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General Nkunda Makes His Move in Virunga: Perhaps a Good Thing?

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Well Armed Congo Rangers

I would not ordinarily offer an analysis from Reuters, unedited and provided by MONUC, the UN Mission to DR Congo. However, what follows below my commentary is a fairy good description of the tensions in the volatile Virunga border region between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Uganda. The main caveat on the Reuters release is the biased subtext against Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda.

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Nkunda has always been an enigma. It is true that remnants of the Interahamwe genocidairres infest regions of eastern Congo. So do innocent Hutus and Tutsis alike. One must separate the civilian population from the armed militias when speaking about this region and not paint a false portrait with a brush soaked in the colors of ethnic tensions.

As a MONUC accredited journalist in DRC, we tried to reach Nkunda, but were stymied by conservation interests that have proven to be fronts for multi-national interests in Virunga. We did speak with former friends and classmates of Nkunda, who describe a thoughtful, scholarly, even “god-fearing” man who has great respect for the natural world. Nkunda professes to be protecting the Tutsi population from atrocities. There is probably some truth in this. That being said, Nkunda is a military man and military men kill.


Congolese have good reason to question "conservation" activities


The mercenary army known as Wild Life Direct (WD), which operates under the cloak of a US based charity, duly registered with the IRS in Washington DC, has miraculously escaped the same scrutiny. WD is clearly better armed than Nkunda, or even the United Nations troops we encountered in DRC. Take a good look at the photo accompanying this article and realize that your tax dollars are paying for the well-oiled machine guns owned and operated by WD.

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It is anyone’s guess why human rights groups have not investigated the tactics employed by Wild Life Direct against innocent villagers in Virunga. Go to www.vonplanta.net and find “Guns For Hire: Congo 2006.” Watch as a starving fisherman has a wire snare wrapped around his neck by the “hero” Congo Rangers who were recently feted by Newsweek and its sister publication the Washington Post.

If you can stomach it, watch the urine run between his legs into the African soil as the fisherman sits crying in absolute, stark terror. Your tax dollars pay for this.

It might be a good thing that Nkunda has driven Richard Leakey’s mercenary “conservationists” from Virunga. Wild Life Direct has successfully mounted a massive public relations campaign against the poorest of the poor, blaming “charcoal gatherers,” Mai-Mai, and any other dispossessed they can name for the recent gorilla killings.

The fact is that the gorilla killings began when Wild Life Direct set up shop in Virunga, along with a board of directors that deserves scrutiny. Walter Kansteiner III is also on the board of the African Wildlife Foundation, which sponsors Wild Life Direct. Consider this, contributed by keith harmon snow (www.allthingspass.com):

“The Democratic Republic of Congo has the world’s purest and largest deposits of strategic minerals, including gold, coltan, niobium, cobalt, heterogenite and columbite. Heterogenite exports coming out of Congo are alone valued at between $260 million (at $20/lb.) and $408 million (at $30/lb.) per month.

“The Great Lakes region is also seeing an assault by oil and gas companies affiliated with mercenary firms: this may be a partial impetus to “conserving” and “protecting” the Lake Albert basin and the Virungas. Heritage Oil and Gas, Tullow Oil and Hartmann Oil are exploiting oil reserves on both sides of the DRC border, while Lake Kivu is being targeted for major natural gas (methane) production by Rwanda. The region is one contiguous oil field—the Semliki basin—under the Great Lakes and north through Darfur to the Red Sea.

“Among other State Department posts he held, Walter Kansteiner III was the Africa specialist on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff under President Clinton, and he worked on the Department of Defense Strategic Minerals Task Force. The Clinton Administration was deeply involved in the conflicts in central Africa from 1993-2001.”

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Kansteiner is on the Board of Directors of the Corporate Council on Africa—the “who’s who” of corporate exploitation in Africa piloted by Israeli American diamond magnate Maurice Tempelsman. He is a director of the African Development Foundation, Sierra Rutile Mining, and Moto Gold Mines. Sierra Rutile has a long and sordid history of involvement with mercenaries and mining in war torn Sierra Leone; Moto Gold Mines is now operating in the killing fields of DRC’s blood-drenched Orientale Province just north of the Virungas.

Congolese animal rights groups have fingered a thriving trade in orphan gorillas which has operated literally under the nose of the Congo rangers of Wild Life Direct. The smugglers’ lair, Camp Vodo, was identified as being a scant fifteen meters from WD headquarters near Rumangabo in the Virungas.

With that in mind apply some critical thinking (a lost art) to the Reuter’s release, which follows.

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http://www.georgianne-nienaber.com

Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)
 

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