Category Archives: DRC

Powerful Ugandan response to Kony 2012

An excellent response to Invisible Children by Ugandan blogger Rosebell and very pertinant for her to speak on this International Women’s Day.

The blood that feeds the heart of DRC’s conflict.

Two films from the DRC

“There is a global consensus that exists that says it is OK for nearly six million black people to die in the heart of Africa and for us to be silent”

Blood in the Mobile is an exceptionally well produced documentary which traces the mobile phone [Nokia] to it’s source in the eastern DRC. The clip doesnt do the film justice. The film maker is painstaking in his pursuit to arrive at the Walikili mining camp – a place of violence and exploitation where the miners live in makeshift tents with no amenities, no regulation and are at the mercy of attacks by the ever changing militias and collapsing mines. The cassiterite is mined in deep holes by men and boys and is then transported by foot through dense wet forests for two days before reaching the nearest town. Here the mineral is loaded on to planes which land on the dirt tract that runs through the town. At each point in this perilous journey, the various operating militas collect “taxes”.

All attempts to illicit a response from Nokia which claims to be a “responsible corporation” proof fruitless. Everyday we read new reports on the innovative uses of mobile phones in Africa and elsewhere in the global south – the endless production and consumption of newer models of Nokia, Samsung and iPhones. Mining of cassiterite and other minerals may be just one of the many contributing factors to the war in the DRC but Walikili and other similar camps are central to it’s sustenance.

The second film, “Crisis in Congo” traces Congo’s history through coloniasation and focuses on the role played by the US, Britain and their allies, Uganda and Rwanda who act as proxy protection outfits, have played in the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. Protection of western economic, political and corporate interests, military support of Uganda and Rwanda in the invasion of the Congo and maintenance of successive dictatorships and perpetuation of tyranny against people. One example is a US law [109-456 - sponsored by senator Obama and signed into law in 2006] which “outlines a comprehensive strategy for the Congo to realise justice” but its no surprise that it is yet to be adequately implemented. The law states

that the US Secretary of State has the power to revoke aid to any nation deemed to be destabilising the Congo if she has sufficient evidence that a country is doing so. We have so much evidence on Rwanda and Uganda and we even have a leaked UN report that states all the Secretary of State has to do is read it and say OK now we are going to support. But since 2000 the US has given Rwanda $1 billion. The leaked UN report is calling this government a genocidal government. Why is the US government supporting a genocidal government?”

Congo concerns all of us.

Turning pain to power: City of Joy in Bukavu

Eve Ensler [V-Day founder] and Congolese Activist Christine Schuler Deschryver [director of V-Day Congo] discuss with Amy Goodman, the opening of the City of Joy in Bukavu which will be run by survivors of rape in the eastern Congo. The American Journal of Public Health published a report this month which estimates more than two million women have been raped in the DRC since 2006.

CHRISTINE SCHULER DESCHRYVER: The City of Joy is really like a dream that is coming true, because it was something that was created by the Congolese women. And at the beginning, it was just like a dream. And thanks to V-Day, who was like the wind behind our back, it becomes a reality. And we started receiving the first women like two weeks ago. So we are in the process. And it’s all amazing. I left Congo like two weeks ago. And every time I’m with them on the phone, they have new things. It’s like it really belongs to the Congolese women. So I just told them, “As long as we respect, you know, our budget and the program, just go on.”

Last December in Walikale between 400 and 500 women were raped despite the presence of UN forces. Eve Ensler made a number of points on the failure of the UN forces to protect women: economic and corporate interests and the merging of these with those of governments, both foreign and the DRC; most of all a lack of will and intention to protect women against sexual violence.
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Criminalising homosexuality in the DRC

The DRC parliament is presently debating proposed in the process of discussing legislation which will criminalise homosexuality. There are a number of major difference between the DRC Bill and legislation proposed in for example, Nigeria and Uganda which have proposed similar legislation. First the DRC does not presently have any laws on homosexuality and secondly this Bill includes a clause criminalising zooophilia which is directly associated with homosexuality “.

[English translation] The moral rules tell us that homosexuality (lesbianism) is a zoophilia termed moral depravity abomination, references to the Bible and other writings. Given the requirements to preserve our society of this scourge and promote destructive Congolese culture on the one hand, and to overcome the repressive system Congolese become incomplete and inadequate for the evolution and cultural mix in planetary scale on the other.

