|Genocidal war has raged in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the 1998 US-backed invasion by the forces of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. At the last estimate, the war has claimed a staggering 5.4 million lives. [i.]
Yet this conflict, the most bloody since the second world war, has generated astoundingly little press coverage, and a diplomatic and political censorship over a 10-year period on the part of western governments that points to complicity, rather than ignorance or indifference.
Congo’s rich store of mineral deposits includes gold, diamonds, uranium, molybdenum, copper, tin and coltan – the colloquial African name for columbite-tantalite, a metallic ore from which are extracted the elements niobium and tantalum.
In appearance, coltan is a dull black mineral – but the fabulous profits to be made from its extraction have driven the world’s finance capitalists to commit and incite the most heinous of crimes. For the tantalum from coltan is used to make capacitors for such all-important consumer electronics products such as mobile phones, DVD players, and computers. [ii]
“During the 2000 launch of [Sony’s gaming console] the PS2, the electronics giant was having trouble meeting consumer demand. To pump out more units, Sony required a significant increase in the production of electric capacitors, which are primarily made with tantalum. This helped drive the world price of the powder from $49/pound to a whopping $275/pound, resulting in the frenzied scouring of the Congolese hills known for being ripe with coltan.” [iii]
Suffice to say, it was not the Congolese people who organised or benefited from this ‘frenzied’ mining activity. Quite the opposite was, in fact, the case.
A little Congolese history
The Berlin Conference of 1884/5 ceded the massive central African territory (which, at 2.3m square km, is the size of Western Europe) to King Leopold of Belgium, as his personal property. This was the last time, incidentally, that the imperialist powers were able to settle such questions (the division of colonial slaves, loot, markets and territory) ‘amicably’. From then on, the fierce struggle over colonial spheres of influence could only be settled by recourse to war, as demonstrated by the entire history of the 20th century.
Leopold’s colonial regime, which he inappropriately named the ‘Congo Free State’, was unsurpassed in its brutality. Land occupied by Africans was deemed ‘empty’ and was allocated to European settlers. A private army, the Force Publique (FP), was raised to extract tribute from the native population, chiefly in the form of slave labour, rubber and ivory.
They burned recalcitrant villages (those which failed to produce the requisite quotas) and, infamously, collected human hands as trophies on the orders of white officers to show that the bullets hadn’t been wasted. Between 1885 and 1912, Leopold’s holocaust claimed between ten and thirty million victims. [iv]
Independence - but no respite from imperialist interference
The Congolese independence movement grew and finally ousted direct Belgian colonial rule in 1960, but imperialist interference and intrigue has remained a constant feature in the affairs of the Congolese people, who have been blighted by their nation’s vast reserves of mineral wealth and the predatory greed of imperialism.
As Lenin noted in 1916: “Monopoly has grown out of colonial policy. To the numerous old motives of colonial policy, finance capital has added the struggle for the sources of raw materials, for the export of capital, for ‘spheres of influence’, ie, for spheres for profitable deals, concessions, monopolist profits and so on, and finally, for economic territory in general.
“When the colonies of the European powers in Africa, for instance, comprised only one-tenth of that territory (as was the case in 1876), colonial policy was able to develop by methods other than those of monopoly – by the ‘free grabbing’ of territories, so to speak. But when nine-tenths of Africa had been seized (by 1900), when the whole world had been divided up, there was inevitably ushered in the era of monopoly ownership of colonies and, consequently, of particularly intense struggle for the partition and the repartition of the world.
“The extent to which monopolist capital has intensified all the contradictions of capitalism is generally known. It is sufficient to mention the high cost of living and the power of the trusts. This intensification of contradictions constitutes the most powerful driving force of the transitional period of history [between capitalism and socialism], which began from the time of the final victory of world finance capital.
“Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination instead of the striving for liberty, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations – all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism.” [v](Our emphasis)
Patrice Lumumba assassinated
Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, a progressive and patriotic African nationalist, was seen to oppose US interests. A separatist movement was fomented in the mineral-rich south (Katanga, now Shaba, province), civil war was engendered and the great progressive patriot Lumumba was arrested and assassinated on the orders of US imperialism and the former Belgian colonists, with the shameful complicity of the president, Joseph Kasavubu, and the United Nations, whose ‘Blue Helmets’ division could not but have known about the assassination plan.
