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Democratic Republic of Congo: M23, imperialist looti ng and barbarism – Part One

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  • Cort Greene
    http://www.marxist.com/drc-m23-imperialist-looting.htm Democratic Republic of Congo: M23, imperialist looting and barbarism – Part One
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2013

      Democratic Republic of Congo: M23, imperialist looting and barbarism � Part
      One <http://www.marxist.com/drc-m23-imperialist-looting.htm>
      Written by Gavin JacksonMonday, 21 January 2013
      [image: Print]<http://www.marxist.com/drc-m23-imperialist-looting/print.htm>[image:

      Once again the Democratic Republic of Congo has been through months of
      turmoil, soldiers defecting en masse from the Congolese Army (FARDC)
      followed by fighting between government forces and militia in the Kivu
      regions. But why is all this happening and what interests lie behind these
      events? Gavin Jackson looks at the different forces on the ground and
      outlines the looting on the part of the various imperialist powers that is
      the real reason behind the barbarism.

      [image: M23 outside Goma. Photo: Voice of America/Wikimedia
      outside Goma. Photo: Voice of America/Wikimedia
      .The �M23� movement succeeded in taking hold of Goma, the provincial
      capital of North Kivu, after government forces evaporated on contact and
      MONUSCO soldiers offered meagre resistance. Many hundreds of thousands of
      Congolese have abandoned their homes and land to escape the brutal attacks
      of both militia and government soldiers.

      Rumours and partial reports of some of the most vile abuses associated with
      the Kivu regions and its militias have followed both M23 and FARDC soldiers
      on the Goma campaign. The question why M23 has taken up arms and who they
      are is rarely answered in full, it is only said that the extraction of rare
      earth metals is fuelling an existing conflict � what that conflict is, is
      left unsaid. A new truce appears to be settling in place in and around
      Goma, for the moment. However, this is cold comfort for those who have
      witnessed truces come and go like the seasons in the Kivus.

      An eight month campaign has brought the soldiers of the M23 militia onto
      the alleys and boulevards of Goma and back again. On the surface it appears
      they have withdrawn to the hills in the region surrounding the key mining
      hub, but not without cleaning out the banks and government offices in the
      city on their way. In the process the Congolese Army has imploded under the
      weight of the complete demoralisation of the rank and file soldiers, and
      the inveterate corruption of the Congolese officer caste.

      Compare this to the early days of the mutiny in April and May where the
      FARDC came close to crushing M23 entirely. Despite the advantageous
      opportunity to shatter M23, Kinshasa was unable to end the rebellion.
      Meanwhile other militias began rampaging in the Eastern region, taking
      advantage of the redeployment of FARDC forces in a scramble for control of
      the mines and trade routes � the bloodiest events taking place in the
      region where the *Raia Mutomboki *are active near the South Kivu-Burundi
      border while *Mai-Mai *have seized the important mining town of Walikale.
      More so, rumours of outright treason on the part of the former commander of
      FARDC forces in the east have emerged. Reuters reported on December 10th
      that Major-General Gabriel Amisi � removed from his command after the fall
      of Goma � betrayed the soldiers in his command to M23:

      *One senior FARDC officer who fought the M23 uprising said he believed Goma
      was lost because of what he called sabotage of the army's fighting
      capability. "All of our intelligence was given to M23," the officer
      alleged, saying that throughout the fighting "there was intense
      communications with them" from within the government ranks.*1

      As if to underline the calamitous situation thousands of UN troops could do
      little more than carry out helicopter gunship sorties against the
      militiamen as they advanced toward Goma and nearby towns. Badly equipped,
      completely demoralised and all too aware of the profiteering of the
      officers, many FARDC soldiers � some given nothing more than a faded second
      hand uniform and flip-flops to wear into battle � were seen to be steaming
      drunk on the streets of Goma the night before the city fell. It is clear no
      defence of the city was possible with this human material � the FARDC began
      demobilising itself, chaotically, through nearby towns in tatters. Both M23
      and FARDC soldiers began � according to UN reports � looting and raping in
      some areas as one advanced and the other routed.

      As part of the withdrawal agreement 100 soldiers from each of the M23,
      FARDC and the UN remain at the key installation in the city, Goma
      International Airport. UN reconnaissance flights have confirmed the rebels
      are positioned only three kilometres outside of the city . For all intents
      and purposes M23 have conducted a retreat for public relations, while
      partially digging in at the main military objective � which allows their
      reinforcements across the Rwandan border while presenting the possibility
      of cutting UN/FARDC forces off from the possibility of receiving
      *their *reinforcements,
      without safe access to the airstrip, from outside the immediate region for

      FARDC soldiers were seen handing their automatic rifles and handguns to
      young men and boys as M23 advanced on Goma. The night before the city fell
      (November 19th) over one thousand inmates of a Goma prison staged a
      breakout, AFP reports. And who can blame them?