The Bill is framed in the usual language that homosexuality is “unAfrican” against ‘our’ culture, ‘threat’ to family and religious preservation. In other areas the Bill is similar in that it also aims to criminalise

any activities that directly or indirectly aim to promoting the rights LGBTI persons, therefore, in accordance with section 174h3 of the Bill, “all publications, posters, pamphlets, (or) films highlighting or likely to arouse or encourage sexual practices against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC (Section 174h3)” and “all associations that promote or defend sexual relations against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC.”

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Sange

We thought collecting black gold would make us truly free

You do not blame a woman whose belly has been empty for fifty years

If she scoops the sand onto which the gari has spilled

Hoping to sift through later

So as soon as we saw the tanker tipping over

Agonizing

Slow

Like a tortoise that had fallen on its already cracked back

Tyres spinning desperately in the air

We ran to grab our buckets rusted to a brown that was indistinguishable from the earth that barely sustained and the huts that no longer sheltered

Scoop scoop black gold that nourishes

Thick oil gurgled like blood in the throat of a man dying bad death

Spreading out a slow persistent stain that no funeral rites would wash away from our land

But to our half-starved minds delirious with third-world hunger–the kind that makes foreigners pledge ninety cents a week to send a naked child to school–the gurgling was A song

Into whose discordant melody we fused words of hope:

School fees for my children

White man is dead1for my wife

Medicine for old and food for babies

Black gold black gold

Happy day this is true independence
Scald scald black gold ignites

Split-second the song is drowned a horrible death world cup screens melted shapeless plastic flash and boom boom flash it is civil war all over again murder by first degree burns no more rust buckets no hope for white man is dead no one to cry foul oil rushes like enraged bulls flaming river engulfs sweeps into an eternal sea sang qui coule sanguine though none will hunger or thirst yet shall there be weeping no gnashing for no teeth remain

No

No

No

Black gold kills black death

The persistent stain soils my land like a baby neglected in a pit latrine thick liquid stain in which floats the solid black excrement of bodies

Charred beyond recognition

No our independence is burnt out

Charred beyond recognition

Like the profit they said black gold would bring…

Kimpa Vita – a profile of courage

Today is the anniversary of the death of Kimpa Vita who together with her baby (Kembo Dianzenza va Kintete) and her boyfriend, were burned to death on July 2nd 1706 by the Catholic church. I only just found out about Kimpa Vita — there is so much of our African and Diaspora history that is unknown to the majority of African people. Who was Kimpa Vita? Information is scarce but Kimpa Vita is one of a long lines of courageous politicised Queens of the Kongo (parts of present day Angola and Congo) who fought against slavery and colonialists as early as the 15century. Women such as Ndona Nzinga, Ndona Mafuta and Ndona Dondwa. The importance of Kimpa Vita is that she fought against slavery and exposed the racism and misogyny of the Catholic church and also incorporated traditional religions with Christianity.

Beatrice Kimpa Vita was born in 1684 in the kingdom of Kongo. In 1704, at the age of 20 years, she started her non-violent mission of the liberation and the restoration of the kingdom, destroyed by the Portuguese. She fought all the forms of slavery, from of the local practices as well that linked to the European domination; she adapted the Christianity to the African realities, teaching people that there are also Blacks saints in the paradise, contradicting the catholic priests who taught that there should ONLY be WHITE SAINTS; she led thousands of people to rebuild and to repopulate Mbanza Kongo, the capital, whereas the King Pedro IV, imposed by the catholic church, had taken refuge in the mountains. That is a rare phenomenon, in a social context where the women were supposed being submissive to the men.

Today she is remembered in “Kanda commune, northern Zaire Province” of Angola

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I would really be interested in finding out more about these African Queens so if any one knows anything please do leave a comment

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Breaking silences

Amanda Mutamba Muhunde’s poem is dedicated to raising awareness of survivors of rape in conflict zones in parts of Africa and breaking the silence.

