, the Philip Morris group of companies, which includes Kraft and Miller, made over $8 billion in profits last year.(38) In the past six months, Switzerland-based Nestle’ S.A. posted profits of a little under $4 billion on sales of $29 billion.(39) To put this in perspective, the entire gross domestic product for all six countries in the famine region was a little over $20 billion in 2001.(40)

These corporations depend on cheap inputs, such as the agricultural products grown in the Third World, to make their food processing profitable. In fact, with the decline of every currency in Southern Africa against the U.S. dollar and the oversupply (and hence falling prices) of primary commodities, food industry inputs have never been cheaper. And profits never higher.

The Role of U.S. Policy

Such profits would never be possible without the constant mentorship of the U.S. government. It has a twenty-year history of first generating hunger through macroeconomic policy that, while selling itself as “austere,” systematically enriches large corporations and impoverishes working families. Then the government hen-feeds the hungry with the surplus food this policy produces.(41) This two-step trick was perfected within the U.S. In 1981, Congress told the USDA to reduce the storage costs associated with its dairy support program. Simultaneous cuts in welfare provisions for the poor and the incipient recession provided a ready market for the surplus.(42) Now this discipline is being applied in Southern Africa as a way to force open markets for U.S.-produced GM grain.

The U.S. GM grain stockpile, created through the vast, ongoing subsidy of U.S. agriculture,(43) needs a home. This grain cannot be sold to the E.U. or Japan because of their embargoes on genetically modified food for human consumption. The figures for U.S. farm exports tell the story: U.S. corn exports to the European Union shrank from $426 million in 1995 to $1 million in 1999.(44)

Particularly while E.U. and U.S. negotiators are bickering over U.S. farm support in the run-up to the World Trade Organization ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, in 2003, explicit subsidies for agribusiness aren’t in vogue.(45) But food aid serves as a de facto means of product support and has an unimpeachable veneer of humanitarianism, and USAID spends over $1 billion a year buying American crops from agricultural corporations and shipping them to the starving. By insisting that this food aid be purchased from U.S. companies, Congress is able to support U.S. industry while appearing to help the Third World.(46) United Nations agencies (the WHO, the WFP, and the UNDP) have all lauded the safety of GM food. However, no independent scientific human trials of GM food have yet taken place. And scientists in Africa remain concerned at their inability to limit the sort of genetic pollution that resulted from GM contamination of corn in Mexico.(47)

In recent months, many countries in the region have protested a food aid arrangement that they see as a cynical ploy by the U.S. to dump its GM corn on a captive and starving market. However, discreet threats to slash nonfood aid budgets and suspend funding for other projects soon brought these countries into line. Except Zambia.

Glimmers of an Alternative in Zambia

The Zambian government has recognized that the problem is the lack of food available within the means of the poor. Their short-term solution is to reject the output of U.S. agribusinesses (which are subsidized at a rate of $1 million in taxpayer dollars per hour). Instead, they have purchased grain from domestic and regional suppliers and made it available to the hungry. This approach directly threatens U.S. business interests. But it has begun to feed the hungry in Africa. Of course, it needs to be supplemented by more enduring social change for the poor–investment in education and health, serious measures to tackle HIV/AIDS, and land reform are key issues, and ones that cannot be resolved with the vast debt that currently shackles the region. Yet bypassing the U.S. aid industry is a heaven-sent idea, because it gives governments of poor countries some control of their economies and their farming systems.

NEPAD: A Siren, Not A Savior

Zambia is something of an exception in Southern Africa. Its independent clarion call has been drowned out by the clamor about the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a plan for completing the integration of African economies begun by structural adjustment policies. Proposed by South African president Thabo Mbeki, NEPAD has been heralded as the solution to Africa’s ongoing marginalization from globalization.(48) It calls for the privatization of social services, a further shift towards export oriented economic growth, and public private partnerships to increase the efficiency with which scarce resources are used. The thinking is that Africa’s integration into the global economy will alleviate widespread poverty, because Africans will be able to work in export industries, and thus buy food.

At the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, 50,000 protesters chanted “phansi NEPAD”–“down with NEPAD.” This is a conclusion that has been reached by hundreds of groups in Africa.(49) Patrick Bond, professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, attacks the lack of democracy in the NEPAD process: “During the formulation of NEPAD, no civil society, church, politicalparty, parliamentary, or other potentially democratic or progressive forces were consulted.”(50) Several groups, including the Economic Justice Network, Third World Network-Africa, the Secretariat of the Gender & Trade Network in Africa, and the Alternative Information and Development Centre, say this: “In essence, the document is an attempt to negotiate with Northern powers the terms of Africa’s integration into the world economy without challenging the systemic and structural dynamics by which globalization has further marginalized and created polarization within Africa, both within individual African countries and between them.” In short, NEPAD seems to be a plan for elites in Africa and elsewhere to mine the resources of the continent and its people. In fact, the reason many African countries are in such a parlous state is because they’ve been following NEPAD-like policies for the past twenty years. It is hardly likely that more of the same toxin will cure the continent.

Hope Eternal

This is a bleak picture. But there are spaces of hope, such as the recent development of soil fertility replenishment programs in the region.(51) These new methods rejuvenate the soil with leguminous tree fallows rather than with fertilizers that cost between two and six times more in Africa than in Europe and the U.S. Tens of thousands of farmers have adopted this practice with rapid success and increased productivity in their fields. This method far outshines the Green Revolution technology and high-tech innovations that have continuously failed in Africa.

Agroecology is only a small component in turning the tables for Africa. The grassroots spread of soil fertility programs is an example of how the active participation of local communities creates genuine change. Local communities in the U.S. can effect change, too. The WTO, IMF, and World Bank are controlled by the U.S. government, in the name of U.S. citizens. Yet these institutions hurt the poor around the world. Closing these three organizations, redistributing resources from rich to poor, and repaying debt to the global South – these are policies we could adopt today, if there were political will.

What You Can Do

Write to your elected representatives, challenge the myths in the mainstream media, and become involved in this struggle–because despite the World Bank, the IMF, and local elites, there is always hope for real social transformation. The answer will come from the relentless work and resistance of those oppressed. The African people have been left out of the solution to their problems for far too long and their anger will be heard. It is our responsibility to join that chorus.


1. World Bank, World Development Indicators 1999 (CD-ROM), Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002,

2. United Nations, “14.4 Million Face Starvation,” United Nations News Centre, September 19, 2002.

3. World Health Organization (WHO), “First Needs Assessment Situation Report,” WHO, July 2002,

4. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “FEWS Net Glossary,” FEWS Net,

5. M. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World, London: Verso, 2000.

6. SADC-FANR Vulnerability Assessment Committee, “Zambia Emergency Food Security Assessment Report,” August 2002,

7. SADC-FANR Vulnerability Assessment Committee, “Malawi Emergency Food Security Assessment Report,” August 2002, 8. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Human Development Report 2002,” UNDP, 2002.

9. UNDP, “Human Development Report 2002.”

10. M. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World.

11. M. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World.

12. Organisation of African Unity, “The Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa 1980-2000,” Geneva: Organisation of African Unity, 1981.

13. World Bank, “Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Agenda for Action,” Washington D.C.: World Bank 1981.

14. G. Arrighi, “The African Crisis: World Systemic and Regional Aspects,” New Left Review 15, May-June 2002: 5-35.

15. K. Danaher and A. Riak, “Myths of African Hunger,”Food First Backgrounder, Spring 1995.

16. B. Peters, “The Third World Debt Crisis–Why a Radical Approach Is Essential,” Round Table 354, April 2000: 195-204.

17. See R. Greenhill and A. Pettifor, “The United States as a HIPC*–How the Poor Are Financing the Rich,” a report from Jubilee Research at the New Economics Foundation, London, April 2002,

18. For a compendium of definitions, see the USAID policy determination of food security PD-19, April 13, 1992, at

19. See

20. G. Arrighi, “The African Crisis: World Systemic and Regional Aspects.”

21. UNDP, “Human Development Report 2002.”

22. World Bank, World Bank Development Indicators 1999.

23. I. Grabel, “Creating ‘Credible’ Economic Policy in Developing and Transitional Economics,” Review of Radical Political Economics 29 (3),1997: 70-78.

24. Capital flight, the phenomenon of money leaving one country in search of higher returns in another, prevents at least 25 African countries from being net creditors, instead of net debtors. This is an example of the sort of disciplining that financial markets can dole out to poorer countries. See Greenhill and Pettifor for more.

25. UNDP, “Human Development Report 2002.”

26. SADC-FANR Vulnerability Assessment Committee, “Zimbabwe Emergency Food Security Assessment Report,” SADC, August 2002, www.sadc-fanr.orgzw/vac/Zimbabwe%20Emergency%20Assessment%20Report.pdf.

27. P. Rosset and A. DeGrassi, A New Green Revolution for Africa? Not yet published.

28. G. Arrighi, “The African Crisis: World Systemic and Regional Aspects.”

29. UNDP, “Human Development Report 2002.”

30. World Bank, World Development Indicators 1999.

31. World Bank, World Development Indicators 1999.

32. K. Danaher and A. Riak, “Myths of African Hunger.”

33. SADC-FANR Vulnerability Assessment Committee, “Lesotho Emergency Food Security Assessment Report,” SADC, August 2002, www.sadc-fanr.orgzw/vac/Lesotho%20Emergency%20Assessment%20Report.pdf.

34. SADC-FANR, “Lesotho Emergency Food Security Assessment Report.”

35. World Food Programme (WFP), “Food Shortages in Lesotho: The Facts,” WFP, September 2002,

36. S. Devereux, “State of Disaster: Causes, Consequences and Policy Lessons from Malawi,” Actionaid,

37. S. Devereux, “State of Disaster: Causes, Consequences and Policy Lessons from Malawi.”

38. Fortune Magazine Online,

39. Nestle’ S. A., “2002 Half Yearly Report,”

40. World Bank, World Development Indicators 1999.

41. F. Lappe’, R. Schurman, and K. Danaher, Betraying the National Interest, New York: Grove, 1987.

42. M. Lipsky and M. Thibodeau, “Feeding the Hungry with Surplus Commodities,” Political Science Quarterly 108 (2), 1988: 223-244.

43. A. Mittal, “Giving Away the Farm: The U.S. Farm Bill,” Food First Backgrounder, Summer 2002.

44. USDA economic research service. See especially

45. Of course, this doesn’t stop the OECD countries’ subsidizing their agriculture to the tune of just under $1 billion a day. It just means that they’redoing it more discreetly. See

46. Food First, “Food Aid in the New Millennium–Genetically Engineered Food and Foreign Assistance,” fact sheet, December 2000, and “New FoodAid: Same as the Old Food Aid?” Food First Backgrounder, Winter 1995.

47. ETC Group, “Genetic Pollution in Mexico’s Center of Maize Diversity,” Food First Backgrounder, Spring 2002.

48. For original sources, see “New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): Increasing food supply and reducing hunger: strengthening nationaland regional food security,” extracts from the NEPAD document Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP),August 2002,


50. A. Juhasz, “NEPAD: Foothold for Corporate Globalization in Africa,” For more, see P. Bond’s 2002 edited volume Fanon’s Warning: A Civil Society Reader on the New Partnership For Africa’s Development.

51. “Environment: Seeds of Change,” The Guardian(London), July 10, 2002, and P. Sanchez, “Soil Fertility and Hunger in Africa,” Science 295, March 2002.


Say No to Africom: The New American Empire in Africa

This article can be found on the web at
You can also hear and watch Danny Glover and Nicole Lee being interviewed on Democracy Now.

Say No to Africom


[from the November 19, 2007 issue]

With little scrutiny from Democrats in Congress and nary a whimper of protest from the liberal establishment, the United States will soon establish permanent military bases in sub-Saharan Africa. An alarming step forward in the militarization of the African continent, the US Africa Command (Africom) will oversee all US military and security interests throughout the region, excluding Egypt. Africom is set to launch by September 2008 and the Senate recently confirmed Gen. William “Kip” Ward as its first commander.

General Ward told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Africom would first seek “African solutions to African problems.” His testimony made Africom sound like a magnanimous effort for the good of the African people. In truth Africom is a dangerous continuation of US military expansion around the globe. Such foreign-policy priorities, as well as the use of weapons of war to combat terrorist threats on the African continent, will not achieve national security. Africom will only inflame threats against the United States, make Africa even more dependent on external powers and delay responsible African solutions to continental security issues.

