Plundering Congo, From Mobutu to Uganda

MobutuIf you have bothered to undertake a study of Democratic Republic of Congo it will not be lost on you  that the country seems to have been tailor made for plunder. From one end to the next its is an oasis of wealth and riches even beyond the riches of avarice. Gold, Timber, uranium, Coltan, diamond. Zinc, Cobalt, Tin, Crude oil and wood not to mention that the cobalt deposit is the largest in the world and that the United Nations estimates Zaire’s mineral wealth at USD 24 Trillion.

The country is large and unwieldy.   Am not sure of the logic contained  in partition and scramble for Africa and how it created this huge colossus and a small Rwanda and Burundi. But that is a tale for another date.

It boasts of 50% of all the forests in Africa.  Zaire has the potential- am not saying capacity- potential of supplying the entire Africa from below Cape Town until Algeria with Hydro Electric power.  Congo has an external debt of 6.089 Bn USD.   If you doubt ask the Central Investigation Authority (CIA).  From 1965-1997, Zaire was ruled by a chap with a colorful sobriquet; Mobutu Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga.  (See picture)  He ruled with an iron arm and brooked no dissent.  One time when university students had began marching and doing crazy things on the streets he recruited the entire lot to the army. But we digress.

Mobutu, it is said enriched himself and one time arguments as to the size of his wealth against the entire debt of the country made strong men stagger and look for lamp posts for support.  On his own account, “…..Clearly, I would be lying if I said I do not have a bank account in Europe; I do. I would be lying if I said I do not have considerable money in my account; I do. Yes, I do have a fair amount of money. However, I would estimate it to total less than 50 million dollars. What is that for twenty-two years as head of state in such a big country?”  He then further and righteously advises would be apprentice thieves,  “If you want to steal, steal a little in a nice way. But if you steal too much to become rich overnight, you’ll be caught.”

In the 1990’s for one strange reason a motley of forces supported by Rwanda and Uganda, overtly or covertly, catapulted the Laurent Kabila, Father of the current President Joseph Kabila, to power. In the aftermath of that sojourn, and roughshod-ding public opinion Ugandan troops and Rwandan troops started engaging in many shenanigans.  There were accusations of looting and plunder.  The only difference was that allegations were made that one group was plundering for the state and another was plundering on individual merit.  Be that as it may it is useful to recall that there was zilch in in way of agreement for the Congo misadventure.

Some busy bodies, curse them, went and reported an African problem to some Bazungu.  They came back with a huge bill against Uganda – something in the tune of 80 Trillion USD- which is more than the entire mineral wealth of Congo and they are asking Uganda to pay.  I have checked my account with the seriousness and diligence, natural in a reasonable man who receives an invoice of so humongous a sum. That money is not in our coffers- its utopian and imaginative.

Still, some commentators like point accusing fingers at some personages and we quote:

               The east of the country was ransacked and pillaged by Rwandan and Ugandan forces.  Between September 1998                and August 1999, according to UN experts: ‘The occupied zones of the DR Congo have been plundered of all                      their stocks: stocks of minerals, of forest and agricultural products, of livestock… Troops from Burundi, Uganda,                     Rwanda and soldiers of the RCD Goma commanded by an officer, visited farms, factories and banks… Orders                     were given to soldiers to load up products and goods on their armed vehicles.

              In the vicinity of Kamituga, Rwandan forces and their allies organized the removal of thousands of                            tonnes of coltan and cassiterite and its transportation back to the Rwandan capital, Kigali. Ugandan                       militia confiscated Kisangani’s entire stock of wood. Their ally Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the second                    largest rebel force, the anti-government Congolese Liberation Movement, seized the entire stock of                         available coffee. It took two months to transport these enormous stocks to Uganda. Ugandan generals                   close to their President, Museveni, set up companies and generously supplied arms to various ethnic                       militias who are still fighting each other in Ituri.

In view of the foregoing, how does it become the tax payer and the ordinary Pajule chap to pay for this plunder.  I would rather these chaps who were able to come with such a fine figure as 80 Trillion to send us an itemized list of what was plundered. Short of that we shall stand behind the till and pay after the ancestors of King Leopold have also repatriated their share of the loot.