Fahamu (Oxford)

14 August 2014

Congo-Kinshasa: The Centre of the Sun's Radiance for the Whole of Africa

analysis

After decades of violent conflict, dictatorship, a weak state and massive foreign interference, one could give up on DR Congo. But the country is on course to restoration. It will indeed become the centre of the sun's radiance for Africa

As I started writing this piece on the sacred day of 30 June 2014, the 54th anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Congo's independence, Patrice Lumunba's Independence Day speech constantly filled my mind, especially when he said: 'We are going to make of Congo the center of the sun's radiance for the whole of Africa'.

There is no doubt that Congo has the vocation of exporting development and peace (Congolese troops now deployed in Central African Republic are doing a great job that is appreciated by the whole international community) to the rest of the continent, given its strategic position in the heart of the African continent, given its abundant natural and mineral resources, including vast arable land (the mechanization of agriculture can therefore make of the Congo the breadbasket of the whole continent), a huge hydropower potential which can light the whole continent and an abundant cultural wealth that Congo's 250 ethnic groups represents and which is still unexplored.

Unfortunately, dark thick clouds have always covered what should have long ago been the center of the sun's radiance for all of Africa,including,as Peter Englebert (2003) writes, foreign invasions, the exploitation of its natural resources by transnational and informal networks, and the multiplicity of domestic rebellions linked to foreign interests.

These external factors have very much contributed to a profound colonization of the minds, the corruption mentalities of a big section of the Congolese people, as well as Congo's state weakness, especially the greed of Congolese political elites who embezzle Congo's money and put it in Western banks (Mobutu being a typical example) and when they die, nobody can trace the money. Once more the West is made richer!

First of all, there is no doubt that Congo experienced the worst and most brutal colonial history. With Lumumba's assassination immediately after independence, Congo's young democracy was also decapitated by the same western powers which preach democracy, good governance and Christianity to Africa. However, we know very well that corruption is in the blood of Western powers!

According former South African President Thabo Mbeki (2014), $ 50 billion disappear from Africa to the West every year! According to research, mineral resources worth $6 million are smuggled out of Congo every day as reported by AFP and relayed by Mail and Guardian (2013).

Corruption is the most efficacious tool they use to control the minds of Africans in order to subsequently control the wealth of Africa. As Jomo Kenyatta famously said, 'When the white men came they asked us to kneel down, close our eyes and join them in prayers. When it was all over and we opened our eyes we had their Bible and they had our land.'

We now have new proof that the Belgian state prepared a special secret budget of what is today the equivalent to 7 million Euros (which was not a paltry sum at the time), part of secret funds which escaped the scrutiny of parliament for bribing (buy consciences) and win the favor of 'Congolese leaders of the time' (Tshisekedi, Mobutu, Kasavubu, Tshombe, Kalondji and others) to liquidate Lumumba - a revelation made by Colette Braeckman, expert in Great Lakes Region Affairs and journalist at the Belgian daily, Le Soir. Please watch the video [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr8_-oJ0mLUhere[/url], especially in the 49th minute.

Considered by the United States as a guarantor of stability, Mobutu was kept in power for 32 years, 'served' nine US presidents (from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton), becoming not only a linchpin of the United States of America's interests in the region but also a prestige and 'success story' as far as the U.S. Africa policy during the Cold War was concerned (keeping the Soviet Union at bay in the region, especially in neigbouring Angola).

In Zaire,the United States, France and Belgium practiced a kind of 'remote colonialism', that is to say, installed and armed a loyal military regime that met all their strategic resource needs and kept the country firmly under their radar as 'a buffer against communism'.

This was done in exchange for ongoing unconditional support, 'no regime change' as long as the security of the mineral supplies was not perturbed, a regime that 'fits in with the U.S. France and Belgium's agenda'.

The Mobutuist regime during the Cold War turned out to be 'atypique' (abnormal) in every way. It became corrupt, kleptocratic, megalomaniac and autocratic as it took advantage of an interplay of external and internal dynamics: In this situation, external support is taken for granted, at times manipulated (Mobutu's mind worked like this: keep me in power or there will be chaos.

I am a predictable anti-communist,); in fact Mobutu took external support as a license to carry out internal abuses against an already impoverished population (no accountability). The result was disastrous. The United States, France and Belgium's Congo policies therefore shaped the Congolese domestic political landscape (not the other way round).

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, the Cold War came to a dramatic end. The United States, the only superpower left, could directly 'do business with' countries that supported the Soviet Union without fear of competition or the expansion of the communist threat.

In a way, the end of the Cold War provided the United States with an opportunity to ensure the continuity and stabilization of its oil and mining operations in those territories rich in oil, gas, natural and mineral resources, including in former pro-soviet countries.

