Friday, November 14, 2008

Congo Unrest Disrupts Critical Mine Reforms

This is one of the saddest stories I have ever read. The country has been a disaster since Mobutu Sese Seko, who was the US's darling: his anti-communism kept the Soviets out. Yet his corruption was flagrant, massive, and unchecked.

As rebel fighting in eastern Congo threatens to escalate into a regional conflict, government officials in Kinshasa have put on hold important decisions affecting the mining industry, a delay that likely pushes back international investment plans and undercuts the country's efforts to rebuild its shattered economy.

International companies have scrambled to secure mining rights in Congo, which has vast reserves of cobalt, copper, tin and diamonds. But the country has been racked by years of civil war and cross-border fighting. Elections in 2006, the country's first in 40 years, appeared to ease some of the instability.

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Refugees Struggle in Congo

It has vast resources, but has been racked with misery since the days of Belgian colonialism.

Congo needs the additional money. The country's central bank last week trimmed its annual growth forecast for next year to less than 10% from about 11%, citing waning demand for Congo's metals and unplanned violence-related spending. Craig Andrews, a World Bank analyst, said he would be surprised if growth topped 6% next year.

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