The US militarization of Africa is further rationalized by George W. Bush’s claims that Africom “will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa” and promote the “goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth.” Yet the Bush Administration fails to mention that securing and controlling African wealth and natural resources is key to US trade interests, which face growing competition from China. Transnational corporations rely on Africa for petroleum, uranium and diamonds–to name some of the continent’s bounty. West Africa currently provides 15 percent of crude oil imports to the United States, and that figure is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2015.

Policy-makers seem to have forgotten the legacy of US intervention in Africa. During the cold war, African nations were used as pawns in postcolonial proxy wars, an experience that had a devastating impact on African democracy, peace and development. In the past Washington has aided reactionary African factions that have carried out atrocities against civilians. An increased US military presence in Africa will likely follow this pattern of extracting resources while aiding factions in some of their bloodiest conflicts, thus further destabilizing the region.

Misguided unilateral US military policy to “bring peace and security to the people of Africa” has, in fact, led to inflamed local conflicts, destabilization of entire regions, billions of wasted dollars and the unnecessary deaths of US soldiers. The US bombing of Somalia in January–an attempt to eradicate alleged Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa–resulted in the mass killing of civilians and the forced exodus of refugees into neighboring nations. What evidence suggests Africom will be an exception?

In contrast, Africa has demonstrated the capacity to stabilize volatile situations on its own. For example, in 1990 the Economic Community of West African States set up an armed Monitoring Group (Ecomog) in response to the civil war in Liberia. At their height, Ecomog forces in Liberia numbered 12,000, and it was these forces–not US or UN troops–that kept Liberia from disintegrating. In another mission, Ecomog forces were instrumental in repelling rebels from Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

There are a range of initiatives that can be taken by the US government and civil society to provide development and security assistance to Africa that do not include a US military presence. Foremost, policy toward Africa must be rooted in the principles of African self-determination and sovereignty. The legitimate and urgent development and security concerns of African countries cannot be fixed by dependence on the United States or any other foreign power. Instead of military strategies, African countries need immediate debt cancellation, fair trade policies and increased development assistance that respects indigenous approaches to building sustainable communities. Civil wars, genocide and terrorist threats can and must be confronted by a well-equipped African Union military command.

American policy-makers should be mindful that South Africa, whose citizens overthrew the US-supported apartheid regime, opposes Africom. In addition, Nigeria and the fourteen-nation Southern African Development Community resist Africom. These forces should be joined by other African governments and citizens around the world, to develop Africa’s own strong, effective and timely security capacities. Progressive US-Africa policy organizations and related civil society groups have not been sufficiently organized to bring this critical issue before the people of the United States. It is urgent that we persuade progressive US legislators to stop the militarization of aid to Africa and to help ensure Africa’s rise to responsible self-determination.

DRC’s Economic War

We are pleased, as part of our commitment to sharing thoughtful and insightful commentary on the Democratic Republic of Congo, to post this essay by Zahra Moloo. A full pdf version, formatted and with references is available but for those with assistive technology needs, the full text is posted below.

Source Oxfam, NZ

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Economic War: Investigating the Origin of Anonymous Commodities in the Global Capitalist System

“Since the 19th century, when the world looks at Congo it sees a pile of riches with some black people inconveniently sitting on top of them. They eradicate the Congolese people so they can possess the mines and resources. They destroy us because we are an inconvenience.” As he speaks, I picture the raped women with bullets burying through their intestines and try to weigh them against the piles of blood-soaked electronic goods sitting beneath my Christmas tree with their little chunks of Congolese metal whirring inside. Bertrand smiles and says, “Tell me, who are the savages? Us, or you?”

-Johann Hari
“Congo’s Tragedy, the War the World Forgot”

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, first published in 1899 and years later subject to a polemical but much-needed critique by one of Africa’s most prolific writers, King Leopold’s colonial project in the Congo is described as “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience.” More than a century later, after a protracted war in which an estimated 4.2 million citizens perished and the nation’s stability was invested in the UN’s largest peacekeeping force to date, Conrad’s oft-repeated phrase is, tragically, just as pertinent. Yet despite such baffling statistics, the Congo receives only cursory attention in the international media. When Western news analysts do find something of relevance to disseminate to their audiences, it remains unknowingly tainted by the same discourse which animated the historical narratives of European travelers and writers such as Conrad, seeking to project an image of this other world as antithetical in its “triumphant bestiality” to civilized European society. To be sure, Conrad’s writings carry overtly racist descriptions considered unacceptable today, but the simple act of using the title “Heart of Darkness” to describe the Congo war, as one American news report did in January 2002, perpetuates historical representations of the Congo as “inherently chaotic and irrational” and guarantees that western observers, worlds away from the daily suffering of the people on their television screens, will dismiss acts of violence as “lacking in political rationale.” With the purpose of rectifying common misrepresentations which by virtue of their carelessness are responsible for enacting a double violence in addition to the more palpable forms of violence enacted against the people of the Congo, this paper attempts to provide a more accurate depiction of the second Congo war which began in 1998 and which has been described as the deadliest since World War II. The very first step in redressing the errors of representation concerns the terminology employed when referring to the Congo war. To describe the Congo war as a “civil war” is not only erroneous but also irresponsible. The connection between American news observers and acts of grotesque violence taking place in the DRC is more direct than most acknowledge; the Congo war was an international war in which legitimate and illegitimate actors alike, neighboring African states, rebel groups, multinational companies and western consumers contributed to the creation of an “alternative system of profit” from the country’s abundant and lucrative natural resources.

A variety of resources abound in Africa. In 1979, the continent was responsible for 80 per cent of the world’s gold production, 75 per cent of its diamonds, and large quantities of antimony, manganese, chrome, copper, cobalt, coltan, uranium and petroleum. Large quantities of these resources are found in the Central African region, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an enormous swathe of land the size of Western Europe. 15 per cent of the world’s niobium reserves and 80 per cent of its tantalum reserves are found in Africa, and of this quantity, the Congo contains 60 per cent of the niobium deposits and 80 per cent of the tantalum. It is estimated that some $6 million in raw cobalt alone exits the DRC daily. In 2004, during the second Congo war, another cobalt ore, heterogenite, was departing the DRC at a rate of 6 000 tons per month. The abundance of natural resources in the Congo has been the primary factor influencing the country’s turbulent past and the profitability of resource extraction for the disparate actors involved in the war was responsible for perpetuating the 6-year conflict. Failure to adequately address and analyze the economic causes of the second Congo war is therefore little short of outrageous. Unfortunately, the problem of insufficient analysis of the causes and determinants of the Congo war is not restricted solely to the realm of media, but also includes scholarly explanations of the war that more often than not are suffused with familiar terminology borrowed from the discipline of political science which become unduly preoccupied with theoretical explanations of “state behavior,” “political order” and the like. Denis M Tull in his book The Reconfiguration of Political Order in Africa: A Case Study of North Kivu claims that in fact, hardly any other issue concerning the conflict in the DRC has attracted more attention by academics, the media and the wider public than the “interplay of violence and economics,” but if one peruses the limited literature on the second war in the DRC, it is clear that the explanations are found wanting. Even among the best literature on the Congo war, one finds that habitual academic detachment which expresses itself in the form of “fascination” with the “postcolonial traumas” afflicting the DRC. This is not to say that most academic works to date have failed to provide thorough explanations of the political causes and consequences of the Congo war, but that the most neglected feature of the war, namely the importance of natural resources, is the one which might best expose the motivations of the numerous actors in the war to continue engaging in conflict.

In no way does the fact of placing the onus for the war on the lucrative resource extraction industry and its respective actors minimize the historical political precedents to the Congo war, but these political factors cannot be divorced from economic determinants. This paper will therefore provide an analysis of the way in which Congo’s resources heralded an age of mass exploitation beginning with the reign of Leopold II of Belgium whose brutal practices resulted in 5 to 8 million deaths from murder, starvation, exhaustion and disease. It will go on to examine the transference of power from the hands of King Leopold II to the multinational companies operating in the Congo during Belgian colonialism and subsequently, during the rule of Mobutu. The main body of the paper will diverge from historical analyses to examine the mass appropriation of resources during the Congo war by the many disparate actors aforementioned and the ways in which they interacted to advance an effective economic agenda. Those who attempt to analyze 20th century civil wars of African countries in possession of lucrative mineral resources without adequately addressing the relationship between violence and profit are committing a gross act of injustice. It is my fervent hope that in addressing this issue, this paper will succeed in exposing the tyranny of modern capitalism in an increasingly integrated global economy and its role in eroding both the sovereignty of independent nations and the dignity of human individuals.

I. Resource Exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo Prior to the Civil War

The Most Profitable Colony in Africa: Leopold II and Belgian Colonialism
If one attempted to conceptualize the loss of sovereignty experienced by the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo over the course of more than a century, the starting point would perhaps be a day in the year 1885 when the state of the Congo was first proclaimed the personal possession of King Leopold II of Belgium. On that day, all “vacant land,” was declared the property of the state. Vast swathes of the country’s territory, including a number of inhabited villages were leased out to private companies whose shareholders were for the most part Belgian, but over 50 per cent of the profits went directly into the hands of the King. His profit making enterprise involved seizing as much ivory as possible from ivory raids, buying tusks from villagers or direct confiscation. Africans were often forced at gunpoint to accept extremely low prices in exchange for the ivory in their possession and tens of thousands of porters, carrying everything from ammunition to red wine on the road which brought ivory supplies from the interior to the sea, endured weeks of hunger and fatigue before perishing of exhaustion at the end of the voyages.
Even more appalling in its brutality than the ivory raids was the establishment of a highly profitable wild rubber industry which arose in the 1890s when the industrial world was developing an appetite for hoses, tubing, and rubber insulation for the telegraph, the telephone and electrical wiring. Increasing competition from the cultivation of rubber in Latin America and Asia acted as a further impetus to the development of the rubber industry in the Congo. The sole requirement for harvesting enormous quantities of rubber was labour, but as writer Adam Hochschild notes, labour could not be obtained through enslavement since it required adept skills for arduous, painful work. The system of collection instituted therefore required each man in a village to collect about 3 to 4 kilos of dried rubber per fortnight which meant full-time labour. If a village refused to provide rubber, its inhabitants would either be shot or have their hands cut off. Soldiers returned to their officials with baskets of hands or heads indicating the number of people killed.

By the turn of the century, the Congo was producing more than eleven million pounds of rubber a year and it was the most profitable colony in Africa, with total rubber earnings increasing by 96 times from 1890 to 1904. Of these proceeds, a significant portion went to companies such as the Compagnie du Kasai and the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber and Exploration Company (ABIR) which invested 1.35 francs per kilo for harvesting, and sold it in Antwerp for 10 francs per kilo, a profit of more than 700 per cent. In order to guarantee such high profits, the company ABIR in 1900 sent 159 firearms and 40 355 rounds of ammunition to a single rubber-collecting post out of the 35 existing ones to suppress rebellions against rubber-collecting. Of the money that went directly to King Leopold, a large part was invested in the development of public works and urban improvement in the country of Belgium. Today, the enthusiastic tourist can visit monuments and public works whose establishment was accompanied by a massacre of holocaust proportions. The Arcade du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, the Tervuren Museum, public works at Ostend, and extensions to the Royal Palace were all funded by the Congo Free State.
With the transfer of the Congo Free State colony from the private possession of the Belgian king to the Belgian government after 1908, the brutal massacres abated but the economic structure of the country remained intact. The country continued to finance the development of the Belgian metropolis, and with time, the development of other European countries. Its very existence, like most African territories under colonialism, was completely oriented toward the development of the industrialized world. So profitable was the colony that during World War Two, the Belgian government in London was in a position to expend 40 million pounds on its armed forces in Europe and Africa as well as on diplomatic service and related expenditures without having to extract any money from the Belgian gold reserve. Some of the tasks performed by the Congolese during this time included the same tasks performed under Leopold, such as rubber collecting and porterage. Economically, the country came to occupy an increasingly significant niche in the international economy, expanding away from the development of the little nation of Belgium to contribute to more ambitious projects such as the development of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were made from Congolese high-quality uranium.

