China and the Congo Wars: AFRICOM. America's New Military Command

by F. William Engdahl

Global Research, November 26, 2008

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11173

Just weeks after President
George W. Bush signed the Order creating a new US military command
dedicated to Africa, AFRICOM, events on the mineral-rich continent have
erupted which suggest a major agenda of the incoming Obama Presidency
will be for the son of a black Kenyan to focus US resources, military
and other, on dealing with the Republic of Congo, the oil-rich Gulf of
Guinea, the oil-rich Darfur region of southern Sudan and increasingly
the Somali ‘pirate threat’ to sea lanes in the Red Sea and Indian
Ocean. The legitimate question is whether it is mere coincidence that
Africa appears just at this time to become a new geopolitical ‘hot
spot’ or whether it has a direct link to the formal creation of
AFRICOM.

What is striking is
the timing. No sooner had AFRICOM become operational than major new
crises broke out in both the Indian Ocean-Gulf of Aden regarding
spectacular incidents of alleged Somali piracy, as well as eruption of
bloody new wars in Kivu Province in the Republic of Congo. The common
thread connecting both is their importance, as with Darfur in southern
Sudan, for China’s future strategic raw materials flow.

The latest fighting in the eastern part of the Congo (DRC) broke out in late August when Tutsi militiamen belonging to the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple
(CNDP, National Congress for the Defense of the People) of General
Laurent Nkunda forced loyalist troops of the Forces armées de la
République démocratique du Congo (FARDC, Armed Forces of the Democratic
Republic of Congo) to retreat from their positions near Lake Kivu,
sending hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians fleeing in the
process and prompting the French foreign minister, Dr. Bernard
Kouchner, to warn of the imminent risk of ‘huge massacres.’

Nkunda, like his mentor,
Rwanda’s Washington-backed dictator, Paul Kagame, is an ethnic Tutsi
who alleges that he is protecting the minority Tutsi ethnic group
against remnants of the Rwandan Hutu army that fled to Congo after the
Rwandan genocide in 1994. MONUC UN peacekeepers reported no such
atrocities against the minority Tutsi in northeast, mineral rich Kivu
region. Congolese sources report that attacks against Congolese of all
ethnic groups are a daily occurrence in the region. Laurent Nkunda's
troops are responsible for most of these attacks, they claim.

Strange resignations

The stage for political chaos
in Congo was further set in September when the Democratic Republic of
Congo’s 83 year old Prime Minister, Antoine Gizenga, resigned after two
years. Then at end of October, with suspicious timing, the commander of
the United Nations peacekeeping operation, the Mission de
l'Organisation des Nations-Unies au Congo (MONUC, Mission of the United
Nations Organization in the Congo), Spanish Lieutenant General Vicente
Diaz de Villegas, resigned after less than two months on the job,
citing, ‘lack of confidence’ in the leadership of DRC President Joseph
Kabila. Kabila, the Congo’s first democratically elected President, has
also been involved in negotiating a major $9 billion trade agreement
between the DRC and China, something which Washington is clearly not
happy about.

Nkunda is a long-standing
henchman of Rwandan President, US-trained Kagame. All signs point to a
heavy, if covert, USA role in the latest Congo killings by Nkunda’s
men. Nkunda himself is a former Congolese Army officer, teacher and
Seventh Day Adventist pastor. But killing seems to be what he is best
at.

Much of Nkunda's well-equipped
and relatively disciplined forces are from the bordering country of
Rwanda and the rest have been recruited from the minority Tutsi
population of the Congolese province of North Kivu. Supplies, finance
and political support for this Congolese rebel army come from Rwanda.
According to the American Spectator magazine, ‘President Paul
Kagame of Rwanda has long been a supporter of Nkunda, who originally
was an intelligence officer in the Rwanda leader's overthrow of the
Hutu despotic rule in his country.’

As the Congo News Agency
reported on October 30, ‘Some have bought into the pretext of an
endangered Tutsi minority in Congo. They never fail to mention that
Laurent Nkunda is supposedly fighting to protect "his people". They
have failed to question his true motives which are to occupy the
mineral-rich North-Kivu province, pillage its resources, and act as a
proxy army in eastern Congo for the Tutsi-led Rwandan government in
Kigali. Kagame wants a foothold in eastern Congo so his country can
continue to benefit from the pillaging and exporting of minerals such
as Columbite-Tantalite (Coltan). Many experts on the region agree today
that resources are the true reason why Laurent Nkunda continues to
create chaos in the region with the help of Paul Kagame.’