Amanda pulls no punches in raising your conscious a notch or two as she lyrically details a woman’s account of her own rape, and her unfulfilled wish to no longer breath after the incident. Amanda skillfully walks you through the victim’s realization that even at the worst of it, there is purpose in the victim still having a voice and daring anyone who will listen to spread her story of pain, struggle and survival.

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Grand theft Congo – who are the plunderers?

Most of us probably havent even heard of cassiterite – the mineral used in electronics especially laptops.  There was a time when laptops used to be hugely expensive. Now you can pick up one for a couple of hundred pounds.  I dont know whether there is a relationship between the cheap price of laptops and the slave mining of cassiterite but it is quite possible.

At a remote mine in central DRC, workers with torches and pick axes hack at the ruddy earth. They are mining cassiterite, a mineral vital in the production of laptops and mobile phones. But dispersed among the miners are Congolese Government troops — in plain clothes for the camera — literally forcing most workers to work at gunpoint. ‘The soldiers always steal everything. They even come to shoot people down the mineshafts,’ complains Regina Maponda. Western greed for cassiterite is fuelling the boom — at an airfield near the mine, soldiers jealously guard their loot as it makes it way to Japan and the West. Conflict mining is a curse, and it is difficult to see what the G8 leaders can do. [Ota Benga]

There is much the G8 can do where mining feeds conflict.  Oil bunkering in the Niger Delta is made much easier through the low intensity war taking place between militants and the Nigerian army.  Both are involved as well as politicians – there are huge amounts of money to be made.  Like with diamond mining in Angola , copper and cassiterite in  the DRC, oil from the Niger Delta are all traded on the London and New York stock exchange.   Buyers, sellers always claim they know nothing about the conditions of the mining but that cannot be true. Some named multinationals involved in the trade of  mineral  in the DRC are Anglo-Gold Ashanti [financial support to armed groups in exhange for concessions] Belgian company Sogem and the UK’s Afrimex though not named in human rights violations, its hard to imagine they dont know the conditions  in which the mining takes place since they,  Afrimex,  buys the cassiterite in it’s raw form.      Across the border in Rwanda in the town of Gisenyi there is a cassiterite smelting plant owned by Metal Processing Association which is owned by South Africans.

This comment on a video produced by Journeyman speaks to what the G8 could do if there was a will – after all the minerals end up being shipped,  traded and made into electronics by G8 countries.

Another white man sailing up the wrong river. Instead of sailing up the Congo, he should be sailing up the Thames, which is where Coltan is traded – at the London Metals Exchange. And who owns these concessions? Who is the plunderer? HOW does coltan end up in London? Start acting like a journalist and do your job for a change.

Here’s how the supply chain works.

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Rwanda, DRC and Nkunda

Friends of Congo provide some context into complex situation between the Congo and Rwanda and the arrest of Laurent Nkunda.

Is Laurent Nkunda’s arrest a positive development?

We have reasons to doubt that Laurent Nkunda has been arrested. Rwandan Maj. Jill Rutaremara said that Nkunda was in Rwanda but “not in jail.” If Nkunda has in fact been arrested it would be a positive development but not a massive change as some analysts would like you to believe. A true marker of the veracity of Rwanda’s claims of arresting Nkunda will be the extradition of Nkunda to the Congo where he committed the crimes against the Congolese people. If Nkunda is not extradited to Congo in short order then that will be a clear sign that this is part of the shell game that Rwanda has been playing for the past 12 years, a period during which they replaced one proxy leader with another while they continued to occupy Eastern Congo.


What role are great powers playing in what is unfolding in the Congo?

They facilitate the ascension to power of those who demonstrate a proclivity for killing their fellow Africans. Once these feckless leaders are in power and predictably incapable of governing, western diplomats condescendingly intervene on the premise that those they have assisted in acquiring power either through elections or otherwise cannot in fact justly govern. This narrative is buttressed by superficial media coverage of African society, intellectuals for hire by Western powers and the humanitarian industry….Continue reading.

