11 August 2012

Rwanda: DR Congo's Stone Curse


Today, the area around Rutshuru, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is under the glare of scrutiny. This has not always been the case. From the time of independence in 1960, all regions of DRC have been in the grip of some turmoil. But not the area around Rutshuru.

The problems have included secessionist attempts, rebellion putsches, corrupt rings' infightings, violent mineral scrambles and a host of others. In this kerfuffle, the ordinary citizen has been the grass that suffers.

This turmoil was unknown in this area where today M23 has set up camp.

Rather, the area was known as an island of uninterrupted calm and order in the midst of a raging ocean. It is for this that the area had never been the object of international attention. And in none-too-small a measure, the late Ndeze could rightly claim credit for this history of hitherto monopolised stability in a region seized in unending violence.

Mwami Daniel Ndeze Rugabo II was king of Bwisha collectivité-territoire, the territory that is now playing host to M23. From 1921, Mwami Ndeze held fort in Bwisha and, for a good 60 years, protected it from exploitation by colonialists and subsequent Congolese leaders in Mobutu's administration. It was a feat that no one else in other regions ever pulled off.

A "Mwami" means a king. But, in the case of North Kivu, it is a title for any leader of a tribal community. Only Mwami Ndeze was different. He was leader of his Kinyarwanda-speaking community as well as members of other communities who dwelt among them. For being fertile, the area attracted diverse individuals who sought to take advantage of its security and relative "wealth", through trade. The area thus became a melting pot of different cultures.

This turned Ndeze into a 'cosmopolitan' leader of diverse communities. In a country where it was difficult for other kings to organise individual communities, he managed to run an area of diverse communities smoothly.

His simple style of leadership was the secret to this success. He put in charge local villagers of integrity to organise from the village. These duly organised other villagers to deal with issues of disputes, poverty, health, general wellbeing, etc. That way, only thorny issues beyond the powers of these leaders reached him. In addition, he periodically checked in every area to see that all was running efficiently.

Most importantly, he was a smooth diplomat who could prove disarming to the strongest opponent, despite his limited education. That's how he managed to build trust among his colonial superiors and, later, his superiors under Mobutu's administration. Even as he built trust among his superiors, however, he was firm against colonial forced-labour on his people. And equally firm against Mobutu's corrupt ways and neglect of hard work. Also, he went beyond the Congo to build collaborations with leaders in neighbouring countries.

Mwami Ndeze was a statesman par excellence. His assertion of the self-worth, independence, uprightness and dignity of his people, in Bwisha of diverse communities, was admired by all. And his 'cosmopolitan' community imbibed it and was guided by it.

M23 finds root in this Bwisha community and in communities in neighbouring areas that share its ethos.

Now, on one hand, take a scattering of young men who are products of this culture. Some may not have roots in this culture but may have acquired it through influence. Others may have that patient but stubborn streak borne of long periods of marginalisation where they were treated as second-class citizens. Still, others may have been awakened by the fact of being witness to foreign influences that worked in tandem with their leaders to pauperise them.

Then, on the other hand, take a syndicate of hedge-fund-hunting hounds set on the single-minded purpose of driving the dominance of capitalism. Some may be long-established international conglomerates that must maintain the standards of their business. Others may be upstart companies in North America or Europe, out for anything that can push their business growth. Still, others may be companies from less developed countries, working to change the order of wealth distribution in the world.

A clash of these two forces may be what we are witnessing in today's Bwisha. There is a small 'Ndeze group' that's fighting to assert its self-worth and right to citizenship. And there is a huge syndicate of multinationals underground, deep in the mines, pushing an army of lackeys on the surface to fight its wars. Clearly, the odds are highly staked against the 'Ndeze group'.

The mining multinationals are digging up funds. The lackeys' survival depends on fund-raising. And the marriage is complete. So, the multinationals have an army of UN members and, paradoxically, of their victim, the Congolese government. They have an army of rights activists; academics; media practitioners; humanitarians; opinion crafters; a horde of battalions.

That's how Bwisha is under the spotlight. Rwanda, for being possessed of the 'Ndeze gene' of self-assertion, and for being neighbour, is caught in its spotlight. For diversionary purposes, of course. Otherwise, this incidental spotlight will soon die. The real war is not one of minds.

From Iraq to Libya, Equatorial Guinea to DRC, the real war has been, and will always be, one of mines. Oil mines, stone mines. Perpetrated by the "international community" for their "multinational community".

The last 'Ndeze' the Congolese people got for the whole country, Patrice Lumumba, was not allowed to see light of day. But DRC is not lacking in other 'Lumumbas', 'Ndezes'. Please, can one stand up to be counted?

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