Why is There War in Eastern Congo?
A conversation about Congo , November 2022
transcribed by PD Lawton, 28 January 2023
–What is the current situation? Where is the fighting taking place and why?
The fight is happening in North Kivu. You have 2 neighboring provinces, North Kivu and South Kivu but the fighting is going on in North Kivu. The populations of the 2 provinces are the same (ethnicity). The fighting started at the border of Congo and Uganda. Uganda is 70km from the town of Goma. Goma is the provincial capital of North Kivu. They have been fighting and the fighting has now got closer to Goma, just 20km away. FARDC, the Congolese army, were able to push them back. They used fighter jets and helicopters to push them back.
The people who are fighting there are not the rebels . They are the Rwandan army.
They are just given the name of the rebels (M23). So it is a professional army, it is not like you are just fighting people from the bush.
But this whole week things were very tense in Goma. (November)
People started packing, planning to run away. But the government used fighter jets and that is how they were pushed back from Goma.
– We keep hearing the story that the president of DRC keeps complaining that the fight is coming from Rwanda, not just rebels, but nobody seems to know what the real thing is, who are these rebels?
But that is the ruse. The M23 don`t exist. The rebels don`t exist. The government of Rwanda uses people from Rwanda as a pretext, ethnics, who live in DRC , to invade DRC. Because when they (Rwanda)say they are fighting for their rights, it is just a pure lie. Because this ethnic group have got the highest rights in DRC, more than other tribes.
–Which ethnics/tribe is that?
They are sort of like the Masai in Kenya ( cattle farmers) ( Banyamulenge) .
They are in the current government, they have 2 ministers in the government. They are less than 1 million. And you are speaking about a country of 100 million people. They have got many majors and generals in the Congolese army.
You know Congo is divided into provincial government. So you have provincial government in North Kivu and South Kivu, where these people are found., they are even represented in these provincial governments. So there is no issue of rights because their community, being under 1 million, even had a president of DRC, Azarias Ruberwa.
So all the things they say in the media is just a fabrication. How can it be that they say they are discriminated against, you are hated, when they are in government, and have a government minister and have had a former president?
So it really doesn`t hold water, it has no basis. So it is just a way of the Rwandan government to attack DRC. They just divide people and come in and say this one is my friend, my ally, and then use him to gain what you want because themselves they cannot fight against the army of DRC, they cannot.
Congo is not fighting against Rwanda alone because there is a union of Rwanda and Uganda. So there are 2 countries fighting against DRC. But it is not 2 countries alone. They hired people, mercenary fighters from Somalia, from Kenya, from Tanzania. They are there, they have been arrested on DRC soil, it is a fact.
It is a high syndicate that you are dealing with.
–What exactly is Rwanda looking for in DRC? Are they looking for resources?
You know Rwanda is a poor country, it doesn`t have anything (resources or much land). But they have a Plan B, a vision 2040 of turning Kigali into the City of New York. So when you have got all those big ambitions and you have no means to materialize them what you have to do is think of ways of having them. So since they invaded DRC in 1997, they have been looting. They have been destroying companies, taking engines and then go and start new companies in Rwanda. For example, in Uvira, we have a company that does sugar, they went and took all the generators. So they have been plundering, not only minerals but everything. They have been plundering cars. They call DRC Dubai. You know Dubai is where all African countries go to import things. So Rwandans call DRC, Dubai. So the vision for them is first to create an empire, called Hima. And their empire of Hima, for them the vision is to take the province of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and control it indirectly. So you have indirect rule. So you put people there to rule your provinces who are at your obedience. So those areas that they are targeting are the areas where you have coltan. That is the area where you have the gold, most of the gold in DRC is from the east. So it is an area which is very, very rich in minerals, in petrols/oil, it has everything. So they want to control that area using the people in DRC who speak their language. So that is their vision, the Hima empire they want to create. So that is with Uganda and Rwanda but they have backup with Kenya. Because the government of Kenya, you also have people who support them, support their vision. The government may not be there but they have got people. And among them, they have Ruto, who supports their vision. That is well known.
So that is their vision, to control the area but they have been having challenges to do so. So Rwanda, to have them build what you are hearing they are building, they use the resources from Congo. They brought companies to transform gold in Rwanda. They brought companies to transform coltan in Rwanda. Those companies are in Rwanda, so where do they get their materials? They get the materials in DRC. But the company is in Rwanda. So they use DRC to supply their factories, their companies.