The most efficacious method to ensure that the Belgian Congo would yield profits as high as under Leopold entailed giving more autonomy to the companies established shortly before the transfer of power occurred in 1908. Such companies included Union Minière du Haut-Katanga (UMHK), described by Nzongola-Ntalaja as the “the giant mining company and the single most important business enterprise in the Congo’s economy.” Established in 1906, with direct ties to the royal family, this company owned the Shinkolobwe mine that provided uranium for the making of the atomic bombs. Others were involved in mineral and timber exploitation, especially in Katanga, one of the most economically strategic regions of the country where the second largest company after Union Minière, the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Bas-Congo au Katanga (BCK) began constructing a railroad to transfer minerals from mining centres to international ports in Congo, Angola and Mozambique. Mineral exploitation was not restricted to Belgian companies, but included British involvement through the company Tanganyika Concessions Limited (TCL) which held 14.5 per cent of shares in the UMHK. 48 per cent of these shares belonged to British banks such as Barclays, Midland, Bearing and Rothschild. American and German interests, while limited, developed later in the form of investments in the colonial company Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (CCCI), established in 1887 for the purpose of constructing the lower Congo railroad.

With the proliferation of these companies the economy was re-directed from rubber extraction to other forms of mineral wealth. Before World War One, rubber and ivory extraction comprised 96 per cent of exports from the Belgian Congo; by 1926, mineral exports constituted 61 per cent of total exports. Copper production began in 1911, diamond mining in 1913, tin in 1918, and uranium and radium mining in 1922. By 1932 the country had attracted more than 100 million pounds of foreign capital, 56 per cent of which was controlled by the Belgian company Société Générale, which itself controlled Union Minière. Already by 1929 the company Union Minière was producing 140 000 tons of copper per year and copper accounted for 50 per cent of the Congo’s exports, 7 per cent of total world copper production. The company was the biggest single employer of Congolese labour, functioning in much the same way as had ABIR during the time of King Leopold. Authors Greg Lanning and Marti Mueller claim that the mining companies which grew progressively stronger in the colonial period acted as independent entities “only tenuously connected to the colonial administration,” with Union Minière virtually ruling the copper-rich Katanga province. In total, 61 per cent of capital invested in the Belgian Congo was linked to the development of the country’s mineral resources.

Also during Belgian colonial rule, companies representing the interests of other European countries became increasingly involved in extraction activities. Although these companies functioned relatively independently of the colonial administration, their interests were in no way divorced from the financial concerns of the countries where they were based. The early “internationalization” of the Congo through the proliferation of British, German and Belgian companies is testimony to the country’s enormous economic potential. One author has argued that this internationalization explains the upheavals which occurred during Congo’s independence in 1960 including the political chaos which emerged in Katanga province when secessionists, Union Minière, and Europeans with capital investments in the mineral-rich province favored the separation of the region from the country at large in order to sustain its autonomy. As the following pages will demonstrate, the multiplication of numerous interests expanded long after colonialism came to an end.

Scramble After Independence: The Cold War Years and Mobutu

After independence in 1960, the vast territory of the Congo was subject to a new scramble for resources which led to further internationalization of the region. Manning and Mueller claim that the 1950s just prior to independence was the “heyday of mining companies in Africa” when a “great wave of exploration swept across the continent” and mineral companies discovered huge reserves of unexploited bauxite, iron ore, copper and other lucrative resources. American interests in the Congo in particular had become more pronounced following the end of the Second World War which coincided with the rise of America’s military-industrial complex and its determination to assume control of strategic mineral resources. In the escalating tensions of the Cold War, President Dwight Eisenhower, acknowledged in his 1952 presidential campaign the vital importance of the Congo’s position in the international economy, stating that “whoever controls Belgian Congo will control the rest of the continent.” Exaggerating anxieties that the country would incline toward the Communist side in the Cold War struggle for power after its independence from Belgian, and determined to gain access to the country’s mineral wealth, the American government backed the assassination of democratically–elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and helped install Mobutu Sese Seko as president, one of the most corrupt African leaders who ruled from 1964 to 1997 and eventually drove the country to economic collapse. Assassinating Lumumba was also in the interests of Belgian private interest groups who feared the nationalization of the UMHK under a newly elected democratic government.

The official proclamation of independence in 1960 in no way meant that the country had gained sovereignty over its territory. Even Mobutu’s attempts to provide his country with the opportunity to become the “architect of its own destiny,” in the early years of independence, by instituting the Bakajika law of 1966 to enable the state to gain control of all land and mineral rights, and by transforming UMHK in 1967 into a nationalized company, Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gécamines) were met with swift reprisals. The Belgian government immediately imposed an embargo on copper imports from the DRC and sought the cooperation of other European countries in imposing economic sanctions. The result was a compromise which consolidated foreign dominance over the mining industry as Mobutu granted full compensation, management, processing and marketing contracts to a sister company of the UMHK, the Société Générale des Minerais. The latter company was to take care of all the servicing required for the operation of the nationalized company, including employment of personnel, and industrial and commercial management of the company. This incident in the turbulent history of the Congo demonstrates to what extent governing elites in the post-colonial period became simple intermediaries between resources and international mining companies ardent to gain strategic economic control over the region. Throughout the 1970s, American and European companies extracted tens of millions of dollars worth of minerals, the revenues of which were funneled directly into Mobutu’s private Swiss bank accounts. The Congo’s wealth, as Timothy Longman succinctly states, “helped to prop up the Mobutu regime long after it had lost public support.”

The highly lucrative extractive enterprise initiated under Leopold II was not discontinued with the arrival of Congo’s independence. The type and process of extraction were altered, but fundamentally, the new pro-Western Congolese government continued to operate “under the old economic and administrative structures.” Toward the end of the twentieth century, the Congolese economy was tailored specifically to serve foreign economic interests which had effectively replaced Belgian monopoly over the country. The absence of a strong political culture espousing sovereignty and democracy was testimony to the “political decline” and foreign economic domination which characterized the three decades of Zaire’s independence. In 1997, the end of the Mobutu years heralded a new era in the history of the country, a particularly brutal war, and a new president in the form of Laurent Kabila, leader of the rebel groups Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, (ADFL). The remaining pages are devoted to examining the second Congo war which emerged as a product of the historical precedents described above.

II. The Second Congo War; an “Alternative System of Profit”

Precedents to the War
Although the Second Congo War cannot be properly understood without clarifying the causes and effects of the First Congo War, it is not within the scope of this paper to provide a proper and thorough analysis of the initial war which arose in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when the Former Government of Rwanda, having fled the country, re-established administrative control over an estimated two million Rwandan refugees within the borders of the DRC. What is noteworthy about the first war is the speed with which the Congolese rebel group ADFL, backed by Uganda, Rwanda and Angola, was able to seize control of the mineral-rich areas of Shaba (formerly Katanga), eastern Zaire, Kasai and Kivu. The ADFL initiated a rebellion in early 1996 and by May 1997, its journey from the eastern peripheral regions of the country to the capital was complete. Mobutu fled to Morocco and Laurent Kabila declared himself president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, inheriting an external debt of $14 billion and a formal economy which had shrunk by over 40 per cent from 1988 to 1995.

The rebellion demonstrated that mineral-abundant regions had developed autonomy from Kinshasa, largely as a result of the predominance of mineral extraction of the type described in previous pages, where giant mining consortiums exploited rich mineral fields in disparate regions of the country over the course of a century. The rebellion was also a consequence of state collapse under Mobutu, which enabled a “web of complex power relations” to prevail in peripheral regions in the absence of proper state sovereignty, but this in turn was provoked and aided by the supremacy of foreign interests long after colonialism had ended.

Interestingly, although Kabila considered himself a revolutionary, liberating the country from the cancerous and stagnating rule of Mobutu, his personal desire to maintain power was no different from Mobutu’s, and in the years to come he consolidated rather than dissolved the economic structure in place which gave a free hand to those who wished to continue appropriating the country’s resources. If anything, a reciprocal relationship emerged between the rebel leader and foreign exploitative mining companies; Kabila recognized the importance of resource extraction to the success of his insurgency even before taking control of Kinshasa. In April 1997, he allegedly signed contracts with De Beers, a South African diamond conglomerate which for years had enjoyed monopoly access to Congo’s diamond fields under Mobutu, and with American Mineral Fields and Canadian-owned Tenke Mining Corporation, the latter eager to gain access to copper and cobalt reserves in Shaba province. Tenke was also given permission to buy diamonds in Kisangani, in return for supplying Kabila with cash and a jet for his private associates.

In addition to the companies, the American government, initially responsible for installing Mobutu in power, was one of the Kabila’s staunchest supporters. During the rebellion, an American diplomat and an ambassador frequently visited Kabila when the rebels were preparing to expand their regional insurgency with the aim of overthrowing Mobutu. When Kabila assumed power, the American government, in their unwavering support for both the Rwandan and the new Congolese government, went so far as to distort the number of refugees still remaining in Zaire, and instructed Kabila not to cooperate with UN investigations of the massacres of Hutu refugees during the ADFL rebellion. This sudden transfer of political support from Mobutu to Kabila on the part of mining companies and Western governments clearly indicates that economic incentives took precedence over concerns with democratic political legitimacy: Western countries supported a kleptocratic state under Mobutu until he was no longer useful after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Thereafter, a more promising leader emerged who espoused a “free market” approach in favor of the interests of mining companies and Western governments alike.

Soon after taking power, Kabila’s monopolization of power, frequent use of political repression, and final decision to distance himself from the external support of the Ugandan and Rwandan governments that were responsible for his victory in the first place led to an invasion orchestrated by Rwanda and Uganda in eastern Congo. In response, Kabila garnered support from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and convinced the government of the Central African Republic to grant his troops access to its territory. As the war escalated, the vested interests of the intervening countries grew until the war became not only profitable but also necessary for the various participants.

Regional Interests: Economic or Political?
Among the participants in the war whose primary motives are said to be political in nature include the governments of Angola, Rwanda and Uganda. It is worth considering the various interpretations which examine political motives for the rebellion, for even if economic incentives took precedence over political motivations, simplistic analyses limited solely to the economic domain preclude a nuanced understanding of the entire conflict.

Angola entered the war for the same reason it intervened in the 1996-1997 war: to defend itself against Jonas Savimbi’s rebel movement, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) which had suspected ties to Rwanda and Uganda, and to maintain a regime favorable to its interests in Kinshasa. The Angolan government’s support for President Laurent Kabila came secondary to its internal political motivations and on two documented occasions, the government welcomed, if not ordered, the removal of Kabila.

It is widely held that Uganda and Rwanda initiated the rebellion with the aim of deposing Kabila and enforcing border security and by August 1998, their rebels had seized control of Goma, Bukavu, Uvira and the lucrative city of Kisangani. However, in the absence of a cohesive political ideology or interest uniting the various anti-Kabila rebels, the Congolese anti-Kabila Movement Rassemblement Congolaise pour la Democratie (RCD) as well as the Uganda-Rwanda alliance fragmented in the early stages of rebellion and the war was prolonged for eight years in a climate which precluded a definitive justification for any declared initial motives. Political fragmentation even occurred within military contingents. In the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), Ugandan soldiers were accused of taking sides with Hema communities against Lendu rivals, which alienated the Ugandan army from the Congolese a faction that had formed from the RCD aforementioned. Uganda’s failure to unify the various rebel factions further demonstrates the absence of an overarching aim, and anticipates the carving up of rebel-held territory into “virtual fiefdoms” as each faction tried to take power in eastern Congo.

It is unclear whether the fighting which broke out between the UPDF and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) in August 1999, only one month after the signing of a cease-fire agreement was driven by political or economic motives. Over 600 soldiers and civilians were killed in an incident which political scientist Osita G. Afoaku claims reveals the differences between the two groups over the objectives and strategies of the war. By contrast, Timothy Longman posits that the fighting was fuelled by competition over diamonds being transported through Kisangani, suggesting perhaps that economic and political motives came to be indistinguishable over time. After all, he argues, Rwanda is a “small overpopulated country with almost no natural resources,” making its economic forays questionable to say the least. The tenuous nature of Rwanda’s apparent motives for invading the Congo is reinforced by the fact that Rwandan officials denied extraterritorial intervention in the Congo in the early stages of the war.

Evidence for the extent to which economic incentives determined invasion has been provided in the report, the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the report, several accounts in Kampala suggest that Ugandan military officials who had served in the first war in the DRC “had a taste of the business potential of the region” and had even begun preparations prior to the second war to occupy and import resources from diamond and gold mines located in the east of the country. A witness in the area of Durba claimed that the Ugandan army did not even fight any battles in the gold mining areas, and they were “only here for the gold.” As soon as the war began, eastern territories controlled by Ugandan and Rwandan-backed groups practically became “de facto states,” autonomous from any central governing authority, in a manner reminiscent of the early colonial period where peripheral territories developed separately from the rest of the country under the control of large mining companies.

