A World Playground: Congolese
People Sacrificed for International Games and Profits
by Roxanne Stasyszyn
She wore a light blue headscarf, like
most of the women at this camp for internally displaced people
(IDPs). They were given out to the Congolese people, along with
baseball caps for the men, during the presidential elections of
2006. On it is pictures of president Kabila and the slogan: bonne
gouvernance-"good governance"- in French.
Yet all Venansia Habimana, a displaced
woman in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), had to say was that she wished her government would
create peace. She said it was promised to them during that campaign,
and she wanted to return to her home.
"To be here is to miss what you do,
but we all need to be safe," Habimana said to a single white
journalist in a square wood frame no larger than a port-a-potty,
covered with blue and white United Nations tarps. Habimana spoke
to the journalist in 2007, before the recent wave of fighting
forced additional hundreds of thousands of people to flee.
Homeless and income-less, people at the
camps lived uncomfortably. There was little space, diets were
unbalanced, and there was no way to work or occupy them each day.
IDPs are unwelcome in surrounding communities where they try to
rebuild a life. They are ostracized for fear they will take the
few jobs available and, most depressing to them, they are forced
to pay extortionate fees to bury friends and family that die at
Given the heightened hostilities-and the
permanent state of war that has devastated millions of Congolese
lives over the past two years alone-Habimana is probably now listed
among the unnamed and soon-to-be-forgotten dead.
Safari Majune was an IDP representative
elected by the others. He said that while people longed to return
to their own land, the biggest problem was that there is not enough
food for everyone at the camp. Famine and malnutrition, coupled
with malaria and tuberculosis, means high death rates. More than
1000 people have daily died in Eastern Congo for over a decade
now and there have been over 1,000,000 IDPs in the North Kivu
region alone, for years.
Majune is one of many who, in 2007, had
been at the IDP camp for over a year, and another human being
likely to become a meaningless statistic in the long, bloody war
This camp was in Rutshuru, just outside
the "safety zone" designated by the United Nations Observers
Mission in Congo (MONUC). There were over 4,250 children, men
and women at the one camp in 2007. They lived in banana leaf domes
that look like small, brown, camping tents.
With IDPs crowded and scratching at the
UN tarps to see the white "mazungu," hoping to talk
to her or to get some food or money, Habimana told her story.
It is an all too familiar story for IDP women all over Eastern
Congo. A week earlier she had been walking on foot to her village
near the border of Uganda, about 24 kilometers (11 miles) away.
"I have been looking for food and
I met some soldiers and they took me," she said. "They
were four, but only two raped me."
Habimana claimed her attackers were government
troops, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo,
called FARDC. After some time, she said, she regained enough strength
and walked to the road where people found her and helped her back
to the camp. Once she arrived, others helped her find enough money
to pay for a motorcycle taxi to the hospital. There they gave
her medication and instructions to return once the medication
was done to test for infections, like HIV/AIDS. She was still
taking the medication when she spoke and said she worried that
the soldiers who raped her were infected.
The camp in Rutshuru was one of three
in a 15 km radius according to Bruno Matsundo, director of the
non-profit Centre of Intervention, Social Promotion and Partner
Participation (CIPSOPA), a non-government organization (NGO) that
was coordinating the three camps.
Everyone in the Rutshuru area and in the
main border town with Rwanda, called Goma, speaks about the rights
to home, land and-more than anything-a stable country to live
Latest reports say the insecurity has
reached unproportional heights. Most of the villagers and IDPs
from this Rutshuru region have recently flooded into Goma-walking
on foot, carrying what they can. Meanwhile the former "safety
zone" demarcated by MONUC has disintegrated.
The Indian UN forces within Goma are doing
little to prevent murders and pillages now happening in the city.
Rwandan rebel rockets destroyed two MONUC armored vehicles on
October 26, wounding several peacekeepers. There have been talks
of MONUC abandoning the region completely and a recently appointed
MONUC commander- Lieutenant General Vicente Diaz de Villegas y
Herreria of Spain-resigned after only three weeks of duty.
Hell on Earth
For people not already living there, Eastern
Congo is a place almost unreachable and, according to many, even
less desirable to arrive in. Most international news reporters
describe Goma as "Hell on earth."
The people who do reach Goma tend to fit
into four main categories.
First, there are rich businesspersons
and the aid organization types who circulate to and from Europe
and America, back and forth between the big business offices in
capital cities like Kinshasa (DRC), Nairobi (Kenya), Kampala (Uganda)
and Kigali (Rwanda). The businesspersons are involved in minerals,
aviation, timber, petroleum, weaponry and other international
Then there are the poor, displaced people
who walk the dangerous and dense forests from Uganda, Burundi
or Rwanda, fleeing one unsafe and impoverished situation for another.