Kasavubu was himself then overthrown by a young and unscrupulous army colonel, Joseph Désiré ‘Sese Seko’ Mobutu, who went on to rule Zaïre (as he renamed the country) for over 32 years, with the full blessing and backing of Belgian, French, US, British and latterly EU capital, facilitating as he did the wholesale robbery of his nation by western mining and other multinational corporations.
In March 2002, the Belgian government finally admitted its role in the assassination of Lumumba, but its pitiful ‘apology’ will never be accepted while the country’s neo-colonial intrigue in the Congo continues. [vi] As yet, no apology has been forthcoming from the UN.
During Mobutu’s brutal reign, Zaïre was the counterrevolutionary lynch-pin of US reactionary policy in Africa, sheltering anti-popular terrorist forces (FNLA and UNITA from Angola, for example) and serving as a conduit for supplying them with arms from the US, thus helping to plunge the entire region into bloody and destructive war, seemingly civil, but, in fact, neo-colonial. Mobutu was notorious for his collaboration with South African apartheid.
Fleeing to France in 1996 as his murderous dictatorship crumbled, the kleptocrat retained his personal £40bn fortune – a sum far in excess of the Zaïrian national debt!
No hue and cry was raised by the pious Blairs, Clintons or Solanas over this butcher’s blood money, no asset repatriation or freezing threatened, no travel bans were demanded. No ‘Hague tribunal’ or ‘international court of justice’ sought retribution. Business is business, and he had more than fulfilled his contracted quota.
Imperialism reserves its wrath for leaders who loyally fulfil their office by serving their people.
In 1994, seismic events in the tiny neighbouring state of Rwanda shook Zaïre (now the DRC). Many years of popular struggle in the former French colony culminated in the expulsion of the ruling Hutu puppet regime by the forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, but not before the former had wrought havoc on the nation, leaving behind them a genocidal blood bath in which some million Rwandan Tutsis were slaughtered and a further million Hutus were coerced into quitting their homes in a mass exodus to Zaïre.
In these barbarous acts, the genocidaires were given every assistance by French imperialism (and, to a lesser extent, by Mobutu’s Zaïre), assistance that ranged from French weapons with which to carry out the slaughter to French troops which were deployed against the RPF in the notorious Operation Turquoise.
Finally, when the battle was lost completely, it was French troops that covered the retreat of the reactionary regime into Zaïre and there secured for its members – with the help of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – a safe haven.
Refugee camps were established on the Zaïrian/Rwandan border and the genocidal warlords (who by rights should have been handed over to the Rwandan government to stand trial for their crimes) were shamelessly protected. Furthermore, these camps became “bases where the genocidaires [the Interhamwe militia] tried to finish their work by conducting murdering raids across the border into Rwanda”. [vii]
Not content with this, Hutu militia, with the connivance of Mobutu’s regime, went on to incite communalist strife between the native Hutu and Tutsi (aka Banyamulenge) population of eastern Zaïre (North and South Kivu provinces), terrorising the latter and forcing them to leave their homes at gun point. In October 1996, Lwasi Ngabo Lwangji, deputy governor of South Kivu ordered them to leave within a week “or be exterminated”.iv [iv]
Mobutu’s foreign minister, Lokondo Yoka, referred to the Banyamulenge as a “so-called ethnic group”, claiming they were “just refugees from Rwanda”, [viii] despite their presence in the region for over 200 years.
On mention of the Rwandan genocide, much hand wringing and self-flagellation could be elicited from UN officials, Blair and Clinton, but the fact remains that, at the time, they were solely interested in organising intervention in Zaïre to prop up both the faltering regime of Mobutu and the former Hutu regime in Rwanda.
Faced with the ‘choice’ between expropriation and extermination, the Tutsis of eastern Zaïre rose in rebellion. The extent of the Banyamulenge’s success – the vanquishing of the Zaïrian army and their genocidal allies, resulting in the capture of two huge provinces and the resolution of the refugee crisis, all achieved in three short weeks – reflected the weight of popular opposition to the corrupt and oppressive Zaïrian regime.
The Banyamulenge resistance, led by Andre Nganda Kissasse, joined with the national resistance, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo Zaïre (ADFL), led by Laurent Kabila (a disciple of the murdered independence leader Patrice Lumumba, who had been waging a constant political and guerrilla struggle against Mobutu since the 1960s, during which time he had associations with Che Guevara).
