Connect with us

Global Affairs

The UK has been linked to Congo’s ‘conflict minerals’ – where are the criminal charges? | Vava Tampa

Published

on

According to the Swiss federal criminal court last week, the corruption destroying the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where devastating conflicts over minerals used in our electronics have killed more than six million people – is inextricably linked to the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland.

It was a significant moment exposing corruption that has fuelled not only grinding poverty, famine and unemployment in DRC but also the impunity and violence required to sustain it. Yet, unless there is accountability, it won’t change.

According to the ruling, between 2006 and 2011, at the height of ex-president Joseph Kabila’s rule, individuals and entities in the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland paid almost $380m (£280m) in cash bribes to authorities in DRC through an array of shell companies and subsidiaries – and, in this case, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office told the Swiss court that it has the evidence to back it.

In return, Kabila offered some of DRC’s strategic gems and minerals, including cobalt, an essential component of lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles. The country is home to about 60% of the world’s known cobalt reserves, which makes some of Kabila’s corrupt friends in the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland almost indispensable in the global supply chain of electric cars, while Congolese die daily from violence required to sustain their corrupt deals.

Now that the ruling is in, where are the criminal charges? This is not the first time that plunder in this former Belgian colony has been exposed or linked to the killing of Congolese people.

In 2003, a groundbreaking UN report named about 125 individuals and entities, including at least 16 from the UK, directly or indirectly involved in conflict minerals.

How many have faced criminal charges? Zero. Yet the cost has been devastating to the Congolese people. In 2003, about 2.2 million Congolese were displaced because of conflicts over minerals. Today that figure stands at 6.6 million scattered across the country in camps for internally displaced people.

According to the last mortality report by the International Red Cross in 2008 an estimated 1,100 people were dying each day from the conflict as well as the hunger and diseases accompanying it. In 2003, DRC ranked 167 in the UN’s human development index. It now ranks 175 out of 189 countries.

I fear that the Swiss ruling won’t change much when it comes to the killings or the use of rape as a weapon of war in DRC. Not least because the powerful and wealthy at the heart of this $380m corruption (more than DRC’s spending on healthcare last year) have no more been held accountable than they were during Kabila’s 18 years of “state capture”, when he used his country to serve the interests of his family and friends.

DRC’s new president Felix Tshisekedi, who also came to power after electoral fraud organised by Kabila, is publicly positioning himself as an anti-corruption tsar.

His chief of staff Vital Kamerhe has been convicted for embezzling almost $50m during Tshisekedi’s first 15 months. Former health minister, Oly Ilunga, was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling more than $400,000 from the Ebola response funds. Minister Willy Bakonga has been jailed for corruption.

Tshisekedi has promoted some of Kabila’s henchmen, including Gen Gabriel Amisi, known as “Tango Four”, who is under EU, US and UN sanctions for, among other things, “obstructing the electoral process and human rights abuse” and Gen Charles Akili, known as “Mundos”, who is similarly under sanctions and is cited in several UN reports for his alleged role in machete killings in Beni.

Unsurprisingly, violence as well as displacement has increased and the numbers facing starvation have risen above 27 million, up from 13 million in 2019 when Tshisekedi became president.

Tshisekedi has created an anti-corruption body, IGF. Yet refuses to investigate Kabila’s loot, strangling democracy and investment in the country. DRC lost an estimated $300bn to corruption during Kabila’s reign; enough to lift more than 50 million Congolese people out of poverty. If he doesn’t face criminal charges at home and his corrupt friends and entities cannot face justice abroad, how does it end?

But there is hope. US president Joe Biden’s first action on corruption globally was on DRC. Two months after taking office, Biden unilaterally reimposed sanctions against Dan Gertler, an ally of Kabila, “to counter corruption and promote stability in the DRC”.

In his novel, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad described King Leopold of Belgium’s bloody pillage of the Congo between 1885 and 1908, as “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience”.

I will not hold my breath on the UK and EU – Kabila’s two friends – taking similar action on today’s deadly scramble for DRC’s loot.

Source link

Global Affairs

Texas Deputy AG Apologizes for Slamming Simone Biles as ‘National Embarrassment’

Published

on

US

Get short URL

US gymnast Simone Biles received immense support from Americans this week after announcing she would not be competing in the Team USA final, nor the women’s individual all-around gymnastics final, due to personal mental health concerns. At the same time, the 24-year-old has received backlash from many individuals who viewed her pull-out as weak.

Aaron Reitz, deputy attorney general for Texas, took to Twitter on Wednesday evening to issue an apology to Biles, and recant a statement in which he panned the record-setting US gymnast as a “national embarrassment.” 

“In a moment of frustration and disappointment, I opined on subjects for which I am not adequately versed. That was an error. I can’t imagine what Simone Biles has gone through,” Reitz claimed. “Simone Biles is a true patriot and one of the greatest gymnasts of our time.”