The USA role and AFRICOM

Evidence which was presented in
a French court in a ruling made public in 2006 claimed that Kagame was
responsible for organizing the shooting down of the plane carrying Hutu
President of Rwanda,
Juvénal
Habyarimana, in April 1994, the event that set off the indiscriminate
killing of hundreds of thousands of people both Hutu and Tutsi.

The end result of the killings
in which perhaps as many as a million Africans perished was that US and
UK backed Paul Kagame—a ruthless military dictator trained at the US
Army Command-General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth Kansas—was
firmly in control as dictator of Rwanda. Since then he has covertly
backed repeated military incursions by General Nkunda into the
mineral-rich Kivu region on the pretext it was to defend a small Tutsi
minority there. Kagame had repeatedly rejected attempts to repatriate
those Tutsi refugees back to Rwanda, evidently fearing he might lose
his pretext to occupy the mineral riches of Kivu.

Since at least 2001 according
to reports from Congo sources, the US military has also had a base at
Cyangugu in Rwanda, built of course by Dick Cheney’s old firm,
Halliburton, conveniently enough near the border to Congo’s
mineral-rich Kivu region.

The 1994 massacre of civilians
between Tutsi and Hutu was, as Canadian researcher, Michel Chossudovsky
described it, ‘an undeclared war between France and America. By
supporting the build up of Ugandan and Rwandan forces and by directly
intervening in the Congolese civil war, Washington also bears a direct
responsibility for the ethnic massacres committed in the Eastern Congo
including several hundred thousand people who died in refugee camps.’
He adds, ‘Major General Paul Kagame was an instrument of Washington.
The loss of African lives did not matter. The civil war in Rwanda and
the ethnic massacres were an integral part of US foreign policy,
carefully staged in accordance with precise strategic and economic
objectives.’

Now Kagame’s former
intelligence officer, Nkunda, leads his well-equipped forces to take
Goma in the eastern Congo as part of an apparent scheme to break the
richest minerals region away from Kinshasha. With the US military
beefing up its presence across Africa under AFRICOM since 2007, the
stage was apparently set for the current resources grab by the
US-backed Kagame and his former officer, Nkunda.

Today the target is China

If France was the covert target
of US ‘surrogate warfare’ in 1994, today it is clearly China, which is
the real threat to US control of Central Africa’s vast mineral riches.
The Democratic Republic of Congo was renamed from the Republic of Zaire
in 1997 when the forces of Laurent Désiré Kabila brought Mobutu's 32
year reign to an end. Locals call the country Congo-Kinshasa.

The Kivu region of the Congo is
the geological repository of some of the world’s greatest strategic
minerals. The eastern border straddling Rwanda and Uganda, runs on the
eastern edge of the Great African Rift Valley, believed by geologists
to be one of the richest repositories of minerals on the face of the
earth.

The Democratic Republic of the
Congo contains more than half the world’s cobalt. It holds one-third of
its diamonds, and, extremely significantly, fully three-quarters of the
world resources of columbite-tantalite or "coltan" -- a primary
component of computer microchips and printed circuit boards, essential
for mobile telephones, laptops and other modern electronic devices.

America Minerals Fields, Inc.,
a company heavily involved in promoting the 1996 accession to power of
Laurent Kabila, was, at the time of its involvement in the Congo’s
civil war, headquartered in Hope, Arkansas. Major stockholders included
long-time associates of former President Clinton going back to his days
as Governor of Arkansas. Several months before the downfall of Zaire’s
French-backed dictator, Mobutu, Laurent Desire Kabila based in Goma,
Eastern Zaire had renegotiated the mining contracts with several US and
British mining companies including American Mineral Fields. Mobutu’s
corrupt rule was brought to a bloody end with the help of the
US-directed International Monetary Fund.

Washington was not entirely
comfortable with Laurent Kabila, who was finally assassinated in 2001.
In a study released in April 1997 barely a month before President
Mobutu Sese Seko fled the country, the IMF had recommended "halting
currency issue completely and abruptly" as part of an economic recovery
programme. A few months later upon assuming power in Kinshasa, the new
government of Laurent Kabila Desire was ordered by the IMF to freeze
civil service wages with a view to "restoring macro-economic
stability." Eroded by hyperinflation, the average public sector wage
had fallen to 30,000 new Zaires (NZ) a month, the equivalent of one US
dollar.