Assisted to an extent by the RPF, these united forces reinvigorated the popular struggle and ignited a military and political movement that swept across the country, reaching its western border and liberating the capital, Kinshasa, in May 1997, deposing the despised regime of Mobutu and transforming the political outlook of the African continent, to the delight of her people and the chagrin of imperialism.
The DRC is born
Candid capitalist spokesmen, from Lord Palmerston to Donald Rumsfeld, have been bold enough to assert openly that they (Britain, the US, in a word, ‘imperialism’) have no permanent allies, only permanent interests.
Facts on the ground had changed. Old alliances were broken. But the mineral wealth of Zaïre, now re-christened by Kabila’s victorious patriotic forces the Democratic Republic of Congo, remained. And imperialist mining giants remained interested. This, after all, was not the first attempt to oust Mobutu; but in the post-Soviet world he was increasingly a liability, and as the extent of the rebellion became clear, US imperialism sought a dialogue with those it had previously labelled terrorists – Kabila’s ADFL and Kagame’s RPF.
Laurent Kabila incorruptible
The hopes held by Anglo-American imperialism – that it would be able to manipulate Laurent Kabila – were soon dashed. A BBC reporter, with characteristic arrogance, interviewing ADFL leaders in Kinshasa soon after their victory, questioned their practice of holding mass study classes, reading and explaining Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism to the people – wasn’t this outdated language and irrelevant ideology?
But Kabila’s ADFL continued to give their people an anti-imperialist education, theoretically and practically. They cancelled all mining contracts and ordered foreign companies to renegotiate on terms favourable to the Congolese. Mobutu’s national debt was unilaterally cancelled, and the national wealth generated from mining enterprises was transparently accounted for and put at the service of Congolese people, who underwent a veritable renaissance. Communal kitchens and facilities of all kinds were established.
Kabila proved absolutely incorruptible, and the Congolese economy thrived.
Towards a Soviet Congo?
But Kabila’s truly unforgivable sin, in the eyes of imperialism, was to begin to establish Committees of Popular Power (CPP) as the new state organs of power.
Built from the bottom up, from the street, the locality, the commune, the village, right up to the provincial and the national levels, these committees looked frighteningly – to imperialism – like the revolutionary democratic organs of people’s power thrown up by the Paris commune of 1871 and the Russian revolution of 1905.
The committees set themselves the task of opposing all imperialist domination and all Congolese forces that put themselves at the service of foreign interests. The new popular democratic state would be permanently under the control of the people, who would ensure it remained in their service. The CPP would prevent the new state functionaries and officials from re-establishing neo-colonial habits.
It was only through the CPPs that the 55 million Congolese people could ensure that the national economy was rebuilt to be strong and independent, serving the interests of workers, peasants and intellectuals. In short, Kabila championed the proposition that the only way to root out corruption permanently, and to place national resources at the disposal of its people in perpetuity, was to Sovietise the Democratic Republic of Congo.
wanda – a tool of imperialist policy
If the new Congolese president would not help the imperialists to the superprofits they were used to, a new strategy would have to be devised.
By 1998, Paul Kagame, Leader of RPF, now president of Rwanda, had reached an understanding with western imperialism and, under the pretext of fighting remnants of the Hutu Interhamwe militia still resident in North and South Kivu (eastern DRC), launched a massive invasion of eastern Congo with the help of Rwandan, Burundian and Ugandan Forces.
Looting on an industrial scale has been taking place from that day to this. Initially, the massive area under occupation was stripped bare and all moveable wealth was carried back to Rwanda. Subsequently, illegal mining operations were carried on in occupied Congo, with the subterranean wealth of the Congo being looted by this US-sponsored army of occupation, under the kind of terms it could not wrest from Kabila.
Particularly blatant was the launch, in 2008, of the Kigali Bourse (the Rwandan stock exchange), listing primarily mining enterprises – despite Rwanda having no mineral reserves whatsoever!
Laurent Kabila mobilised the Congolese patriotic forces to resist the invasion, and his democratic government was assisted by the Namibian, Zambian and Zimbabwean armies under the terms of African Union treaties of mutual self defence – a heroic duty, the fulfilment of which helped to earn Zanu’s progressive leadership the full wrath of imperialism, for which Zimbabwe continues to pay a high price.
