Chabal & Daloz’s instrumentalisation of disorder seems the chief explanation of conflict in the DRC. The extractive structures put in place by colonial powers, then extended and internalized under Mobutu have lead to a hollow state whose President Joseph Kabila (the son of Laurent- Désiré Kabila who enjoyed the support of the People’s Republic of China in setting up his anti Mobutu mineral state) has little chance of managing effectively. Hence DRC’s $9bn deal with China exchanging a full spectrum of valuable but abundant minerals for infrastructure, in a country where the development of ones own infrastructure would be nigh on impossible, warrants obvious attraction.
For rogue General Laurent Nkunda however, disorder in this troubled state allows him to control some of his own mineral rich enclaves without the increasing influence of the DRC government, while ethnic links to the Rwandan elites ferment suspicion of support for his incursion from neighboring powers. Meanwhile Nkunda has cited the Chinese mineral deal as an extension of neo colonial extraction, framing his role as that of a Robin Hood, fighting for the people to stop the elites from continuing their unjust dealings. This appeals to western powers that have long cited China as a dangerous new actor on the continent, but is most likely a front for what is primarily economically motivated.
Perhaps far away from the conflict in Beijing, Chinese officials can see the irony after their support for Kabila’s father in his attempts to break Mobutu’s mineral monopoly. What is clear is that China will not intervene directly, but with Britain and France already calling for action, and with China’s interest in the status quo it seems likely that the UN mission to the Congo will be bolstered and re-mandated soon enough. This could prove a win-win situation for China as it proves its UN cooperation credentials in an arena where its own interests are likely to be protected.
Chinese top brass Wu Bangguo might be expected to comment on the issue when he visits the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.