Ignoring African Wars

For many of us the hourly news reports showing the horrific slaughter and devastation of the Israeli attack on Gaza is still very much fresh in our minds. Daily coverage on TV, radio and news media with endless analysis, pundits as well as live reports. At some point in the war I remember thinking how fickle is the news media as by the end of the 3rd week, reports had dwindled to a few hours a day, a few articles a day from a height of almost continuous cover in the early days. I began to think about the amount of time devoted to these and other Middle Eastern wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan compared to the coverage of wars in Africa such as the DRC, Somalia and Darfur. I came across a site called “Stealth Conflicts” which is based on the book of the same name by Virgil Hawkins. Stealth conflicts are those conflicts which remain marginal in relation to the overall agenda of the various industrial complexes that constitute global capital — the media, academia, NGOs, policy makers and so on.

Perception defines our reality. Where access to information that may enhance our perception is limited, the reality we see becomes distorted and warped. Our view of the state of armed conflict in the world today is one of the most unfortunate victims of such distortion. In spite of supposedly unprecedented access to information, the information presented to us on conflicts occurring throughout the world is so skewed that the reality is almost unrecognisable..

This is particularly true of the most conflict-torn region of the world — Africa, which has produced more than 90 percent of the conflict-related deaths since the end of the Cold War. Despite the scale of the human suffering, it seems that Western-centric consciousness (and outrage) ends at the Suez Canal.

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From Africa to Haiti to Gaza: Fidelity to humanity

Jacques Depelchin, peace activist and Executive Director of the Ota Benga Alliance For Peace, Healing and Dignity based in the DRC, has written a poem “From Africa to Haiti to Gaza: Fidelity to humanity”. The poem makes the connection between historical and contemporary struggles for liberation and justice from Africa to the Americas, to the Caribbean and to Palestine.

the consequences of
of Relentlessly violating humanity
Now Palestinians, then Africans centuries ago
Today displaced, refugees, best fodder
For humanitarian missions
The modernized version of abolitionists
On a mission which has not changed:
Violate humanity,
Eradicate it if too vocal
But Sabra, Shatila can still be heard

He concludes with a challenge to give name to the truth of what has and what is now taking place.

Palestinians, Africans, in the same boat
When the unending story of negating humanity started
Like Africans they are being processed and branded
Fit to be fodder for humanitarian crisis because what is being done
Must not be called
A Crime Against Humanity

For fear of trespassing which taboo?

No one dares to call the slaughter of civilians
In Gaza by its proper name
A Crime Against Humanity

For fear of trespassing which taboo?

From the times of the Arawaks
Violating, torturing, liquidating
Humanity with impunity
Has led to greater and greater
Crimes against humanity
Franchised differently
Preparing the biggest holocaust
Humanity has ever known and,
When that unfolds, as before,
We shall hear the usual
Shameful lame lie
‘We did not know’.


Read this exceptional poem in full here.

January

January

Beyond Rape in the Congo

I read this story two weeks – an horrific account of the most hideous rapes by women survivors in the DRC. It’s a rewind of what took place in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Congo rape testimonies

“They forced my son to have sex with me, and when he’d finished they killed him. Then they raped me in front of my husband and then they killed him too. Then they took away my three daughters.” She hasn’t heard of the three girls, 13, 14 and 17, since. A small woman, she speaks softly and without visible emotion, but as she describes being left naked while her house burned, she raises a hand to cover her face.

“I was on my way to market with some of the other women when I stopped off to pee,” one woman told Chishugi. “I was carrying wood and I was taken by the rebels. Five of them raped me. I still have pain in my legs because they were so violent. Afterwards they said, ‘You must not walk alone any more.’ I have two children born from the rebels.”

Violence is like a vampire – it feeds off blood and drugs to the point where all sense of reality, humanity, feeling disappears. It becomes like a drug additional whereby the actors are blind to their actions feeding only off the violence like starving vultures. But we must hear these stories because there are a hell of a lot of people who need to be held to account. The rapists as vile as they are do not act in a vacuum – and those who are not instantly visible in these atrocities must also be called out.

They came out of the forest. Men with guns appearing barely human to the frail, ageing woman who months later recounted her ordeal, bent double after surgery to save her womb.

“They didn’t look like men. Their skin was covered in cuts. Their clothes were completely torn. They became someone else, not humans,” she said at a hospital in the often fought-over town of Rutshuru in eastern Congo.

But the woman still recognised the men who descended on her village as members of the Mai Mai ethnic militia. Their preference for wearing animal skins and amulets, popular for their supposed magical powers of protection, distinguished them from the government soldiers, foreign rebels and other armed gangs who have also contributed to the wholesale rape of hundreds of thousands of women and girls over more than a decade of conflict.

