Thursday, October 30, 2008

Congo, Coltan, China

Laurent Nkunda appears to be following in the time-tested pattern for rebels in Congo; rebellion in the country's eastern provinces, a rising of the ethnic Tutsi still seeking to deal with those Hutu militiamen who fled from Rwanda more than a decade ago to take refuge with their ethnic kin in Congo; and a fight for control over the country's mineral wealth.

What is interesting is the opposition to the proposed deal between Chinese firms and the Congolese state mining company. Essentially, my read of the agreement--where China would pay to develop the region and, more importantly, firmly link it to the port city of Matadi on the Atlantic, is the government in Kinshasha basically giving the Chinese a good deal of access to minerals in return for completing the task of nation/state-building--bringing Katanga back firmly into the fold. Rebel groups (and neighbors of Congo like Rwanda and Uganda) who have profited from the lack of central government authority to run their own mining operations can't be thrilled. What is not clear is whether, as in Sudan, China over time might deploy troops to help protect their assets and infrastructure. The UN is overstretched in Congo, with too few peacekeepers in place.

Here is the Associated Press report by Michelle Faul courtesy of the Guardian.

Im an expatriate currently in Goma, I found your blog in Google.
Here no one knows what´s going to happen and the situation is tense.
I think there is a clear link between current situation and economic interests (and I´m the kind person who detests conspiracy theories as much as believing in UFOs).
If Coltan is so vital for the defense industry as it seems to be, then this is an issue between China (supporting Kabila) and the US (supporting Kagame and Uganda). Both countries need the mineral.
I was in Liberia before and I saw chinese blue helmets there , arguably due to chineses economic interests in that country. I wonder if we will see chinese blue helmets around here. Maybe it would be too evident.

Interesting post. The people of Congo are clearly the losers of the new scramble for Africa.

Swedish national TV news stated today that coltan-interests undermines prospects for peace in the Great Lake region.

EU reject calls for troop deployment in Eastern Congo. Miliband urges African Union too do more military. Hopefully EU will do more to finance such an arrangement. EU's rejection to act sufficiently have been sharply criticized humanitarian organizations active in the region.

France have earlier said it would be willing to send troops unilaterally. But Kitimbwa Sabuniwas of the Afro-Swedish National Association argues that other EU countries fear that this would facilitate French interests in the region at the cost of e.g. UK's interests. I'm not sure that I wholeheartedly buy that explanation though.

Others have argued that the reason of the unwillingness to let France act alone is the country's alleged implications in the Rwandan genocide.

In either case, it hurts to see that EU or anybody is thus far incapable or unwilling to solve one of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.
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