Where Canadian ‘self-interest’ leads: The Congo example – by Yves Engler (Nelson Daily – December 11, 2012)


Former Vice President of the Concordia Student Union, Yves Engler is a well-known left-wing journalist. His recenlty published book is called: THE UGLY CANADIAN – Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.

Thank you Julian Fantino.

The International Co-operation Minister caused a ruckus last week when he said that the Canadian International Development Agency should actively promote the country’s interests abroad rather than primarily focus on poverty reduction. Fantino defended “aid” that was given to groups partnering with Canadian companies building mines around the world. He said CIDA has “a duty and a responsibility to ensure that Canadian interests are promoted.”

While some commentators suggested the former Toronto police chief stuck his foot in his mouth, we should thank Fantino for his comments because they raise some important questions that Canadians seldom talk about.

How is Canadian foreign policy made? Which countries are we friendly towards and why? Which do we work against and why? What should be the primary purpose of Canadian foreign policy and aid?

As the author of five books on Canadian foreign policy, I know the answers to these questions can be controversial and complex. A short essay is certainly inadequate to properly address the subject. But a short story about Canada’s relationship with one of the poorest countries in the world might help answer these questions.

According to the CIA, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the planet’s lowest (228th in the world) per capita Gross Domestic Product. Coincidently (perhaps), this same country, Africa’s largest by landmass, may possess more mineral wealth ($24 trillion by one calculation) than any other.

So, what sort of relationship does Canada, home to the most mining companies in the world, have with the Congo?

Since April 2012, Rwanda has reasserted its military control over a large chunk of the Congo. Rwandan troops and the M23 militia group it sponsors recently captured Goma, a city of a million people in the mineral rich east part of the country.

While Rwanda’s proxies have now withdrawn to the outskirts of Goma, top officials in the city and province have been removed in place of individuals more sympathetic to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). In one of a number of insightful reports, the Globe and Mail’s Geoffrey York notes “a [new] layer of administrators, informers, police and other operatives [have been put in place] who will bolster M23′s economic power in the city — including their grip on the trade in ‘blood minerals’.”

Rwanda’s actions in the Congo have already led to significant suffering. About 650,000 people have been displaced from their homes over the past seven months and there have been many reports of looting, rapes and assassinations. In the days after Goma was captured, the Red Cross said it picked up 62 bodies from the city’s streets.

An ally of Washington and London, Paul Kagame’s Rwanda government has repeatedly invaded the Congo over the past 16 years. In the worst instance, a 1998 Rwandan (and Ugandan) invasion sparked a multi-country war that lasted five years and caused millions of deaths.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Nelson Daily website: http://thenelsondaily.com/news/where-canadian-%E2%80%98self-interest%E2%80%99-leads-congo-example-22354#.UMd5q4PAfK