It took months for the 58-year-old woman from Kindu to reach Rutshuru hospital for treatment and to tell her story. The Mai Mai shot her husband when he didn’t have any money to hand over. When her children screamed they shot them too. Then the woman was raped by five men. One of her attackers nearly destroyed her womb by thrusting his gun into it. She fled her village. As she travelled to Rutshuru she was raped again, this time by Rwandan Hutu extremists who fled to Congo after leading the genocide in their own country………………....Continued

Yesterday I was listening to a phone in on Zimbabwe – listening to a misguided so called Pan Africanist apologist for Mugabe muttering about white rule, land rights and western imperialism – all true but no, Mugabe you are not excused!

Conflict and Colonialism

The present conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) highlights the role of multinational and Western mining interests in helping to fuel conflict and inflict human rights violations in other African countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea. But the scramble for Africa’s rich resource base is leading not only to conflict but, as a recent article on Tanzanian mining shows, also to a push towards re-colonization:

‘Multinational mining activities are introducing another era of colonialism in Tanzania as they hold major decisive positions on the use of prime land areas, and profit greatly from the mining of valuable mineral resources. In the recent past, Tanzanians have raised concerns on how the multinational mining companies plunder the natural resources at the expense of the local people. Because of the prevalent high rates of this pillaging of the national stock of natural resources, the citizenry have woken with an uproar to question the government’s stance on ensuring land security for its people, and benefits from their resources.’

As in Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta region, so local communities in Tanzania are unable to benefit from the natural resources found on their lands and in their seas – either in terms of development or compensation. In 2007 President Kikwete set up the Bomani Commission to investigate the ‘the accusations of “theft” of natural resources and gross human rights violations’. The report found that the Tanzanian Government had been ‘manipulated’ by the transnationals in such a way as to leave citizens ‘in the merciless hands of the mining companies’. The Government was found to be complicit in the exploitation of its own people.

Two of the major mining companies operating in Tanzania are Canadian: Barrick and Tanzania Royalty Exploration Corporation. Together they control over 50 per cent of Tanzania’s gold projects. A recent special issue by Pambazuka News and Africa Filesexposes some of the ‘murkier’ aspects of Canadian mining corporations. Though relatively new to mining in Africa, Canada has now become the ‘superpower’ of mining on the continent, with interests in an astounding 35 countries worth some $14.7 billion in 2007.

The huge Canadian presence in African mining concerns is not in itself a problem. The problem lies in the way the mining companies operate. According to Alain Denault, author of Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, Canadian mining firms operating in Africa are involved in levels of abuse worse than those perpetrated by the former colonial empires. In the early 1990s, just after the World Bank-inspired privatization wave, Canadian firms were profiting from the Mobutu regime in the DRC. Shortly after, Laurent Kabila’s rebellion erupted. Within a few weeks, the conflict was full-blown. The mining firms – including the Canadians – moved over to the winning side. Mining contracts signed by Kabila were soon distributed, enabling Kabila to receive the financial means to support his war effort and de facto international economic legitimacy, even before the fall of the Mobutu regime. For Canadian companies like Banro Corporation or Barrick Gold, the regime didn’t matter, so long as business remained lucrative.

As long as these kind of colonialist practices and human rights violations are allowed to continue – through the collusion of the multinationals themselves, and Western governments and corrupt African leaders turning a blind eye – it is going to be near impossible for countries such as the DRC and Angola to find the peace the people so much desire.

Thoughts on DRC confict

Trying to understand and give some context to the renewal of conflict in the DRC is extremely difficult. I recently spoke briefly with Dieudonné Wedi who is a DRC national and a human rights defender who has written on the violence perpetrated on women and children, for his thoughts on the present crisis.

SE: What is your thoughts on the origins of the conflict?

DW: When in 1996, the Rwandese president Paul Kangame backed the rebellion led by the Laurent Desire Kabila who latter overthrew Mobutu one of the former Congolese president and become president, the reason was that Rwanda was backing Laurent desire Kabila in order to eradicate the presence of those responsible of genocide in 1994 in Rwanda, but later on it was shown that Rwanda was looting Congolese natural resources.