This time around we had this when Kabila left power, we had Tshisekedi who came. And he wants to stop others, that is the cause of the current war we have. Because some of the companies in Rwanda they ( DRC government) want to close. So he (Kagame) cannot allow the companies to close because that is where they get income.
If you go to the world producers of gold in Africa, or coltan, Rwanda is among the producers of gold and coltan. And yet they have nothing, absolutely nothing. So that is the whole war. It is not a war you can stop today because people have been looting and looting and to tell them now – it is over, you must suffer with hunger- , it is not possible. That is why in DRC we do not believe the story of the army ( as a solution)coming from Uganda, coming from Kenya, it cannot work.
The only solution to it is for Congo to build a strong army. Because Kenya also will get desire to make profit in DRC. Uganda will desire. So it is not that they have the economic agenda, they cannot really solve the problem, it is a business. So that is why we are just saying we need to use the (Congo) army and thank God for this president ( Tshisekedi). He has that vision that is why they (Rwanda) couldn`t achieve what they have been trying to do. I was listening to a journalist from Rwanda and he was saying they were fighting for 1 week and they couldn`t even achieve /gain 3km because the Congolese army is so strong. The DRC army is now so strong. That is the only way we can have peace.
That in brief is why they are fighting now and what is happening on the ground.
The problem is things in DRC cannot stop today or tomorrow. You know DRC has been blessed with so many resources. And most of our neighboring countries, they are poor countries. DRC has got rain every 24 hours. DRC does not need any fertilizer for crops to grow. So all those neighbors they don`t have the privileges that DRC has. They need them. So that is why when this president came, Tshisekedi, he came with a policy of good neighboring. So he allowed the neighbors to come in DRC and do investment. So they would not desire to come in with various communities and come in and loot. That is why he started with Rwanda, but it didn`t work because Rwanda has been looting so much that getting small things was not enough. So we have neighbors who have almost got nothing. You have got Burundi, you have got Tanzania. Tanzania is fine because you have not got a land border with them, there is Lake Tanganyika with them. You have got Zambia. Zambia is a poor country. Although they are managing, it is a poor country. They only have copper, copper which is a mountain that is coming from DRC and it enters into Zambia. So the mountain of copper is coming from DRC and entering Zambia. Nevertheless, it is a poor country. Uganda is a poor country. If you go to Central Africa (C.A.R) it is a poor country, most of it is dead ( empty). If you go to Congo Brazzaville, they are the only ones trying, and Angola, among all our neighbors. So you have that scenario where you have got people surrounding DRC who have not got much resources.
You have the multinational companies who also want the resources of DRC and they don`t want to get it in a legal way. If they get it in a legal way, they won`t have too much profit. So they have to use a foreign country. That is why you hear sometimes there is tension between DRC and Angola. Because all the oil which Angola is producing today that doesn`t belong to Angola, it is all from DRC (offshore). So they maintained a puppet in DRC who wouldn’t question them about that. When Kabila was in power they were giving him money and tried to guarantee him that he would be in power for a long time in exchange for not asking about the oil. Because the agreements according to Maritime Law, that the production that Angola is doing is supposed to be sharing with DRC and DRC is supposed to have the highest percentage. DRC has almost 30 blocs of petrol/oil. DRC has enough oil to be the world producer of petroleum.
With all the wealth in DRC, why is the wealth not reflected in DRC itself?
It is not reflecting because they never allow DRC to have leaders who can lead DRC. That is number 1. These international communities do not want the well- being of Congolese people. If you make it so they are in a good situation they will start to look and say – what are you doing there? They will start to question. So maintain them in poverty so they only crying what is going in the stomach. Constant crisis. So it is easy for Congolese to get refugee status in any country all over the world. So they allowed us to run anywhere and be accepted, except to stay in DRC. Run away! Run away! And those who stay there -maintain them in abject poverty. The only thing they want is food. So the resources are there but they allow the elite to loot it.So they will tell them – look we will protect you, you can eat whatever you want to eat but let us take whatever we want to take in the country. So they are not accountable. So that is why the resources are not reflected.
