by Ann Garrison

Imagine being a little child torn from your home, your roots by a war for the wealth that is your birthright. “The Congo’s so poor because it’s so rich,” raps Congolese-American Omekongo in his song, “Welcome to the Congo,” at – Photo: AFP/Getty ImagesThe deadliest war in the world today is the Congo War, a.k.a., the African holocaust or the African World War, a covert U.S. war waged by African proxy armies to secure Congo’s unparalleled natural resources. To secure, above all, the “geostrategic” cobalt reserves in the Katanga Copper Belt, which runs through DR Congo’s southeastern Katanga Province and into its southeastern neighbor, Zambia.

Cobalt is essential to our military industries’ ability to manufacture the modern weapons of war. So, the Congo War, a.k.a. the African holocaust, is a war for the sake of war itself.

Even the complicit United Nations reports that the Congo War is the most lethal war in the world today, with the highest death toll since World War II, though the U.N. does so primarily to fundraise for ineffective mega-U.N. charities like UNESCO, UNICEF and the UNHCR. It has never censured the United States or any other imperial power for arming, advising and ultimately controlling myriad armies and militias in DR Congo.

Many Americans who supported Barack Obama had hoped for a de-escalation of the war, the perpetual, post-09/11 War on Terror, in Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan and Pakistan and even the covert U.S. war in DR Congo, the war for the sake of war itself.

And many are now shocked by Obama’s decision to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq, to send 17,000 more to Afghanistan, to bomb Pakistani insurgents and to stand behind Israel, no matter how mercilessly it bombs Gaza. And, to hike the U.S. military budget by 4 percent in 2010, startling even Robert Gates, Bush’s former defense secretary, who is now Barack Obama’s.

Congolese refugees displaced within their own homeland by militias and armies, fighting with foreign weapons for foreign purposes, face extremely rough conditions in makeshift Camp de Kahe in Kitchanga in the Masisi district of Congo’s North Kivu Province, near the Rwandan border. – Photo: S. Schulman, UNHCRThe Congo War continues, with little protest visible beyond the Internet. It moved into a new phase on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2009, when new, wholly illogical military alliances emerged. The official story advanced then and since by the U.S. State Department, the Rwandan, Ugandan and Congolese governments, and the U.N., then regurgitated by obedient corporate news outlets, is that the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF), instructed by U.S. military advisers, crossed into southeastern DR Congo to join the Congolese Army (FARDC), the U.N. peacekeepers (MONUC) and the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) in hunting down rebel Gen. Laurent Nkunda, the former commander of the CNDP, one of the groups now allied to hunt down both him and his career enemies, the Forces Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR).

In December 2008, reports were that on the Ugandan border of Eastern Congo, U.S. military advisers had helped organize the Ugandan army (UPDF) to cross into northeastern DR Congo to join the Congolese army and the U.N. peacekeepers (MONUC) in hunting down the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In March, the Congolese government agreed to let them stay, indefinitely.

In Kigali, Rwanda, on Jan. 7, 2009, soldiers with the Rwanda Defense Forces are trained by U.S. soldiers as part of U.S. Africa Command’s (Africom’s) African Deployment Assistance Phase Training (ADAPT) program. – Photo: www.Army.milThese alliances and these accounts of them are so riddled with contradiction that deconstructing them would only play into the hands of those so carefully obscuring the fundamental reality of the Congo War. How many Americans would be anything but dizzy and confused by this list of acronyms for just the best known militias and armies fighting in DR Congo: CNDP, FDLR, UPDF, RDF, FARDC, MONUC?

So, let’s forget the acronyms; forget all the African militias and armies fighting proxy wars for the imperial interests of the U.S. and other imperial powers. Americans should understand instead why the U.S. is fighting a covert war in DR Congo.

High stakes

The stakes in the Congo War are enormously high. They include:

1) War itself, because, again, the Congo war is, above all, a war for cobalt, the mineral most essential to the manufacture of modern weapons of war. Cobalt is required to build jet fighter bomber engines, missiles, including nuclear missiles, battleships, including our nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, and virtually all modern industrially manufactured weapons of war, except perhaps biological and chemical weapons.

Cobalt is essential to the manufacture of anything requiring high grade steel.

Shocks in cobalt’s supply and price during the 1970s and early ‘80s led to a 1982 Congressional Budget Office document warning that the U.S. would have to be prepared to go to war to secure cobalt reserves so as to secure the power to manufacture for war, especially in time of war.

The war for control of Congo’s wealth has killed 6 million and displaced many millions more.2) An ongoing African holocaust, the systematic destruction of the Congolese people. Six million have died, according to widely acknowledged sources including the International Relief Commission and the U.N. Forty-five thousand Congolese continue to die every month, with no end in sight; many die in refugee camps of starvation and easily curable disease, and one third of these are children.

3) Barack Obama’s legacy, and our legacy, as the Americans who elected him. Will our legacy be an ongoing African holocaust, another 6 million African Congolese lives? Will it be the expansion of Africom, the U.S. Africa Command, throughout Africa and the further plundering of Africa’s resources?

Some, including Black Agenda Report editor Glen Ford, say that Barack Obama is “U.S. corporate empire in Black face” or that corporate America desperately needed a Black face now. This is arguable, especially given that, in 2007, Africa surpassed the U.S. wartorn Middle East as a source of U.S. oil imports.

However, though huge corporations generously filled Obama’s campaign coffers, so did many everyday Americans, who also organized and rallied for Obama with high hopes of peace and change. Many now at least seem to have a place at the table that they didn’t have before.

Can they use it to call for an end to the covert war in DR Congo? First, more Americans will have to find DR Congo on the map, even amidst the toughest times since the Depression.

Acting locally

Is there anything we, ordinary Americans, can do to end this war for the sake of war? Acting to stop the Congo War is daunting indeed. I really can’t imagine action at the federal level, because I simply can’t imagine the national apparatus of force – the military, foreign policy, intelligence and police agencies – acting to deconstruct themselves.

The only successful actions that I can imagine are local. Here’s a list of those which occur to me, though only, again, with “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” I list them to keep faith with many of my dearest friends, who believe that the election of Barack Obama, our first African American U.S. president, has indeed made all things possible:

Blue AngelsSo, to end the Congo War, the City and County of San Francisco, where I live, could conceivably:

1) Cancel our invitation to the annual all forces military recruitment drive, best known as Fleet Week and the Blue Angels Air Show. Despite its use of African proxy armies, the U.S. military could not sustain and expand Africom, the U.S. Africa Command, and continue to prosecute the Congo War, without troops.

2) Implement Community Choice Renewable Energy legislation passed by the San Francisco City and County Board of Supervisors, which calls upon the city to build a clean, renewable power infrastructure based on solar, tidal and wind power. The Congo War and ‘most all the covert wars in Africa, including that in Sudan’s Darfur, are wars for Africa’s oil, natural gas, coal, acreage planted for bio-fuels and uranium.

President Patrice Lumumba, 19603) Apologize for the 1961 assassination of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s first elected president, Patrice Emery Lumumba, by CIA and Belgian operatives and call on President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to do so as well. Belgium apologized on Jan. 17, the 40th anniversary of Lumumba’s assassination. Though the CIA’s involvement is now widely acknowledged, it has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government, just as the U.S. covert war in DR Congo is not acknowledged now.

4) Call on Barack Obama to close the U.S. military base in Kigali, Rwanda, and end all U.S. military support to its authoritarian African puppet regimes, including those of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame and now Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

Yes, we can?

Ann Garrison is a Bay Area journalist and activist and the website writer-editor of She also blogs at Colored Opinions, where this story first appeared. She can be reached at


  1. Thank you for the information provided. Would you please put me in your mailing list. I live in DC metro erea.

  2. A am interested in getting firsthand information on DRS Iam a native of that Country. In search of people and intellectuals who would like to do something to save the country . I reside in Benin West Africa. May i get or be referred to the full article which i would like to share with other ill=informed people?

  3. Thank you for the information. I am just beginning to awaken to the reality of our covert wars for the sake of minerals, oil, etc. Let’s be honest with ourselves, if this were taking place anywhere but Africa, the world and the U.S. would not stand for it. May God have mercy on our souls. We shall answer for all of it one day.

  4. Is it time for the world to wake up and for all individuals to put aside their indifference towards these generally covert events?

    Most of us probably do not know much about the wars of the past, likely remember some highlights of the 1st and 2nd World War but know little as far back as about the Romans or even the Mongols.

    With today’sknowledge, can we really endorse the continued indifference towards these current events? How long will it be appropriate and acceptable to allow ourselves being told about the failures of other nations while we keep hiding the actions of the World’s most powerful nation?

    Have other governments and individuals become economically enslaved and their voices muted? What will it take to stop this and has Rwanda not learned for it’s own most recent genocide – if we can call this a genocide now?

    Will we see the current administration living up to it’s expectations in particular in light of the recently awarded Nobel Peace Price?

    It is too late for so many, it is not too late for all of us.

  5. Hi Ann, a couple questions kept coming back to me as I read your article:

    Do you have any statistics from verifiable sources on the U.S.’s activity subtracting cobalt from the Congo? You kept referring to this as a covert war…and it makes sense that the U.S. would want Congo’s cobalt, logically speaking. But you never actually linked it with proof. What percentage of Congo’s cobalt are we taking? What companies are taking it? Is it the government or private American arms dealers or both? Where are the verifiable facts? This article could turn a whole lot of heads with that one link.

    • As a student-journalist, you could also do some research to verify what is written. That is part of the joy of working/digging/searching for the truth. Even if it was 0.2% of the cobalt, or 99%, would it make any difference?

  6. The statistics you’re asking for do not exist. The “one link” for the very complex data collection you’re asking for doesn’t exist.

    I have a book, “Strategic Minerals,” written from a fairly conservative perspective, which says that such statistics are not available; corporations don’t reveal the size of their geostrategic mineral stores, or where they come from, and aren’t legally obliged to. The trouble with legislation about “conflict minerals” is that they’re barely traceable. If someone has smuggled a huge amount of cobalt out of Congo, and sold it to a processor in Vancouver, who sells it to Lockheed Martin, and the Vancouver processor says that to the best of their knowledge, it did not come from Congo, nobody has much way of doing anything about it.

    I believe the federal government makes the measure of it strategic mineral reserves available to the public, but that wouldn’t answer the questions you’re asking because Congo’s cobalt doesn’t go straight to the federal government; it goes to industrialists, not only to the military industrial complex, but also to the manufacturers of hybrid cars, natural gas power plants, and more.

    What I have read and what I did hot link into this piece was a Congressional Budget Office document, COBALT: POLICY OPTIONS FOR A STRATEGIC MINERAL,, which says:


    The vulnerability of the United States to disruptions in the supply of imported materials considered essential to industrial production has been of concern to policymakers throughout the post-World War II era. Cobalt is a prime example of such a “strategic mineral.” Cobalt alloys are important to a number of U.S. industries, especially aerospace and defense, and short-run opportunities for substitution are limited. The bulk of the world’s supply of cobalt originates in central Africa (primarily Zaire and Zambia, which hold 64 percent of the world’s known cobalt reserves), a politically unstable region. At present, the United States produces no cobalt. Thus, aside from cobalt stockpiles and the recycling of used materials, the United States is completely dependent on imports. This gives rise to two kinds of vulnerability. The first is essentially military in nature: the possible need to wage a war in the absence of foreign supplies of cobalt. The second is economic: the effect on the economy of a disruption in foreign supply with an attendant sudden increase in price. The fourfold price increases during the late 1970s, and the worldwide scramble for cobalt supplies at that time, have given prominence to this second kind of vulnerability.”

    “The fourfold price increases during the late 1970s” were consequent to political instability in D.R. Congo, then Zaire.

  7. This government report on the foreign supply of cobalt is a statement of fact. It is similar to any other trade document.

    It is in the US interests and the interests of the Congolese people for the region to be secure for trade and not in conflict.

    For humanitarian and economic benefit to the Congolese people, the fighting must stop. I don’t believe the US has a history of stealing or smuggling or going to war for minerals out of any African Country…or any country. Please cite any valid sources.

    Whose side is the US on and why? Who are we fighting to wrest the minerals from? Are there Chinese vs. American backed forces for example?

    Or do you think international trade in minerals should be prohibited altogether simply because people make money from it? Are you willing to give up your cell phone? The most primitive people in history traded. It is human nature. Do you think that can be changed?