Indeed, Rwanda with RCD a rebellion backed by Rwanda occupied the Eastern DRC for three years where those responsible of genocide are based but they could not eradicate them because they (Rwanda and RCD) were more busy looting natural resource than fighting those criminal. Thus the real origin of the conflict is the need of access and exploitation of the mineral resource and the land occupation.

SE: Do you think the mining multinationals have any contribution to the conflict

DW: Yes, indeed, many reports released by ONGs and UN panel have confirmed the involvement of multinational and mining,

SE: What are your thoughts on the UN – the reports we get is that they are not doing enough by far:

DW: The current problem of the UN peacekeeper is the mandate. Instead of being a peacemaker force, the current is a peacekeeper. Those who are supposed to make peace in DRC case are those who are fighting and none of them are willing any peace. Indeed, peace in Eastern seems not to be a common concern. The conflict allows the looting of Congolese natural resource, traffic of weapon and other illegal practice through which multinational, arm groups, neighbouring countries as well as individual are earning a lot of money. Thus, instead of waiting for those involved in conflict to make peace the better way will be for international community to oppose peace because the main objective of those who perpetuate conflict in Eastern DRC is to keep this area in state of a no man land..

SE: You have written many times child soldiers and violence such as rape against women. Are these kind of violence still taking place in the present conflict?

DW: Unfortunately once again sexual violence remains a weapon in conflict in eastern DRC. The impunity is one of reason encouraging the practice ; The recruitment of child soldier is one of the worse thing happening in conflict in DRC. But we have to distinguish two kinds of recruitment of child soldier.

Those who abduct children as soldier and those who recruit them through promise of money and other advantage they can get by being soldier. But all those recruitments have to be condemned and those responsible prosecuted.

SE: Do you think this is a problem from the Tutsi fighting the Hutu in DRC or more complex

DW: The problem is more complex than Tutsi fighting Hutu because the real reason of conflict is the looting of natural resource of DRC and the research to occupy the land .The current rebellion is backed by Rwanda which is interested by land and natural resource of DRC. Of course there are those who committed genocide in Rwanda but their presence becomes a pretext for Rwanda to explain his presence in DRC because the same Rwanda and the previous rebellion backed by Rwanda the RCD had occupied the eastern DRC for three years where are based those responsible of genocide without ending their presence.

In my opinion, Nkunda is just playing a role: To create and maintain a state of conflict in Eastern DRC in order to allow Rwanda to loot and try to gain a piece of land which will be one day claimed like Kosovo was. The RCD, the previous rebellion played the some role.

Dieudonné Wedi is an expert in the transitional justice field. He is research and publishing peace building, conflict resolution, reconciliation and implementation of democracy.

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Personal story from the DRC

Park Ranger, Benjamin Mujinya from the Virunga National Park recounts how the rebels killed his father.

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Ushahidi mapping DRC confict

“Half-baked software” or not Ushahidi makes a timely deployment to map the conflict in the DRC

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The mobile number to send SMS reports to is +243992592111.

For more on the “fight for DRC resources” see this piece by Mandisi Majavu

It is reported that the cutback on tin production, which has forced tin buyers to rely on the metal from the DRC, is likely to remain in effect until the rest of the year. According to Reuters, the renewed fighting in the DRC has had a ‘disproportionately large effect on tin prices as international buyers increasing rely on the relatively small producer’ – the DRC as major producer Indonesia cuts output. “Benchmark tin prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) closed at $15,225 per tonne on Wednesday, up 31 percent since Oct. 27, the day after heavily-armed rebel troops began marching toward major eastern city and tin trading centre Goma” says Reuters.

AFP reports that what prevented Laurent Nkunda and his men from completely taking over Goma was the UN peacekeeping forces, which used helicopter gunships to stall the rebel advance. The idea of Laurent Nkunda capturing the city of Goma makes global capitalists anxious to say the least Continued………………. .

