July 10, 2006 – London based Global Witness recently published a scathing report entitled Digging in Corruption: Fraud, Abuse and Exploitation in Katanga’s Copper and Cobalt Mines. The report documents the corruption, abuse and rank exploitation taking place in the formal and informal mining sectors in Congo’s Katanga province (one of the world’s richest copper and cobalt producing areas).
The report is yet another lucid documentation of the pilfering of the Congo’s wealth. The United Nation’s four reports from 2001 Ã± 2003, reports by Human Rights Watch, Fatal Transactions reports, independent journalist Keith Harmon Snow’s work and the Congolese parliament’s Lutundula Commission Report all clearly identify the link between corrupt Congolese officials and foreign mining companies, mainly from Europe, Canada, United States, Australia, South Africa and of late India and China. Global Witness says the mining sector in Katanga is characterized by “widespread corruption and fraud at all levels.” See the reports section of the FOTC website!
The rapid pace at which the wealth of the Congo is being sold at below bargain basement prices is shameless. The rebels, turned so-called politicians, and multi-national corporations are the primary beneficiaries of the Congo resource grab. Gerhard Kemp of the Rand Merchant Bank, of Johannesburg, SA is quoted in the Global Witness report (p.34) saying “The Congo is so rich in mineral wealth, you can’t just ignore it. You don’t want to be the last guy at this party.” Without a doubt this is the greatest land grab party of the modern era.
The South African Mail and Guardian reported that there is an international scramble for the wealth of the Congo and that “billions of dollars will be made.” Juxtaposed to the billions to be made and the estimated $1 billion that left Katanga province in 2005, is the unending suffering of the average Congolese. One Congolese miner interviewed by Global Witness says “We know that the Congo is rich. But despite this – we do not even have enough to eat. Only one category of people profits.” Congolese live on an average of $100 per year and 80 percent of the population lives on 30 cents per day. The Congo is a classic case of modern day serfdom and the depravity of those seeking to benefit at the expense of others even if millions more Congolese must die. Surely, King Leopold II would have a rye smile on his face knowing that over 100 years later the plunder and pillage that he began continues uninterrupted with impunity.
According to Global Witness, the majority of the contracts signed over the past five years give the Congo less than 25% share and in some cases, significantly less. An example of the type of deals signed is represented by the worlds richest copper mine, Tenke Fungurume; the foreign companies Phelps Dodge of Phoenix, Arizona and Tenke Mining Corp. of British Columbia, Canada own 82.5%, while the Congo owns a paltry 17.5% of its own resources through the parastatal, Gecamines. Many of these contracts are signed for an entire generation, 30 Ã± 40 years, which for all intents and purposes condemn a generation of Congolese to serfdom and poverty, whereby their resources are plundered to benefit foreign corporations. In fact, Global Witness reports that deals signed with Phelps Dodge, Global Enterprises Corporate Ltd and Kinross-Forrest (Kinross Gold Corporation of Toronto, Canada and George Forrest International of Belgium) deliver 70 percent of the Congo’s known copper reserves to these foreign corporations.
Should the pilfering continue unchecked, Katanga province will serve as a precursor of what is to come for the entire country. The province is under government control, unlike some of the other eastern provinces embroiled in conflict, yet the people are subject to abject poverty and deprivation. While the worldÃs eyes are on the upcoming July 30th elections, the wealth is going out the back door at warp speed. This reinforces what Congolese say is the under-belly of the election process whereby the international community is working feverishly and spending heavily to legitimize the current client regime so that the unfettered pilfering of the Congo can continue (See interview with Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja by Pambazuka News).
A window of opportunity exists to break the cycle of pillage of the Congo’s human and natural resources; a process, which began in its modern form under King Leopold II of Belgium in 1885, continued under Belgium Colonialism for a half-century and perpetuated for over 3 decades by the Western-imposed and backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
The underdevelopment and impoverishment of an entire generation is being carried out while a perverse alliance between corrupt government officials and big business line their pockets. Surely such a proposition is repulsive to any nation or people who claim to be moral, just or civilized. No human rights group or concerned celebrity can claim to be fighting poverty with any moral veracity and be silent or ignore the plunder and rape of the Congo. People of conscience and goodwill can hardly sit idly and do nothing as another generation of Congolese is in the process of being condemned to forced labor, poverty, and mass death.
Friends of the Congo