Most of those who are amused with their iPhones, and other consumer electronics, are not aware of what made these gadgets possible.
Even those space explorations and scientific advancements would not have been possible without the mineral resources supplied by a country which, in spite of all these critical contributions, still mired in poverty, hunger and conflict.
Congo is the extreme illustration of wanton exploitation in a scale that is so massive and absolute, such that those who perpetrated it may have forgotten what it is to be human.
For more than a century, Congo’s vast mineral deposits have been the magnet for Western military intervention by proxies in the region.
Millions of Congolese have lost their lives in a conflict that the United Nations describes as the deadliest in the world since World War Two. United States allies, Rwanda and Uganda, invaded in 1996 the Congo (then Zaire) and again in 1998, which triggered the enormous loss of lives, systemic sexual violence and rape, and widespread looting of Congo’s spectacular natural wealth.
The ongoing conflict, instability, weak institutions, dependency and impoverishment in the Congo are a product of a 125 year tragic experience of enslavement, forced labor, colonial rule, assassinations, dictatorship, wars, external intervention and corrupt rule.
Analysts in the film examine whether U.S. corporate and government policies that support strongmen and prioritize profit over the people have contributed to and exacerbated the tragic instability in the heart of Africa.
Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering The Truth explores the role that the United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century. The film is a short version of a feature length production to be released in the near future. It locates the Congo crisis in a historical, social and political context. It unveils analysis and prescriptions by leading experts, practitioners, activists and intellectuals that are not normally available to the general public. The film is a call to conscience and action.
A recent estimate of $24 trillion worth of cobalt, copper, coltan, and diamond are still sitting beneath its lands that for decades were littered with 6 million dead from hunger and endless wars with neighboring Rwanda and Uganda under the dictate of Western corporations.
Since 2007, China intervened with “resources for infrastructures” to help the Congolese take it to the next level, instead of the previous “divide and conquer” strategy that the West employed throughout Africa.
Twenty-four trillion dollars. It is a number that beggars the imagination, almost 40 percent of the global economy, and according to a recent UNEP report it is buried in one of the world’s poorest and most violent countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo. Failed state, rape capital of the world, humanitarian catastrophe…
Congo personifies all these but beneath the surface its dark earth holds $24 trillion of copper, cobalt, coltan, the bones and blood of information age manufacturing. For this reason, if for no other, the world cannot ignore Congo. It can’t afford to.
Called Congo’s “deal of the century”, in 2007 China recognized the beleaguered nation’s importance to the global economy with an unprecedented $9 billion resources-for-infrastructure agreement which holds the potential to unlock Congo’s vast mineral wealth and improve the material lives of its seventy-one million people with new roads, rails, hospitals, and universities.
Now, five years later, Congo’s eastern frontier remains a lawless battleground with conflict minerals undermining regional stability and the $9 billion question remains: Will Chinese investment be the cornerstone for Congo’s development or a grave marker for dead dreams in the green hills of Africa?
With incredible resource wealth and the land mass of Western Europe, Congo is a country whose staggering economic potential is matched only by its poverty and corrupt mismanagement.
Congo ranks last on the UN’s human development index and Transparency International’s 2011 corruption perception index ranks Congo at 168, tied with Libya which was at the time engulfed by civil war. In human terms the development reports shuffled around New York and Geneva read like damning tarot cards to the Congolese people.
Life expectancy is less than 48 years. One of five children will die before age five. Sixty percent of the country’s 71 million people live on less than $1.25 per day. More than 400,000 women a year are victims of sexual violence, a fact prompting UN special Representative Margot Wallstrom to call Congo “the rape capital of the world”.
On the grounds of these statistics it is difficult to see why China would invest $9 billion in this country-cum-humanitarian crisis, but looking beneath the surface China’s interests immediately become clear: immense deposits of copper, cobalt, tin and coltan; the life blood of Chinese manufacturing.
It is a profound irony that Congo, rated by the IMF as the world’s poorest country, is widely regarded as the world’s richest in natural resources with wealth estimated at $24 trillion. Much of this wealth is buried in mineral deposits whose size is a catalog of the hyperbolic: Congo is the 5th leading producer of tungsten and 6th of tin, holds 5% of the world’s copper and 50% of cobalt.
