The Congo genocide: Mass killings, rape, famine: the effects of war. While many have since moved on from the limited “happy” ending of Hotel Rwanda (some as soon as they threw away the remnants of their popcorn at the theatre), the war in the Congo still continues with rebels aiming to seize the terrritory of Goma in what appears to boil down to a struggle for precious minerals. In fact, what we are seeing now, the U.N. has reported, may be just the beginning of the climax to a long bloody war.
Key Players: Several armed groups including M23 rebels, Warlord Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda, Musevini (president of Uganda), Kagame (Rwanda), Kabila (Congolese politician), The U.S.
The Congo is Sub-saharan Africa’s biggest country plagued by a lack of roads and railways. The capital Kinshasa lies 1,000 miles from Goma, which was seized for its valuable minerals by the M23 in November of 2013. A succession of rebel groups and warlords have taken advantage of this territory for years to get a piece of the mining action in the Eastern Congo.
The Congo has mineral deposits worth trillions of dollars according to mining experts and holds 70% of the worlds tantalum, a mineral responsible for the very tablet, phone, or laptop that you may be reading this article on now. It is also rich in gold, tin, and coper. Ore (used to make steel) is also smuggled out of the Congo through Rwanda, Uganda, and Barundi. There are 450,000 artisanal miners who work in the Eastern Congo according to the U.S. geological survey.
Who are these Rebels?
The M23 rebels were formed about 8 months ago and said to be created by former rebels of a defunct insurgent group incorporated into the Congolese Army. This was supposed to be a part of the March 23rd peace treaty of 2009 that they accused the government of not upholding from which they named themselves. They have since seized primary trading hubs which culminated in the capture of Goma.
They are said to be connected to Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda, leader of formal rebel group The National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), and backed allegedly by high officials of Rwanda. As part of the 2009 agreement, Ntaganda was made general of the army and deputy commander for an operation to go after a militia of Hutus who took part in Rwanda’s genocide. Ntaganda had also run a lucrative smuggling racket taking minerals to neighboring Uganda.
Powers that be in Rwanda are said to be backing rebels in eastern Congo as a defense agains other militias of Hutu extremists operating in East Congo. They are also suspected to support sympathetic power networks in the East so it can profit from the export of minerals. Powers in Rwanda and neighboring Uganda are said to be responsible for the success of M23. These Rwandan figures also want to use M23 as a Tutsi force to counter Hutu rebels also operating in Eastern Congo, which Kagame denies.
Head figures in Uganda are also said to be supporting M23 on a smaller scale according to the U.N. report. They are allegedly driven by a few powerful players intent on profiteering from the Congo’s rich mineral resources.
While some say the U.S. is not supporting these rebel groups and are in fact trying to limit their trade and interaction with those in high political power, others accuse the U.S. of “flip flopping” to play the political game of partnering with whoever is in power to keep a hold on the minerals as well.
So where do we go from here?
The Congolese Army is facing serious lack of financial support and underfed. Due to these conditions they have repeatedly been forced to retreat in the face of the M23 attacks. Experts say that even if the M23 rebels were to withdraw from Goma, their overwhelming support in funds, food, and materials will allow them to return to fulfill their goal of seizing the region and it’s material wealth. U.N. investigators say that the battle of Goma may just be the beginning of a long and gory war.
While this political conflict remains with each party claiming to be fighting for “the people,” refugee camps continue to fill with women, children, and the elderly. They suffer from rape, torture, enslavement, and other unspeakable crimes. In this bloodshed lay one thing at the crux of this conflict: Minerals. Is human life worth this fight? A long complicated history involving imperialism and slavery that umbrellas this issue leaves us to once again contemplate the use of power. Who are the persecutors? Who are the victims? What can come of this crisis? You Decide.
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