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DR Congo: a nation reduced to a commodity

The Democratic Republic Congolese (DRC) community on Friday, 21st of November, 2008 poured out in their hundreds to protest against the Rwandan government support for rebel leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda and called upon the UK government to check its unconditional 40% budgetary subsidy for the Rwanda government. This is coming at a time when UK High Court is considering the option of expelling thousands of asylum seekers from DRC living in the UK.

The protester dressed in black attire, in a mourning procession, marched to the Rwandan embassy and then headed for the 10 downing street to handing petition. According to one of the organizers of the demonstration, Nelson Muambela, 4,000 people have already signed it and “the petition is to ask Gordon Brown and the British government to be more involved, to put more pressure on the Congolese government, to do more for the peace.”

Most often, the Rwandan, Zimbabwean and Ugandan governments have always been blamed for aiding the “armies of business” war going on in DRC. The Rwandan government is said to occupy the eastern region of the DRC, with 34,000 soldiers while Uganda stationed 10,000, in the endowed region rich with precious stone.

Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda are still plundering the DRC despite withdrawing their armies from the vast central African states, according to a United Nations. “They are doing it through corrupt DRC government officials and criminal cartels set up to perpetuate the pillaging started by their armies. The pillagings are most often not used up in either of these countries. The mineral resources such as coltan, casteirite etc are exported out of the countries to the cartel in western countries who in return finance the rebel by paying them.

Within the three African countries mentioned, the looting of DRC wealth is presently perpetrated through military and political officials in Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe in what the United Nations termed in its report ”elite network” exploiting the country’s minerals, timber, wildlife, gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper and coltan, which is used in mobile phones.

‘As the dollar and pound continue to sour, DR Congo is genuinely becoming an essential commodity rather than a state in facilitating our modern civilization’

The United Nation submitted 100 multinational companies in south Africa, Europe and United States directly involved in the DR Congo conflict and looting on the wealth of the nation who have contravened guidelines on conflict zones set down by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. These international loggings include Anglo American, Barclays Bank, Bayer A G, De Beers diamond company ,the Cabot Corp. etc

In 2007, Global witness submitted a complaints against a British company Afrimex for breaching OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. “ The complaint explained how Afrimex, which traded in the minerals coltan and cassiterite (tin ore) throughout the conflict in the DRC from 1996 onwards, made tax payments to the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-Goma (RCD-Goma), an armed rebel group with a well-documented record of carrying out grave human rights abuses, including massacres of civilians, torture and sexual violence. During the conflict, the RCD-Goma controlled large parts of the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, where coltan and cassiterite are mined”.

As the dollar and the pound continue to sour, DR Congo is genuinely becoming an essential commodity rather than a state in facilitating our modern civilization, technology advancement and value of wealth storage.

The investors and the rich seek havens in the recession by storing the wealth value in pressure stones. According to BBC online, ”the price of gold has reached yet another all-time high, hitting $914 an ounce, as investors seek a haven from any potential US recession”. The price of gold as gone up to 50% over the past year while the price of platinum has hit $1,587 an ounce. The Gold Rush is increasingly becoming an attractive investment in times of economic uncertainty and the continuing weakening of the dollar and the pound in global financial market.

Prior to the epic of the economic down turn, Gordon Brown was alleged to have auctioned the gold in the British reserve since 1999, according to Time online newspapers, at an unjustified market rate.

In 2007, the Voice of Freedom newspaper said that the treasury hurry in sell off the British gold “cost the British taxpayer more than £2 billion in a bungled sell-off of Britain’s gold reserves and for exactly the same reason – to prop up the failing European single currency which we didn’t even join. Our depleted gold reserves leave us vulnerable”

The British reserve was said to hold 715 tons of gold when he started selling them in 1999, in the vaults of the Bank of England, now there are just 315 tons left.

Mr. Brown tried to cover-up his mistakes but in April this year after an 18-month legal battle, the Treasury was forced to disclose the details of the gold sell-off.

Now, with the free fall in the dollar and pound value, governments, – including British government – are scrambling for a medium of holding the wealth of the nation in commodities with secure value, i.e. gold. Governments are doing it indirectly by backing some international logging companies in the mining of mineral in countries such as DR Congo.

AngloGold Ashanti Limited, which head office based in London,is one of the foremost companies mining in gold in DR Congo. It is also one of the 100 companies named in the United Nation report that had violated Organization the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) policies. All of these companies till today, were not punished because of the pressure of British and US governments put on UN to stop criticizing them.

According to a Human Rights Watch report in 2005, “as many as 60,000 people perished in the Congolese goldfields and, rather than bringing prosperity to the people of north eastern DRC, gold has been a curse to those who have the misfortune of living there.”

In order to prosper in the mining of gold, the conflict region of the eastern DRC AngloGold Ashanti established a relationship with Lendu Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) rebel group in Ituru District at the end of 2003. It admitted to having contracted a one-time deal worth $8,000 and airport “landing fees” that amounted to $1,000.

However, raising voice in our local areas and universities will contribute enormously in building momentum, in demanding social justice, stopping the “armies of business” and the invasion war in the DR Congo. I hope the students here in the University of Sussex will help reach out to the students movement in DR Congo by helping them to echo the plights of their people and demanding social justice.

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