The remaining countries intervening in the war include Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. Zimbabwe felt justified intervening in defense of the territorial sovereignty of a neighboring country and furthermore had the military capacity to do so, as did Namibia. South Africa did not contribute militarily, and failed to come to Kabila’s defense during the war, but interestingly provided arms to both sides of the conflict and alleged moral support to the anti-Kabila forces.

It is certainly true, as historian Michael Nest argues, that the immediate precedents to the war were in large part political in nature and encompassed a number of issues from Rwandan citizenship rights in the Congo to regime security and ethnic tensions, yet economic incentives cannot be ignored. The well-known “greed versus grievance” concept introduced by former head of the World Bank Paul Collier and developed by several theorists eager to define in concrete terms the motivating factors of rebel insurrections, acknowledges that “greed” for economic resources takes precedence over political grievances. Collier’s theory, while valuable in defining a theoretical framework in which to situate the opposition between the political and the economic factors influencing civil conflicts, is quite simplistic in presenting such a stark distinction between the two motivating factors and undermines both complex causal historical phenomena as well as the human dimension of the suffering of war victims. Nevertheless, it accurately concludes that “circumstances that determine financial viability are potentially important regardless of the motivation for rebellion.” In the Congo war, economic motivations to sustain the war assumed priority over initial political factors as multiple actors found themselves in precarious political positions but absorbed in enormously profitable economic arrangements.

African Countries Profiting from War
Access to the DRC’s gold and diamond fields was enormously profitable for both the Ugandan and the Rwandan economy. Given that Uganda has no known diamond production, Ugandan officials were unable to provide data to the UN Panel of Exports on the quantity and profit of diamond exports, yet statistics provided by the Diamond High Council reveal that diamonds were exported from Uganda in the years which coincided with the second Congo war. Rough diamond exports from Uganda increased from 1511.35 carats in 1997 prior to the war, the equivalent of US$198 302 dollars, to 1 1024.46 carats in 1999, a value of US$ 1813 500. Likewise, Ugandan niobium exports were zero in 1995, but fetched US$780 000 in 1999, according to the World Trade Organization. Uganda effectively “became” a diamond and niobium exporting country, with no official evidence to explain how this occurred. Officials were able to provide statistics on the export of other minerals, including gold, coltan, tin and cobalt; the glaring discrepancies between the quantity of mineral produced and the quantity exported is alarming. For instance, in 1997, Uganda was producing 1.81 tons of tin and exporting 4.43 tons of tin. In 2005, gold was the third top Ugandan export, after coffee and fish, but domestic production of gold is negligible. Statistics document huge discrepancies between gold production and exports during the Congo war:

Official Ugandan Gold Import, Export and Production, Figures in $US
Year 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Gold Exports 18,600,000 38,360,000 55,730,000 50,350,000 59,900,000 45,760,000 45,590,000
Gold Imports 0 2,000 3,076,000 890,000 0 2,000 n/a
Local Gold Production n/a 40,307 477,000 1,412 24,817 23,000 21,000

Discrepancy 18,600,000 38,317,693 52,177,000 49,458,588 59,875,183 45,735,000 45,569,000

Source: Human Rights Watch. From: Ugandan Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and Central Bank of Uganda. Statistics for 2004 are estimates.

The increase in gold exports evidently increased as the Congo war escalated, reaching a peak of US$ 59,900 000 in 2002 which constituted a shocking discrepancy of US$59, 875, 183 between production and export. As can be observed in the table above, official exports began to fall after 2002, the year in which a transitional government was installed in the Congo following the assassination of Laurent Kabila, and the UN peacekeeping forces MONUC were expanded from 5537 international military personnel to 8700.

Rwanda, like Uganda, has no known production of diamond, zinc, cobalt, manganese and uranium, but evidence obtained from the World Trade Organization, Belgium, and the Diamond High Council indicate that Rwanda exported a significant quantity of diamonds, receiving profits of $US 720 425 in 1997, and $US 1 788 036 in the year 2000. In the same period, Rwanda’s coltan exports are said to have doubled and in the years 1999 and 2000 alone, with the Rwandan army allegedly extracted resources in eastern Congo estimated at $250 million. Statistics on the profits garnered by the countries intervening in defense of Kabila are less extensive that those on the eastern regions of the country where Ugandan and Rwandan-backed groups were carrying out widespread atrocities, possibly because these countries were less invested in the clandestine illicit economy in minerals. Kabila himself gave his allies a share in the wealth of the country, including significant mining concessions to Zimbabwe. It has been documented that between 3000 and 5000 Zimbabwean soldiers were engaged in mining in the Shaba and Kasai Orientale Provinces during the war and Zimbabwe was also engaged in a logging contract to cut down 33 million hectares of trees with estimated profits worth $US 300 million through the Congolese company SOCEBO. Also since 1998, Angola has maintained a small military presence in oil-rich Bas-Congo. By the time the Lusaka Agreement was signed in 1999 to put an end to bring peace to the Congo, few of the combatants wanted to disengage from a war that had enabled them to profit enormously from the remaining “carcass” of a potentially rich country.

Perpetuating War: Beyond Regional Involvement
The habitual tendency to define a relationship between “African” issues divorced from a “separate international system” expresses itself, in the case of the second Congo war, in its characterization as “Africa’s First World War.” One of the most serious consequences of ascribing such a definition is that it detracts attention from the global interaction of the many participants without which the continued plunder of mineral resources would not have carried on unchecked. To be sure, certain features of the conflict warrant such a characterization, including the fact that physical extraction of resources took place on African soil, and several Central and Southern African countries were directly involved, not to mention Chad and Sudan. Insisting that the Congo war was primarily an African phenomenon is perhaps justifiable if international involvement occurred in the form of complicity or indifference from international actors or nation states. Yet the continuation of the conflict finds its very origin in the insidious, {albeit indirect}, contribution of Western countries, transnational mining companies and individual actors.

Among the countries that undoubtedly facilitated the continuation of the second Congo conflict is the United States, whose conspicuous historical intervention in the Congo during the Cold War years invariably led to the absence of a functioning democracy and the triumph of a predatory state under Mobutu. Augusta Muchai remarks that that a large percentage of the arms which were in circulation during the Congo war years were not acquired in the past decade, but rather during the Cold War. During the Mobutu years, the US provided $100 million in military training and $300 million in weapons to Zaire, the latter finding their way to a variety of sources over time through army defectors. Following the end of the Cold War, numerous countries in Eastern Europe including Romania, Slovakia, Belarus, and Bulgaria as well as Russia, North Korea and Brazil were willing to sell their arms for profit, and many found their way into Mobutu’s collection. Former colonizers, including France and Belgium also supplied military equipment to the governments of the Great Lakes region, with France providing military training as well as both heavy and light equipment to the Rwandan government in 1990. Shortly after, between 1991 and 1992, over US$ 6 million worth of arms were sent to the Rwandan government. After the overthrow of Mobutu, the US transferred its military allegiance to Uganda and Rwanda even though the state department had accused both countries of orchestrating widespread human rights abuses.

Western governments that provided weapons to African countries during the Cold War are perhaps only partially responsible for ensuring that such weapons are not used in illegal conflicts, but they are fully responsible for the consequences that ensue from direct assistance during or prior to the war years. It has been documented that the US helped to build the arsenals of eight of the nine governments directly involved in the war, trained the troops fighting on both sides of the conflict, and from 1991-1998, provided more than $227 million in training and weapons delivery to the continent, all of which was no doubt indispensable to the continuation of the conflict. Muchai demonstrates how the many resolutions undertaken to end the Second Congo conflict in the early years failed to address the contribution of the arms trade. All initiatives, including the Lusaka Agreement signed on 27 August 1999 focused on diplomatic, political and even military solutions without directly addressing the issue of arms proliferation, which had occurred over the course of decades through direct transfer of military equipment to all parties involved in the war.

One might argue that the provision of military assistance does not directly implicate the governments and weapons manufacturers in the atrocities perpetrated by rebel groups whose hands the weapons fall into, however, direct military aid was not the only contribution of Western governments to the continuation of the conflict. While weapons manufacturers are worlds away from end users in the Congo, and the purchase of a single weapon often involves several nations, corporations and brokers involved in the transfer of weapons at many different levels, political clout or “soft power” wielded by Western governments can go a long way toward impeding the escalation of conflict. Yet instead of adopting a firm diplomatic stance against the countries involved in the war, the US government had a double standard when addressing the conflict. The United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, condemned foreign intervention in the Congo as “unacceptable,” but the government declined to call for the immediate withdrawal of Rwandan and Ugandan troops and instead pressured Kabila to sign the Lusaka Agreement which treated the conflict as a “civil war,” Accordingly, UN peacekeepers were to be stationed along the ceasefire line in the middle of the country rather than at the borders where they could have monitored the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Congo. Not surprisingly, the Lusaka Agreement failed to bring peace to the country and the war was prolonged for several more years. The US was also among a number of Western countries that provided bilateral aid to the Ugandan and Rwandan governments supposedly intended for improvement in sanitation, health, governance and human rights, but which was instead documented in the savings budgets of the two countries, suggesting that these savings were used to finance the war.

International Financial Institutions, often inaccurately perceived as the moral watchdogs of the international political system, likewise contributed to the continuation of the conflict, most notably the International Monetary Fund which declined to take into consideration the uneasy connection between Uganda’s improved Balance of Payments and the exploitation of natural resources through illegal means. From 2001 to 2003, the IMF continued to vocalize its praise for what it perceived as Uganda’s sound economic policies. In a September 2003 review of Uganda’s economic performance, an IMF official expressed the institution’s support for Uganda’s export-led growth. In 2005, the IMF approved a 100 per cent debt relief initiative for the country, not to relieve the impoverishment of its citizens, but rather because it had “enjoyed robust economic expansion with low rates of inflation for more than five years,” a shocking demonstration of the ease with which the IMF can choose to disregard the connection between economic profit and widespread massacres occurring in the DRC.

Congo’s Dirty War: the Intersection of Legal and Illegal in the Global Economic Structure

The economic dimension of the Congo war which hearkens back to the colonial period and constitutes one of the most insidious and flagrant abuses of power in the country concerns the role of transnational mining companies directly implicated in the war. The proliferation of these numerous companies recalls the “internationalization” of the country which took place in the era of Belgian colonialism and throughout the mineral exploration activities of the 20th century. Eighty-five multinational companies operating in the DRC during the war are named in the UN Panel of Experts investigation for violation of the OECD guidelines on multinational enterprises. One of them is a Ugandan-Thai company, DARA-Forest which was denied a forest concession by authorities in Kinshasa, but proceeded with the logging of timber after obtaining permission from the RCD-ML Congolese rebel faction. Governments of the intervening countries granted several mining concessions to powerful multinational enterprises with the aim of financing the war and obtaining arms in return for the profits accruing to the companies, for instance, the Congolese government granted a monopoly over diamonds to the International Diamond Industries which enabled it to purchase arms and military equipment from the Israeli army, with whom the Director of the IDI, Dan Gertler, had “special ties.”

The frequently concealed connection between Western government elites and foreign mining companies enables Western countries to pay lip-service to the issue of resolving foreign conflicts, while quietly sanctioning the illegal activities of these companies whose profits are undoubtedly beneficial to them. Like the operation of mineral extraction companies in the colonial era, these companies function in a remarkably autonomous manner, as there are no legally binding mechanisms in place to regulate their behavior. The UN Panel of Experts lists numerous African individuals, heads of states and rebel groups involved in the extractive industry, but its investigation fails to include the role of Western government elites, leaving its evidence incomplete, and thereby inaccurate. The report by Human Rights Watch, The Curse of Gold, which thoroughly investigates the intimate connection between rebels groups and the gold company Anglo-Gold Ashanti, likewise fails to mention the connections between Western governments and mining companies. For instance, Human Rights Watch does not mention that AngloGold Ashanti is partnered with the company Anglo-American owned by the Oppenheimer family as well as with Canadian company Barrick Gold. Barrick Gold operates close to AngloGold Ashanti, in the town of Bunia where the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces controlled the mines at intermittent periods during the war. One of Barrick Gold’s advisors is former US President George HW Bush and previous directors of the company include Brian Mulroney, the former Prime Minister of Canada and former US Senator Howard Baker. The insidious nature of these economic networks which undermine judicial notions of “legal” and “illegal” become more apparent if one only observes the exchanges which occurred between legally sanctioned mining companies and rebel groups in the Congo.

