from a UN report:The International Dimensions
of the Congo Crisis
The International Dimensions
of the Congo Crisis
Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is director of the Oslo Governance Centre of the United Nations Development
Programme in Norway, and professor emeritus of African studies at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
...Originally, four countries came to Laurent Kabila’s rescue when the war erupted in 1998: Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Chad. Angola and Namibia followed Zimbabwe in advocating a military role for SADC in DR Congo.
Zimbabwe took the initiative in making their intervention a collective defence action against an external
threat through the SADC “Organ for Politics, Defence and Security”, then chaired by President Mugabe.
These legal niceties were a convenient cover for Zimbabwe’s real intentions, which had to do with the
economic and geopolitical interests of the governing elite.
The Kabila government reportedly owed millions of dollars to Zimbabwe for military equipment and
supplies obtained during the seven-month war of 1996–7. After the regime change in Kinshasa, a number
of Zimbabwean businesses and state enterprises extended credit to DR Congo for the purchase of goods in
various sectors, but failed to receive payment. Moreover, with its population of fifty–sixty million people,
the Congo represents an attractive market for Zimbabwe’s goods and services, especially considering that
Zimbabwean textile, agro-industrial and other enterprises have been losing ground, even at home, to
competition from South Africa and suffering from the detrimental effects of globalisation. In the area of
clothing, for example, the textile factories of Bulawayo were having a hard time competing with better-
Zimbabwe’s governing elite was determined to make good on its investment in DR Congo. During the
civil war in Mozambique, Zimbabwe had sent thousands of troops to help the FRELIMO government fight
the RENAMO rebels. After the civil war (which ended in 1992), there were no dividends for Zimbabwe’s
sacrifices, as South Africa, the very country that (under apartheid) had armed RENAMO and tried to
destroy Mozambique’s society and economy, reaped the lion’s share of the benefits of peace. Zimbabwe
was determined not to be short-changed this time around. It hoped to garner some concrete gains from its
military intervention in DR Congo...For a year or so, Billy Rautenbach, a Zimbabwean businessman who is reportedly close to Mugabe’s
entourage, acted as the managing director of Gécamines, Congo’s state mining company specialising in
copper and cobalt. Zimbabwe had a strong military presence in the southern Congolese city of Mbuji-Mayi and Zimbabweans were said to be airlifting diamonds home on a regular basis.
With the complicity of some
Congolese officials, several prominent Zimbabweans became owners of the two richest diamond mines in
Mbuji-Mayi, under a company called Sengamines. While Zimbabwe as a state may not benefit much from
the looting of DR Congo’s resources, individual members of the country’s elite have reaped the spoils of
Besides Rautenbach and Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s speaker of parliament, they include
General Vitalis Zvinavashe, army commander during Zimbabwe’s 1998–2002 military engagement in DR
His trucking company was used to carry supplies for Zimbabwean troops in DR Congo from
Harare to Lubumbash