The Curse of Leopold

An opinion piece in Britain’s Prospect Magazine argues that China’s exploitation of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s is behind the violence and turmoil in the country:

History is mocking the people of Congo. In early November they should have been celebrating a milestone in international human rights, one of the very first occasions that campaigners from around the world united to protest on a mass scale.

Exactly 100 years ago the behaviour of colonial agents of Belgian King Leopold II provoked just that. Then, Congo was “the issue,” igniting a publicity firestorm from Europe to the US that drew vast crowds to public debates to condemn the behaviour of Leopold’s representatives as they pillaged the Congo river basin for natural rubber. Today, history is repeating itself, with China, not Belgium, leading the exploitation of the country.

[…] The appetite of China’s economy has created tension across Africa, with Chinese businessmen willing to spend vast sums for scarce raw materials. Countries like Zambia or Sierra Leone, long used to relying on aid, have found themselves with unprecedented revenues. Details of the contracts, and lucrative bribes and backhanders, are scant. But the scale became clear when, two years ago, China promised Congo $5bn in exchange for rights to much of its copper, cobalt, tin and other minerals.

This massive cash pot has stirred up the disenfranchised masses in Congo’s regions who won’t see a penny from Kinshasa as things stand.

Read and participate in a discussion on this article here.

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