Viva the Congo for Choosing Peace

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By T. Elijah Ngurare After more than 40 years of European colonialism and its concomitant suffering, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have unleashed a new wind of change based on peace, democracy and economic development. For our elders who have been there in the beginning, this moment may be a repeat of the days gone by or the deja 0vu for yet another uncertain future for the Congo. It is not hard to be persuaded to that view or be it to share in that legitimate pessimism considering the contradictions of events which had taken place in that country since the death of the African Hero, the late Patrice Lumumba. It is my view that the victory of Joseph Kabila Kabage was cemented by the alliance formed between supporters of Patrice Lumumba’s Party and that of supporters of the late Mobutu Sese Seko. Whatever the wisdom of that alliance, it is clear that the inevitability of sustainable peace in the Congo looks more likely than ever before. The Eurocentric media both in Europe proper and in Sub-Saharan Africa have occasionally depicted that part of our continent not only as backward but these organized spokespersons of the European empire never dare tell us that it is Western powers who have generally been architects of savagery, war and hopelessness in the DRC in their pursuit of the cheap raw materials or what often is called ‘strategic mineral resources’. This article is not aimed at untangling events that have taken place for more than four decades nor is it meant to give a complete account of the protagonists of chaos in that country. Instead, what I am attempting to do is to chronicle some personal observations I have come to form during my stay in that country this year. Furthermore, I have also read extensively on the Congo as such accounts of some literature can be said to have contributed to my view of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore, what follows hereunder are my humble views and opinions about the situation in that country. The Eurocentric media both in Europe proper and in Sub-Saharan Africa have occasionally depicted that part of our continent not only as a backward but these organized spokespersons of the European empire never dare tell us that it is Western powers who have generally been architects of savagery, war and hopelessness in the DRC in their pursuit of the cheap raw materials or what often is called ‘strategic mineral resources’. This article is not aimed at untangling events that have taken place for more than four decades nor is it meant to give a complete account of the protagonists of chaos in that country. Instead what I am attempting to do is to chronicle some personal observations I have come to form during my stay in that country this year. Furthermore, I have also read extensively on the Congo as such accounts of some literature can be said to have contributed to my view of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore, what follows hereunder are my humble views and opinions about the situation in that country. To begin with, I dare contend that much of the misery in the Congo has been the making of the ‘lords of war’ many of whom are Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council who have become millionaires by selling weapons to the warring factions in the DR Congo. This profit making from the misery of many is traceable to the sanctioned gathering of European powers during the infamous plunder of the 1884/5 Scramble for Africa. It is obvious also that they could not have succeeded to do what they did on their own, some Africans clearly must have assisted the colonial and neo-colonial masters. We read, for example, about Belgium’s slaughter of more than 10 million Africans in the DRC. We read also about an experiment with democracy in the 1960s but owing to the geopolitical dynamics of Cold War, the democratic experiment resulted instead in the Western-hatched murder of the then only hope for Congo, the Pan-Africanist revolutionary Patrice Lumumba. In his place they hand-picked a ‘freedom fighter’ Mobutu Sese Seko who reigned for nearly four decades enriching with raw materials all the countries, leaders and people of the West at the largest expense of the majority of the African people. Of course his likes benefited too. One has rather not come across any evidence that anyone single European leader or person was punished for the misery visited upon the people of the Congo. But nearly all of Western Europe has benefited from the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is often stated for example that nearly more than 90 percent of the Uranium Bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States of America came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, then Zaire. I was hugely disappointed to learn that the Congo is infrastructurally starved, without proper transport, telecommunication, electricity and other amenities. In other words, no single European power can pride itself to have contributed meaningfully to infrastructure development of the DRC. To top it off, despite the wealth of the Congo either in the hands of individuals or with the countries of Europe and beyond, the capital Kinshasa remains without road network linking it to the rest of the country. In 1997 when the late Desire Laurent Kabila led a revolution which toppled the Western-backed Mobuto Sese Seko, Laurent Kabila seemed to play along to this whims until he realized soon enough that the interest of the African people of Congo was worth more than safeguarding and entrenching the economic exploitation of his country by the profit driven foreign policies of Western countries. The tangible effects of Kabila’s transformation process is ever visible and sung in the Congo. However, he too was murdered by the same forces responsible for the death of Patrice Lumumba and as such to this day, the murder weapon was whisked out of the country by them and their spin doctors periodically twist facts to sound that the bodyguard of the late President Laurent Kabila pulled the trigger. The objective was to create chaos in Congo in order to reap profits from such chaos. Accordingly, many multinational corporations from the West have operated, continues to, in the DRC by mining and exploiting the raw materials of that country for export to their countries in Europe and America. It struck me as odd that many planes landing in the Congo have passengers who are mainly of European stock. Yet, the Western media houses including their extensions in Africa depict a Congo that is not fit for a European much less for an Africa. It is equivalent to the propaganda that has made a large number of African Americans to believe that Africa is a dark continent which is worse than the ghettos and slums of North America. Ironically, those of European stock are found in most areas of Southern Africa owning and controlling the means of production at the expense of the indigenous Africans. Similarly, the Congo has been depicted in similar terms but the companies that are doing business and plundering the resources of that country are of European stock. For example, some literature reveals that in 1997, western companies took out of the Congo’s diamonds worth more than US$850 million in addition to huge profits from such minerals as coltan (used in cellphones