According to Chossudovsky, the
IMF's demands were tantamount to maintaining the entire population in
abysmal poverty. They precluded from the outset a meaningful post-war
economic reconstruction, thereby contributing to fuelling the
continuation of the Congolese civil war in which close to 2 million
people have died.

Laurent Kabila was succeeded by
his son, Joseph Kabila who went on to become the Congo’s first
democratically elected President, and appears to have held a closer eye
to the welfare of his countrymen than did his father.

Now, in comes the new US
AFRICOM. Speaking to the International Peace Operations Association in
Washington, D.C. on Oct. 27, General Kip Ward, Commander of AFRICOM
defined the command's mission as, ‘in concert with other US government
agencies and international partners, [to conduct] sustained security
engagements through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored
activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a
stable and secure African environment in support of US foreign policy.’

The ‘military operations as
directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support
of US foreign policy,’ today, are clearly aimed squarely at blocking
China’s growing economic presence in the region.

In fact, as various Washington
sources state openly, AFRICOM was created to counter the growing
presence of China in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of
Congo, to secure long-term economic agreements for raw materials from
Africa in exchange for Chinese aid and production sharing agreements
and royalties. By informed accounts, the Chinese have been far
shrewder. Instead of offering only savage IMF-dictated austerity and
economic chaos, China is offering large credits, soft loans to build
roads and schools in order to create good will.

Dr. J. Peter Pham, a leading
Washington insider who is an advisor of the US State and Defense
Departments, states openly that among the aims of the new AFRICOM, is
the objective of protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance ... a task which includes
ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring
that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or
Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.’

In testimony before the US
Congress supporting creation of AFRICOM in 2007, Pham, who is closely
associated with the neo-conservative Foundation for Defense of
Democracies, stated:

‘This natural wealth makes
Africa an inviting target for the attentions of the People’s Republic
of China, whose dynamic economy, averaging 9 percent growth per annum
over the last two decades, has an almost insatiable thirst for oil as
well as a need for other natural resources to sustain it. China is
currently importing approximately 2.6 million barrels of crude per day,
about half of its consumption; more than 765,000 of those
barrels—roughly a third of its imports—come from African sources,
especially Sudan, Angola, and Congo (Brazzaville). Is it any wonder,
then, that…perhaps no other foreign region rivals Africa as the object
of Beijing’s sustained strategic interest in recent years. Last year
the Chinese regime published the first ever official white paper
elaborating the bases of its policy toward Africa.

This year, ahead of his
twelve-day, eight-nation tour of Africa—the third such journey since he
took office in 2003—Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a three-year,
$3 billion program in preferential loans and expanded aid for Africa.
These funds come on top of the $3 billion in loans and $2 billion in
export credits that Hu announced in October 2006 at the opening of the
historic Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
(FOCAC) which brought nearly fifty African heads of state and ministers
to the Chinese capital.

Intentionally or not, many
analysts expect that Africa—especially the states along its oil-rich
western coastline—will increasingly becoming a theatre for strategic
competition between the United States and its only real near-peer
competitor on the global stage, China, as both countries seek to expand
their influence and secure access to resources.’

Notably, in late October
Nkunda’s well-armed troops surrounded Goma in North Kivu and demanded
that Congo President Joseph Kabila negotiate with him. Among Nkunda’s
demands was that Kabila cancel a $9 billion joint Congo-China venture
in which China gets rights to the vast copper and cobalt resources of
the region in exchange for providing $6 billion worth of road
construction, two hydroelectric dams, hospitals, schools and railway
links to southern Africa, to Katanga and to the Congo Atlantic port at
Matadi. The other $3 billion is to be invested by China in development
of new mining areas.

Curiously, US and most
European media neglect to report that small detail. It seems AFRICOM is
off to a strong start as the opposition to China in Africa. The litmus
will be who President Obama selects as his Africa person and whether he
tries to weaken Congo President Joseph Kabila in favor of backing
Nkunda’s death squads, naturally in the name of ‘restoring democracy.’.

F. William Engdahl is a
Research Associate and the Center for Globalization and author of ‘A
Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order
(Pluto Press) and Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic
Manipulation (
www.globalresearch.ca).

 

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