Third come the passport-stamp seeking
Western tourists that brag at cafes and Traveler's Lodges in Kigali
and Kampala about how they crossed the border and spent an afternoon
in the "Heart of Darkness."
Last are the journalists and human rights
activists who chat with local people and try to find the most
bloated belly for a photo opportunity.
Goma is the eastern "capital"
of the DRC and is a drastic change from Rwanda's border resort
town, Gisenyi. After the volcanic eruption in 2002 the city is
black and dirty, and everywhere is covered in volcanic rock-except
for the big hotels, restaurants and expatriate houses on the shore
of Lake Kivu. Most buildings in town were incinerated. Some were
salvaged but the original second floor is now the first, sitting
on the black charred-rock ground where hot lava flowed through
Goma is in the province of North Kivu
and is highly patrolled by MONUC forces in Armoured Personnel
Carriers (APCs) and jeeps mounted with machine-guns. An old colonial
building stands in the centre of town as MONUC's hospital. Walking
past the hospital is a part of daily life for most people in the
town. They see the high walls, laced with barbed wire and sand
bag lookouts on top of each corner. A gun barrel pokes out from
the stacks of sandbags and a camouflage hat pokes out from above;
only MONUC personnel are allowed in.
United Nations tanks patrol Goma today
due to the recent military thrust where Rwandan-backed rebels
threatened to take the city. The locals are unhappy with the United
Nations forces-and aware of the minimal protection offered by
the MONUC peacekeepers-and have repeatedly protested by hurling
rocks at APCs and secure UN compounds.
Because of geography and economics, the
eastern border provinces of North Kivu, Orientale and South Kivu
have direct influence over all the DRC. They are full of militia,
minerals, AID workers and wildlife conservation professionals,
and starving refugees.
Whomever you ask, the main problem for
the DRC is the same: too many influences from too many exterior
countries. They all have big guns and little care for the people
trying to live there. While all agree on the problem, everyone
blames someone else and no one takes responsibility. The highly
paid foreign professionals won't say anything on the record, but
they all admit to the obvious contradictions.
The main players are Rwanda, Uganda, MONUC
and the United Nations (with countless international partners),
and North American and European humanitarian organizations. But
it isn't as simple as pointing to one of these. They are all intertwined
with the ethnically fueled militia groups and big business from
the USA, Europe and China.
Vital Katembo is a Congolese socialite
and conservation professional who lived for years in Goma and
has worked for the United Nations Development Program and, until
recently, for the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of
Nature (ICCN). Katembo knows whom you need to know if you want
to push through the constant conspiracy mill, and, most importantly,
if you want to keep yourself alive. He points to Rwanda and humanitarian
aid organizations for the continuing strife of the DRC, especially
in the mineral-rich east.
"I have seen massive humanitarian
interventions. I will not say that they have done much or are
doing much. It is difficult to define who is deciding their agenda,"
Katembo argues. Katembo has seen many of the biggest humanitarian,
human rights and relief groups come and go from the DRC, and the
former Zaire, through many political transitions, always working
with each new man in power.
He points out that many organizations
have been here over 15 years now, and he questions their efficiency,
if nothing else, asking how they can still be dealing with an
emergency. For him, the reasoning seems pure logic, "having
the chaos also allows them to have the jobs, and they [humanitarian
aid organizations] will do whatever they can to keep it going.
They are the masters of the chaos. I have never seen an assessment
of what is achieved," he summarizes.
Vital Katembo offered this insight in
Goma in 2007 but soon afterwards he was fired from ICCN, threatened,
forced to run for his life and go into hiding after openly denouncing
international humanitarian organizations operating in Eastern
Humanitarian aid in the eastern Congo
provinces is an octopus whose tentacles reach far and wide. The
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
serves to "mobilize and coordinate effective and principled
humanitarian action in partnership with national and international
actors." This is according to their mission statement, which
hangs opposite a wall of cubbyhole mailboxes in the front office
Nestor Yombo-Djema, Senior Liaison Officer
with OCHA, explained that OCHA coordinates 126 organizations,
including 10 United Nations agencies and 50 international NGOs,
and scores of donor, state and national NGOs. OCHA also works
with Congolese governmental officials and donors.