If you go to DRC you will find a contrast you cannot believe. There are individuals who are travelling in DRC in private jets, Congolese people. And there`s people who have not even one spoon of porridge to eat that night. How can you explain that? We have got billionaires and others don`t even have $1. Because there is riches there but is not equally shared in the communities.
So what should the people themselves do, the people on the lower rung ?
To change the system is to elect leaders who can lead them.The problem is we never had leaders to lead us. Let me give you an example. We had Mobutu Sese Seko.He wasn`t even chosen by the Congolese people. The one who was supposed to lead was Lumumba.So Lumumba was killed and they brought Mobutu. He was a soldier. But he was brought in by the Belgians and the Americans to suppress the vision that Lumumba had which was to develop DRC. So you had Mobutu used by the American CIA and all those multi national companies to destroy the country. He never built any roads in DRC! So when Kabila, (Laurent Kabila) came to power he was brought in by the Rwandans, when he came in he had the vision to build the country. When they (Rwanda and its international allies)saw he had that vision, they had to kill him. When they killed him, they brought in Joseph Kabila (at age of 26, son of Laurent Kabila by his second wife)). People never elected Joseph Kabila. So until he was ruling and when it came to the end of his term, the person who was elected is not the one who is in power today. The one who was elected was Martin Fayulu.But because he couldn`t defend their interests, they put this one in power today.
So we have this situation where we never had a leader we are choosing. So if you don`t choose a leader you cannot be accountable to the people who elected you. You are accountable to the people who put you in power. If American or British, who put you in power, you are accountable to them. So to stop this from happening it has to be, well, I don`t know how we can do it. Power is hijacked. If we say we are going to mobilize people from below, yet their voices cannot be heard, cannot be accepted then I don`t know. Maybe it is needed, a civil war/popular uprising , like we are seeing in Mali or Guinea where a person will come in and just change the whole system. But with the current system, it won`t be possible.
What about building up the physical economy, the roads and modern railways? Wouldn`t that change the economy and help those on the low rung?
Yes, infrastructure is the key to soving problems in Africa and all over the world. Unfortunately the people who have to implement it, they are the ones who have been captured. But now look at Tanzania, look at Magufuli, he did so many excellent things. Now all in Tanzania, at least have got this train (high speed electrified network) . Now we know that for the people in DRC to come out of poverty we need to develop infrastructures, they create jobs, they allow people to move from place to place. That is the solution but the problem is the leaders don`t see it that way. All they want is money. But there is also the complicity of the international community. Because what happens : I am living in South Africa, here in Cape Town, if something goes wrong in Johannesburg and the people there, either COSATU or another trade union, say we need to do a march, people come from Durban 500km away, people will come from Cape Town to march in Johannesburg. And they will obtain their cause. So if you put that infrastructure in DRC, where a person can leave Goma and Bukavu and go and march in Lumbumbashi where they are producing cobalt, don`t you see that for them it is a treat?
So they need to keep us separated so we have no force to claim anything. Because if the international community want us to be developed, they will. Because this is what they are doing: any area where they have got investment they put a small road there to be able to exit their goods. Like if you go to Katanga, the province of Katanga, you have got roads, proper roads, to link Katanga to Zambia to exit their goods. So anywhere they are invested, they make sure they make a way out (roads). Understand that, they have got a major role to play in this question we are in to because if they can say we want to build roads for the whole country, they will do it and they will say to the government- please pay us this ammount of money-from the tax or the minerals, they can do it. We had President Kabila who wanted to do that with China. They say we will give them a loan to build infrastructure. Unfortunately the money was looted. So they can do it but they don`t want to do it because they know if we build some roads for them, they will come tomorrow and march and claim their right. So let them be separated.
Concerning s.m.e`s and small scale businesses, how are they doing?
DRC, if you go there today, you will be amazed what is happening there today. As I said, there are people living in poverty and there are a lot of rich people. There is no way you can do fast business in the world if it is not DRC. Everything in DRC moves. And because they are using dollars it allows for business to be stable in DRC, because they use dollars (US). You can go to a bar and buy a beer with dollars. You can pay transport in dollar or Congolese franc. The population is so huge, 100 million, if you trade in 100 million, you will understand how it is.