Laurent Kabila assassinated
On 16 January 2001, Laurent Kabila, the great patriotic president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was murdered. The instrument of his murder was one of his own bodyguards. The culprits were undoubtedly US and Belgian imperialism.
No fewer than 2 million people lined the streets to mourn the loss of their president on the occasion of his funeral. His son, Joseph Kabila, proclaimed head of state in his father’s place, perfectly expressed the mood of the nation when he said:
“The head of state was the architect of the nation’s liberation, the reawakening of its national conscience as well as recovered pride and dignity. A visionary and a forerunner, a statesman of great calibre, Mzee Laurent Désiré Kabila constantly and uncompromisingly devoted all his life to the struggle for the triumph of the sacred values of freedom, justice, equality of citizens, in a united, independent and sovereign Congo. And it was indeed because of safeguarding these essential values that President Mzee Laurent Désiré paid the highest price, that is the supreme sacrifice, the sacrifice of his life, at this time of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Emery Lumumba, our national hero.
“As head of state, he ensured that decisions regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo are made by Congolese themselves, for the interest of the nation and without foreign interference. He ruled this country by relying essentially on its resources, both human and natural. In this regard, it must be noted that the president of the Republic, Mzee Laurent Désiré Kabila, is among the rare leaders in the world’s contemporary history to have exercised power for more than three years without contracting any foreign debt at the expense of the state and without enriching himself”. [x]
Joseph Kabila stepped into the breach, and remains president of the DRC; but, without the tremendous prestige and mobilising capacity of his father, he has had difficulty in resisting imperialism and its intrigues. Instating a policy of granting “concessions in order to save the essential” (in the first instance, Congo’s territorial integrity), he has gradually consolidated his government, despite imperialist interference in the DRC, but those concessions he has granted to finance capital, at the expense of the Congolese people, have been monumental.
They included dissolving the CPPs, handing the economy over to the IMF and World Bank sharks and taking on Mobutu’s debt – accepting the ‘continuity of the state’ principle, if you will. All this was done in order to prevent balkanisation by imperialism of the country. But imperialist efforts to realise this, its most cherished ambition, so as to be able to control absolutely this massive and mineral-rich territory continue unabated as it strives to break up the DRC into smaller, warring states.
In order to halt the war – although in reality, US-backed Rwandan occupation and banditry have persisted on a marginally reduced scale – Joseph Kabila agreed to form a transitional government in 2003, in which the nationalists were in the minority and power at all levels of the state was divided between the nationalists, on the one hand, and the pro-Rwandan, pro-Ugandan and pro-western ‘political opposition’, many of whom were involved in Mobutu’s pro-imperialist kleptocracy.
Each wave of US-sponsored unrest has been used to pressure Congo into accepting ever-larger numbers of foreign military ‘observers’ onto its soil.
A ceasefire agreement (honoured in the breach rather than the observance) signed in Lusaka by the six warring nations (the DRC supported by Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia, on the one hand, and the Rwandan and Ugandan invaders on the other) in July 1999, primarily under the auspices of the African Union, made the provision for a UN force of 90 (ninety) UN observers to enter the DRC. The remit of this UN mission, ‘United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo’ (Monuc), was to observe the withdrawal of the Ugandan and Rwandan invaders.
After Laurent’s death, the UN passed successive resolutions increasing the force to 10,800 by May 2003; and to 16,000 by February 2005. Its current force of 17,000 – the UN’s largest – is deployed all over the DRC, but particularly in the eastern regions. Monuc has constantly been accused by the local population of protecting and collaborating with the forces of occupation, and has done nothing to stop massacres of civilians, or to arrest known ‘rebel’ war criminals connected to the US-backed Rwandan invasion (including Laurent Nkunda), sparking frequent anti-Monuc demonstrations and riots. [xi]
New ‘Congolese’ constitution
In February 2006, this imperialist-infected transitional government promulgated a new ‘Congolese’ constitution, written in large part by professors from the ex-colonial power of Belgium, and aimed, according to the BBC, at turning the DRC into a ‘real democracy’. [xii]
The constitution demands, among other things, division of the 11 existing provinces into 25 semi-autonomous provinces, which will keep 40 percent of revenues generated from taxes and exports of minerals, timber and other natural resources from the province. [xiii]
In the prevailing conditions of Congo, with Mobutu’s kleptocratic followers reintegrated into all levels of regional government, this means guaranteeing division, internal struggle, and instigating secessions.
