The battle for Congo’s resources goes on
Published Apr 20, 2007 9:34 PM
Hundreds of people lost their lives in two days of fighting in Kinshasa, the
capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the end of March. The fighting,
which also destroyed a large swath of downtown Kinshasa, was between bodyguards
of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the loser in last year’s presidential election, and
Two weeks later, Bemba, together with his family, took a private jet for
“medical treatment in Portugal,” while most of his bodyguards
managed to cross the Congo River and ask for asylum in Congo-Brazzaville.
While Congo is one of the richest countries in Africa, its people are among the
poorest. The World Bank estimated the average yearly income in 2005 at $120,
less than $.40 a day.
From the time King Leopold II of Belgium claimed Congo as his personal property
in 1885, its mineral riches were the source of wealth for Belgian and French
capitalists until Mobutu Sese-Seko took power from the anti-imperialist Patrice
Lumumba in 1960. During Mobuto’s reign the U.S. got a big share of this
wealth along with France.
Currently Western geologists estimate that Congo has over $300 billion worth of
mineral resources that could be exploited in the next 25 years, if a reasonable
amount of political stability can be achieved. It also has the hydroelectric
potential to light Africa from the Cape to Cairo and enough land and water to
feed the whole continent.
But Congo’s potential economic and human development cannot be achieved
by a state whose sole purpose is satisfying the neocolonial demands of big
European and U.S. companies who want the biggest profits at the lowest cost.
Part of their costs is a smidgen of wealth dropped to their agents on the
ground in Congo. Such states invest nothing in roads, education, health care,
electricity, sanitation or any other service generally provided by governments
Jean-Pierre Bemba began his political career, according to Georges
Nzongola-Ntalaja’s “The Congo from Leopold to Kabila,” in
1998 as a leader in the Mouvement de libération du Congo after the fall of
Mobutu. His father had been one of Mobutu’s “barons” and was
extremely wealthy. The MLC was sponsored by Uganda at that time as part of its
strategy for controlling eastern Congo and thereby putting pressure on Laurent
Kabila, the current president’s father, who had gained control of
Kinshasa in 1997.
Nzongola-Ntalaja points out, “The ‘parochial interests’ of
the United States and other major powers include maintaining access to the
strategic resources of the Congo, selling weapons of war, and, in the
particular U.S. case, supporting allies such as Uganda and Rwanda, which may
ensure this access ... .” (p. 233)
The MLC took an active role in the years of fighting in Congo from 1998 to
2002, which cost 4 million lives.
When the international and domestic pressure for stability grew, Bemba and the
MLC did take part in the election process and were Joseph Kabila’s main
opponents in the elections held in the fall of 2006.
They wanted a big role in the government and to maintain their
“security” forces outside of government control. They had
stockpiled 20 tons of arms in Gbadolite and Gemena, two major cities in
Bemba’s home province Equitateur. (www.digitalcongo.net/article/42339).
When their plan didn’t succeed, they resorted to armed struggle.
The U.S. appeared to be well aware of what Bemba was doing. The spokesman for
the State Department, Sean McCormack, in his daily briefing March 22 indicated
that the U.S. was intent on defusing the tension, talking to the U.N.
“peace” keepers and both sides “to keep the process moving
Radio Okapi, according to the Kinshasa paper Le Potentiel, reported April
12—the day after Bemba left for Portugal—that Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice had issued a long statement on Africa, which included
significant support for the results of the elections in Congo.
The U.S. didn’t want to disrupt the arrangements they were in the process
of establishing in Congo with the new government, but they were not prepared to
discard Bemba, an old, established asset.
Even though Bemba tried to overturn the results of an election widely
recognized as democratic, killing hundreds of people and destroying wide swaths
of downtown Kinshasa in the process, there was hardly a peep out of the press
in the U.S.
But in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe’s popular land reform is
challenging the rule of Western interests, the death of one anti-government
protester at the hands of the cops drew immediate and widespread condemnation
as an “attack on democracy.”
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE