(PHOTO: "Women fleeing to Goma, 2008"; Photo by Walter Astrada; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas)
Among the bevy of damning reports and statistics on Africa that came out this week, two reports released by the London-based NGOs Save the Children and Global Witness were particularly devastating for the DRC.
The first report is the annual report Save the Children has been issuing on Mother's Day for the past 14 years.
This year, it's titled "Surviving the First Day: State of the World's Mothers 2013." Its foreword is written by Melinda Gates, "Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
The title of one chapter of the report reads like the title of a gory Hollywood B-movie: "The most dangerous places to be born," while the appendix gives the "14th Annual Mothers' Index & Country Ranking."
And its opening lines are stuff redolent of horror yarns (to be delivered in a voice-over in the dramatic barytone of a James Earl Jones):
"The birth of a child should be a time of wonder and celebration. But for millions of mothers and babies in developing countries, it is a dance with death."
The beat of this dance with death is especially syncopated in the DRC, says the Report, which, at rank 176, is at the very bottom of the world's Country Ranking.
The last 10 countries in those deadly purlieus include, in worsening order, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, Nigeria, Gambia, Central African Republic, Niger, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the DRC!
How the hell does the DRC, once again, in international ranking systems, find itself in this sordid neighborhood?
This is the very question Save the Children tackles in its annual report:
"Why is Democratic Republic of the Congo last?
"In DR Congo, levels of maternal mortality, child mortality, educational status, poverty and women's participation in parliament are among the very worst in the world. Unlike most other countries in the bottom 10 which perform substantially 'better' on at least one indicator, the DR Congo performs poorly (i.e. in the bottom 12 percent of countries) across all indicators. This consistently poor performance on all five indicators causes DRC to rank last."
I went through this report in its French version with two female academics at Kinshasa University. They were firstly incensed by what they called the "Western mania of serial ranking systems."
They then singled out two criteria in the ranking system of the Report--"women's participation in parliament" and "educational status"--to dismiss it as yet another installment in Congo-bashing.
"Does Save the Children seriously think that there are more Somali women in parliament than Congolese women?" those women fumed. "And the notion that Somali women are more educated than Congolese women is simply laughable!"
Be that as it might, for these educated Kinoises, the only truth contained in that Report is what Melinda Gates says about Rwanda and a few other overachieving countries in her foreword:
"In many individual countries, progress has been even more dramatic. Barely a decade ago, in 1999, 1 in 5 Rwandan children died before turning 5. In 2011, the child mortality rate in Rwanda had fallen to 1 in 20. Other law income countries, such as Malawi, Bangladesh and Nepal have also made significant progress against enormous odds. It is now possible that all four countries will meet the 2015 United Nations' Millennium Development Goal (MDG 4) of reducing child deaths by two-thirds since 1990."
This kind of achievement realized by Rwanda doesn't particularly impress Congolese who point to the ongoing Rwandan project of destabilization of the DRC aimed at facilitating the systematic and massive looting of Congo's resources.
The argument goes on along these lines: These resources stolen from the Congo are then used and invested in Rwanda to obtain the kind of achievements praised by Melinda Gates. If only the Western sponsors of Rwanda would leave the DRC alone, the latter would readily achieve the same kind of impressive feats!
The second report to come out this week seems to give ammunition to this line of argument.
The briefing report was released on May 7 by Global Witness and is entitled "Putting principles into practice: Risks and opportunities for conflict-free sourcing in eastern Congo."
The report charges that Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda continue to siphon resources out of Congo with impunity.
The new system set in place to cheat on the transparency mechanisms of Dodd-Frank is quite sophisticated. The commonly used techniques consists in basically laundering minerals stolen from the Congo in broad daylight, so to speak.
Burundi is the traffic hub for Congo's stolen gold before its shipment to Rwanda, Dubai or other Asian markets.
Besides, the extraction and trade of gold and other minerals remain highly militarized in the Congo--with FARDC senior officers and militia groups either directly engaged in mining operations or imposing hefty taxes on artisanal miners; thus preventing local communities from benefiting from mining activities.
Impunity is so rampant that the infamous Gen. Gabriel Amisi aka Tango-Four is still playing a major role in the illegal mining trade:
"Despite being suspended from the army in November 2012 for supplying arms to rebel groups, including the Raia Mutomboki, General Amisi has continued to profit from the gold produced at Omate [South Kivu]."
This is just a small illustration of the way Congolese officials are now colluding with foreign interest groups to plunder their own country.
A vast scale pillage in the extractive sector in the DRC has just been showcased in the 2013 African Progress Report unveiled by the African Progress Panel at the World Economic Forum being held in Cape Town.
According to a Mail & Guardian, the Panel "analysed five privatisation deals involving the sale of [DRC] state-owned assets to foreign investors operating through offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and other jurisdictions.
"The panel estimated that the losses sustained in these deals, through the under valuation of assets, was $1.3-billion – more than double the DRC's health and education budget.
"This was in a country with the sixth highest child mortality rate, endemic malnutrition and seven-million children, out of a total of 11.2-million, not attending school."
The Global Witness briefing establishes that neighboring countries are also busy--if not busier--bleeding Congo dry.
The most astounding case is the one involving the wolfram extracted in the Congo but tagged and traded by Rwanda, a case featured in one of the boxes of the briefing:
"Where does all the wolfram go?
"There are no registered wolfram exporters in Bukavu and there have been no official wolfram exports from South Kivu province since 2010. However provincial mining authority reports seen by Global Witness show that wolfram is mined at Lunkutu (Walungu), Bitale (Kalehe), Minembwe (Fizi) and on the island of Idjwi. [...]
"Global Witness received three independent accounts from regional mineral traders describing how Congolese wolfram is smuggled into Burundi and from there transits through Rwanda for export."
The mystery of the elusive Congolese wolfram shows how Rwanda flouts the new system of tagging and transparency that purports to stem the flow of blood minerals from the Congo.
What's more, it also provides circumstantial motives as to why Rwanda is fueling military conflict in eastern through its armed proxies, including the M23.
PHOTO CREDITS: Via artblart.com