Why? Because everyone who holds a position in the state will fight to the death to control as large a part as possible of state income for the simple reason that, according to Mobutuist ideology, the chief treats state property as his own. This ideology Mobutu borrowed from the feudal ideology with which Leopold II defended his management of his colonial property, and it is still how the overwhelming majority of the present-day Congolese bourgeois think.
In fact, this provision (article 175) has already caused major problems, because some provinces have interpreted the 40 percent as a way of distributing the taxes, while the richest provinces of course interpret it to mean that each province has the right to withhold 40 percent of the taxes it generates and give only the remaining to the central state.
The governor of Katanga, Moïse Katumbi, a man who is advised by the Israeli Mossad and the American CIA, has already led a ‘rebellion’ against the central government over this question. He had to retreat, but he will wait for his next moment.
2006 multi-party elections
The 2006 election campaign was completely dominated by the Mobutuist old guard. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo emerged as leader of the opposition. Having a personal fortune of several hundred million dollars, and close political and family ties to Mobutu himself, it is not difficult to see that he was imperialism’s great hope for the Congo.
Gombo’s party, hypocritically christened ‘Movement for the Liberation of the Congo’ (MLC), launched a malicious campaign by questioning Joseph Kabila’s paternity and nationality. Was he really the son of Laurent Kabila? Was he really a Congolese? They accused Joseph of selling the country to Rwanda. And so on.
Joseph Kabila’s camp, under heavy imperialist pressure, refused to denounce Bemba’s war crimes, or to answer his false accusations. Asked the reason for this very defensive method of campaigning, one member of Kabila’s media staff answered: “The president has given his word to the international community not to polemicise on the war issue.” Astonishingly, the Kabila camp limited itself to saying, simply: “Vote for Joseph Kabila, period.”
Joseph Kabila’s subsequent victory in the elections, with 58 percent of the vote, was like a boxer winning a fight despite his hands being tied behind his back. [xiv]
China’s £4.5bn investment in the Congo
Into this arena of colonial looting and Congolese resistance has stepped a new and positive influence. As western finance capital suffers increasing financial turmoil and tries to dig its banks out of trouble at the expense of the already impoverished masses, it patently has nothing to offer Africans but ‘more of the same’ – looting and political interference, generating poverty, insecurity and the devastating turmoil of war.
By contrast, China’s investment conditions have come as a refreshing change to the Congolese.
“Full scale work by the Chinese [began in July 2008] to rebuild 2,050 miles of roads in the Democratic Republic of Congo, left to rot in the rainforest after the Belgian colonialists pulled out 48 years ago and further shattered by seven years of war.
“The vast project, which will triple Congo’s current paved road network, is part of China’s largest investment in Africa, a £4.5 billion infrastructure-for-minerals deal signed in January.
“As well as the roads, Beijing has promised to repair 2,000 miles of largely defunct railways, build 32 hospitals and 145 health centres, install two electricity distribution networks, construct two hydropower dams and two new airports.
“In return, China has won the rights to five copper and cobalt mines in Congo’s southern minerals belt which boasts some of the world’s richest ore deposits.
“The deal has confirmed Beijing as Congo’s largest foreign investor and extended its dominance over swathes of Africa previously [dominated by] the West.” [xv]
China’s strict policy of non-interference in the political affairs of nations in which it invests, coupled with its reasonable terms of trade and the rapid fulfilment of its obligations have dramatically undermined the power base of the imperialists and their restructuring programmes, not only in Congo, but throughout Africa and much of the third world.
“More than 1,200 miles to the south, beside a corrugated earth road snaking through dense bush, Mambwe Katenta, 45, watched a mechanic trying to fix his battered Toyota pick-up, broken once again by Congo’s atrocious roads.
“‘It is only 30 miles to the city, but we cannot reach there with the things we have to sell: tomatoes, cassava, charcoal,’” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“‘The road is too bad, the trucks are too expensive, and we are facing too many difficulties. It has always been this way, but now we hear that the Chinese will come and fix this.’
“Mr Katenta will not have long to wait. South of his village, on the other side of Congo’s mining capital Lubumbashi, the Chinese are on their way.