Moreover Congo possesses an estimated 80% of all known coltan which, refined as tantalum, is a vital component of computers, personal electronics, and the world’s 5.6 billion mobile phones. This cached wealth, vital to the world’s present and future economy, is why Congo cannot be overlooked and why China has taken particular notice.
China views Africa as a major commodities source and Congo’s $9 billion “deal of the century” is a natural extension of their ongoing resources-for-infrastructure policy. In 2004 China approved a $2 billion public investment package for Angola and two years later struck a $3 billion deal with Gabon who would receive dams, railroads, and ports in return for Chinese access to iron ore reserves.
This was followed in 2009 with similar deals in Guinea and Zimbabwe amounting to $7 and $8 billion respectively whereby resource wealth would underwrite Chinese infrastructure investments. Under Beijing’s strategy of mutual benefit China stokes its economic fire with African resources while resource-rich but credit-poor countries further develop their economies with Chinese infrastructure projects. With Congo’s vast mineral deposits and critical development needs a Chinese resources-for-infrastructure deal would seem an inevitable and mutually beneficial arrangement.
China’s initial $9 billion investment was later revised under IMF objections to $6 billion with half going to mine development and half to infrastructure projects and represents an investment significant enough to radically transform Congo’s economy. Many aspects of the deal are not public, but according to NGO Global Witness China would be granted 10 million tons of copper and 600,000 tons of cobalt.
In exchange China would build 2,400 miles of roads and 2,000 of rail, 145 health clinics, 32 hospitals, two universities, and two hydroelectric dams. Other infrastructure projects include widespread transportation renovation and an electricity distribution network. The other $3 billion of Chinese investment would go to develop Congo’s copper and cobalt mines which are expected to turn a profit in 2013, repaying Chinese investment in five years.
Despite the high cost China believes their “mutual benefit” investment will prove worthwhile as mines are expected to produce $40 billion to $120 billion in revenues. With significant Chinese investment at steak and profitability on the horizon, Congo’s fragile government hopes their buried wealth will set the groundwork for successful economic development and has begun courting other countries, notably South Korea, for significant investment deals. However, the arc of history has seldom bent in Congo’s favor and unresolved crises of the recent past threaten both China’s ambitions and Congo’s future.
In spite of its own “economic downturn” this year, and sporadic clashes on Congo’s eastern borders, China is still pouring in massive investments into the region.
As low copper prices and disrupted power supplies reduce output and lead to job cuts by companies including Glencore Plc in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chinese companies are plowing in more investment.
… More investment is expected to follow, according to Serge Bilambo, head of mining and metals at Standard Bank Group in Congo’s copper-producing Katanga region.
Like in many other cases in other parts of the world, the western brand of intervention in Congo has cost the country countless innocent lives, encouraged dictatorships and paid for only with lip service of better interventions.
This is what the self-proclaimed advanced society has done to please themselves, and in so doing even making their erstwhile geopolitical adversary in China to look more benign.
The Congolese know that they are the key to the change they want to achieve. They know that they won’t be allowed to acquire as much knowledge as possible so they could exploit their vast resources for themselves. But they are only asking for one thing…
The situation in Congo will be resolved by the Congolese themselves. But the international community must urgently stop supporting Rwandans, Ugandans and all militias perpetuating this state of war unbearable for them to put the hands on the wealth of a country without being accountable to anyone.
6 million deaths. Half of them young children. The world says? Free? – We – must necessarily confront that his freedom? Let them. Why so much violence and so little noise from the media?
Is it uninteresting for European? Is it not enough sensational, this massacre in the millions of people? Is it too far? Home? They apply again this odious? Nearby Act?? Why no reaction, no impact in the collective imagination, nor indignation, anger or emotion?
Our duty as citizens of the world is to get the message. Let the world know. Before the world moves. There are culprits in Europe as there are in Africa. Silence kills as powerful as the sound of machine guns. Let all the killers face their responsibilities.