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Miliband on the roots of conflict in the DRC (or how to avoid direct questions)

February 2, 2009

I have just come across a revealing interview to the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, on the BBC. I don´t know when exactly it was on air, probably a few weeks ago.

After a few questions, the journalist, John Humphreys, goes to the point asking Miliband on the plundering of natural ressources and the interest of multinationals “who want the stuff coming out of Congo”, in Humphreys lucid words. Milliband´s reflexes on the following hot questions deserve an analysis.

First, Miliband predictably fingers to the neighbours as those responsible for the war:

MILIBAND: Well, I think the most proximate… raiders, if you like, on the riches of the Congo have actually been forces from neighbouring countries rather than multinationals…

HUMPHREYS: And they have to sell the stuff to someone, don´t they?

MILIBAND: They do, you are right, and the economics of this are important, but as we remember from 19…

HUMPHREYS: Vital, rather than important…

As fingering neighbours does not work, he (quite predictably again) goes for the ethnic explanation of the conflict:

MILIBAND: Well, hang on, hang on… with respect, anyone who remembers the 1990s knows that there is an ethnic dimension to this as well…

HUMPHREYS: Not in this one. Not in this one, this is different, isn´t it?

MILIBAND: Well, I don´t think you can say that John, I wish it was true but actually Mr Nkunda represents… what he believes is that the tutsi faction.. the FDLR is a force that needs to be dispanded, is a rebel hutu force, so it does have an ethnic dimension.

Miliband then goes for the next predictable argument: “the conflict is not as easy as it may seem, it is very complex”. And he´s right. But he knows very well that, at the same time, the plundering issue is currently at the core of it.

Later, Humphreys goes for the next hot potato: when the UN released the report of the panel of experts ( I guess he means the one of 2003), the UK basically asked the UN to bury the issue. Miliband dribbles the comment as the expert politician he is. Humphreys strikes back and stresses that there can not be political stability if the countrys is being plundered. And then Miliband says the following:

MILIBAND: No, no, it´s being plundered because there is not enough security in the country. There isn´t security in the country because the goverment of the DRC does not run right across the country. It does not run right across the country because there are rebel groups (…)

But the logical sequence stops. The next sentence should have been: “There are rebel groups because…” . But that would mean entering a hot territory for discussion.

Humphreys strikes again: “If multinational corporations were not buying the stuff they plunder, they would not be operating the way they are! That´s the root of it! and it has been for generations in Congo“.

And, in order to avoid the issue once more, Miliband replies with an academic answer (there is no more time for questions):

MILIBAND: No, the root of it the search for power, partly economic power, but also political power in the Congo. It is not as simple as you say. And even if it was true it still needs a security settlement and a political settlement. That is the key point.

…for a diplomatic solution.

Hence, as we listen, the key issues regarding all this can only be openly discussed behind closed doors, not in public.We know that is the current situation in the DRC and Rwanda. However, the UK is supposed to be a democracy, isn´t it?

That´s the way diplomacy works, Miliband may answer.

I would like to think that we can trust him. Because one thing is for sure: we don´t know what they are doing.

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