    The US is sending tremendous amount of aid (more than any country) to the UN for the humanitarian crisis in this area. (Congo Sudan, Rwanda etc.) Our policy goal is to end the conflict and the refugee camps and help civilians to protect themselves from brutal warlords and roving gangs of hungry, robbing,raping and killing teenage thugs.
    From movie stars to Church coaltions, there is tremendous political pressure in the U.S. for this policy. It is inline with the goals of USAID.

    Americans (my son included) are risking their lives to deliver aid and to try to stop the killing. He is in the camp pictured above today trying to asess the problem for the US government. He would do anything he could to stop the centuries of warfare, that keep these poor souls on the run all their lives.

    Unless there is a well trained, well disciplined defense force responsible to a leader elected by a transparent process, there will never be any peace in the Congo. In the meantime, the UN is trying to give and teach protection to forces who operate under conditions of accountability. Some of the trainers, often the best, are US. officers.

    I live with daily personal reports on the conditions in this beautiful country ravaged by war. Your claims of US responsibility for the violence are demoralizing to people who represent the US and the UN in trying to solve problems for internally displaced people in these pitiful and dangerous camps. 3 of them were killed in the last 24 hours. US policy is determined by their reporting. It is irresponsible to make these claims. Before you do again, please try to make a site visit and talk to as many people as you can. If the US or UN pulled out there would be another Rwandan genocide.

  8. Hej!

    I’m interested in knowing when the US started to use coltan, from where and for what purpose. In particular I’m interested in knowing if coltan from Congo was a strategic mineral before and during the second world war.

    Best regards,


  9. Elizabeth: I’m glad you’re interested, but you could answer your question about coltan and the Second World War by going to the Web or consulting experts in the materials sciences as well as I could. I have never claimed to be an expert on every detail of mineral extraction from D.R. Congo for every industrial use in the West. No one could possibly do that! Each mineral, industry, and corporation involved could be a study in itself, depending upon what one was trying to determine.

  10. HEWITT: you sound like a narrow minded american who believe that the USA is an holly country. the USA have been involved in congo for longtime. who killed LUMUMBA?( CIA and belgium) who put and kept MOBUTU in power?(CIA and belgium)who put and then killed LD KABILA?(USA clinton adm with kagame and museveni)who put HIPPOLITE KANAMBE a.k.a JOSEPH KABILA a rwandan in power? the same don’t seem to care about african life. USA and UN don’t want end the war if they wanted this war will be over longtime ago.US stopped SADDAM HUSSIEN less than a month, US went to kosovo less than 2 month,even the second world war ended after 5 years but the killing in congo has been going on for more 14 years, more than 6 million dead, 350 thousand

  11. Hewiit: can you tell me how much USA payed for the congolese uranium they used in japan during world war 2?in your own word:UNLESS THERE IS A WELL TRAINED,WELL DISCIPLINED DEFENSE FORCE RESPONSIBLE TO A LEADER ELECTED BY A TRANSPARENT PROCESS,THERE WILL NEVER BE PEACE IN CONGO.
    Can the USA do just that to end the war, to end the killing of 6 million african, to end the gang raping of women and children instead of so call aid. the USA and EU can not help africa. they never did and never will. JP BEMBA won the 2006 election but the west (USA, EU,UK and UN) prefer a HYPPOLITE KANAMBE a.k.a JOSEPH KABILA a rwandan illiterate to protected their self interests in the region.

  12. As a human right activist, for years and on many occasions I have been saying moreless the same thing to people and opposed some NGOs such as Enough Project and many others whose activities have been focusesd and are actively campainging for military interventions or war in and around the Great Lake Regions, apparently to be lead by U.S, Rwanda, Uganda plus other countries.

    Thank you in particularly for bringing these issues in a professional way and above all is evidence based. Well done.

  13. i am shocked and feel so ignorant to not have realized how our country can aid and abet such atrocities we have intervened in other countries for less it would seem to me but for the love of all that is human and decent why is not more being done by our government , especially our president of some kenyan descent , i am late in understanding this horror of innocent people but am no less outraged and i pray for a worldwide effort for years and years to help preserve congo, and its people

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