Even with all of this AID infrastructure,
poverty, malnutrition and human rights abuses run rampant-not
to mention the permanent state of war and millions of internally
displaced people, half of which are in North Kivu, according to
OCHA's 2007 Humanitarian Action Plan. And that was produced before
the waves of fighting that displaced an additional 143,000 people
in October 2007, and the additional hundreds of thousands displaced
By mid-October 2007, some 500,000 to 1.2
million people were internally displaced in Eastern Congo; with
33,000 newly displaced Congolese people fleeing North Kivu on
October 25. Ugandan military had forcibly occupied parts of Orientale
Province, while a militia highly suspected of being supported
by Rwanda was fighting FARDC troops in North Kivu. On October
25 last year, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement
of "deep concern" citing "surging sexual violence
and a hike in the number of civilians uprooted due to fighting."
One year and hundreds of thousands of
dead people later-things have only gotten worse.
The 2007 OCHA budget, alone, was $US 686,591,107,
"roughly the same level as in 2006," with an additional
$40,000,000 infusion announced by MONUC in October 2007. The final
2008 budget for the World Food Program in DRC was $426,878,043,
with 56% of all food resources designated for North Kivu.
Kisangani is a town just north west of
Goma in the province of Orientale. It is where Jean Dupont (name
changed to protect his career as an international consultant)
worked from 2003 to 2005. For 11 months of that time, he worked
for Chemonics International Inc, an American company that helps
donors define and implement programs; the biggest Chemonics client,
when he was with them, was USAID.
Dupont talks about his experience with
Chemonics as a reality check to what humanitarian work really
is. "Before going, you think: people give $100 and that one
hundred dollars goes to someone, somewhere, to make them happy.
And that's not the way it happens."
Dupont sheds some light on why so many
humanitarian organizations in DRC-and it is the same in most of
Africa-develop nothing much more than inefficiency, waste and
a small profit.
He sympathizes with the fact that Africa
may be poor, but it is not cheap. Workers and companies expect
to be paid well if they are to perform well. The constant reality
of people-local and expatriate-putting money in their own pockets
is also an element.
But in many situations, where money isn't
a heavy constraint, like with the wealthy USAID, the biggest difficulty
is ineffective and inappropriate programming.
Humanitarian work has put itself in a
trap, Dupont explains. "We were forced to do crappy projects
to show we were spending money," he says. Spending money
to get more money, funding allocations in general, and underlying
politics are the problems Dupont experienced and witnessed with
the humanitarian sector in the DRC.
He mentions one large project with USAID
in October of 2004. The idea was to rehabilitate some student
housing in Kisangani and it was assigned by USAID after student
uprisings and politically motivated protests. It was one political
party using students to pressure another, as Dupont puts it. He
says, building decent housing for the students was USAID's way
of intervening in political actions.
"My colleagues and I were trying
to point outit wasn't the best wayto buy students," Dupont
recounts. "What USAID proposed was not good but we had to
say yes, because it is their money in the end."
The plans for construction ran as proposed.
Dupont still thinks about why the students would agree to be instruments
of the party, but the answer to questions like these are never
that uplifting. "If I only knew, it would have been possible
to do something about it," he exhales. That would be true
"Still, there is some good stuff,"
Dupont attempts to reassure. "It's not all bad."
He mentions a railway project he worked
on with USAID and many other organizations, including the UN,
in 2004. Dupont explains it was a fabulous local project to rehabilitate
137 kms of railway and infrastructure through the jungle between
two major cities.
Dupont says that when the international
organizations got involved, people who had been working without
pay for many years were happy to be rebuilding transportation
and taking home a salary.
"People were really working to develop
something," but Dupont's enthusiasm stays curt when admitting
the project was still very political. He recounts how the governor
of the area and the Belgian Ambassador made a ceremonious launch
of the new railway; days later the real participants cut the ribbon
without a camera crew.
The railway rehabilitation was one of
26 projects Dupont did with Chemonics and was part of very few
that he felt okay about doing. For the most part he says, "the
projects were not what I want to do as a humanitarian professional."
The President of the North Kivu Civil
Society, Thomas d'Aquin Muiti, laughed when recounting a list
of international initiatives that were inefficient, to say the
"There are NGOs that come here with
preconceived projects that don't meet the problems here. One NGO
came and built houses for pygmies and the pygmies would not enter
the houses. They slept against the walls outside," chuckles
Muiti. "They [NGOs] bring bicycles and they [Congolese] sell
them straight away because it does not meet their needs."
Muiti also stresses that international
NGOs do not build things to last: they come, implement a project,
and leave. Accountable to no one, "capacity building"
is the latest catch phrase most organizations use to sell proposals
and win grants.
