How The US Promoted the Conflict in Congo


FORMER US President Bill Clinton's administration covertly promoted Uganda and Rwanda's involvement in regional wars while facilitating mining opportunities for American companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new report says. 

In a case of "classical cronyism," a company led by a businessman from Mr Clinton's home state of Arkansas was the first to secure a $1billion mining deal from Congo's former president, Laurent Kabila.

The billion-dollar deal was negotiated between Mr Kabila and American Mineral Fields, then headed by Mr Mike McMurrough, a native of Bill Clinton's home town of Hope, Arkansas.

AMF secured the deal to mine cobalt and copper and had been in negotiations with Mr Kabila well before he became the president. Mr Kabila was assassinated this January.

Another company, Bechtel Corporation, worked closely with Kabila to draw up "the most complete mineralogical and geographical data of the former Zaire ever compiled, data worth a fortune to any prospective mining or oil firm."

An executive with Bechtel, Mr Robert Stewart, become Mr Kabila's constant companion, "travelling the country at his side to help him deal with ethnic uprisings," says the report.

Titled "The Clinton legacy: Uplifting rhetoric, grim realities," the report, dated March 22, is compiled by the World Policy Institute, and was last week made available to The EastAfrican

Says the report: "Economic interests are a significant factor in the fighting in DRC. Much has been made of the economic exploitation of DRC by direct parties to the conflict, including Zimbabwe, Namibia, Unita, Angola and the various Congolese rebel groups.

"But little attention has been given to Western corporations continuing to exploit DRC's mineral wealth, even in the midst of civil war," the report says.

Mr Clinton's pro-democracy, pro-growth rhetoric in East Africa, it says, concealed a different policy that relied heavily on old policy instruments that had served as the linchpin of US-Africa policy during the Cold War – the provision of US arms and training to favoured allies.

It further points out that while arms transfers declined markedly, military training programmes maintained a brisk pace.

"It is clear that US security policies towards Africa continued to do more harm than good, through a combination of sins of omission and commission," reads the report.

"From the Bush administration, we may expect many of the same tactics pursued by the Clinton administration, albeit cloaked in slightly different rhetoric," states the report.

The report says it is still difficult to predict the new Bush administration's policy under Walter Kansteiner III, recently appointed as Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs.

Kansteiner is yet another member of the new administration recycled from the first Bush administration, who held a position at the Department of Defence working on a strategic minerals task force and was formerly executive vice president of a commodity trading and manufacturing company that mainly worked with developing countries.

It is expected that Mr Kansteiner will most likely follow an economically-driven policy rather than one centred on humanitarian concerns, especially considering his background fits well with an administration heavily influenced by corporate ties to mineral resources.

Between 1989 and 1998, the US provided over $227 million (Ush398 trillion) in weapons and training to African military forces, of which over $111 million (Ush194 trillion) went to governments that have been directly or indirectly involved in the war in the DRC.  

The other countries named as the beneficiaries of US military support include Angola, Burundi, Chad, DRC, Namibia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The figures do not include the $75 million (Ush132 trillion) in emergency aid provided to Rwanda to help it recover from the 1994 genocide.

Of the $19.5 million (Ush33 trillion) in weapons and training that was delivered to African armed forces in 1999 alone, $4.8 million (Ush9 trillion) went to nations directly or indirectly involved in the war in the DRC. 

The World Policy Institute noted that, participation by African nations in the Pentagon's Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program dropped significantly in FY 1999, the most recent year for which full statistics are available. 

JCET programs in Africa during 1999 were conducted in Chad (35 personnel trained), Namibia (39 students trained), Djibouti, Mali, and Malawi.

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