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Natural Resources and Conflict in DR Congo:Analyzing Different Elements Involved in Conflict Minerals

Written by  William A.Twayigize

It is a bit complex to know or understand those who are profiteering from African conflicts especially the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Somali conflict, and the Southern Sudanese conflict. This is because the beneficiaries of the ongoing conflicts might be what this paper calls the “primary beneficiaries.” These are the local people and local institutions that are directly involved in the day to day activities of war. They are the primary victims of the conflict. There is also another group I refer to as the “secondary beneficiaries.” These are the people and institutions from the region. They are classified by their proximity to the conflict. The last group of beneficiaries is the “tertiary beneficiaries.” These are people and whether through the regional proxies or other means. They have a direct interest in the ongoing conflicts. The examples below will help us understand how these people and institutions are grouped in the above three categories.

The DRC conflict started in 1993

It involved primary the local people from the region mostly neighboring communities which were fighting over arable, grazing land, and trade. This is because the Kivu region is a like a commercial port that connects the interior of DRC from the rest of the world mainly the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The conflict damages were not as horrible as the ones which started in 1996 to 2004, because it did not involve mineral exploitation and external players. It solely involved the “primary beneficiaries” who could settle their differences through traditional negotiation and mediation mechanisms which were concerned with restoring broken relationships. They were concerned with ending the conflict because it harmed them directly (Dominic Johnson, 2009). However, the 1993 conflict in Eastern DRC took another twist in 1994 after the Rwandan genocide which left millions of Rwandan Hutu refugees took refuge in Goma and Bukavu of Kivu region. This helps us to conclude that in most of the cases the conflict that involves the primary beneficiaries does not incur a huge damage to the people in conflict as it would if the conflict involved both secondary and tertiary beneficiaries as we are going to see it in the conflicts that followed.

In October 1996, the external players entered the DRC conflict as the secondary and tertiary beneficiaries of the conflict. In this paper we are going to look at how they impacted DRC conflict and how they are profiteering from it. The secondary and tertiary conflict beneficiaries team up with some of the local ethnic rebel groups referred to in this paper as primary beneficiaries in order to legitimize their presence in DRC. The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and Uganda People’s Defense Army (UPDF) supported the Laurent Desire Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) to overthrow Mobutu and destroy the Rwandan Hutu refugees which were scattered all over Kivu province. The fight drew many local, regional, and international beneficiaries who were involved in exploiting the natural resources (Re-imagining Peace, 2004-05.pp4-6).

The Local Beneficiaries of the Eastern DRC Conflict

Local rebel groups from Eastern DRC such as Mai-Mai rebels, PARECO rebels, Congres National pour la Defense du Peuples (CNDP), Forces Démocratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), and other militia groups found in Eastern DRC do not wish to see the end of conflict because they have been making lots of money through illegal mining, illegal taxes, and looting. I have to add that the FDLR Hutu rebels profit from the Congolese forests and lawlessness to carry their own military activities in the region. With peace in the DRC then the FDLR is not going to have the above opportunity. The CNDP which is a Tutsi rebel movement uses the lawlessness in DRC to illegally trade minerals and merchandise with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda to generate revenues to continue their military activities in the region so is the PARECO Mai-Mai rebel groups. This illegal income allows their leaders to own business in Rwanda and South Africa (UN-OCHA Report, 2002.pp11-12).

Regional Institutions and People Profiteering from the DRC Conflict

It is good to understand that the country of DRC is among the richest countries in natural resources. Around 65% of the world’s Coltan (a colloquial name for Columbite-Tantalite) is extracted from DRC (Barouski, David, 2007). This has attracted both local and international organizations to invest in illegal mining in Congo. Some of the regional players who would do anything to see the continuation of the war in DRC are Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Angola. The UN Panel of the Experts Report (2005) pointed at the above countries to have invaded DRC and conducted illegal mining and smuggling arms. According to the UN Report (2008) a Rwandan businessman Mr Rujugiro Tribert is a key financier to CNDP, which is a dominantly Tutsi rebel group. Uganda also is mentioned in this UN report being accused of trading both illicit arms and smuggling minerals such as diamond, gold, coltan, cassitérites, out of DRC. If the conflict ended in DRC the above people and countries would lose their businesses and their political security. For example the case of FDLR, ending conflict means to go back to Rwanda or look for somewhere else to go. This group does not have options to go back to Rwanda peacefully since they are accused of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide that saw hundreds of thousands of people slaughtered and other millions of people leaving the country to go and leave in refugee camps in Eastern DRC. It is also hard to ignore the part played by the UN peacekeepers who are allegedly accused of fire arm sale to various armed groups in DRC (Time, 2012). UN report also says that all these regional institutions (secondary beneficiaries) that are directly linked with the Congolese conflict and are also linked with international actors involved in the Congolese conflict who supply arms in exchange of minerals, which keep the conflict going (UN Report, 2005.pp 170-172, 210-218).

