Congo: New York Times Front Page Frontin'

Congo: New York Times Front Page Frontin'

July 6, 2006 - Within the past two weeks the New York Times ran two front page stories on the Congo and the Washington Post ran a feature story. Both papers ought to be commended for addressing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and the deadliest conflict since World War Two. However, once again (click here to see Friends of Congo critique of Time Magazine cover story on the Congo), major media outlets fall short in articulating the source of the conflict and the role that foreign governments and multinational corporations play in fueling the conflict and continued suffering of the Congolese people.

Both papers continue to present a stereotypical, template coverage of Africa that potrays Africans as depraved savages, condemned to eternal violence, and perpetually afflicted by corruption, poverty, hunger and incurable diseases. Very little, if any in depth analysis or explanation of the root causes of the crisis in the Congo is made. Such a skewed presentation can only leave the reader feeling that the problem is intractable and ultimately unsolvable.

The undeniable matrix of global profiteering from the Congo's riches that fuels the conflict is either obfuscated or totally omitted. The essence of the conflict in the Congo is the plundering of the riches of the country. An unholy alliance among local elites and/or politicians, rebel groups, primarily funded and armed by Rwanda and Uganda, foreign corporations mainly from Europe, South Africa, Canada and the United States and the World Bank, through its International Finance Corporation (IFC), all work to exploit the Congo and condemn the Congolese to poverty and war (see Global Witness’ “Digging in Corruption”

The Global Witness report estimated that $1.1 billion dollars worth of copper and cobalt exports left just one of the eleven provinces of the Congo in 2005. The report provides a peek into the wealth that is being illegally extracted from the Congo. The ten other provinces were not studied with their vast endowment of bauxite/aluminum, cadmium, cassiterite, coal, coltan, diamonds, gas, gold, iron ore, lead, manganese, oil, silver, timber and uranium. Yet 80 percent of the population lives on less than 30 cents per day and the per capita income is $100 per year.

Quoted in the Inter Press Service, Annetta Weber of the Ecumenical Network for Central Africa captured the essence and source of the conflict in the Congo. She notes, "There's a worldwide profit interest that the present plundering mechanism stays in place. There are an enormous number of people siphoning off Congo's resources. It's all laid out in reports you can read on the Internet. There's the government elite, all kinds of European firms, a huge number of African firms, and neighbouring countries. It's a vast network profiting from the exploitation."

Professor Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja reinforced Ms. Weber's assessment when he states in a recent interview with Pambazuka News "The major powers of the world and the international organizations under their control would like to legitimize their current client regime in Kinshasa so they can continue unfettered to extract all the resources they need from the Congo."

In the final analysis, major U.S. publications can do a much better job at informing their readers about what is at stake in the Congo, the reason for the perpetuation of the conflict and the role that Western governments and corporations play in perpetuating the unconscionable poverty, atrocious acts of rape and wanton killing in the heart of Africa.