“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.” (Karl Marx: “Capital,” Volume One, Chapter 31; Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist)
For over a century and a half the Congo has been ravaged by this bloody accumulation of capital. Belgium’s King Leopold became one of the world’s richest men by turning the Congo into his private fiefdom, murdering 10-15 million. The imperialists and local capitalists who took over after Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960 have continued this genocide. Now a “peace deal” was signed to settle the fighting in the eastern Congo which has created 400,000 new refugees. (See CHALLENGE, 1/30) But since the causes of the conflict have not really changed, little can be expected from this latest truce.
According to the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) latest report, (Reuters, 1/22), 5.4 millions people have been killed in the Congo since the war began in the region in 1998, causing more deaths than any other conflict since World War II. “Congo’s loss is equivalent to the entire population of Denmark or the state of Colorado perishing within a decade,” stated IRC president George Rupp.
The shootings between the warring factions have not been the main cause of these deaths. Malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by the war, were the Congo’s top killers, said the survey. “Most of the deaths are due to easily treatable and preventable diseases through the collapse of health systems and the disruption of livelihoods,” said IRC director of global health programs Richard Brennan, one of the survey’s authors. Congo has the lowest spending on health care of any country in the world, averaging just $15 per person annually.
The latest fighting before the January 22 truce came after Congo President Kabila met Condoleezza Rice in Ethiopia in September 2007. Rice also secured the support of the rulers of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. In November, Kabila was flown to Washington in the private plane of an Israeli mining magnate with interests in the Congo, to meet Bush. Then, with U.N. support, Kabila sent a large military force to fight rebel general Nkunda. But it was a disaster. The Congolese army was routed, forcing the government and its militia allies to reach a truce with the rebel forces.
The current fighting is labeled a “tribal conflict” between Tutsis and Hutus (continuing the one that led to the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s), but capitalist and imperialist thirst for profits are the real causes. General Nkunda is backed by Tutsi bosses and the Rwandan government who seek to control the mineral wealth of the Eastern Congo.
U.S., Canadian and European companies have monopolized the exploitation of diamonds, cobalt, gold, coltan and other mineral wealth in the region. They use local militias and bosses as subcontractors who impose slave-like conditions on those working in the mines. But now, China, India, Spain and even Russia are entering the operation, which is why the U.S. and European bosses want to ensure their lackeys are in control.
Huge oil deposits have been discovered in Lake Alberta, on the border between the Congo and Uganda. British Heritage Oil is now involved (its CEO has links to British military companies like Executive Outcomes and Sandline). Chinese and Spanish oil companies are now interested in exploring for oil there.
Besides Washington and Europe, Kabila is also being courted by China, which is giving his government $8 billion for infrastructure projects and mining operations. This will lead to Chinese companies’ control of several important copper and cobalt mines.
(Future articles: how imperialist and local bosses reap huge profits from gold and other resources while African workers starve and die.)