In DRC, when I left there and it is still happening today , we are doing this kind of transaction, let me explain it: we will buy radios, we will buy jeans, bicycles, mattresses. We will travel maybe 200km where they are digging coltan or gold and we trade not with currency. We will exchange a bicycle for a kg of coltan. That is how business is. In DRC you can see a person going to the bush, he will remain there for maybe 6 months. All what he does- the family buy goods, send him there, he sends the minerals to the family , the family sells the mineral in Bukavu or Goma and sends him the cash. So when he finishes 6 months he is a millionaire. In DRC you can wake up with nothing, you just have money to buy maybe 10kg of maize and 5kg of chicken and you have got your strength to go and dig. You leave your home, travel maybe 200 km, you start digging and by the Grace of God, after 1 week you can be a millionaire or you can still be poor if you dig where there are no minerals. But if you dig where there are minerals, you are rich. I was into it, I was going to all those places and buying minerals.
Does this mean that there is no regulation of the excavation of mineral resources?
It is beyond understanding, they cannot regulate it. Because they had the ministry of what they call artisanal mining. That is the one for local people. But it is happening everywhere so how do you control it? In Bukavu, the shops for gold are like you have groceries, so you can go from one shop to another, they are all selling gold. You can come along and say – I want to buy 10g of gold and you buy it. If the price is not good, you go to the shop next door. Currently it is expensive because all the buyers are flocking there. The buyers from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, are coming there. But for the small buyer it is not easy because all the big buyers are there.
So that is DRC and minerals. DRC and agriculture, you can grow something and whatever you want to grow, it is going to grow. Water, there is rain every day. So there is a lot of opportunity there and that is why the devil doesn`t want Congolese to enjoy those opportunities.
The Congolese can come together, create clubs, associations to help themselves, to build their own communities, if the Central Government is not doing what you expect them to do. So come together and build the roads yourselves from the revenue of the resources you dig?
You know they are doing it and I will explain. But they always have the challenge of the government. Personally, myself, I left Cape Town with a friend of mine and we went to do a presentation on manufacturing in DRC. So we had the governor and all the delegates, all the Chamber of Commerce, they were there. And I explained to them the importance of manufacturing, adding value to a product. But this question was coming all the time- the tax. If you import they don`t ask you for taxes but if you manufacture they want tax. So those things coming together, there is a hindrance. The government is a problem. But currently, like in Bukavu and Goma, people are organizing themselves well, they are trying.
Most of the roads being built today in Goma and Bukavu, they are being built by Congolese companies. So the Chamber of Commerce came together and said we need to be exporting/taking our goods from place to place. The government is not helping us. So they decided by every liter of petrol or diesel they must be paying 50 franc (Congolese franc) , I think. So it is almost like peanuts, it is nothing. But through that they have been raising monies and I have seen now in Goma there are proper roads, built by that way of funding it themselves. In Bakavu also. So they say if we use a foreign company and they build the road here, after 1 year or 2 years the road is no longer there (due to poor quality construction). So Congolese businessmen came together and made a company of road construction. So that is what is happening currently in Goma and Bukavu.
So those big business people, they are working because they are setting up companies, manufacturing and they say that they pay locals well, more than foreigners do. So they are trying but the government is not really helping them. The government did create an organization which you call FPAYE ( Fund of Industrial Promotions). So when you want to start a factory you can go and ask them to assist you. They will loan and assist you. But in that organization, there is corruption. If you want $100 000, they will give you $70 000 but you sign for $100 000. But despite this corruption, the organization is there and it is helping.
You know the local communities in Goma and Bukavu are doing so many great things. They are setting up big companies for $4million, $10million, they are doing big, big business. But understand this is still local. It is the government that has to initiate things to help all the masses to survive.
And also the other issue we have in the east is that the Rwanda government is imposing on us insecurity and war to show to investors that this place cannot be trusted. So we have that scenario also where things are not going well. I was hearing, because in Lake Kivu there is natural gas which the government of Congo want to exploit, but recently I heard that Total refused to be part of that because they cannot be assured security because of the war, the fighting. So all these things are hindering the development.
But in Kinshasa, there is people from the diaspora who came who are building a chain of supermarkets. So 300 people came together and contributed $300 each and from there they have started their first Congolese supermarket. So what they are doing is to go and buy all what the local people are producing on the farms and selling them in those supermarkets, so they are 100% Congolese products.