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scoone
02-27-2004, 12:36 PM
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire)

February 26, 2004: One of the reasons that the UN's backers are willing to commit troops to the Congo is that it has significant copper reserves, as well as about 45 percent of the world's reserves in cobalt. Congo's state copper and cobalt producer Gecamines is looking to ramp up production with new joint ventures for largely unexplored concessions involving hundreds of millions of dollars. For instance, the Tenke concession has 18.8 million tons of copper and 1.5 million tons of cobalt reserves within its 540 million tons of estimated ore. Gecamines is also looking to prospect a 14,000 square kilometer concession known as the 'West Group' (rich in tin, coltan, and casseterite). However, the company is $1.7 billion in debt and will require $175 to $200 million dollars worth of investment to get the ore out of the ground. The gigantic mine at Kolwezi is already in production and being further developed to produce some 42,000 tons of copper and 7,000 tons of cobalt per year.

That's a lot of financial incentive to push the various warlords out of the way. For anyone to profit from these mines, there has to be some sort of stability in the regions or at the very least, in the immediate areas around the mines. During the war, Zimbabwean troops were deployed in Kasais and Katanga (areas rich in diamonds, copper, cobalt and timber) while Rwandan troops were concentrated in the Kivus and Maniema (rich in coltan, gold, timber and diamonds). Ugandan troops were posted in Ituri and northern Kivu (near areas awash in gold, timber, diamonds and coltan). - Adam Geibel


February 25, 2004: After six years the 20,000 refugees from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp of Gihembe in Byumba (Rwanda) are not yet ready to return home because of continuing unrest in the eastern Congo. Most are Congolese Tutsis from Northern and Southern Kivu but also from the Nande and Hunde tribes of Northern Kivu and Bashis from Southern Kivu.

Under a peace deal signed with Rwanda in 2003, Congo's new army has been charged with disarming foreign fighters. However, many armed Hutus remain in the jungles and mountains of Congo's North and South Kivu provinces, along the Rwandan border. - Adam Geibel

February 24, 2004: The Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma (the Congo's biggest ex-rebel movement) threatened to suspend participation in a power-sharing government. The RCD-Goma was angered by the recent arrest of Major Joseph Kasongo, after military officials in the South Kivu province said they had found an arms cache at his house in Bukavu, the provincial capital. The RCD-Goma wanted his "immediate and unconditional" release. - Adam Geibel

February 23, 2004: Mai Mai warriors have slaughtered some 100 civilians and seven military officers in southeastern Congo since January, often mutilating bodies and draining their blood. The victims were found within a 100 kilometer radius of Kitenge since January. At least 15,000 people have fled the area for safety in the provincial capital Lubumbashi, 700 km to the south

The killings have been perpetrated by a Mai Mai militia group of about 200, led by "Chinja Chinja," ("The Ripper" or "Cut-Throat'') who commanded troops hostile to the previous government during Congo's war. Supposedly, "Chinja Chinja" is now the last remaining militia leader in the north of Katanga province who is unwilling to integrate into the new Congolese army. The majority of the Mai Mai warriors fought alongside government troops during the war.

Congolese military officers did not ascribe political motives to the attack, but said "Chinja Chinja" was trying to make a name for himself by creating a cult of fear and brutality. Many of the bodies found were severely mutilated and disemboweled, with their ****** organs cut off and their bodies drained for their blood. One witness claimed that the Mai Mai had walked away with the organs and also taken the victims' blood in flasks.

Unfortunately, there has not been a significant MONUC deployment in Katanga, despite promises by senior UN officials to move into zones where lingering power vacuums are still exploited by uncontrollable militias. - Adam Geibel

February 19, 2004: The UN launched an investigation into reports of cannibalism by Rwandan Hutu rebels hiding in eastern Congo. There was an attack by Hutu rebels on Kanyola (about 65 kilometers southwest of Bukavu, a lakeside town on the Congo-Rwanda border). The day before, a Congolese human rights organization said the rebels raided a village in South Kivu province, burning 130 homes and eating three of the civilian casualties.

While they do rape and pillage, the rebel Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (or FDLR) were not known for acts of cannibalism. The FDLR rebels include former Rwandan army soldiers and "Interahamwe" militiamen. Thousands of armed refugees fled into the Congo after taking part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, and their presence is seen as the main threat to Congo's fragile peace process. - Adam Geibel


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