AFRICA GREAT LAKES: Rwanda, DRC mining and war

1 February 2009
AFRICA GREAT LAKES: Rwanda, DRC mining and war

by Cliff Kindy

Last month, CPT visited two of the dozen large IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps that encircle Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).. One widow with two children told team members, “My husband decided to return to our shamba (farm) with our constant hunger in the camp. He was killed, probably by Gen. Laurent Nkunda's CNDP (Congrès national pour la défense du peuple ), rebel troops who control that area.” Another youth spoke of Nkunda rebel raids into his village for young men, some as young as nine, to serve as soldiers in that militia. Who is behind Gen. Nkunda, disputed head of one of the militia groups that ravages this eastern Congo region?

Nkunda was a Tutsi officer in the DRC military before he resigned.  He said he needs to protect Tutsis in the DRC because others will not. He recently threatened to attack Kinshasa.  His rebels control the region north of Goma in North Kivu province and, in recent years, have controlled the two richest regions for mineral extraction in North Kivu.

A report of the U.N .Secretary General on the DRC, 8 February, 2007 noted, “The Rwanda commercial military wing (Nkunda's forces) was assisted by the company Mining Processing Congo to funnel DRC mineral wealth across the border during the war.” Rwanda  has few of its own resources for development. Apparently this wealth channel serves the dual function of  funding an ongoing conflict and securing access to continued resources for Rwanda. The largest recent recipient of cassiterite (tin oxide) from the DRC, according to researcher David Barouski, is Thaisarco in Thailand which make environmental solder for Microsoft and Samsung.

A religious leader and CPT contact said, “Behind Nkunda is Rwanda; behind Rwanda is the U.S., because Rwanda is willing to be an African base for the US “war against terror.” An NGO partner told CPT, “The U.S., U.K. and Germany are the supporters of Rwanda.”

In its 12 December 2008 report to the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. Group of Experts wrote,  “Rwanda authorities are complicit in recruiting soldiers (including children), supplying military equipment and sending officers and units into the DRC to support the CNDP.”

A 2006 Amnesty International report documents transfers of weapons to Rwanda from Albania, Bosnia and South Africa with the help of U.S. companies  and arms dealers. The U.S. is the largest global supplier of small arms and has consistently opposed limits on the sale of these arms and light weapons to countries with poor human rights records.

Why is the U.S. behind Rwanda? A Le Monde Diplomatique article, “Not an ethnic conflict,” (December 9, 2008) noted that, “Nkunda is putting aside his usual ethnic reasons for fighting and has said, “The DRC must renegotiate its mineral contract with China.” Who is Nkunda representing in this new appeal?