Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Donor hypocrisy

The Canadian government is now reported to be blocking the granting of almost $10 billion in debt relief to the Congo. Why? Because the Congolese government is canceling the mining concession of First Quantum, a Canadian company, reportedly to give it to another, unknown and somewhat mysterious company based out of the British Virgin Islands. This is a huge deal for the Congolese government, as debt relief would reduce interest payments from $920 million to $194 million, freeing up more than 15% of the country's budget.

This is distasteful. Not because we shouldn't be pressuring the Congolese government to better live up to its human rights and governance obligations - of course, we should. (Although the debt is odious, acquired largely by Mobutu). But over the past three years, we've have the killing of 300 people in Bas-Congo, a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Kivus that has led to thousands of deaths and more rapes, and the repression of opposition.

And all the Canadian government really cares about is the mining concession of one of their companies? They didn't want to use their leverage on any of these other issues?

For years, World Bank and IMF officials have told me that the only conditionality they can impose is based on economic and fiscal performance, not larger political issues. The First Quantum contract is related to economic performance, but doesn't mass conflict in the Kivus and the disrespect of the rule of law also impact the economy? More importantly, why do the financial institutions pretend like there is a strict line between the economy and politics. Haven't we seen that movie before under Mobutu? And wy must we ignore these most fundamental issues when it comes to the only real leverage we have on the Congolese government, namely our loans and grants?


Tanja Bergen said...

I'm reminded of Raymond Chretien, the then UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, trying to discredit the 2002 Group of Experts Report - the one that named and shamed 8 Canadian companies - WHILE 'supporting' the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

Different government, same sentiment: the Congolese can die, provided we gets our money.

Did I mention that I'm proud to be Canadian?

friends of congo said...

On the one hand over the past 14 years in the Congo we have witnessed:
1. An estimated six million dead, half children under the age of 5
2. Hundreds of thousands of women systematically raped as a weapon of war
3. Several United Nations studies that identify multinationals illegally exploiting Congo's wealth and violating OECD guidelines, among them First Quantum
4. The darling of the west, Rwanda invades the Congo twice and sponsors proxy groups killing, raping and looting in the Congo
5. Assassinations of journalists, clergy and human rights activists throughout the Congo
6. 80 percent of Congolese living on $2 or less per day
7. As many as 11 African nations involved in the 1998 conflict
8. Odious contracts secured by mining companies during the conflict years
9. The deadliest conflict in the World since world war two according to the UN
10. The greatest humanitarian crisis in the world, which former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland calls "the killing fields of our generation"

AND the response from the G-8, DEADLY SILENCE

On the other hand - the Congolese government snatches mining concession from First Quantum to give to long-time predator in the Congo Dan Gertler

AND the response from the G-8, a virtual uproar "In the official communiqué for the G8 conference, one entire declaration was devoted to the DRC."

Surely one could understand why Congolese in particular and Africans in general would be outraged at such blatant disregard for human life and the grotesque valuing of corporate interests over African lives that was demonstrated by the G-8.

BenRymer said...

Thanks Jason, timely and judicious as ever.

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