In 2005, Human Rights Watch published a report on the human rights abuses linked to two key gold mining areas in the DRC bordering Uganda: Mongbwalu in Ituri District and Durba in the Haut-Uélé district. From 1998 to 2003, Ugandan soldiers extracted over $9 million worth of gold from the northeastern districts. Following Uganda’s and Rwanda’s withdrawal in 2003, local proxies were left behind by both sides, including the Hema Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and the Front des Nationalists et Intégrationnistes (FNI) which fought over gold-abundant areas, killing thousands of civilians. On November 18th, 2002, the UPC attacked Mongbwalu in a 6-day military operation. According to a witness in Mongbwalu, the combatants “took Kasore, a Lendu man in his thirties, from his family, and attacked him with knives and hammers. They killed him and his son (aged about 20) with knives. They cut his son’s throat and opened his chest. They cut the tendons on his heels, smashed his head and took out his intestines. The father was slaughtered and burnt.” It has been estimated that at least 800 civilians were killed in UPC attacks from late 2002 to early 2003. Like the Hema combatants who indiscriminately targeted all Lendu civilians, the FNI began indiscriminately killing all civilians suspected of having helped the Hema when they took over the areas occupied by the UPC. In May 2003, FNI forces receiving military support from Ugandan soldiers, killed some 500 civilians in a “48-Hour War” and in June, attacked several villages, torturing, burning and finally killing the Hema women that they found.

During this period, one of the largest gold companies in the world, Anglo-Gold Ashanti, which calls itself “a responsible corporate citizen” and claims that it “aims to operate in workplaces that are safe and healthy,” sent a company representative to Mongbwalu in May 2002 to make contact with the UPC concerning gold exploration activities. Although its mining contract and official communications were with the government in Kinshasa, the area around Mongbwalu where the mining was to occur was firmly out of the control of the central government. Subsequent to the transfer of power from the UPC to the FNI, between July and September 2003 when the FNI were conducting an ethnic killing campaign where victims had their arms tied, sticks shoved into their rectums and body parts cut off, the company AngloGold Ashanti obtained permission from the FNI to commence gold extraction activities. To protect its employees from militia groups, AngloGold Ashanti employed a private security company, ArmorGroup International. Several allegations have been leveled against these private companies for their tendency to resort to acts of terrorism, sabotage and violence against civilian populations. AngloGold Ashanti is only one among several companies supposedly operating within the law, carrying on enterprises which enrich their own pockets, those of their shareholders, as well as those of the rebels and private security firms carrying out brutal atrocities against civilian populations.

In return for granting concessions to AngloGold Ashanti, the FNI were given benefits of various types, including financial assistance in the form of an $8000 dollar payment in April 2005 and frequent levies of 6 US cents per kilogram of cargo flown into the airport at Mongbwalu. The company also provided the FNI with logistical, transportation, and housing assistance and, in a shocking demonstration of the nature of their means of operation, urged MONUC to “adopt a conciliatory stance in their dealings” with some of the FNI armed groups. Journalists have written that Human Rights Watch did not reveal the most damning evidence they found- that AngloGold Ashanti sent its top lawyers into the country to protect rebel militia leaders. In consequence, the intimate relationship between AngloGold Ashanti and the armed groups increased the latter’s prestige in the eyes of the President Kabila and in the area where they operated. As one interviewee ironically remarked, “Ashanti will give dignity to the FNI.” The company’s readiness to proceed unhindered in its extraction activities was revealed by Vice President of AngloAshanti Charles Carter, who in July 2004 expressed his excitement about the “growth prospects in Central Africa” and the Congo, “potentially a huge gold province.” Other allegations implicate Canadian company Anvil Mining in an October 2004 massacre at Kilwa in which the company provided the Congolese army with ground transportation to assist in the military assault of the town and to remove corpses left in the aftermath of the invasion. Clive Newall, the CEO of First Quantam Minerals, the largest shareholder in Anvil Mining, succinctly explained the stance of Canadian mining companies in the DRC, “It’s the holy grail of the copper industry. Companies are saying: to hell with the political risk, we just have to be here (in DRC).”

In many ways, the Second Congo war demonstrates that the colonial enterprise of the twentieth century is still flourishing quite successfully, in the form of direct foreign exploitation of the DRC’s mineral resources. The indisputable link between rebel groups, mining companies, private security firms and Western governments calls into question tenuous beliefs regarding the “legal” nature of economic transactions in the mineral industry. In a climate of war in which each side is invested in the continuance of war for economic profit, the concept of legality is continually reinterpreted, ignored for convenience purposes or discarded altogether. Yet despite the dangerous outcome of granting mining companies virtually free rein in their economic projects, the fact that these companies are expected to abide by the law means that at the very least, there is a possibility that legal action can be taken against them.

Conversely, the creation of what has been defined as an illicit economy in natural resources during the second Congo war precludes the possibility of adopting legal measures since identifying the culprits is almost impossible. In mineral-lucrative areas where mining concessions have not been granted to mining companies but instead exploited on a smaller scale by the rebel armies themselves, the journey of a mineral on its way to the global market reveals the functioning of more insidious forms of power. In this type of transaction, for instance in the case of gold, rebel groups and armies employ artisanal miners to work in the mines like slaves, beating them if they refuse to work under the deplorable conditions in the mines, or if they fail to deliver the amount of gold demanded. In one case, Ugandan soldiers recklessly directed local miners to mine the pillars of Gorumbwa mine which eventually collapsed killing one hundred miners trapped inside. A network of traders then transports the mineral either from the rebels or from the artisanal miners directly to trading houses located near the Ugandan border whose owners are closely connected to rebel groups. From there the gold is delivered to unauthorized Ugandan traders based in Kampala where the gold became “legalized,” which means it is treated as if it were a transit good, registered on various customs documents in order to “make” it acceptable on the unregulated global market. Over seventy per cent is then exported to Switzerland, where it is “officially registered as an import.” Some of the gold exported to Switzerland during the war has been purchased by one of the world’s leading refiners of gold, Metalor Technologies SA. The company has repeatedly denied that its goods are connected to criminal networks in the Congo, but given that Uganda has no domestic gold production, it is probable that Metalor’s gold originated in northeastern Congo. With regard to coltan production, a similar massive trafficking enterprise was undertaken; according to UN estimates, as much as 60 to 70 per cent of total coltan production was mined under the direct surveillance of the Rwandan army by late 2002, using methods of forces labour. The coltan was then transported to Rwandan companies, to international trading companies and finally to processing companies in Europe and elsewhere.

In this very complex web of unregulated and undocumented exchanges, the invisible connection between the first and last stage of transactions involving highly mobile mineral resources simply continues to exist within a global economic structure in which the interplay between legal and illegal factors makes the two concepts virtually indistinguishable. The integration of illegal activities into the very structure of the global economy makes the task of seeking just means to rectify these wrongs almost laughable. Even when it comes to redressing the illegal activities of transnational companies and the direct collusion they enjoy with illegal rebel groups outside the control of the central government, one imagines that the only sensible approach would be the application of legally binding mechanisms to mitigate and stem their illegal practices. However, there are no legally binding requirements that can regulate the activities of mining companies, and at the international level, no political will to directly confront the roots of the conflict. In their final report published in October 2003, the UN Panel of Experts claimed that the cases of the companies allegedly in violation of the OECD guidelines had been “resolved,” without any information on how this decision had been made. As for the UN Organization Mission in the DRC, the organization has not integrated the link between resource exploitation and war in the analysis they use to bring peace to the country. In short, most efforts undertaken at the international level to bring protracted warfare to an end in the DRC have persistently refused to address the economic origins of the problem.

The Final Transaction; Anonymous Commodities in the Market Economy
Presiding over the intricate web of economic exchanges in mineral resources is the global market where consumers at the buying end of the transaction remain incognizant of the fact that their cell phones, pagers, computers, and diamond rings have been obtained at the expense of millions of civilian lives. While many advocates of globalization celebrate the rapid advancement in technology which has transpired over only a few decades, they fail to acknowledge that increasingly efficient consumer goods that are the hallmark of today’s industrialized countries have been purchased with a corresponding deterioration of entire nations. The demand for coltan, a mineral used to process tantalum for mobile telephones, nuclear reactors and missile technology, has grown since 1992 at an average of 10 per cent as a result of the growing market in mobile phones and gold consoles. In the year 2000 during the Congo war, world wide consumption of tantalum rose by 38 per cent. One of the causes of the increasing demand for coltan was the popularity of Sony Playstations filled with coltan. Sony itself may not use Congolese coltan, but its demand for the mineral, 80 per cent of which is found in the Congo, increased the price, which in turn fuelled conflict over the resource. In late 2000, a deficit in supply of the mineral increased its price to $365 per pound. Authors Dena Montague and Frida Berrigan reveal that a global shortage of coltan in December 2000 caused a “wave of parental panic” in the US when PlayStation II suddenly became scarce. The sheer absurdity of today’s globalized and highly unequal economic system is summed up in the unexaggerated image of “kids in Congo… being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms.”

Ironically, Western countries’ attempts to make technological products environmentally friendly by banning lead from the solder used in cell phones and other electronic goods increased the demand for lead-free solder, ninety-five per cent of which consists of tin. In response, the world-wide price of tin was increased by an estimated 150 per cent between August 2002 and May 2004, which in turn intensified the conflict in the DRC. That the invisible hand of the market and consumer demand in Western countries, worlds away from the “civil war” in the Congo can indirectly determine the fate of real human lives begs the question: who is truly responsible for the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

It is questionable whether attempts by the International Criminal Court to bring to justice the rebel leaders responsible for carrying out widespread atrocities against Congolese civilians have yielded any concrete and long-term outcomes. Most efforts designed to enforce justice in the aftermath of the war have conveniently diverted attention from the integrated nature of the various actors functioning within elaborate economic networks and instead have adopted a narrow and restricted approach to the definition of “war crimes” and “illegal activities.” It is hardly surprising, given that the Congo war is only one outcome of a historical trend of global inequality that touches even the realm of international justice, that Western actors involved in perpetuating the war by providing financial and military assistance to the rebels are immune from prosecution. On April 3rd, 2007, the Democratic Republic of Congo suspended all new mining deals in order to review the contracts of the companies still operating in the country. One of them is AngloGold Ashanti. Yet given that no legally binding mechanisms exist to curb the illegal operations of transnational mining companies, it is unlikely that the future of the country will be drastically different from a past characterized by continued foreign domination.

The historical precedents to the Congo war, and in particular, the prominence of violence in the country from the time of King Leopold II to the period of recent conflict, preclude the possibility of analyzing the features of war in isolation or of dismissing it as a tragic but not so significant anomaly in the history of the region, a tendency which the mainstream media has consistently encouraged. Instead, a critical and nuanced attitude must be adopted for the purposes of rectifying common misconceptions and simplifications about the region as a whole, and more importantly, for the purposes of understanding not only how the second Congo war cannot be characterized as a “civil” or regional war, but also how it embodies the symbiotic relationship between war and resource extraction for profit. This latter feature reveals the true nature of today’s unregulated capitalist economy whose roots have penetrated every region of the world. As film director Hubert Sauper remarks in his statement about the fish industry around Lake Victoria: “I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds, in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil.” Likewise, similar comparisons can be made between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s economic war over mineral resources, and Sierra Leone’s and Angola’s civil wars over conflict diamonds. Perhaps the most disquieting truth about the trade in mineral resources is that upon arrival at their final destination in the market of consumer goods and electronic commodities, all traces of their original identity are lost, including the identities of the countless millions who perished to obtain them.

World Bank accused of razing DRC forests

Source: New Scientist.

It is staggering the number of things which basically are not attended to in the DRC. Here we have the World Bank in charge of how the forests should be dealt with. Of course, what happens to people, especially those who live in the forest, including the pygmees, does not seem to matter. It is as if slavery never really ended because the same system which was born out of it has been carrying on. The system has allowed for more field slaves to become house slaves, and it has created possibilities for house slaves also to own slaves and other types of property.

The mindset which was born out of the enslaving of millions of people has not changed, it has been refined in such a way that its functioning is not understood as the source of the problem. By functioning I mean its objective, its raison d’être.

It is interesting that during the Mobutu years, in Zaire people complained a lot about the inversion of values. Now, in the US and in many other so-called advanced countries, one reads about the loss of values. By its very nature, capitalism, as such, cannot preserve values, it can only destroy them and replace them with its mindset, namely turn everything into money making schemes. As the popular saying has it, everyone is looking for how “to make a killing”. With millions looking for ways to make a killing, is it surprising that humanity is fast disappearing and can only hope to survive thanks to humanitarianism?

I have to end this with a question: how can one of the most advanced countries, the USA, still have the death penalty on its books and at the same time claim to be the country with such a high number of humanitarian organizations? Why can’t these humanitarian organizations turn their attention toward the biggest source of destruction of humanity?

Reposted from the Mail & Guardian Online, October 4, 2007.

The World Bank encouraged foreign companies to destructively log the world’s second largest forest, endangering the lives of thousands of Congolese Pygmies, according to a report on an internal investigation by senior bank staff and outside experts. The report by the independent inspection panel also accuses the bank of misleading the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) government about the value of its forests and of breaking its own rules. The DRC’s rainforests are the second largest in the world after the Amazon, locking nearly 8% of the planet’s carbon and having some of its richest biodiversity. Nearly 40-million people depend on the forests for medicines, shelter, timber and food. The report into the bank’s activities in the DRC since 2002 follows complaints made two years ago by an alliance of 12 Pygmy groups. The groups claimed that the bank-backed system of awarding vast logging concessions to companies to exploit the forests was causing “irreversible harm”. It will be discussed at board level in the World Bank within weeks and may lead to a complete rethink of how forestry in the DRC is practised. It is particularly embarrassing for the British government, which is a development partner of the bank and its third largest financial contributor. It encouraged the bank to intervene in the DRC forests with export-driven industrial logging and has earmarked about $100-million for further Congo basin forestry aid. When the bank moved back into the DRC in 2002, after years of war which cost up to four million lives, it said industrial forestry could contribute most strongly to the country’s recovery. In its rush to reform the economy it devised new forestry laws, divided the county into zones and aimed to create a favourable climate for industrial logging. But although the bank is legally committed to protecting the environment, and trying to alleviate poverty, the panel found that the policies it imposed on the DRC were having the opposite social and environmental effects:

* An area of 600 000 square kilometres of forest was earmarked for logging companies.
* The bank failed to address critical social and environmental issues.
* It ignored between 250 000 and 600 000 Pygmies believed to be living in the Congolese forests, even though their presence was well known and documented.
* It put the Pygmies in serious potential harm.

Criticism is made of the forestry reforms that the bank imposed in return for loans of more than $450-million. Initially, said the panel, “the bank provided [to the government] estimates of export revenue from logging concessions that turned out to be far too high. This encouraged a focus on reform of the forestry system at the expense of pursuing sustainable uses of forests, the potential for community forests and for conservation. For the most part foreign companies, or local companies controlled by foreigners, have been the beneficiaries of this,” the report said. In a scathing analysis of the bank’s economic reasoning, the panel said the bank had “distorted the real economic value of the country’s forests” by looking solely at the tax and revenue that increased industrial logging might generate. “There seems to have been little action to support alternative uses of the forest resources,” it said. The panel travelled deep into the forest to take evidence from the Pygmy communities, who told it they were not consulted before the bank launched its wide-ranging forestry reforms. One Pygmy leader told the panel: “We are being made poor in every aspect … the [logging] company prevents us from going into the forests.” Another said that the company had bought the land so that people could no longer live in the forests. “Roads are going ever deeper into the forests, opening it up. We are increasingly deprived of our foods and drugs. We have never seen anything from the bank except promises,” said a third. Research by non-government groups last year showed that 12 foreign-owned or foreign-controlled companies were encouraged by the bank to dominate the entire industry. Some had concessions of more than five million hectares, and all included Pygmy communities in their holdings. The bank is reviewing the legality of many of these concessions. On Wednesday international groups that have worked with Congolese communities said they were shocked by the panel’s findings. “The Pygmies must be fully involved in developing any future plans for the forest, and the bank need to find ways of helping them uphold their rights, rather than helping logging companies to destroy them,” said Simon Counsell, director of the Rainforest Foundation. “The World Bank must change drastically its forest policies. Industrial logging is not contributing to poverty reduction, while its expansion undermines future financial benefits for environmental services,” said Staphan van Praet, the Africa forest campaigner for Greenpeace International.

Racism and Resistance:The Struggle to Free The Jena Six

Originally posted at Left Turn Magazine, August 14, 2007.

Almost a year ago, in the small northern Louisiana town of Jena, a group of white students hung three nooses from a tree in front of Jena High School. This set into motion a season of racial tension and incidents that culminated in six Black youths facing a lifetime in jail for a schoolyard fight.

The story that has unfolded since is one of racism and injustice, but also of resistance and solidarity, as people from around the world have joined together with the families of the accused, lending legal and financial support, adding political pressure, and joining demonstrations and marches.

The nooses were hung after a Black student asked permission to sit under a tree that had been reserved by tradition for white students only. In response to the three nooses, nearly every Black student in the school stood under the tree in a spontaneous and powerful act of nonviolent protest. The town’s district attorney quickly arrived, flanked by police officers, and told the Black students to stop making such a big deal over the nooses, which school officials termed to be a “harmless prank.” Walters spoke in a school assembly, which like the schoolyard where all of this had begun was divided by race, with the Black students on one side and the white students on the other. Directing his remarks to the Black students, District Attorney Reed Walters said, “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of a pen.”

The white students who confessed to hanging the nooses never received any meaningful punishment. Nor did the white students who months later beat up a Black student at a school party, nor did the white former student who threatened two Black students with a shotgun. But, after these incidents, when Black students got into a fight with a white student, six Black youths were charged with attempted murder, and now face a lifetime in prison. The white student was briefly hospitalized, but had no major injuries and was socializing with friends at a school ring ceremony the evening of the fight. The accused students may not have been involved in the fight, but they were known to be organizers of the protest under the tree. They were also star athletes in the school football team, and had no history of discipline problems.

The Black students were arrested immediately after the fight, in December of last year. School officials and police officials took statements from at least 44 witnesses. The statements do not paint a clear picture of who was in the fight. Statements from white students refer to a group of “Black boys,” but most testimonies are unclear as to the identities of who was involved. Some of the arrested youths are not implicated in the fight at all.

Despite this, when Mychal Bell, the first youth to go to trial, refused to take a deal in exchange for testifying against his friends, he was quickly convicted by an all-white jury. Bell’s public defender Blane Williams, visibly angry at Bell and his parents because the youth did not take the deal, called no witnesses and gave no meaningful defense. This attorney’s behavior gives a vivid example of our nation’s broken and underfunded public defender system. Some have called Jena a throwback to the past, but in fact Jena presents a clear vision of the current state of our criminal justice system.

In Paris Texas, a white teenager burns down her family’s home and receives probation, while a Black student shoves a hall monitor and gets 7 years in prison. Genarlow Wilson, in Atlanta, is sentenced to ten years in prison for participating in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old when he was 17. Like these and many other cases, the case in Jena is textbook proof that there are still two systems of justice functioning in this country, one for Black people, and one for white. The unpunished incidents in the days and months leading up to the fight clearly demonstrate that the students of Jena would never have faced charges if white students had beaten a Black student.

Local Resistance

Immediately after the arrests, parents of the accused began organizing. Their call, “Free the Jena Six,” was initially heard by activists from other parts of Louisiana, such as the Lafayette public access TV show, “Community Defender,” which was the first media from outside their immediate area to give coverage of the case. Noncorporate media has been vital in spreading word of the case, beginning with blogs and YouTube videos, which then led to articles in grassroots publications and high profile stories on Democracy Now and in The Final Call.

LaSalle parish, where Jena is located, is 85% white. The town is still mostly segregated – from the white barber who refuses to cut Black hair to the white and Black parts of town, separated by an invisible line. LaSalle is also one of Louisiana’s most wealthy parishes, with small oil rigs in many back yards contributing to area wealth. The parish is a major contributor to Republican politicians, and former klansman David Duke received a solid majority of local votes when he ran for governor in 1991 – in fact, he received a higher percentage of votes in LaSalle parish than in any other part the state. Jena was also the former site of a notoriously brutal youth prison, which was closed after years of lawsuits and negative media exposure. The prison is now scheduled to be reopened as a private prison for the growth business of immigrant detentions.

Only one church in town has allowed the parents to hold meetings. There has been local pressure on family members and their allies to stay quiet. However, in the face of opposition, their voice has grown louder. Without an infrastructure of support, without any paid organizers, this struggle was initiated and is still led by six courageous families.

Three hundred supporters, most from the immediate region, but some from as far away as California, Chicago and New York, descended on Jena on July 31 to protest District Attorney Reed Walters’ conduct and call for dismissal of all charges. The largest groups included Millions More Movement delegations from Houston, Monroe and Shreveport, and nearly fifty members of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children from Lake Charles and New Orleans. Other delegations from across Louisiana included members of INCITE Women of Color Against Violence, Critical Resistance, Common Ground and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. The demonstration marched through downtown Jena – reported to be the biggest civil rights march the town of 2,500 residents has ever seen – and delivered a petition with 43,000 signatures to the District Attorney’s office.

In the two weeks since the demonstration, more major allies have begun to come on board. The Congressional Black Caucus – representing 43 members, including Senator Barack Obama – issued a statement calling for charges to be dropped, while the city of Cambridge Massachusetts passed a resolution in support of the families of the Jena Six. Al Sharpton and other national leaders have visited Jena, while Jesse Jackson brought the support of members of the state legislative Black caucus and best selling author Mary B. Morrison offered one of the youths a full scholarship to the college of his choice., which has coordinated much of the outside support, has gathered 60,000 signatures on a petition to Louisiana Governor Blanco, calling for her to pardon the accused, and investigate District Attorney Reed Walters. [OBA note: Click here to sign the petition.]

Blanco, a Democratic governor elected with the overwhelming support of Black residents of Louisiana, responded with a condescending statement, tersely informing petitioners, “The State Constitution provides for three branches of state government – Legislative, Executive, and Judicial – and the Constitution prohibits anyone in one branch from exercising the powers of anyone in another branch.” This is the same governor who, as Katrina approached, urged gulf coast residents to “pray the hurricane down” to a level two. When New Orleans was flooded and people were trapped in the New Orleans Superdome and convention center, she informed the nation that she was sending in National Guard troops, and “They have M-16s and they’re locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.” More recently, Blanco created a program to bring federal money to homeowners rebuilding after Katrina – the “Road Home” – that has been a dismal failure on every level.

Mychal Bell’s sentencing is currently scheduled for September 20. The families are planning another demonstration for that date, and also have assembled a legal team for Bell and the other youths. National organizations such as Southern Poverty Law Center and NAACP joined initial supporters such as Friends of Justice (from Tulia, Texas) and ACLU of Louisiana. Legal expenses for the youths could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and funding is still needed. Except for Mychal Bell, who has a bail hearing scheduled for September 4, all of the youths are out on bail.

The case of Jena Six has served as a wake-up call on the state of US justice. It shows vividly the racial bias still inherent to our system. But is has also shown something else. That this group of families refuses to be silent in the face of injustice, and that hundreds of thousands of other people around the world have chosen to stand with them. Together they have said that we are drawing the line, here, in Jena Louisiana.

For more information, see the Jena 6 Resource Page

About the Author
Jordan Flaherty is a New Orleans-based journalist and an editor of Left Turn Magazine. His May 9, 2007 article from Jena was one of the first to bring the case to a national audience. Please see and for more coverage of the Jena case.

Lettre ouverte à son Excellence Sassou N’Guesso, Président de la République du Congo

For an English translation, click here.


Nous vous écrivons suite au traitement récemment infligé par les organisateurs du Festival Pan Africain de Musique au groupe de pygmées invités à y participer. Nous espérons qu’en lisant cette lettre vous comprendrez les raisons qui nous amènent à vous adresser ainsi, faisant fi des pratiques protocolaires.

Il nous est difficile d’imaginer que vous-même n’aie pas été choqué par un acte qui nous laisse, nous les Africains, surtout, complètement abasourdis, incrédules et se posant intérieurement la question, « mais comment en sommes-nous arrivés là ? ». En partageant notre ahurissement, nous pensons, naïvement peut-être, que nous parviendrons à vous faire partager avec vos collègues dirigeants de l’Union Africaine la nécessité urgente de mettre fin à ce processus, en apparence sans fin, de toujours chercher à tomber plus bas que les bas-fonds où nous y ont envoyé les ancêtres de ceux qui poursuivent frénétiquement le blanchiment de notre histoire comme s’il s’agissait d’un vulgaire fonds de commerce.

Pour qu’il y ait sursaut de conscience, serait-il que nous devrions dire que les pygmées sont aussi respectables, si pas plus, que les survivants d’Auschwitz, d’Hiroshima ou du génocide rwandais ? A entendre les explications –inspirées de bons sentiments– des responsables du logement de nos sœurs et frères pygmées à Brazzaville, on croit entendre l’écho de Léopold II qui défendait (certains continuent de le défendre, d’ailleurs) son Etat Indépendant du Congo comme une œuvre civilisatrice et salvatrice gratuitement offerte aux Congolais.

Malheureusement, nous avons tendance d’oublier les pires crimes dès lors que ceux-ci sont dirigés contre les plus déshérités. Comment peut-on oublier qu’un autre pygmée, Ota Benga, extrait de la forêt de l’EIC pour être exhibé à la Foire Mondiale de Saint Louis (USA) en 1904, avait été traité de la même manière, en 1906, dans le jardin Zoologique du Bronx à New York. Au retour de la Foire Internationale, Ota Benga n’ayant pu retrouvé sa bande accepta l’invitation de retourner aux Etats-Unis. On peut raisonnablement penser que la bande d’Ota Benga fut décimée par les agents de Léopold II à la recherche du caoutchouc rouge, ainsi nommé suite au sang qu’il avait fait coulé parmi les habitants de la forêt équatoriale.

En nous adressant à vous, nous pensons que l’Afrique peut aller encore plus loin que là où Nelson Mandela est allé, nous osons imaginer que vous pourriez démontrer que les preuves de solidarité, de fidélité aux valeurs les plus profondément humaines sont encore tellement enracinées dans nos consciences que même un Chef D’Etat, libéré des entraves protocolaires du pouvoir, ne peut résister à l’appel d’égalité venant des plus humiliés.

Nous vous demandons d’agir par vous-même, non par délégation, non par un représentant de votre autorité. Nous pensons que l’acte qui vient d’être commis contre les pygmées est tellement plus dévastateur qu’un désastre naturel, cyclone, épidémie laissant des centaines de morts sur son chemin que seule une intervention choc de votre part pourra vraiment être à la hauteur de ce qui vient de se passer à Brazzaville. La science n’a pas encore développé un appareil de mesure pouvant nous décrire ce que les pygmées réels et génériques (juifs, tsiganes, enfants de la rue, victimes du SIDA, chômeurs, sans papiers, réfugiés, etc.) ont souffert face aux humiliations physiques, aux tortures invisibles de l’âme et de l’esprit. Ce qui vient de se passer à Brazzaville démontre la virulence du virus destructeur de ce qui nous reste encore d’humanité en cet âge de la globalisation.

Nous vous demandons de montrer que de l’intérieur de cette humanité menée –sans le savoir ?– à sa destruction, il y a encore des citoyens du monde capables de résister l’apparente irrésistibilité de la globalisation et le balayage sans honte des valeurs les plus sacrées de nos ancêtres communs.

Par votre action vous pourriez vous ranger du côté de certains scientifiques préoccupés des effets destructeurs du modèle de développement issu de la Traite Négrière et de ce que nous pouvons appeler l’Ota Bengisation de la Planète, commencent à admettre que le modèle de comment vivre en harmonie avec la nature, avec tout le monde, avec la vie, n’est pas à chercher : il suffit de se tourner vers ceux qui, comme les survivants Indiens des Amériques, comme les pygmées, comme les Dogon, comme les San, comme les nomades de tant d’autres régions du monde vivent en respectant tout ce qui vit.

La conscience de l’humanité conservatrice des valeurs les plus sacrées a été dangereusement affaiblie par l’Ota Bengisation systématique. Nous vous demandons de dire et faire pour que ce qui s’est passé à Brazzaville devienne un point de référence non seulement de tous les Africains, mais du monde entier parce que là, le plus grand de l’Etat s’est mis au même rang que les plus petits, avec amour, humilité, solidarité. Un tel geste non seulement effacerait la honte ressentie de par le monde, mais contribuerait aussi à la revalorisation de nos valeurs ancestrales de solidarité. Au bout du compte, ce geste pourrait devenir un événement dont les répercussions guérisseuses de l’humanité sont aujourd’hui difficilement calculables. De grâce, ne vous préoccupez pas de ce que les pharisiens contemporains et autres mauvaises langues diront, comme : « de quoi se mêle-t-il ? » Ce qui s’est passé à Brazza est trop grave, mondialement parlant, pour laisser n’importe quel chef d’Etat, Africain de surcroît, indifférent.

En vous remerciant de votre écoute, nous vous prions d’ accepter nos salutations les plus respectueuses.

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, Coordonateur
Ota Benga Centre Pour La Dignité Humaine

Jacques Depelchin
Directeur Exécutif
Ota Benga Alliance for Peace Healing and Dignity
in the DRCongo and in the USA

Le 20 juillet 2007.

Groupe d’actions de citoyens pour la surveillance de la transition / observatoire citoyen de l’action publicque « GAT/OCAP »

To translate this story into English, click the  flag.

Avenue des Poids Lourds (Concession Sucrière Kwilu- Ngongo)
Tél. : 0812664685 – 0814050119 – 0810834880
E-mail : gatsocietecivile@
Projet de Budget 2007 :
Bonne Gouvernance, Demande Sociale, Fonction Publique, Décentralisation, Sécurité des Citoyens et Justice : Des objectifs marginalisés

Dans les publications et analyses antérieures du GAT/OCAP , il a été rappelé que le budget traduit un ensemble de choix politiques. Les grandes orientations budgétaires sont définies par le Gouvernement qui tient compte des engagements pris par le Président de la république devant l’opinion. Le Gouvernement est chargé de mettre ces choix en pratique dans l’élaboration des projets de lois budgétaires.

Le budget est un instrument important de la politique économique de l’Etat. Ainsi, les dépenses publiques, lorsqu ‘elles financent en priorité les investissements, stimulent l’économie par leur effet multiplicateur sur des investissements. Augmenter les salaires des fonctionnaires, c’est créer un effet d’entraînement sur la consommation donc l’élargissement des marchés pour les entreprises, l’augmentation de leurs chiffres d’affaires et profits entraînant plus des rentrées fiscales pour l’Etat.

Par ailleurs, le principe généralement admis par tout Gouvernement est que le budget est décidé par un vote au Parlement constituant le point d’aboutissement de ce processus. Seulement, il est préparé par l’Exécutif qui veille constamment -dans un système démocratique- à l’équilibre entre les pouvoirs Exécutif, Législatif et Judiciaire.

De plus, c’est à travers ce budget que devrait se refléter la volonté politique affichée du Gouvernement en ce qui concerne notamment l’épineuse question de la décentralisation ; les préoccupations pour une bonne gouvernance, les réponses à la demande sociale, la sécurité des hommes et des biens, etc.

De l’examen du projet de budget 2007, il se dégage des constats ci-après :

1. Par rapport aux préoccupations de la bonne gouvernance

? Dépenses de fonctionnement des Institutions (Dépenses courantes)

Pouvoir Exécutif : 24.155.810.398FC dont :

– Cabinets des Ministres : 11.032.334.613 FC
– Présidence de la République : 10.735.430.880 FC
– Primature : 2.388.044.905 FC

Pouvoir Législatif : 5.717.297.807FC dont :

– Assemblée Nationale : 3.835.840.491 FC
– Sénat : 1.881.457.316 FC

Pouvoir Judiciaire : 2.612.377.918FC dont :

– Cours et Tribunaux : 2.612.377.918 FC

Commentaires :

o L’analyse des dépenses de fonctionnement révèle que le pouvoir Exécutif s’octroie la part belle de dépenses de fonctionnement (24.115.810.398FC) contrairement au pouvoir Judiciaire (2.612.377.918 FC) censé faire un travail d’envergure dans une perspective de décentralisation territoriale. Ces maigres crédits ne permettront pas au pouvoir judiciaire de fonctionner en toute indépendance.

o Les Frais secrets de recherche affectés respectivement à la Présidence de la République (1.551.795.851 FC) ; à la Primature (32.236.456 FC) et au Cabinet du Président de l’Assemblée Nationale (37.764.979 FC) : Mis ensemble, ces frais se montent à 1.621.797.286 FC : montant proche du crédit alloué à l’Agence Nationale de Renseignement (ayant une portée nationale, diplomatique et stratégique dans son fonctionnement) qui se voit attribuer 2.555.271.101 FC.

A côté, de ces frais de recherches sujets à caution, il existe un Comité de Sécurité d’Etat (rattaché à la Présidence de la République) bénéficiaire d’un crédit de l’ordre de FC : près de la moitié des crédits affectés aux Cours et Tribunaux.

Comment expliquer ce mépris du pouvoir judiciaire par le pouvoir exécutif ? La démocratie et la bonne gouvernance postulent un fonctionnement du pouvoir judiciaire qui réponde aux exigences de respect des droits de l’Homme et de tolérance zéro vis-à-vis de l’impunité.

Il faut arrêter la clochardisation de ce corps et le dévoiement de sa mission de sanctionner les contrevenants aux lois de la République quels qu’ils soient.

2. Par rapport à la demande sociale

Ramenés à l’ensemble des dépenses (1.196.962.000.000.FC), les secteurs qualifiés par nous comme « sociaux » représentent approximativement 20% du budget et se répartissent comme suit :

? Education : 131.729.889.963 : 11%
? Santé : 4.262.776.332 : 3,4%
? Habitat : 1.601.019.648 : 0,134%
? Agriculture : 9.192.463.884 : 0,77%
? Développement Rural : 7.458.214.953 : 0,66%
? Energie : 55.541.193.544 : 4,6%


Cette quote-part attribuée aux secteurs sociaux est insuffisante au regard des enjeux du pays et de leur importance. Ces secteurs réunis fondent le cadre de vie et méritent le double de ce qui leur a été attribué. Ils emploient une frange considérable de la masse laborieuse et, sont directement touchés par les effets de la pauvreté.

Ce pays regorge des superficies arables énormes et une main d’œuvre active abondante, il était de bon augure de privilégier des secteurs réellement productifs, pouvant avoir un effet d’entraînement réel dans d’autres secteurs de la vie nationale. C’est le cas de l’Agriculture et du Développement Rural. Malheureusement les crédits alloués à ces deux secteurs (16.650.678.837 FC) sont de loin inférieurs à ceux attribués à la Défense Nationale (86.581.584.061 FC).

3. Par rapport aux cinq chantiers du quinquennat 2007-2011

Les cinq chantiers du Chef de l’Etat représentent 26,3% du budget total et se ventilent comme suit :

1. Santé : 40.262.776.332 FC : 3,4%
2. Education : 131.729.889.963 FC : 11%
3. Emploi (Travail, Fonction Publique) : 25.512.766.375 FC : 2,13%
4. Infrastructures : 58.133.718.376 FC : 4,9%
5. Energie (eau, électricité…) : 55.541.193.544 FC : 4,6%


Les cinq chantiers ont pour fondement le Cadre de Dépense à Moyen Terme (CDMT) qui est une stratégie consistant à améliorer la qualité de dépense, en opérant des allocations intersectorielles en fonction des Ministères retenus comme prioritaires.

A cet effet, des enveloppes indicatives ont été allouées à chaque secteur, avec une priorisation aux secteurs directement liés aux axes stratégiques du DSCRP.