Local NGOs have problems too, he assures.
Either they lack the finances or are unable to manage them. Many
projects and organizations are developed after the cheque arrives
and little happens except the opening, and draining, of a bank
HEAL Africa is an example of humanitarian
aide actually working. HEAL Africa was developed by Jo and Lynn
Lucy, a Congolese orthopedic surgeon and a British project manager
who have been living in the DRC for 36 years.
Beginning as "DOCS," a medical
and surgical training initiative in 1995, HEAL Africa soon expanded
and engaged in social and community health as well as physical.
One of its biggest projects is fistula
surgery, a restoration procedure for women that repairs tears
and holes in the vaginal wall, bladder or uterus. Symptoms are
mainly the inability to prevent leaking of urine or bile-conditions
that led to ostracization from the community.
The cause of such damage is usually only
one of two things: childbirth in poor conditions, or a traumatic
and violent sexual encounter, mainly rape. When the surgery first
became a specialty of the expanding HEAL Africa mission, 80% of
the cases were a result of rape, and most of these are due to
the many militaries operating in Eastern Congo.
Either way, the women have been ousted
from their communities and, fortunately, they have made it to
a HEAL Africa facility. Over 1000 of these surgeries were completed
by 2003 and in 2007, there were over 120 women still waiting for
their turn. The main hospital compound in Goma is overflowing.
Emergency, makeshift UNHCR tents are bursting with women. Across
the street is a whole other compound with two, single floor buildings
packed with women who have had the surgery and are recovering
or waiting for a second attempt on the damage that is just too
As well, there is an apartment compound
outside of town full with women, post-surgery, who are unable
to return to their communities for fear of social stigma or insecurity.
The fistula surgeries performed at HEAL
Africa are such a success, not because of pure numbers alone,
but also because of the well-rounded approach taken. Women are
given counselling, job training and a small amount of economic
support before leaving.
HEAL Africa is one of few triumphs in
an overflowing pool of unsuccessful and inefficient humanitarian
You Are A Rwandan Now
More people complain about the huge, international
non-government organizations (NGOs) perpetuating the naivety of
rushed, unstudied and ill-developed programs than they do about
the smaller NGOs who generally have fewer resources to work with.
Because the scale is larger, the consequences are much more severe.
Along the lakeside in Goma is the compound
for the UN initiative for Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation,
Reinstallation and Reinsertion (DDRRR). It is set up exactly like
an army base with toweled soldiers walking around, shaving their
chins. Directly on the right, through the security gates, is a
group of tents where everything happens. The DDRRR has been a
massive project to disarm and reintegrate soldiers.
"This is a transit hotel," explains
Ramone, the official in charge who requested his full name not
be used. "We're basically just a taxi here, in a difficult
area; in a politically sensitive atmosphere."
He says the calls usually come at night
or on a market day when it is easiest for soldiers to escape.
A small team jumps in an armored vehicle and picks up whoever
has run away from their militia group. The project responds to
the high rate of kidnapping of men and boys for forced labour
and combat with rebel groups; they deal mostly with child soldiers.
"All the raping, killing, stealing,
burning houses, that's what we deal with. You know that movie
Blood Diamond, the part where they get the boy near the end?"
Ramone asks. "That's what I do."
Every Tuesday and Friday, all the deserters
and escapees are driven to the Rwandan side of the border for
6-8 weeks of training, "where all these 'rebels' become officially
Rwandese again," mocks Ramone.
He speaks bluntly and honestly about the
promotional propaganda for Rwanda and the UN that the DDRRR is
committed to through leaflets, filmed interviews and the United
Nation's radio network, Radio Okapi.
But Ramone jokes about the main concern.
Many times these 'rebels' that are put through DDRRR training
and receive Rwandan citizenship certificates were recruited or
kidnapped at young ages and from places outside Rwanda. Many by
forces like the Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda
(FDLR), the group reportedly containing original members of the
Interahamwe militia who are continually accused of perpetrating
genocide in Rwanda in 1994. It is widely confirmed that FDLR cooperate
with both Rwandan rebels and FARDC forces in the plunder of Congo's
When put back into Rwanda, Ramone says,
these escapees are assured safety by the Rwandese government but
are not welcomed back into the country socially.
Forced repatriation contradicts international
law and invites gross human rights abuses. Further violating international
law, in this case, forced returnees were sometimes never Rwandan
patriots to begin with.
Eighteen year-old Emmanuel Sebuhinja was
taken by force after living for five years as an orphan in the
North Kivu town of Walikale. He spent a year hauling baggage,
cooking and fetching water for the Mai Mai militia, a long-standing
Congolese militia that fights against foreign influences and soldiers
in Congo. The Mai Mai consider Rwanda to be their main problem.
Each time Sebuhinja tried to escape he
was beaten. After one such attempt, he and four others were beat
so badly three died; he and the other survivor were sentenced.
When the soldiers left to fight, shortly after, he escaped into
the forest and eventually made it back to Walikale.
Picking up money from a friend, he moved
on, walking alone and only at night to Karuba, in the next province.
It was here he thought he could finally carry on with his life.
Instead, he encountered soldiers of another militia, General Laurent
"They took my money and clothes and
everything I had," Sebuhinja says. "After that, UNHCR
took me here."
Sebuhinja says he is Rwandan but fled
to the Congo, in 1994, when he was 13 years old. He considers
that he grew up in Congo and while he says he does want to go
to Rwanda, he doesn't know anyone there, and all of his family
has died or was killed.
"I am afraid of going there because
I don't know what will happen there. I have no family. I don't
know how I shall be living in Rwanda," Sebuhinja says rationally.
His voice quickens and raises when he adds that he was never a
soldier, he never fought or shot a gun, but the UNHCR wrote that
he did on their list when they picked him up, despite his objections.
"UNHCR told me even if I just touched
a gun for a second, I am a soldier," he cried. "If in
Rwanda they think I was a soldier before, it will be dangerous
Another escapee was from General Laurent
Nkunda's group. He was the only boy who refused to say anything
and even denied his affiliation to General Nkunda.
Nkunda is one of the key men in the DRC
right now. He is affiliated with everything that is causing any
disturbance: he is the leader of a militia that rebelled against
the Congo government's FARDC, later agreeing to create a half
mixed brigade with them, causing only more confusion and conflict.
As if by design, it wasn't long before the mixed brigades dissolved
Most people believe Rwanda backs him and,
behind them, many international actors including powerful groups
from the United States. It is said that Nkunda even boasts the
born-again Christian patch he wears on his fatigues as a badge
of solidarity with President Bush and many other American Christians.
Even Human Rights Watch-historically biased
in favor of the current Rwanda government-has reported that General
Nkunda is backed by Rwanda. Nkunda also recruits soldiers, both
children and adults, from Rwanda. These recruits also turn up
later amongst the many Nkunda deserters.
Though Nkunda's Rwandan affiliation has
yet to be officially admitted it is drawn on tribal lines. He
is a Congolese Tutsi, known widely as Banyamulenge (in South Kivu)
or Rwandaphones (people who speak KinyaRwanda). His sympathizers,
mainly Congolese or Rwandan Tutsi, recite the narrative of his
only wish to bring his parents from a hard life in refugee camps
to a secure plot of land in Congo; a supposed promise from President
Nkunda is seen as the main threat by MONUC
and the main cause of insecurity in eastern DRC, but MONUC has
made no effort to drive out the Nkunda insurgency. He is also
situated in and around the most potent mines and mineral deposits
in the country.
Rebel troops led by Nkunda took the town
of Rutshuru on October 28, 2008, and by October 29, 2008, Nkunda's
forces had stopped their military advance just short of Goma,
where Nkunda announced a unilateral ceasefire. The rebels announced
they would take Goma in the next few days. Goma is home to more
than 500,000 people, including scores of thousands of people displaced
by earlier fighting.
With the massive atrocities committed
during the advances of Nkunda's army, hundreds of thousands of
people are newly displaced, inside Congo and out, to Rwanda, Burundi
The Thinner the Nose, the Smarter the
In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, Ignatius
Rwiyemaho Kabagambe was the Managing Director of The New Times
in 2007, the only English speaking and daily newspaper in the
country, owned and run by the state. He is also a first cousin
with President Paul Kagame.
The oppression that Rwandaphones face
in Congo from Congolese citizens and organized groups like the
Mai Mai is very real and well known; Kabagambe admits that they
would be treated differently in Rwanda than other nationals.
"They are brothers and we feel for
them. We would accept them as Congolese with Rwandese origin,"
he explains, pointing out their physical and cultural likeness.
He talked around the details of his cousin; President Paul Kagame's
support for Nkunda, admitting only that moral support is extended
from his country, Rwanda.
The region of Eastern Congo is a perfect
example of colonial lines being drawn arbitrarily through ancient
ethnographic zones. Tribes were divided by colonial powers into
what are now Eastern Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. All the
while assigning foreign law and deciding rights, colonizers continued
to move these lines according to papers signed in Europe.
Dieudonne Amani is a 24 year-old Rwandaphone
who has felt the lasting consequences of arbitrary colonial rule.
The problem, he explains, is that Rwandaphones are not accepted
as true Congolese and are ostracized within the DRC because they
are the same tribe and culture as those congregated mainly in
Rwanda. Yet Rwanda, he claims, also rejects them. They are people
without a homeland, claims Amani, who are systemically persecuted
by the Congolese government, by militia groups and by Rwanda.
"There are people sent by the authorities
to investigate people's origin," he says. "Rwandaphones
are a minority, non-Rwandaphones are majority. They wish to please
The reason why other tribes do not like
Rwandaphones, Amani claims, is a mixture of sculpted modern political
mind and envy.
"I think Hutus are not as educated
as Tutsi. If Hutus are not educated it is not the fault of Tutsi
or anyone else, it is because they are stupid," Amani says
boldly. "For 34 years they had control of their country (Rwanda),
what were they doing? Tutsi refugee's sent their children to be
educated. People say Tutsi are just as intelligent as the white
man," Amani pontificated with his index finger jutting into
These claims are extreme and, in parts,
ignorant of colonial leaderships' structuring of education and
employment systems along tribal lines, favouring Tutsis. Unfortunately,
this argument of Tutsi being better managerially with money, government
and development is heard often, repeated even by international
expatriates. It is an explanation used commonly to justify and
explain Rwanda's post-1994 transformation to an international
business port of Africa, and it ignores important facts, like
Rwanda's militarism and exploitation of Congo.
Modeste Makabuza Ngoga is a very powerful
man in Goma. Officially, he is the director general of Jambo Safari,
a company that claims to take white foreigners gorilla trekking.
Complete with airport access, Jambo Safari looks like a cover-up
for Makabuza's minerals dealings in Eastern DRC-perhaps the most
volatile and rich mineral trade arena in the world.
Makabuza is also a Rwandaphone who shares
Mr. Amani's arguments about persecution. Both stand in strong
support of Laurent Nkunda, claiming him as good representation
for their kind and cause. Also like Amani, Makabuza preaches ancient
and historical tribal and colonial history to explain divine-like
rights and tribal division. As well, his argument gets politically
dense the closer it comes to the present situation. Claims like
President Kabila having agreements with the French government
to arm and support the Interahamwe and the Forces for the Democratic
Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), to sustain them and keep them killing
Tutsis. He claims that Kabila was elected by the white man and
is the bad guy in the situation for not withholding his promise
to Nkunda of bringing Nkunda's family to Congo.
The General and His Labyrinthe
"Kabila asked Nkunda to help him
with war. Nkunda made the deal so his parents in refugee camps
in Rwanda could come live in the hills. Kabila broke his promise,"
Makabuza retells. "All Nkunda wants is his family to stop
starving in refugee camps and come here. I am happy Nkunda is
there with the same face [as me] but I am not alright with everything
he is doing."
The reason Makabuza withholds support
for everything Nkunda does is because it is bad for business.
Nkunda has control over vast mining territories
in North Kivu, including the Lueshe mine, just outside of Rutshuru,
which he uses as a rear base for his soldiers. Powerful officials
in the surrounding area reinforce Nkunda's control. For example,
Nkunda occupies the main area in Masisi province, just south of
the mine, and his cronies run the town of Rutshuru. Soloman Nkujima,
chief of the town Kiwanja-just outside the mine-was with Nkunda
before settling there and is still a senior manager of Nkunda's
party, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP).
In 2007 Makabuza assured the Lueshe mine
was not working. It's pyrochlore and ferro-niobium cannot be refined
in Africa due to lack of adequate technology, he insists. But
even if it was possible, he argues that he cannot sell it, thanks
to the western nickname of blood mineral.
"It's called blood minerals because
governments say when rebel soldiers are on the hill [Lueshe mine],
it means you are financing them," Makabuza details his business
woes while drawing his fingers across the wooden top of his office
desk. "When they produce pyrochlore they want to sell it
in the international market but no one will buy it because it
is called blood minerals."
"Minerals are all over the world
and all over the world people put guns to other peoples' heads
for those minerals, but only in Africa do they nickname them blood
minerals," claims Makabuza.
His final shot goes to the 'white man'
and the inequality he claims he, as an African, will always face
in the international market no matter what mineral he has in his
hand. He says calling something a 'blood mineral' only worsens
the problem because it prevents Africans from making money equally.
Instead, it is taken under the table by the white man who then
reaps the profits.
