You may or may not be aware, but World War III has already started. We just haven’t gotten caught up in it. Yet.
To appreciate how Congo descended into this madness, you need to step back more than a hundred years to when King Leopold II of Belgium snatched this huge space in the middle of Africa as his own personal colony. Leopold wanted rubber and ivory, and he started the voracious wholesale assault on Congo’s resources that has dragged on to this day. When the Belgians abruptly granted Congo independence in 1960, insurrections erupted immediately, paving the way for an ambitious young military man, Mobutu Sese Seko, to seize power—and never let go. Mobutu ruled for 32 years, stuffing himself with fresh Parisian cake airlifted into his jungle palaces while Congolese children curled up and starved.
But Mobutu would eventually go down, and when he did, Congo would go down with him. In 1994 Rwanda, next door, imploded in genocide, leaving up to a million dead. Many of the killers fled into eastern Congo, which became a base for destabilizing Rwanda. So Rwanda teamed up with neighboring Uganda and invaded Congo, ousting Mobutu in 1997 and installing their own proxy, Laurent Kabila. They soon grew annoyed with him and invaded again. That second phase of Congo’s war sucked in Chad, Namibia, Angola, Burundi, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—it’s often called Africa’s first world war.
In the ensuing free-for-all, foreign troops and rebel groups seized hundreds of mines. It was like giving an ATM card to a drugged-out kid with a gun. The rebels funded their brutality with diamonds, gold, tin, and tantalum, a hard, gray, corrosion-resistant element used to make electronics. Eastern Congo produces 20 to 50 percent of the world’s tantalum.
While the UN was able to pressure the external forces to withdraw, the mineral wealth of the Congo remains both elusive and plentiful, just ripe for some organized nation to exploit. Like perhaps the United States. Or China.
I’ve noted in the past the fascination China has with sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Nigeria.
Nigeria is not immune to the unrest in Africa. If anything, it may be the bullseye for the violence and upheaval. The next great war that engulfs the planet may not pit Muslim against Christian, but the Islamic world against China (who has her own issues with its Islamic minority, the Uighurs). At stake, the economic future of the entire planet, relying as heavily on technology and the promises of technology to come, that requires the minerals and energy under African soil.
And it seems my prediction from 2010 may be coming true. And if you think the US is pissed at Pakistan for allowing the Muslim fundamentalists such free rein with nukes lying around, imagine being just across a mountain range from them. It is not looking good for the world.