DR Congo and the curse of vast mineral wealth

Tuesday December 10 2019


By Nicholas Sengoba

Once again, last week in the Ebola-stricken eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC,) about four health workers deeply engaged in containing the spread of the haemorrhagic virus were killed in a suspected targeted attack. There have been several other deaths of health workers in the country.
More than 200 health centres have been attacked at some point, paralysing efforts to stem the spread of Ebola. So far, almost 2,000 people have succumbed to Ebola and many are still being treated in this environment of an incessant war whose end is not yet in sight.
There are reportedly more than 100 militias owned by heavily armed warlords whose intention is to control vast territories that are rich in minerals in which they trade for personal gain at the expense of the lives of ordinary Congolese. The wars scare people off their land, which is then grabbed. Now Ebola is helping in this vein and it seems this has not gone down well with the militias, who benefit by swimming in troubled waters.
These warlords fill a vacuum created by the absence of government authority, which has formed an environment of lawlessness over the years. They have popularised a claim that Ebola was created and is spread by the international community to kill and steal from the DRC. The desperate people are forced to believe it and support the violence.
It does not help that the world’s largest United Nations peacekeeping force is in DRC yet people die in huge numbers daily. According to a survey by the New York-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), there have been more than 5.4 million deaths since war broke out in 1988.
The DRC is widely quoted as the rape capital of the world where an estimated 1000 women are raped on a daily basis by militias using sexual violence as a weapon of war.
The UN Peace keepers have from time to time been caught engaging in violence or smuggling. The world has not paid the deserving attention to the near genocide crisis in the DRC for the reason the influential international capital interests are beneficiaries of these troubled waters.
The blood diamonds of the DRC find their way to the capitals of the human rights preaching countries for the price of a song. The ordinary Congolese face the real music. It is estimated that almost 71 per cent of the population in the DRC live in abject poverty.
Yet according to Wikipedia, “the mining industry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a significant factor in the world’s production of cobalt, copper, diamond, tantalum, tin, and gold. It is the DRC’s largest source of export income.
According to Wikipedia, “in 2009, the DR Congo had an estimated $24 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, including the world’s largest reserves of coltan and significant quantities of the world’s cobalt. The United States Geological Survey estimates that the DRC has 1 million tonnes of lithium resources.”
As the DR Congo sinks into chaos, countries are stock-piling many of these rare minerals and thus can only pay lip-service to saving the lives of the Congolese.
It appears that their only interest is to have an elected president in the capital Kinshasa and a Parliament, which can legitimately deal on behalf of the DR Congo. For instance, such a president and government is welcome if they can take on high interest loans that mortgage the future of the country.
The DR Congo right from the days of the murderous colonialist King Leopold to former president Mobutu Ssese Seko, right through to the father and son dual of Laurent and Joseph Kabila, the theme has been the same.
A cabal in power allies with foreign states and interests to intimidate, manipulate, kill and steal from the people.
In essence things have changed over the years and remained the same.
DR Congo’s vast mineral wealth is the epitome of the curse of beauty. There are so many suitors that they end up fighting for supremacy leaving the beauty in a state of confusion and eventual destruction.
The purveyors of fake news on social media were at it again ‘breaking’ the fake news of the passing on of retired Supreme Court Judge, Prof George Kanyeihamba. They also prayed for his soul to rest in eternal peace. Thank God the honourable gentleman though bed ridden, is alive and kicking.
Someone once said social media is the place where people who previously were not allowed to speak in the bar have found unlimited space and solace.
We pray that the Lord heals Prof Kanyeihamba and that the good ‘old-fashioned’ traditional media notices this great gap and fills as a duty to inform with responsibility.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. nicholassengoba@yahoo.com.