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During the last few weeks, government ministers have made several statements on the current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following the visit to that country of David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and his French counterpart Bernard Couchner at the beginning of November. At the same time, the media has been full of reports concerning the recent outbreaks of violence in the country that has led to many deaths and a mounting refugee crisis, said to be affecting over 250,000 people.
There is still some speculation in the media that British troops might be sent on some "humanitarian mission" to a country where there are already 17,000 UN troops (MONUC), officially designated as "peacekeepers". The Foreign Secretary has stated that there will be no imminent deployment of British troops, but did not rule out the possibility of the use of EU armed forces in the future. At the present time, the government is stressing the need for a political solution to the problems in the region as well as a strengthening of MONUC but its main activity appears to be considerable hand wringing and the shedding of crocodile tears for the people of the Congo.
The current crisis in the Congo is only the latest consequence of the vicious exploitation by the big monopolies of a country that has an abundance of natural resources, but is currently one of the poorest in the world. It is a region that has been ruthlessly plundered by the big powers since the creation of the so-called Congo Free State at the end of the 19th century. British capital played a key role in facilitating the initial exploitation of Congo under the auspices of the Belgian monarch Leopold II, which led to the death of some 10 million of its population before 1914.
In the last ten years it is estimated that over 5 million have lost their lives as British and other monopolies have through their proxies contended over the Congos mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan. Coltan (colombite-tantalite ore), 80% of the reserves of which are found in the eastern DRC, is essential in the pinhead capacitors used in mobile phones for example.
The scramble for Africas resources during the colonial period also created artificial borders, displaced populations and created national tensions. These problems were further exacerbated in the period when they might have been addressed, because the US and its allies imposed the dictatorship of Mobuto on the Congo for over 30 years, in order to continue to exploit its mineral resources. When Mobutu no longer served their purposes, the big powers shifted their support to others who could and plunged the Congo into a major conflict which has now lasted over a decade and embroiled most of Congos neighbours.
When the Foreign Secretary returned from his visit to the DR Congo, he was asked on BBC Radio to acknowledge that the main cause of the problems in that country can be found in the plundering activities of the big monopolies, many of them British in origin. Not surprisingly, he was extremely reluctant to accept that this was the case, preferring instead to hypocritically emphasis the need for political stability in the region. But facts are stubborn things, and in the last ten years the UN itself has published two reports that pointed to the role of British monopolies, including De Beers, Anglo-American, Barclays, and Afrimex in the Congo conflict. Numerous reports also, including those by the UN, have shown that it is the demand and contention for Congos resources that are continuing to fuel conflict and instability in the region. As was pointed out by the BBC interviewer, the Labour government has itself been criticised for doing nothing to end the illegal plundering of Congos resources by British-based multinationals and in 2006 was found guilty by the House of Commons International Development committee of failing to carry out sufficiently thorough investigations of multinationals named in the UN reports.
The facts show that behind the catastrophic events that are taking place in the Congo can be found the rapacious tentacles of the big monopolies, which have had that country in their grip for over a century, whilst the governments of Britain and the other big powers act as their agents and staunchest supporters. There should be no illusions over the crocodile tears of Miliband and other government ministers. What must be demanded and fought for is for an end to the domination of the monopolies, and an end to the plunder of Africas resources. This is an essential part of the programme of the working class.
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