Makabuza is right when he says mineral
sales are dependant on the international market. Nowhere in Africa
are the products of such minerals enjoyed: MRI machines, home
and leisure electronics like cell phones, DVD players, stereos,
video games, mP3 players, eye glasses, heat resistant materials,
jet engines, stainless steel, some medicines, aerospace and defense
products, nanotechnology, communications, and biotechnological
applications. It is an understatement to say that the minerals
of North and South Kivu-niobium, tantalum, ferro-niobium, cassiterite
and coltan-are in high demand internationally. Whoever controls
the Kivu provinces controls the potential of more money and influence
than some of the wealthiest countries, combined.
The company that controls the Lueshe niobium
mines is the Mineral Society of Kivu (SOMIKIVU), a company formed
in 1982 between the German company GfE Nuremberg (Gesellschaft
fuer Elektrometallurgie GmbH) and the former Republic of Zaire
(former name of the DRC). Since then, names have been changed
and the agreement redrafted. GfE Nuremberg owns 70% of SOMIKIVU,
but ownership is disputed because the company was not drafted
with the current DRC government.
Lueshe mine is one of only three niobium
mines in the world-in Brazil, Canada and DRC (Lueshe)-and it is
intentionally kept closed to artificially induce "scarcity."
All three niobium deposits are controlled by a company named Arraxa,
owned by the U.S. company Metallurg Inc. of New York: GfE Nuremberg
is a 100% subsidiary. Metallurg Inc. is itself a subsidiary of
Mettalurg Holdings of Pennsylvania-one of many companies in the
investment portfolio of Safeguard International Investment Fund
of Philadelphia (PA), Frankfurt and Paris.
"It is a very big mine, the potential
of it is huge," said David Bensusan, a European and Rwandan
based minerals trader and past C.E.O. of Eurotrade International,
in a 2007 interview. Bensusan refuted the idea that the Germans
are keeping Lueshe closed to control the prices. "It is closed
because there is an argument of who owns it and it's in an area
where the fighting is taking place. The issue is security."
Professor Kisangani, the vice governor
of North Kivu, explains eastern Congo's mineral trafficking situation
through the analogy of an unhappy child. He expresses that Congolese
nationals were historically upset and began illegitimate international
trade (mostly with weaponry and minerals). A 'window' or 'open
door' into the country and it's minerals was completely broken
off with these unhappy children of the DRC and the Congolese wars,
from 1996 to present, involving Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe,
Sudan, Libya, Tanzania, Burundi, South Africa and Angola, at least,
with Western powers allied with or behind these.
"It's mostly hearsay, nobody can
give a truthful account of what happened," David Bensusan
looks back to what is considered the actual time of war, despite
the fact it has continued on. The Congo was obviously raped of
its raw materials, he adds. That element took Bensusan to a much
lower note as he warned of the volatile state Eastern DRC was
in. "It's sliding back into a major war. It needs to be developed.
I think the way is through minerals, but it needs to be done properly."
The suggestion that no one can give a
truthful account of what happened mirrors the western media's
perpetual obfuscation of the realities in Congo: while the people
involved are easily named, and while many remain active in plundering
Congo today, the decades of exploitation (1960-1996) prior to
the current era of perpetual warfare are always dismissed with
the invocation of a single word: Mobutu. The suggestion of full
sovereignty and control of the mineral wealth of the DRC is one
that many share, however. Mainly Congolese people, including Vital
Professor Kisangani's analogy of unhappy
children soon turns into "mafia" and rebel militias
who are still climbing in the open doors and windows. "And
those people are supported by other people in the world, who can
give them guns to trouble our country," Kisangani says.
Diplomatic relations is the answer, he
urges, mentioning that the DRC is trying to control the traffic
of its minerals and make money off them. The problem he says,
is that slipping through the window and door is easier.
Vice Governor Kisangani is confidant that
if the government had the means, the situation could be controlled.
"They are hungry and not strong enough," he says of
the DRC military forces and government. "Rich countries are
supporting guys in the forest [militias], but they could intervene
and tell armies and MONUC to leave."
There are over 100,000 FARDC soldiers
that need paychecks and too many managers and generals who loot.
He says there is no way to pay them all, and therefore command
And yet the Democratic Republic of Congo
has the world's purest and largest deposits of strategic minerals,
including gold, coltan, niobium, cobalt, heterogenite, columbite
(columbium-tantalite or coltan), copper and iron. Heterogenite
exports coming out of Congo are alone valued at between $260 million
(at $20/lb.) and $408 million (at $30/lb.) every month. That's
between 3.1 and 4.9 billion dollars a year. Diamonds account for
another billion dollars annually. Oil has been pumping off the
Atlantic Coast for decades, but now oil and gas deposits are being
exploited from the great lakes border region-Lake Kivu (methane
gas) and Lake Albert (oil)-and deep in the province of Equateur.
