Sunday, November 6, 2011

Emptying the Congolese cookie jar and giving back one of the cookies

The 2001 Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame were on the verge of becoming the godfathers of illegal resource exploitation and ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

KPFA Weekend News Host David Rosenberg: Bloomberg reported this week that the government of Rwanda is returning 90 tons of minerals seized by the Rwandan Police after they were smuggled into Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  A spokesman for the government of Rwanda said that they were returning the minerals to Congo in order to dispense with the longstanding lie that the government has been benefiting from illegal minerals traffic there. KPFA's Ann Garrison has the story.

The Congo Wars of 1996-1997, and
1998 - 2003, and the ongoing battles
for Congo's immense natural resource
wealth, have created millions of
refugees or internally displaced
persons (IDPs), many of whom
have died of hardship, either on
the road or in camps.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: The 2001 UN Panel of Experts on Illegal Minerals Trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported that militias fighting in Congo were closely allied with Rwanda, Uganda, and that they were smuggling Congolese minerals across the eastern Congolese border into both countries.  The experts also reported that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni were then, quote, "on the verge of becoming the godfathers of illegal resource exploitation and ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  "They have," the UN experts wrote, "indirectly given criminal cartels a unique opportunity to organize and operate in this fragile and sensitive region."

In Paragraphs 181 - 190, the experts described the complicity and/or collaboration of donor nations, foreign corporations, cargo companies, private banks, and the World Bank. The World Bank, they said, gave the impression of rewarding both Rwanda and Uganda for plundering the Congo, by proposing them for a new debt relief program.

The experts also pointed to evidence of direct and indirect involvement by embassy staff and cooperation agencies from developed countries.  And, they singled out the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Germany and the U.S., as the main bilateral donors to Uganda and Rwanda.
In Paragraph 197, the UN experts named four Rwandan business associates of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and said that, quote, "what all four share is direct involvement in the exploitation of natural resources in the areas of Congo controlled by Rwanda."  In Paragraph 212, they wrote that Rwanda, by plundering Congolese resources, had been able to create a "self-sustaining war."

William Mitchell Law Professor Peter 
Erlinder was arrested in Rwanda in 
2010, after traveling there to advise in 
the criminal defense of Victoire Ingabire, 
the Rwandan opposition leader Victoire 
Ingabire. He is now one of the lawyers 
representing the widows of Rwandan 
PresidentPaul Kagame and Burundian 
President Cyprien Ntaryamira, in a civil 
suit in U.S. courts, 
Habyarimana v. Kagame.
William Mitchell Law Professor Peter Erlinder is Plaintiff's Counsel in Habyarimana vs. Kagame, a civil lawsuit in U.S. courts, alleging that President Kagame ordered the assassination of the Rwandan and Burundian presidents that triggered the Rwanda Genocide, and then, plundered the Democratic Republic of the Congo in consequent wars.  Erlinder told KPFA it's good that Rwanda has agreed to return 90 tonnes of stolen minerals to Congo, but, that he shouldn't now be rewarded for returning what never should have been stolen.

Peter Erlinder: Well, the Security Council has known since at least 2001 and 4 that Rwanda has been engaged in stealing minerals from the Congo on a massive scale for more than 10 years, at a rate of at least $250 million a year. The amounts have been huge. Anyone who knows Rwanda knows that nothing goes in or leaves Rwanda, of any consequence, without the Kagame regime knowing about it. The Kagame regime knows about these minerals that have been entering Rwanda illegally for all these years. We're happy they gave a little back, but they never should have invaded the Congo and occupied the eastern Congo in the first place, so there should be no points given for having emptied the cookie jar and then giving back one of the cookies.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: For Pacifica, KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

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