      *The entire Muzenze prison was initially designed to accommodate a maximum
      of 150 inmates but up to 200 could be crammed into a single cell, [a now
      jobless warden] added. They were only given food every other day.*

      Abandoned by Kinshasa to the mercies of a disintegrating state
      infrastructure and a band of brutal mutineers the residents of the million
      strong city of Goma took justice into their own hands. At least six
      escapees have been lynched so far, including five accused of armed robbery
      who were burned alive.

      Over 500,000 people have fled their homes in the region in the last eight
      months � escaping the areas under M23 control for those under the minimal
      oversight of Kinshasa. Without additional funding or resources the UN and
      aid agencies lack the means to reach many of the displaced. In desperation
      they return to their homes in search of food - M23 soldiers garrisoned to
      these villages murder them on sight for crossing into government territory.

      Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported on the vile acts of M23:

      �Since June, M23 fighters have deliberately killed at least 15 civilians in
      areas under their control, some because they were perceived to be against
      the rebels, Human Rights Watch said. The fighters also raped at least 46
      women and girls. The youngest rape victim was eight years old. M23 fighters
      shot dead a 25-year-old woman who was three months pregnant because she
      resisted being raped. Two other women died from the wounds inflicted on
      them when they were raped by M23 fighters.�

      Much of what is reported by HRW is horrific. While it lays bare the
      limitless barbarism to which capitalism has reduced this part of the globe,
      it is of such a character we feel it best to leave it to the readers of *In
      Defence of Marxism *to choose whether to read the reports for themselves.
      As if this were not enough, the soldiers of the FARDC are responsible for
      more acts of brutality � torture, rape and murder � than all of the
      militias *combined. *The proposed solutions of the NGOs, aid agencies and
      diplomats in response � the sanctions, the criminal courts for men they
      can't catch, men who have the support of regional and international states
      and corporations � they all stand in farcical contrast to the utter
      barbarism of it all; so much so the question must be asked at times *"are
      you out of your mind?"*
      Regime disintegrating

      News of the fall of Goma sparked militant demonstrations reminiscent of
      those which took place during last year�s rigged elections. Thousands of
      protesters are reported3 to have came out on the streets of Kinshasa,
      Kisangani, Bunia, Kindu and Bukavu for days � burning cars and buildings
      and directing their rage at not only M23 but also Kabila and the UN
      peacekeepers who sat on their hands yet again. (Congo

      The New York Times reported:

      ��Our president is a thief, a thief!� exclaimed Jean-Claude Dumbo, an
      unemployed man in Goma. �He doesn�t pay the army. He steals it all for

      In Kisangani the Congolese state forces found the courage to kill three
      protesters and injured seven others. This did not stop the enraged
      demonstrators ransacking the church of �Bishop� Runiga � an M23
      spokesperson � burning the MONUSCO headquarters in the city, the local
      headquarters of the ruling PPRD party, the headquarters of the *Mouvement
      social pour le renouveau *and of the electoral commission (CENI) which
      helped to rig the 2011 elections. In Bunia six protesters were shot dead
      while another church of Runiga�s was ransacked, along with homes of UN
      staffers � live ammunition was reportedly used to drive protestors away
      from the local MONUSCO office
      21.11.12). UN �peacekeepers� sent on a deployment to �protect civilians� do
      nothing to fight an extremely violent militia, yet are quite robust in
      defending themselves against Congolese demonstrators. FARDC soldiers were
      brought on to the streets of Bunia to crush the protests. In Walikale
      another MONUSCO office was showered with rocks; while in Bukavu, at the
      opposite shore of Lake Kivu to Goma, protesters fought police on the
      streets before burning the local headquarters of the*Majorit� au
      pr�sidentielle *(MP), a front set up to support Kabila. As government
      soldiers and police returned to Goma some protests also took place in the
      city, Businessweek reported:

      "We denounce the failure of the ministers of interior, defense and the army
      chief of staff. We ask for their resignation. A team that does not work
      must be changed," said one of the demonstrators, Luc
      Nkulula....Demonstrators on Thursday burned tires and policemen armed with
      rifles arrived on the scene. Security forces appeared ready to use
      disproportionate force to repel a group of youths, who were protesting
      against the forces' lack of resolve in the face of a rebel army. "We were
      here alone. The rebels have raped us, looted us. They have scared us. Why
      today, when we are expressing our anger, you are coming to stop us?" said
      Nkulula to a policeman.