And then there are the dark rainforest woods that sell by the
thousands monthly for around $6000 to $12000 per log.
Without getting paid-unless looting and
raping can be considered a paycheck, which they are-FARDC soldiers
are still extremely patriotic. The Congolese soldiers-quick to
be blamed by international experts, NGOs and western media-are
also the victims of a rapacious international commerce that has
descended on Congo.
"I love my country. I must protect
my country, from all forces that can aggress my country,"
said Major Chicko Tshitambue of FARDC's "Charlie Brigade."
"The fighting here in the East is
just to protect the leadership in Rwanda," said Chicko. "I
think Nkunda is told by Rwanda. But Nkunda is a small man, he
can't do anything. He's afraid of Major Chicko."
Chicko ended his monologue of national
pride, hubris and international intimidation by resting his pumping
fists and writing his email address and, beneath this, the words:
"Mercenary/Private Military => contact." Chicko wants
to be a mercenary and he imagined the white journalist he was
talking to could make it all happen. (Nothing of the whereabouts
or status of Major Chicko has been heard since the journalist
The sad part is that Major Chicko would
be better off fighting for a private militia company, meaning
he would make more money at the very least. Mercenaries in Africa
and especially the DRC are the most successful and efficient international
organizations running. According to Vital Katembo, MONUC is one
of the least efficient.
"They are a part of the whole game:
no chaos equals no jobs. They have all the military skills but
some have been advising those in the bush; they are helping Nkunda,"
While these allegations have not been
proven, MONUC's track record does not sit well with the Congolese
M'Hande Ladjouzi was once the chief of
office for MONUC in North Kivu. Two members of the Civil Society,
including president Thomas d'Aquin Muiti and a current employee
of MONUC (who wishes to remain unnamed) who was already working
there while Ladjouzi was, confirmed the rumours.
"It was at the level of conflict
with Rwanda and the FDLR," began Muiti. It is said Ladjouzi
had a Rwandan girlfriend. Whether he actually had a girlfriend
of Rwandese origin is unimportant. The term is slang: Rwandan
interests were reportedly bribing Ladjouzi.
When the Civil Society approached MONUC
with reports and testimony of Rwandese soldiers committing atrocities
on Congolese people, Ladjouzi turned them away and sent reports
to headquarters in Kinshasa that the allegations were untrue.
After much lobbying by the North Kivu Civil Society, the UN eventually
moved Ladjouzi to Kinshasa.
MONUC's record continues to be stained.
"We have met one soldier of MONUC that violated a young girl,"
says Muiti. The Civil Society asked to take him to court in France
and, according to Muiti, they did. But there are numerous other
allegations that MONUC officials, both civilians and soldiers,
have raped Congolese women.
MONUC's media relations office also released
press clippings reporting scandal from the Pakistani battalion
of MONUC in the Orientale province. It reports soldiers trading
guns for gold with militia leaders.
In May 2007 angry villagers in Kanyola,
South Kivu, attacked UN officials and MONUC troops who arrived
after at least 18 villagers were massacred. "There were barricades
on the roads. There were angry crowds. Kids were throwing stones.
They had to make a U-turn," said one U.N. official, who asked
not to be identified.
On October 2008, civilians in Goma and
other places attacked MONUC troops and UN compounds; there are
credible reports that MONUC troops shot and killed some civilians.
Many civilian protests against the MONUC mission, and the MONUC
retaliations, occur out of sight and without any media reporting.
Most every Congolese citizen will agree
that the reason for the instability in Congo is the international
influence within their borders. Some point their finger at mineral
trafficking. Some point to tribal and historical 'facts'. Others,
like Vital Katembo, claim it is obvious that people are doing
harm when they are not achieving what they claim to work for-speaking
of the humanitarian aid and conservation sectors-especially when
they have the needed resources to accomplish their missions.
No matter where you point your finger
or for what reason, the DRC is an international playground filled
with extremely dangerous toys and irresponsible playmates. Many
times, knowing where to point is simply based on how dangerous
it is to point that way.
Roxy Stasyszyn is a Canadian journalist
who has worked in Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic
of Congo. She also writes a blog for "Make Poverty History
Canada," where commentary and insights about her work in
Congo can also be found. Read other articles by Roxanne.