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DRC: people not profit

Today’s BBC reports rapes and killings by rebels and DRC forces as 250,000 people are displaced hiding in the bush or simply trekking along roads to nowhere. One only has to listen to stories by asylum seekers and refugees in the UK to know what horrors women, children and men are faced with. Most of the reports in the media explain the conflict in terms of rebels and Congolese forces, Tutsis, Hutus – yet more African tribal warfare and unspeakable acts of violence. These simplistic explanations are easy and do not require much thought just use the copy from a few years ago or from some other conflict.

Sidebar
I listened to a report from the DRC on photographer Rankin who has documented life in the DRC with his exhibition of people. Asked why, he responds that people don’t want to hear about doom and gloom so happy photos instead. Well surprise surprise there are real people in the DRC – they laugh, love, fight, have babies, go to work, work the farms, fish, go to school – that is the reality as much as the reality is that right now and for the last 20 years hundreds of thousands have lived in an almost constant state of terror. We don’t need happy photos to know people live!

Back to the conflict. Take this Q&A from the BBC site

What is the conflict about?

For years fighting in DR Congo has been fuelled the country’s vast mineral wealth.

DR Congo is about the size of western Europe, but with no road or rail links from one side of the country to the other. That makes it easy for all sides in a conflict to take advantage of any anarchy and plunder natural resources.

And

Why has the fighting broken out again?

It is not entirely clear.

But Gen Nkunda has always said he is fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

The Congolese government has often promised to stop the Hutu forces from using its territory, but has not done so.

But the truth is far more complex and much deeper than these cheap explanations. Johann Harris provides some real depth and home truths. We are all culpable in the conflict and the West’s uabated greed and desire for the many mineral resources in the Eastern Congo. Describing those involved as the “armies of business” whose aim it is to “seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling”. The BBC and other media present what Harris calls the “official story” quoted above, one that conveniently ignores Western complicity and the true story, one which has been around for 200years.
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Kids behind Playstation 2

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“Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms,”

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Links: Playstation Wars

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Limited campaign against sexual violence

Two important events from the DRC – The one month campaign against sexual violence in the DRC took place between March 17-April 17th and coincided with a new law to ending the crimininalisation of children by accusing them of witchcraft. The campaign was funded by the UN Population Fund. However the question is in a country where tens of thousands of women have been raped and mutilated why did this campaign end after just one month. What happens now? The rapists remain free, and no one has been called to account for their crimes. Jacques Depelchin of the Otabenga Alliance raises two important questions –

Is it too harsh to ask oneself whether the campaign stopped after one month because that is what had been budgeted by the UN and other supporting NGOs, and agencies? Could it be that in a country like the DRC, moral and ethical values have been so badly eroded that nothing can be done unless one is paid for it–including getting rid of crimes like sexual violence against women and children,? The dominant mindset is not just one that is standing above us. It has taken root within ourselves. It has taken root within the minds of those who are the primary victims of its dominance.

If sexual violence were to be considered, like slavery, as a crime against humanity, would one be so nonchalant toward it? From 1791 through 1804, the Africans who had been enslaved in Haiti got rid of slavery. They did not achieve this through one month campaigns and fundraising exercises. They had no support from outside, no human rights organization

Then, the mindset of the enslavers accepted as normal that Africans were meant to be slaves. Step by step, over centuries, the mindset of the enslavers has enslaved parts of humanity to the notion that women and children are fair game for the abusive sexual behavior and pleasure of men.

The points raised by Jacques are equally applicable to the sexual violence and torture against women in South Africa of whom lesbians are a specific target. The stigma of rape is not on the rapist but on the women who are raped and this is the same mindset whether in the DRC, South Africa, the Niger Delta, Haiti or here in the UK. The UN has the resources to the maintain a continual campaign against sexual violence in the DRC as well as the resources to bring justice to the thousands of women survivors of some of the most horrific acts of sexual violence – Funding a one month campaign is pathetic and in fact could very well cause more harm against women who have come forth and spoken out about the crimes commited against them. What happens to them when the UN is gone and the campaign ended – the rapists remain free.

The second event is the continued assassination threat against Professor Wamba dia Wamba and Deputy Kiakwama of the Otabenga Alliance who has been actively protesting the continued brutality by the government of the DRC against the people of the “Bas-Congo (Lower Congo)–especially toward members of the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK), a “movement for the cultural and spiritual emancipation of the Congo people” For more information on this see the Otabenga Alliance website.

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