International Corporate and People Involved in Eastern DRC Conflict (Tertiary Beneficiaries)

As we have seen so far the Congolese conflict has three different but interrelated elements that keep the conflict going on. We have looked at the local and regional people and institutions involved in the conflict now we are moving to the last one, which is the international people and institutions referred to as tertiary beneficiaries of the conflict. The rest of this paper is going to discuss some of the names of the people and institutions who are either directly or indirectly involved in the Congolese, Somali, and Sudanese conflicts. Some of these actors are from the United States of America, China, United Kingdom, and Belgium. Below is the list of those people and corporate companies involved in the DRC conflict (UN Reports, 2001, 2004, and 2005) and (www.conflictminerals.org ).

    A Boston, Massachusetts based businessman Patrick M. Prevost who is the president and Chief Executive Officer of Cabot Corporation an electronic a mineral industry specializes in Carbon Black, Fumed Metal Oxides, and Tantalum (www.cabot-corp.com ).
    Gerard Holden who is the Executive Chairman of Brinkley Mining Plc. A London based industry that specializes in Uranium (www.brinkley-mining.com ). According to the Sunday Times (July, 2007) Brinkley company entered into fraudulent agreement for uranium business in DRC through corrupt means, which left many people suspended or fired by the Congolese president. Some sources say that Brinkley buys illegal uranium from conflict zones and mixes it with the legitimate one bought from the Government controlled zones (www.business.timesonline.co.uk ).
    Dr. Tony Harwood, President and CEO of the Africo Resources Ltd. This is a company based in Vancouver, Canada. Its website (www.africoresources.com) says that it specializes in Copper and cobalt. We have also to add that it gets most of its raw material from the war ravaged areas of Eastern DRC and it was also mentioned in the UN Report of 2008 (.

After looking at the local, regional and international institutions and people who would not wish to see the conflict end in DRC because of their personal gains, it would also be more educating if we took a tour to look at the institutions and people who are profiteering in the Somalia and Sudanese wars. In both Somali and Sudanese conflict, we are not going to look at the primary, secondary, and tertiary classifications but some of the institutions benefiting from the ongoing conflicts.

The Somali Conflict

The Somali conflict has been going on over two decades but the international media and scholars have not written enough or created more awareness about it because of some western interests involved in the conflict in Somalia. This has helped the Western Toxic Waste Companies to continue their unchallenged evil business of turning the African coastal country into a Toxic Waste Site (Bashir, Mohamed. Hussen, 2010). Most of the international media and scholars have focused most of their writing on the “Somali Pirates” and Al-Shabab warlords giving very little or nothing to the bigger challenge of these biohazards that are facing the Somali population. As Bashir (2010) calls this toxic waste a “Highly Toxic Waste” (HTW), the western business people and institutions have seen the Somali conflict as an opportunity to make money. Marcello Gionnoni who is an Italian is one of the people who have companies, which have been dumping these toxic wastes to Somali through his organization called “Ecomafia.” This is a lucrative business whereby one ton of uranium waste cost as much as $1,000 if dumped in Europe but cost as little as $2 dollars if dumped in Somalia. These are some of the reasons why the Ecomafia and Marcellin Giannoni do not want to see the end of Somali conflict because it will would mean the end his business (Bashir, M. Huessen, 2010.pp6-10). Now let us look at the Sudanese conflict.

The Government of Khartoum

Sudan now is preparing for the referendum that will determine the direction of the Sudanese conflict between the Northerners who are majority Arabs and Southerners who are mostly blacks. This will also determine the future oil business in the region. According to the Sudan Tribune (October 18, 2010) a Sudanese online newspaper, Chinese government has been fighting hard to stop the publication of the UN Panel of the Expert Report on Sudan which gives details on how, despite the military embargo, China has been selling arms to different rebel groups in both Darfur and the Khartoum government. The Khartoum government sends the ammunition to the rebel groups in Darfur. The Chinese government is profiteering from both the Darfur and Southern Sudanese conflict because of selling weapons and ammunition to the rebel groups and the Khartoum government in exchange of oil. The Chinese government will not be happy to see the wars and conflict in Sudan end because it makes a lot of money from these the warring groups by sending them ammunition and fire arms in exchange of oil (www.sudantribune.com )

Conclusion

As we have seen throughout this paper, people and institutions that make money out of the ongoing conflicts do not want to see people taking place, because though peace is good for the local people who are incurring the loss both material and lives to the conflict, the business people are looking at the income they make from the conflicts. Most of African wars and conflicts are not sustainable by the local people alone. They do not have means to fight over the years and cause harm and damages that we often see in most of the ongoing conflicts. African conflict harms the local people because there are the external players that this paper is referring to as the primary, secondary, and tertiary beneficiaries. The primary beneficiaries who are the local people have no means to destroy themselves. In most cases their conflict are about the differences on how to deal with small societal issues. Once these differences are settled they go on with usual business. However, the African conflict as we have seen it in DRC case, they take a dangerous course when the external players referred to in this paper as the secondary, and tertiary beneficiaries are involved in the conflict. This is because these two groups of players come not to solve the ongoing conflict but to profiteer from them. This is one of the reasons why these people and institutions who are either regional and international companies fuel the conflict in order to get the most out of it since they are not directly at the receiving end of the conflict consequences.

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