      Without a movement to remove the Kabila clique from power the regime
      stumbles on from crisis to calamity through sheer inertia.

      This latest episode in over two decades of bloodshed has laid bare the deep
      scars left by the imperialist exploitation of the African continent. The
      well practised response of the bourgeois media � 'conflict minerals',
      corruption, tin-pot dictators, brutal ethnic warfare, inexplicable
      violence, Africans slaughtering Africans - does nothing to advance our
      understanding of what is taking place and why. These are not episodic
      explosions of violence, but simply the most visible peaks in a struggle to
      control the colossal mineral wealth and trade of the region. Hard as it may
      be to believe in the advanced capitalist countries but these militia are a
      feature of everyday life for the workers and small peasants of the Eastern
      DRC. While this is the general trend there are outstanding examples. The
      work of Jason Stearns through both the Rift Valley Institute (RVI) and
      Congosiasa reveal a great deal of what is not covered, and, in spite of
      differences in method of analysis Stearns remains one of the better for
      accurate material on the region and we rely on much of this for the present

      In understanding the present outbreak of fighting we must do so against the
      background of the global crisis of capitalism. Capital has flowed into safe
      havens for investment � often this has meant it has flowed into places or
      commodities the capitalists consider safe to store their wealth to see out
      the crisis for better days. One of these is gold, the market price of which
      has seen a steady boom. More important a factor than this has been the
      collapse in production in the industrialised regions of the earth. The
      manufacture of electronics, high technology items, automobiles and other
      manufactured goods has slowed down dramatically. As many of the minerals
      and metals extracted in the DR Congo are smuggled into Rwanda and Uganda it
      is difficult to get any real idea of fluctuation in prices and the impact
      on profits � though this doesn�t stop them showing up in the trade figures
      of both Uganda and Rwanda. Figures for production in China can give us an
      approximate idea of what is happening in the Rare Earth Elements (REE)

      As an example of how drastic the shift has been, the price of Lanthanum
      Oxide extracted in China has fallen 56%, dysprosium oxide 69%. China
      Minmetals (Ganzhou) Rare Earth�s profits were 368 million Yuan for the
      first six months of 2012, less than half of the profits of 885 million yuan
      made in all of 2011. Rising Nonferrous Metals Share Co. reported profits of
      9.41 million Yuan for the first half of 2012, compared to a total of 173
      million for all of 2011 � a serious collapse in
      17.10.12) The fate of each metal, however, paints a more complex picture.
      Gold is 15% up on the Tokyo Exchange from 31st December 2011, 44.7% on the
      Hong Kong Exchange. Overall the price of gold has increased from $1215 per
      ounce in December 2009, to $1432.57 in March 2011 and reaching $1913.50 in
      August 2011. The British *Telegraph *(13.12.12 *telegraph.co.uk*) reported
      that capital flow into European gold trading funds grew more than 15% in
      2012, with $6.8 billion flowing in. (The
      13.12.12) Amongst the other metals and REEs the picture is complex.
      Tantalum prices has boomed over 200% in the past year, Cobalt has fallen
      back by between 24-27%, Managanese has dropped 18.6% along with Molybdenum
      falling 17.2% (all as of 14.12.12

      These shifts in the world market have rippled out to every corner of the
      globe � as a result the importance of the gold mines of the eastern DRC has
      grown immensely. The *Enough Project *has compiled information on the mines
      under FARDC control8, many of which are concentrated in the Kivus and
      Ituri. (enoughproject.org<http://www.enoughproject.org/files/publications/Goma%20Field%20Dispatch%20Appendix.pdf>,
      pdf) Using the Bisie mine as an example of common practice, amongst those
      levying a tax on miners allowed to work, aside from the army, are the
      Mining Police, the owner of the mine and the traditional Chief in the area
      who take 1 kilo of every twelve each (1 kilo of coltan has a market price
      between US$100-400). The Congolese secret service (ANR) and military
      intelligence (T2) each take 200 francs from every miner going into or out
      of mining sites. Add to this taxes levied on the *negociants, *South
      African, Pakistani, Indian, Lebanese and other traders who set up trading
      houses in the towns and cities of the Kivus, buying extracted material from
      the mineworkers (often using money loaned by representatives of the
      multinationals � Glencor , FQM etc). Control of legal and illegal taxes on
      the *negociants *trafficking through Goma is worth over $16,200.00 per
      month. Not only has the importance of the mines simply increased but every
      sector of the Congolese state - from immigration control to the army and
      secret police � have a stake in the mines, sucking the very sweat and blood
      from the huge mass of miners extracting the material, many of them
      children, using pick, shovel and bare hands in near dark, surrounded by
      explosions, toxic water, radioactive material and carcinogenic smoke.