and other technological devices). It is obvious that the European powers have invested heavily in this price of freedom and democracy particularly during the just ended elections. It is estimated for example that over US$400 million has been spent in the conduct of the Congolese elections. The European powers are major contributors to the UN Budget, thus it follows that their support is noticeable. As a result, the US Ambassador who was there in the era of the late Laurent Kabila until his death was hand-picked to be the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to run all the UN operations in the Congo. Perhaps, to his credit, this day has arrived where the elections were largely peaceful, at long last, the Anglo-Saxon regime in Washington D.C. has done a small good for Congo. Accordingly, the unavoidable Western presence in the Congo should not only be driven by the profits or return of their investment but also be matched in the betterment in the lives of the Congolese people. In that respect, it would be a humane thing to do that all the multinational corporations currently operating in the Congo should heavily invest in the people and infrastructural development of the country from which so much has been taken to build and develop other countries and peoples. It would be better that the new government of Congo should be assisted in the construction of schools, hospitals and other amenities geared towards practical economic growth and empowerment of the majority of the Congolese people of all tribes and national origin. In other words, what is needed are investors with ‘human face’. It is obvious that the journey which the DRC has taken to reach this far was not an easy one. It was torturous and dangerous. Millions of lives have been lost. But when the true history of the Congo will come to be written one day, it shall mention the role that Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe has played in this historic transformation. It is well known also that in their attempt to hide the facts, the Eurocentric media both in the West and their kith and kin in Sub-Saharan Africa have tried in vain to spin the reality in their favour. Thus, there was anger and condemnation when Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe made a historic and visionary decision to intervene on the side of the late Laurent Kabila who was facing a Western backed invasion of Congo by forces loyal to Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. In Congo today, one sees visible business such as Vodacom of RSA, but no MTC of Namibia, yet South Africa is accused of having played a dubious role of supporting the Western backed rebels with weapons of war. In Namibia and Zimbabwe, opposition parties were founded on this basis and they all joined a chorus in tandem with their neo-colonialist masters in London and Washington to condemn our participation. Today, they are quiet at events there, their masters are silent and so also they are. Therefore, in a larger sense, the culmination of peace and democracy in the DRC is a clear and historic vindication of the visionary leadership of the three SADC countries who stood on the side of the people of the DRC while others wavered to the propaganda of Eurocentric media and the commercial interest of their masters. What Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe did was a true manifestation of an air of inevitability that through this decision one day the DRC shall be free. Although it is true that the peaceful elections in the DRC has been made possible by the relentless and robust support of the international community through the United Nations, the fact remains that the gallant soldiers of the three countries mentioned above laid a stronger foundation upon which the so-called international community could feel the need and conviction to assist the people of the Congo in their journey for self-determination and genuine independence. Today the DRC is a proudest member of the Southern African Development Community. There may be many angles from which to analyse the victory of Joseph Kabila Kabage as the first historically elected President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of course it will be expected that the Western powers will continue to pursue their commercial interest in the DRC come hell or high water. In the process, many may die or be bribed into submission, it should be better to remember that the verdict of the Congolese people is far more than the capitalist greed for gold or silver and other minerals. Therefore, it stands to reason that the path to peace should be followed by the unselfish resolve by the people of Congo to share equitably the economic wealth of the country thereby investing in the people and infrastructure of the Congo. This resolve must be accompanied by the understanding that Paris, Brussels, London or New York are remnants of colonial trajectories of enriching our erstwhile colonizers as opposed to empowering Lumbumbashi, Kasai, Matadi or Goma. The role of other African countries must be expected to be crucial in this process as opposed to being proxies of former colonial powers. The other Africans must also resist the temptation of bribery and corruption at the expense of the majority African people of the Congo and indeed those in the Diaspora. Monsieur Jean Pierre Bemba as a loser will not be the last nor the first to contest the outcome of presidential elections. The world is awash with such prolonged contest of elections in countries like the United States, Italy, Germany and even here in Namibia where we had our unnecessary recount exercise! It must therefore be hoped that Bemba and his supporters in their challenge to the elections, will place the interest of Congo above their own or those supporting them. Monsieur Bemba, whose father had reportedly accumulated considerable wealth during the chaos of Congo and who, also is said to own half of Kinshasa, should stubbornly resist attempts for him to be used by Western Powers and Capitalist who may once again be planning towards chaos over Peace and Stability for Congo. There can be no illusion about the logistical challenges which have faced the DRC in the conduct of their democratic elections. However, on balance, it was a credible election far above the neo-colonial projects of Iraq and Afghanistan. The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have spoken and chosen the path to lasting peace, stability and economic development. This is how we, in Namibia and indeed all humanity respecting people of the world should interpret the generally peaceful elections in the DRC. Finally, may the people of the Congo who have not known peace now be afforded that opportunity to harvest peace for which they have planted so much suffering and colonial hardship. Although one may be pessimistic about the potential for sustainable peace in the Congo given the geopolitical factors at play, it remains my fervent hope that colonial and neo-colonial powers who have had a history of murdering Congolese leaders from Patrice Lumumba to Laurent Desire Kabila will not again add to that barbaric laurels a murder of yet another Hope for the people of Congo in particular and for Sub-Saharan Africa in particular. In the absence of this, the potential for peace in that country shall roll down along the waters of the Congo River from this generation to the next.