“At the unheard-of speed of half-a-mile a day, crews from the Chinese Railway Engineering Company are rebuilding the key road linking Congo’s south to Zambia, the first 60 miles of what will eventually become a 1,000 mile highway to Kisangani, the rainforest capital far to the north on the Congo River. Already, stretches of pristine asphalt have been laid.
“‘Our former rulers made so many contracts but we never saw the colour of that money, we saw nothing being built,’ said Moïse Kitumba, the newly-elected governor of the Katanga, Congo’s richest province.
“‘The Chinese contract is much better because people will see the roads, the railways, the hospitals.’” xv [xv]
Congo in the headlines. Why now?
It is in this climate of imperialism’s loosening grip on the Congo that Rwanda’s EU- and US-sponsored war of occupation, until now fairly comprehensively ignored by the western media, has suddenly hit the headlines.
British ambassador to the UN, John Sawers, at a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York on 31 October 2008, called on Congolese president Joseph Kabila to “talk to rebel Nkunda”.
“The UN Security Council unanimously agreed to send 3,100 more peacekeeping troops to Congo …
“Years of sporadic violence in eastern Congo intensified in August, when fighting heated up between the army and fighters loyal to rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, and at least 250,000 people have been displaced.
“Nkunda says he is protecting Tutsis from Hutus who fled to Congo after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. But critics say he is more interested in power and accuse his forces of committing multiple human rights abuses.” [xvi]
It is a painfully familiar device. Imperialism has become expert in perpetrating its fresh crimes and genocides by invoking the memory of its past crimes and genocides, and claiming the right to intervene – to stop these from ‘ever happening again’.
Such is its justification for supporting the persecution of the Palestinian people by Israel; such was its justification for intervention in Yugoslavia; ‘protecting human rights’ and ‘preventing ethnic cleansing’ have been the slogans under which well over a million Iraqis, too, have been done to death.
Finance capital’s true motives are more prosaic, however. We note in passing that UN complicity and assistance to the ‘rebel’ forces of occupation – who are responsible for the atrocities – is unlikely to be mitigated by the strengthening of their contingent.
The Financial Times comes closer to the essence of the issue, in the following article of 4 November:
“In the days since fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo reignited, the world price of tin has shot up – a reminder of how much there is to fight for under the verdant slopes of the eastern Kivu province where the conflict is playing out.
“Rebels led by commander Laurent Nkunda, whose offensive has scattered hundreds of thousands of people, threatened yesterday to overthrow the government of Joseph Kabila, the Congolese president, if he refused to negotiate.
“Most of Congo’s vast reserves of diamonds, gold and copper are in the south, centre and west of the country, where the government is negotiating with the Chinese a $9bn (€6.9bn, £5.5bn) minerals-for-infrastructure deal. ” [xvii]
Laurent Nkunda, the Butcher of Kisangani
Pains are being taken to portray the ongoing conflict as a civil war, but the reality is quite different.
Laurent Nkunda Batware, a 41-year-old former psychology student originating from North Kivu, started his military career fighting with Kagame’s RPF. [xviii] He subsequently helped form the Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma (RCD-G), a pro-Rwandan force with close personal ties to Kagame, becoming a senior officer. This group has been instrumental in the US-backed Rwandan invasion and looting of the Congo since 1998.
After the assassination of Kabila in 2001, Nkunda was ‘rehabilitated’ (by imperialism) and integrated into the Congolese army, but he subsequently deserted to the forests of Kivu, taking a large body of Congolese troops with him, to continue the US-backed Rwandan occupation, which was evidently more lucrative.
He has been formally indicted for war crimes, including the massacre of more than 160 Congolese soldiers under his command who mutinied in the face of his treasonous activities. They were executed under the nose of Monuc troops, who failed to intervene. Some were bound, literally butchered, weighted down with stones and flung off a Kisangani bridge into the Congo River, earning Nkunda the title ‘the Butcher of Kisangani’. [xx]
If British foreign secretary David Miliband and French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner are suddenly so keen to visit this war criminal (as well as his commanding officer, Kagame) and attempt to organise his negotiation with Kabila, it is due to the militarily weak position of the US-backed Rwandan occupation and their desire to safeguard western multinationals’ looting of the Congo’s wealth.