      Alongside and in conflict with the FARDC, the Rwandan and Ugandan elite
      have extensive interests in the DRC. The gold mines of the north-eastern
      Ituri province have periodically fallen under the direct control of the
      Ugandan Defence Forces, while the smuggling of gold continues unabated. In
      2007 the total of 10,700 tonnes of official exports of cassiterite from
      Goma to Rwanda was worth roughly $50-75 million. These official exports
      account for only around a third of what crosses the border, the rest is
      funnelled through the CNDP-M23 smuggling networks � which is to say over
      20,000 tonnes of cassiterite alone was smuggled across the border with a
      value of $100-150 million (Stearns, *Nkunda and the CNDP*). Citing a study
      by the *Enough Project*Reuters reported that while Rwanda�s total domestic
      mineral extraction for 2010 to 2011 increased 22%, exports of minerals
      increased 62%.

      Control of fuel in Goma was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars during
      war time, especially in the wars at the turn of the century. The total
      charcoal trade � important as fuel in a region with little or no
      electrification and for mining operations � is controlled by militias in
      the Virunga national park area (CNDP, FDLR, Mai-Mai) and was estimated to
      be worth $30 million dollars a year. (University of

      While it may seem a joke in the industrialised world, along with the
      metals, minerals, gold, charcoal, ivory and tax rackets a major interest
      for Rwanda and M23 is.....cattle. While land ownership has changed hands a
      number of times since it began to be enclosed in the beginning of 20th
      century, the biggest landowners were from a Tutsi background � 90% of the
      ranches in the Masisi and Rutshuru regions were given over to Tutsi
      businessmen by Mobutu in exchange for supporting his regime. Subsequent
      wars have seen land across the Kivus expropriated and re-expropriated by
      various factions to different degrees, however, the interests remain � so
      much so that it has lead to what Stearns informs us is facetiously referred
      to as *�vaches sans frontieres� *� Cows without Borders. Both Rwandan
      military and political elites have invested heavily in cattle � which apart
      from carrying particular cultural significance in Rwanda are also extremely
      valuable in their own right. Not a few soldiers who have been integrated
      into the FARDC from Laurent Nkunda�s militia were in fact cattle herders
      brought over from Rwanda to work on the huge ranches owned by both Tutsi
      businessmen and CNDP officers. More so, there is evidence Rwanda has made
      use of the peace agreement to send 50,000 or more Rwandans across the
      border, with cattle, to seize Hunde land in Masisi and Rutshuru for ranches
      (hence the at times virulent anti-Tutsi sentiment). A 2008 UN report which
      Stearns helped to produce stated that *�CNDP officers own over 1,500 cows
      in a small area of their territory, worth between $450,000 and $750,000,
      and probably own far more than that in other areas they occupy. According
      to ranchers, there could be as many as 180,000 cows in North Kivu, many of
      them in territory under CNDP control.� *Stearns reports that around 7,200
      head of cattle (worth $2.2-3.6 million) in Masisi, Ntaganda�s stronghold,
      belonged to high-ranking Rwandan officials. The total value of these herds
      together in North Kivu worth $54-90,000,000, all under the stewardship of
      M23 and Ntaganda. These herds alone are a huge material interest for both
      the Tutsi businessmen both sides of the border who support the successive
      RCD-CNDP-M23 militias.

      To underline the importance of the question of land and access to it �
      formerly decided in many areas by the traditional chief, in other words in
      primitive communist relations � Stearns
      pdf - p25-26) provides figures on changes to demographics and social
      relations, particularly in the Masisi and Rutshuru highlands. In 1928 the
      Belgian administration established the National Committee of the Kivus, a
      private company to which the Belgians granted right to dispose of land in
      the Kivus. Millions were made selling land for ranches and plantations to
      European settlers, displacing local communities. Gold was discovered by
      Australian adventurers in Ituri, along with other minerals, the Belgians
      began �encouraging� the migration of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi from
      Rwanda � seized from the German Empire � with up to 300,000 arriving in the
      colonial period to work the mines and plantations. As new ranches and
      plantations were fenced off the population was pushed on to smaller tracts
      of land to survive from, many were completely driven off the land into the
      mines. Between 1930 and 1990 the population of Masisi and Rutshuru rose
      almost tenfold, density in Masisi rising from 12 per square kilometre in
      1940 to 111 per square kilometre in 1983. The 1966 �Bakajika� Law and 1973
      Land Law crowned the changes in relations taking place on the ground,
      nationalising the land (Mobutu used this to turn ranches and plantations
      over to his allies) the 1973 law making the state the only authority
      capable of granting land titles and ending the customary titles granted by
      local chiefs. Between the first outpost of capitalism being established in
      1908 and the 1970�s centuries of development of property and class
      relations were compressed into the space occupied by decades. Moreover,
      capitalist property relations were implanted in the region at the point of
      its degeneration as a social form in the epoch of Imperialism. The impact
      on Congolese society has been catastrophic � in everything from the lakes
      of blood spilt to the very cultural level of the region.