Sur la base des informations fournies par le comité Permanent de Cadrage Macroéconomique, les allocations aux ministères prioritaires se présentent de manière ci-après :

Allocations aux Ministères prioritaires (en % des dépenses primaires)

Ministères prioritaires Actions Crédits
2006 2007 2008
Santé – 7,5 12,3 12,9
EPSP – 12,2 15,5 16,7
Travaux Publics et Infrastructures – 11,2 15,8 16,7
Energie – 10 10,2 10,3
Environnement – 0,9 2,1 2,3
Total 41,9 55,9 58,5
Source : Comité Permanent de Cadrage Macroéconomique / DSCRP/ juillet 2006

Ces allocations arrêtées dans le cadre du DSCRP, comparées aux prévisions budgétaires 2007, il se dégage des constats suivants :

? Santé : 12,3% contre 3,4%, soit une régression de 72,4%
? Education : 15,5% contre 11%, soit une régression de 29 %,
? Energie : 10,2% contre 4,6%, soit une régression de 54,9%
? Infrastructures : 4,9% contre 15,8%, soit une progression de 68,9%

4. Par rapport à la Décentralisation

Voici la part réservée à ces cinq secteurs d’activités essentiels dans un pays décentralisé :

1. Développement Rural : 7. 458.214.953 FC : 0,62%
2. Reconstruction : 254.010.312 FC : 0,02%
3. Intérieure, Décentralisation et Sécurité : 55.630.314.674 FC : 4,65%
4. Justice : 2.566.925.062 FC : 0,21%
5. Plan : 8.055.466.594 FC : 0,67%


Le principe sur la décentralisation est consacré dans la Constitution de la IIIème République. Il appartient aux dirigeants actuels de préparer dès cette première année du quinquennat, les conditions propices à sa réalisation effective, dans les trois ans à venir. Ces 5 secteurs réunis représentent 6,17% de l’ensemble du budget de dépenses. Les dirigeants actuels n’y accordent pas assez d’attention, pourtant les Provinces par les Assemblées Provinciales interposées menacent déjà de retenir à la source les 40 % de recettes leur rétrocédées. D’ici début 2008, des grandes divergences se manifesteront entre les Provinces et l’Etat central si dès maintenant les besoins du développement local ne sont pas pris en compte.

5. Par rapport aux préoccupations de la Sécurité

Peut on imaginer que dans un pays démocratique qui ne soit pas une République bananière, que l’ensemble des services de Renseignement de la République (l’ANR) ait un budget de fonctionnement de 2,5 milliards de FC dont 702 millions des frais secrets de recherche, alors que le budget global affecté à la Présidence de la république est de 18 milliards dont 1,5 milliard de frais secrets de recherche. A quoi sert l’Agence Nationale de Renseignement (ANR) dont le budget affecté au Département de la Sécurité Intérieure est à peine de 219.463.200 FC (soit 438.926 $ US) pour sécuriser les hommes, les biens, les frontières et toute la République.

Le budget de l’ANR est inférieur aux budgets de l’Etat major particulier du Chef de l’Etat et de sa Maison Civile, soit 2,7 milliards dont 649 millions de frais secrets de recherche.

En même temps, le budget de fonctionnement du Cabinet du Ministère de la Défense (salaires non compris) est de 160 millions de FC (soit 320.000 $ US) et celui de l’Etat Major Général de toute notre armée est de 237 millions de FC (soit 474.000 $ US dont 64.000 $ US de frais secret de recherche). Comment expliquer ces distorsions et inégalités ?

Qui s’occupe de Renseignement dans notre pays ? A qui revient la mission de sécuriser le pays ?

6. Les disparités et déséquilibres inexplicables dans la répartition
des crédits entre Ministères et entre cabinets et administrations

Quelques incohérences se révèlent dans les articulations des dépenses des Ministères ; c’est le cas du ministère de la Défense Nationale qui se voit attribuer la part la plus importante : 15.222.500.000 FC (soit 16% de l’ensemble de Ministères) dont 14. 825.000.000 FC alloués au Secrétariat Général alors que jusqu’à ce jour, aucun effectif fiable des militaires n’a pu être fourni. Par ailleurs, sur cette enveloppe du Secrétariat Général, FC serviront à « l’alimentation » des hommes de troupes. Il y a de quoi de poser de question sur des mécanismes fiables à mettre en place afin que ces fonds servent réellement aux destinataires ! Dans un passé plus récent, il a été fait état de détournements colossaux dans ce secteur.

De même, le Ministère de la Justice bénéficie d’un crédit de l’ordre de FC (dont 411.270.665FC affectés au Cabinet du Ministre). Alors que l’ensemble du Pouvoir judiciaire fonctionnera avec un crédit de l’ordre 72.716.412 FC. Ce qui contraste avec le slogan « Fini la recréation ». L’impunité ne sera réellement vaincue dans ce pays que lorsque les Cours et Tribunaux auront fonctionné normalement et en toute indépendance, sans que leurs actions ne soient empiétées par le politique. Au cas contraire, il y a encore du chemin à parcourir pour une véritable indépendance de la Magistrature.

Il y a ensuite la disparité des crédits accordés aux cabinets ministériels (structures politiques) allant de FC au cabinet des Finances et 18.000.000 FC par exemple au cabinet de l’agriculture ; 237.500.000FC à l’Etat Major Général de toute notre Armée contre 321 .000.000FC de frais secrets de recherche à la Maison civile du Chef de l’Etat.

7. La Fonction Publique

Les immenses besoins de reconstruction du pays lui imposent de mettre sur pied une administration stable et compétente, capable d’assumer les fonctions clés de la gestion publique du développement. Or de ce point de vue, la situation est très mauvaise. La modicité des ressources financières destinées aux structures pérennes, les manques de moyens matériels, l’absence du renforcement des capacités des cadres et enfin les rémunérations dérisoires détournent les fonctionnaires de leur ouvrage.

Le nombre relativement élevé des structures ad hoc ou l’accaparement des fonctions techniques par les cabinets ministériels court-circuitent et contribuent à affaiblir un peu plus les structures pérennes de l’administration.

Les structures ad hoc ont été crées pour répondre à des situations d’urgence ou pour éviter d’avoir à amorcer le difficile travail de remise en marche des services publics. Le renforcement massif dont elles bénéficient ne fait qu’accentuer le dépérissement de l’administration.

Seul le renforcement des capacités matérielles et humaines des structures pérennes pourrait permettre d’amorcer le processus de retour à une situation normale d’une administration réhabilitée dans son rôle de colonne vertébrale de toute la dynamique de la gestion publique du développement.

Les dernières tentatives de réformes de l’administration avancent un effectif de 200.923 unités (effectif). Quel est donc le sort lui réservé dans ce projet de budget ?

Lorsque nous examinons les dépenses des rémunérations, nous tirons des enseignements suivants :

? Il est versé à la Fonction publique un crédit de 17.712.918.455 FC. Comparé à l’effectif des fonctionnaires, cette enveloppe dégage une rétribution moyenne annuelle de 88.158FC (176$ us)/ an/ Fonctionnaire, soit 7.013 FC (15$ us) / mois / Fonctionnaire.

Par exemple, la Présidence de la République, qui n’a 968 unités (effectif) se voit attribuer une enveloppe salariale de 3.813.308.145 FC. Par le même procédé, un agent de la Présidence touche une moyenne mensuelle de 645 $ us. La situation est la même pour les autres Institutions politiques. Il y a lieu de noter par exemple que l’enveloppe salariale du Cabinet du Premier Ministre est de 1.890.696.053 FC soit une moyenne mensuelle de 2.007$ us par personne.

Mutatis mutandis, les rémunérations mensuelles moyennes des agents de quelques secteurs triés se présentent comme suit :

? Santé Publique : 57 $ us (y compris les Médecins)
? EPSP : 51 $ us
? ESU : 101$ us (y compris les Professeurs d’Universités et Chercheurs).
? Défense Nationale : 31$ us
? Intérieur et Décentralisation : 73$ us

Pour ne reprendre ces quelques illustrations, il apparaît une forte inégalité dans la distribution des revenus provenant des ressources publiques entre les salariés politiques et ceux des structures pérennes de notre administration.

8. Le Déficit budgétaire

La nature du déficit budgétaire s’avère préoccupant et inhibateur dans notre pays. Ce désajustement permanent entre les dépenses de l’Etat et sa capacité de mobilisation de ressources intérieures est une pratique à bannir.

L’on nous présente une esquisse budgétaire de façon apparente en équilibre, soit 1.196.962.000 FC en recettes et en dépenses, représentant 24,01% du PIB. Un budget non bouclé en réalité, avec un gap de 49.888.000.000 FC restant à financer.

En vue de couvrir ce déficit, le Gouvernement préconise les appuis budgétaires à rechercher pour financer les rubriques du déficit (Dépenses exceptionnelles : 22.871.000.000 FC; une partie de la dette extérieure : FC ainsi que l’appui aux réformes budgétaires : FC) ; en même temps qu’il s’atèle à rechercher dans ses ressources propres, les moyens nécessaires à la couverture du gap et ce, dans l’optique de porter à 60% du budget ses ressources propres.

Il s’agit là d’une déclaration de bonne intention pour la consommation extérieure. Il n’est un secret pour personne, la RDC privée autant d’une échelle de production des biens marchands que du moindre support des biens collectifs se suffirait de demeurer un Etat-ASBL, accroché aux mamelles de la communauté internationale pour se nourrir des dons et des externalités. Un Etat qui n’a de compte à rendre à personne et auquel personne n’a de compte à rendre dans la configuration naturelle de notre économie dominée à 97 % par le l’informel.

La conséquence évidente de ce déficit budgétaire ce sera d’intensifier la corruption qui est intimement liée à toute situation de non-Etat ou d’Etat privatisé au profit des bénéficiaires des dépassements budgétaires et de la sous-évaluation des recettes réellement encaissées.

Il s’ensuivra, à brève échéance l’accroissement des inégalités, l’approfondissement de la pauvreté, la détérioration de la gouvernance administrative, la baisse de la consommation (en rapport avec la fuite occasionnée par ce financement), et même- ce qui pourrait paraître beaucoup pus paradoxal- l’aggravation du chômage dont le taux actuel est de 96 % de la population active.


En juin 2006, le GAT avait dénoncé le dysfonctionnement structurel du processus d’élaboration, exécution, suivi et contrôle budgétaire de la RDC.

Ces dysfonctionnements persistent et rendent difficile le travail de la Cour de Comptes dont les Rapports de Reddition des comptes pour les exercices 2005, 2006 ne sont toujours pas disponibles. Il y a lieu de se demander sur quelle base, les projections budgétaires ont été faites ? A l’évidence, il faut s’attendre à ce que tous les crédits affectés aux secteurs autres que politiques tombent en annulation comme c’est fut les cas les années antérieures aux cours desquelles les postes des vices- présidences et celui du Président de la République enregistraient -pour certaines périodes- des dépassements budgétaires avoisinant 200 %.

Ces dépassements de crédits sont favorisés par des mécanismes de facilité mis en place dans la gestion budgétaire par les responsables politiques. Mécanismes violant constamment la périodicité requise au dépôt de la documentation relative à la Cour des Comptes. Le projet de loi portant arrêt des comptes et règlement définitif sont souvent déposés en retard, violant ainsi la loi de finances. C’est encore le cas pour les exercices 2005 et 2006.

De ce fait, quel crédit accorder à ce budget ? Lorsqu’on examine le processus de son élaboration -du reste- entaché de manque de rigueur et de transparence aussi bien au niveau du cadrage macro-économique que du cadrage budgétaire en raison notamment de sa faiblesse instrumentale, de la non- prise en compte de la conjoncture économique de qui dépend le rendement des différentes ressources financières.

A titre illustratif, ce budget projette un taux de variation de 45% de recettes fiscales en 2007 comparativement à l’année précédente. Une telle pression fiscale n’offre pas des perspectives prometteuses dans l’état de relations pouvoirs publics- opérateurs économiques. Comme qui dirait : « on ne tue pas la poule aux œufs d’or ».

Continuée à ce rythme, la pression fiscale se présentera comme obstacle à la bonne marche des affaires des opérateurs privés, donc portera atteinte à la paix sociale souhaitée par tous, après autant d’années guerre et de misère.

En définitive, que dire d’un tel budget ?

Il s’agit ni plus, ni moins d’une redistribution de la rente entre les copains par le biais d’une série des rubriques sombres (Frais de recherche) ; une priorité donnée aux dépenses politiques qui condamne ce budget dans une irresponsabilité notamment par rapport à un tel déficit budgétaire annoncé qui, au bout du compte sera multiplié par 3 ou 4.

Quand le Gouvernement présente un projet de budget sans déficit, à la fin de l’exercice les dépassements et déficits sont toujours au rendez-vous depuis 46 ans. Maintenant que l’on prévoit un déficit, quelle fin d’année budgétaire nous attend ???

Donc ce budget ne reflète pas les aspirations profondes de notre peuple au progrès social, moins encore les impératifs de la reconstruction et de développement durable du pays. Il doit impérativement être réaménagé.

Fait à Kinshasa, le 07 juin 2007


1) Florimond MUTEBA TSHITENGE : Président

2) Norbert YAMBA YAMBA : V/ Président

3) Jean Marie ELEY LOFELE : Rapporteur Général

4) Joseph KIBANGULA : Trésorier

5) Georges TSHIONZA MATA : Membre

6) Zouzou BUZUME : Membre