“General Nkunda has called for a Chinese mining deal with the government to be scrapped, suggesting that he is hungry for his share of the east’s extraordinary natural wealth. China has poured money into Congo in recent years to satisfy its ballooning needs for raw minerals. More worryingly, eastern Congo is one of the few places on earth with uranium mines and was the source of the uranium used in the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There are sound economic and security reasons as well as humanitarian ones to fear the region falling into unsafe [!] hands.” [xxi]
Nkunda’s opposition to Congo’s economic cooperation with China proves his utility to imperialism beyond doubt – in him, they see another Mobutu, if only they can prevent his military defeat and bolster his political prestige enough to somehow install him in power!
To which end, the sudden ‘realisation’ of a humanitarian crisis (with all kinds of charities and NGOs stepping up their ‘charitable’ fund raising via print and broadcast media), is being used to prepare the ground for an EU force to intervene.
“Referring to the Goma peace accord reached in January this year, Kouchner said today: ‘We do not have to redefine the peace protocol ... That has already been done.’
“Under the agreement, which has not been implemented, a ceasefire would be enforced and all armed groups [including the Congolese army?] [in the region would be disarmed.
“The junior foreign minister, Lord Malloch Brown, said today that Britain might need to send troops to the area if talks failed. He said the UK and other European powers could not stand back if the fighting between government and rebel forces erupted again.
“We have certainly got to have it [a British force] as an option which is developed and on the table if we need it.”. [xxii]
The dream Kagame, Nkunda and their imperialist masters pursue is that of balkanising the Congo, perhaps starting with a nominally ‘independent’ buffer state (consisting of the mineral-rich provinces of North and South Kivu) between Congo and Rwanda.
The representatives of finance capital, like an army of termites, have been devouring the Congo from all sides: planning political intrigues within the state and attempting to rig elections; invading to illegally occupy and mine swathes of the country; planting the time-bomb of secession in the new ‘Congolese’ constitution; and, of course, resorting to the most vile acts of state terrorism and bloody murder against both the masses and the most loyal and patriotic leadership of the Congolese people.
Despite Joseph Kabila’s setbacks, his overall aim to maintain the unity and integrity of the nation continues to win him the overwhelming support of the Congolese people. He has found a powerful ally in the People’s Republic of China, but this has aroused the indignant wrath of the imperialist powers, who, despite their current financial setbacks and dependence on Chinese wealth to prop up their banking sector – or rather, precisely because of these setbacks – harbour a venomous hatred of the ‘upstart’ Chinese who would upset their apple cart in Africa.
No-one, the finance capitalists feel, should dare come between them and their right to exploit the territories and peoples they still regard, in the last analysis, as their colonial property.
As Marx noted in his introduction to Volume 1 of Capital, the struggle to alter property relations is taken most seriously by the bourgeoisie and its academic and political spokesmen.
“In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific inquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the materials it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest. The English Established Church, eg, will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income. Now-a-days atheism is culpa levis [a relatively minor sin], as compared with criticism of existing property relations.”
It is the firm wish of the CPGB-ML that ongoing attempts to strangle the independence of the Congo will meet with fierce resistance from the patriotic Congolese forces. We lament the criminal murders of those great patriots Patrice Lumumba and Laurent Kabila, and we wish Joseph Kabila the strength to preserve the Congolese people’s unity and follow their bold example.
For our part, though we are small, we will struggle to oppose ‘our own’ British imperialist regime and prevent it from mobilising the British workers to support intervention in the DRC. In addition to the historical debt we owe the people of Africa, we remember well the immortal words of Marx, that no nation that enslaves another can itself bee free.
Long live the independent and sovereign Democratic Republic of Congo!
v VI Lenin. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. Selected Works; Vol. 5. Lawrence and Wishart. London. p115.
vii The Independent on Sunday. 3 November 1996.
viii The Times. 16 November 1996.
x LALKAR. Mar 01. http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/mar2001/congo.htm
xiii Congolese voters approve new constitution. Landslide vote paves way for presidential, parliamentary elections in March. Associated Press. Jan. 11, 2006 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10811344/
xiv LALKAR. Mar 08. http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/mar2008/congo.php
xvii Financial Times. 4 November 2008
xix Former rebels put Rwanda under spotlight. Financial Times. 11 November 2008.