      We recall here the methods of the militias - of terrorising the small
      farmers, using as has been detailed murder, torture and rape to absolutely
      shatter families and wider communities, driving many hundreds of thousands
      of small farmers from their land. The militias and the businessmen backing
      them have a direct material interest in doing so, as part of a campaign to
      enclose more communal and small farmers� land in order to expand their
      multi-million dollar agricultural industry taking in cattle, timber, tea
      and coffee (Starbucks is a particularly big investor in Rwanda) � a
      conclusion supported by the findings of MONUC inquiries to fighting in the
      region. (Congo Siasa<http://congosiasa.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/monuc-internal-report-about-ex-cndp.html>

      It is not only national but also international capital that is completely
      intertwined and reliant on these militias. In 2005 a Human Rights Watch
      report � *The Curse of Gold *� detailed the operations of AngloGold
      Ashanti, part of British multinational AngloAmerican, in working with,
      funding, supplying and providing logistical support to the *Nationalist and
      Integrationist Front (FNI)*in the Ituri province of North Eastern DRC, in
      order to access the rich gold fields around Mongbwalu. The FNI
      distinguished themselves from the other mass-murderers and rapists by
      hunting down women in the villages of the region around Mongbwalu in order
      to burn them as witches. Here also, we have the last word on the capacity
      of capitalism to truly advance human civilisation. Admittedly,
      Anglo-Ashanti have moved on. These days they operate out of a heavily
      fortified compound protected by cement walls, G4S security guards and
      barbed wire. Alongside Anglo-Ashanti, Glencore dominate the industrial
      mines of Katanga and the trade conducted by local *negociants*. Across
      North and South Kivu, the Canadian Banro and Loncor Resources as well as
      the Congolese Samika SARL hold concessions in the gold, wolframite,
      manganese and coltan mines which carpet the entire region, monopolising the
      industry (ipisresearch.be<http://www.ipisresearch.be/maps/MiMiKi/Concessions/WEB/INDEX.HTML>).
      Banro and Loncor Resources are two faces for the same set of capitalist
      interests, with Simon Village (formerly of HSBC), Arnold T Konradt (founder
      of Banro and head of a Canadian hedge fund) and Peter Colley (formerly of
      Ashanti) and lawyer Richard Lachcik serve as heads of both companies. In
      its turn Sakima SARL is a subsidiary of Banro.

      Add to these Tullow and Heritage Oil � the board of which includes
      ex-Executive Outcomes and SAS soldier Anthony Buckingham, a former US
      special forces Colonel and a retired British General. Heritage and Tullow
      are in dispute with Kinshasha over contracts for exploration and drilling
      rights in the Albertine Graben which runs from the Virunga national park
      (north of Goma) north to Ituri. Tullow held concessions on the Ugandan side
      of Lake Albert, and worked closely with Museveni and his brother to develop
      the oil fields there � UPDF soldiers engaging FARDC on occasion on the
      request of Tullow representatives. As part of the contract with Kinshasha
      Heritage provided millions of dollars worth of military equipment to the
      FARDC, including jeeps and speed boats to patrol the oil concessions �
      precisely in those areas offering opportunity to develop contacts with
      Rwandan proxies and M23. Among the other interests of Heritage � politely
      described as �frontiersmen� � are the oil fields of Iraqi Kurdistan,
      Pakistan and Libya, they also had a stake in the Taoudeni Basin in
      Mali-Mauritania. Kinshasha tore up a massively profitable contract in 2010,
      handing it over to companies in the British Virgin Islands � in other words
      notorious Israeli bourgeois Dan Gertler, deal maker for the seizure of
      First Quantum�s $1.1 billion investments. If they are not already involved
      in the present conflict, they have means, motive and the right connections
      with the British, American and Rwandan state machinery to be so.

      *[To be continued...]*
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