“I apologize to her, and wish her well,” the deputy AG concluded, emphasizing that his “personal social media comments” do not represent the views of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, nor the Office of the Attorney General. 

Reitz’s since-deleted tweet against Biles, who was born in Texas and still resides in the Lone Star State, quoted another post that applauded the 1996 Olympic performance of Team USA gymnast Kerri Strug. Strug, one of the US’ “Magnificent Seven,” severely injured her ankle during the first half of the vault competition, but refused to bow out of the event and ultimately led her team to win the US’ first gold medal in women’s gymnastics. 

“Contrast this with our selfish, childish national embarrassment, Simone Biles,” Reitz said in his quote tweet. 

The deputy AG’s attempt at using Strug’s story to chastise Biles fell flat, as the two-time Olympian threw her support behind the 24-year-old on Tuesday. 

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Biles is no stranger to performing with adversity. When the US Women’s Gymnastics team took home gold at the 2018 World Championships in Qatar, Biles dominated in nearly every competition, despite intense stomach pains from what was later confirmed to be a kidney stone. 

Despite her pull-outs this year, Biles has continued to root for her fellow Team USA gymnasts. She also expressed in a Wednesday social media post that “the outpouring [of] love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”



Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Aid cuts make a mockery of UK pledges on girls’ education | Zoe Williams

Published

on

With all the fanfare Covid would allow, the global education summit opened in London this week. Ahead of the meeting, the minister for European neighbourhood and the Americas was on rousing form. “Educating girls is a gamechanger,” Wendy Morton said, going on to describe what a plan would look like to do just that.

The UK, co-hosting the summit with Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, plans to raise funds for the Global Partnership for Education, from governments and donors. The UK government has promised £430m over the next five years.

There followed a number of reasons why the issue is so important, all of them absolutely sound: on any given indicator, from GDP to infant health and beyond, a nation stands or falls by how well, for how long, and how inclusively it educates its girls.

The issue has never been more important than during this pandemic, which in many countries is hitting a peak having already affected girls disproportionately.

These are all the right words, even in the right order, yet they land completely at odds with the government’s behaviour.

Lis Wallace, head of advocacy at the One campaign, is most immediately concerned with these pledges being fully funded. There are two core targets: one is to increase girls’ access to education, the other is to boost the key milestone for all children – that they’re able to read and understand a simple story by the age of 10.

The past 18 months have been devastating for education, particularly in countries where it’s harder to access to online learning. About 1.6 billion children are out of school across the world. There’s a target to raise $5bn (£3.6bn), “which is a drop in the ocean of what is required to meet the global learning crisis”, Wallace says. It looks as though this summit will raise no more than $4bn, which is nothing less than a “failure of statecraft”, as Wallace explains: “It’s challenging when the host government is stepping back and making aid cuts for it then to ask other countries to step up.”

This is a depressing echo of the G7’s failure earlier this year; commitments to share vaccine doses with low-income countries came too little, too late, with devastating results, and it’s hard to avoid the question of whether that outcome would have been different if the host nation had role modelled some generosity.

Furthermore, there’s some confused causality in the minister’s assertion that staying in school protects girls from “forced child marriage, gender-based violence and early pregnancy”. The exact inverse is true: it is largely teenage pregnancy that forces girls out of school in the first place, and to try to use education in lieu of sexual health and reproductive provision is illogical.

Esi Asare Prah, who is a youth and advocacy officer in Ghana for MSI Reproductive Choices, describes a situation in which 5,000 to 7,000 girls drop out of school each year after becoming pregnant – last year, 2,000 of them were between 10 and 14. Across sub-Saharan Africa, MSI estimates that up to 4 million girls drop out or are excluded from school every year due to pregnancy.

“These girls are most likely to be on the street, doing menial jobs; their children will not make it into higher education. It creates a cycle of poverty and a cycle of slums. For me, the foundation of it is that you can’t seek to invest in education for girls in sub-Saharan Africa and cut down funding for sexual and reproductive health. If you treat development issues as isolated, you will have the same issues of 50 years ago chasing you into the future.”

Here, the recent cuts to the aid budget make a mockery of these pledges on education: UK funding to the UN Population Fund recently went down by 85%.

There is inspiration to take from this summit, nevertheless; President Kenyatta has been leading the charge not only on education but also on the climate crisis, and there is a solidarity and sense of purpose between poorer nations that may yet inspire greater generosity from donors. Whatever it achieves, though, it will be despite its UK host not because of them.

Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

[Ticker] US backs WHO plan for further Covid-origin investigation

Published

on

US secretary of state Antony Blinken affirmed his country’s support to conduct additional investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 after meeting with the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday, Reuters reported. “He stressed the need for the next phase to be timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led, and free from interference,” a US state department spokesperson said in a statement.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!