Congo: How Rich Whites Caused Five Million Blacks to Die

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

How many Congolese must die to illuminate one hand-held computer game? Nobody knows, but five million have already been slaughtered in the greatest mineral extraction grab in the history of the planet. The best-known mining companies and richest men in the world are directly complicit in ten years of genocide in Central Africa, where chaos is deliberately imposed as a cover to smuggle billions of dollars in minerals out of the country. Local government officials, small but greedy players in the systemic looting of their own country, have no clue as to which companies actually have contracts to do business in Congo. When billions can be scoured from the earth through slave labor, law ceases to exist.

The holocaust in the Congo is a collective crime by all of the Euro-American mineral extraction industries and the governments that serve them.

Five million Congolese have died in the last decade or so in order to make billionaires even richer. If there were such a thing as international law, this holocaust in the Democratic Republic of Congo should have already resulted in the public hanging of hundreds of the world’s richest men—and rightfully so. If the Nuremberg laws that sent ten Nazis to the gallows for crimes against humanity and peace were applied to the Congo, we could quite easily find the names of the defendants in the columns of the world’s financial press—the richest men on the face of the earth. These men conspired to murder millions so that there would be constant war in Central Africa—but no law to inhibit theft on the grandest industrial scale imaginable.

The so-called government of Congo is just now getting around to beginning a review of which companies are mining what and where in the country. Since the many invasions of Congo began a decade ago, corporations like De Beers, BHP Billiton, Anglogold, and the American giant Freeport-McMoRan have caused five million people to die so that they could use the chaos as a cover to smuggle billions of dollars in precious metals out of the country. These mining companies all have their own private armies to defend their stolen goods, or join with the armies of U.S. allied countries such as Rwanda and Uganda to establish free-fire and steal-whatever-you-can-carry-away zones. It is accurate to say that the holocaust in the Congo is a collective crime by all of the Euro-American mineral extraction industries and the governments that serve them. True justice for the Congo would require the imprisonment or execution of many tens of thousands—most of them white men.

The Africans involved, including Congolese officials are relatively small fry, but they prosper from the table scraps of the cannibalization of the Congo. According to the commission to review the state of mining in Congo, various branches of the government protect some companies from paying any taxes at all on profits that range up to 600 percent. It’s not clear who even has a contract to do business in Congo. None of the gold rushes of modern history bore any similarity to the violence of industrial capitalism scouring the earth for coltan, diamonds and cassiterite. The Congolese death toll already exceeds those killed by forced labor under the Nazis—but not one rich white man in a suit has been punished.

Congo is proof that those nations that claim to be the civilized powers of the world are in fact the opposite; they are the guardians and bankrollers of hell. While these men live, let no one dare speak of morality as anything other than a wishful hypothetical. Certainly, it does not exist anywhere in Congo.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at:

—Black Agenda Radio, April 2, 2008