What happened in Central Africa was that Mobutu's 'anti-communist' services in the region were no longer needed by America, but most importantly, as part of re-ordering the post-Cold War world and consolidating their own interests, the new tenants in the White House (the Clinton Administration) wanted to change the local players on the ground in Africa.

The Pax Americana of the Cold War was replaced by cooperation with a new generation of military rulers, as Helmut Strizek (2004) puts it. They wanted to have their own new friends and the United States to amass a new cobalt stockpile out of Zaire. To get rid of Mobutu, the United States exerted both internal and external pressures on Mobutu until his regime collapsed like a house of cards in 1997.

Externally, the United States, France and Belgium (known as 'Zaire's Troika') summoned Mobutu to undertake democratic reform. The IMF and the World Bank required transparency and fiscal probity until they completely cut off relations with Zaire in 1993.

The World Bank's assessment was that Mr. Mobutu spent about 67 percent of the received loans on the presidency and about 33 percent on the rest of the country, as Edward Marek (1997) put it. International human rights organizations also called upon Mobutu to put an end to human rights violations and not to hinder the democratic transition process.

All the mechanisms were put into action to make Mobutu understand that his time was up. Travelling to South Africa to greet Nelson Mandela, U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, accompanied by his 'Mister Africa', Herman Cohen, made a stop-over in Kinshasa in March 1990. He told Mobutu that a new era was about to begin in U.S.A. - Africa relations. In future, there was to be no place for Mobutu and other cronies, as Helmutz Strizek wrote.

Internally, Western powers supported the new 'forces for change' in the country, including local opposition parties. Finally, the United States and North American multinational companies opted for supporting former Marxist guerilla fighter Laurent Désiré Kabila and his Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo", (AFDL). Kabila took control of Kinshasa in May 1997 after a swift war which lasted only seven months (1996-1997), forcing Mobutu into exile in Morocco where he died four months later on 7 September 1997.

Then a new proxy resource war broke out in 1998 when U.S.-backed regimes of Rwanda and Uganda and some Congolese rebels they created declared war on Congo and sought to replace Kabila because he refused to be subservient to Western interests and was leaning toward China ('Look East Policy').

What has been labeled as 'Africa's First World War' (10 countries were involved) cost the lives of 8 million Congolese, rape was used as a weapon of war and Congo's natural and mineral resources were systematically looted.

Ironically, Uganda's Major-General Kahinda Otafire who led the Uganda invasion and the looting of Congo (please click here) is now Chairman of the 'Pan African Movement' and is busy preparing the 8th Pan African Congress which will take place in Accra, Ghana, in November 2014. Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba must be turning in their graves (although Lumumba never had one!) Since when did Otafire become a pan-Africanist?

In fact, the African Union never suspended Rwanda and Uganda until they withdrew their forces from Congo. We Africans still remain dictated over by foreign powers! That is our tragedy!

As President Joseph Kabila put it in his Independence Day speech, 'in the last twenty years, the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the scene of aggressions, wars, armed movements and rebellions'.

However, no matter how dark and thick clouds may be, they can never overcome or cover the sun's radiance forever. The sun's radiance will always prevail over the dark clouds. The night may be long but a new day will always end up breaking (African proverb).

As Pierre Englebert observes, Congo should have collapsed some time ago under all these multiple assaults. Yet, Congo has gone on defying such expectations and has continued to display a stunning propensity for resilience.

For us the Congolese people, Congo is not up for sale and there is no compromise when it comes to preserving our sovereignty and the territorial integrity of our country.

The Congolese people will spare no sacrifice to preserve them. 'Never betray Congo' is our motto. Our African ancestors have designed Congo to be the center of the sun's radiance for the whole of Africa. Anybody who goes against that, whether they are foreigners or Africans, will just have to drink water using a fork, which is quite an impossible task to accomplish and will remain thirsty.

Whether anybody likes it or not, Africa's rise will stem from the Democratic Republic of Congo. And Lumumba's Congo is ready to bear such a responsibility.

As president Laurent Kabila once said , 'More than [50 years] of African independence have offered to the world a sad spectacle of a continent looted and humiliated with the complicity of its own sons and daughters'.

He expressed the wish 'to see Africa entering the 21st century totally independent of foreign interference' and declared that 'the battle for Congo's independence and sovereignty was fought in the interest of Africa as a whole'. For Laurent Kabila, 'Congo has the vocation of exporting peace, development and security to the rest of Africa because a weak Congo means a vulnerable Africa from its centre, an Africa without a heart.'

The Algerian scholar Franz Fanon once wrote that 'Africa is like a revolver and the trigger is the Congo'. Congo can trigger disaster or it can trigger prosperity for the entire continent, depending on the intention of the person who is pulling the trigger.

The United States must realize that if the DRC becomes a breeding ground for all sorts of terrorists from neighbouring countries in the east, this can also threaten America's long-term interests.

Just last week, the Congolese army arrested two Rwandans commandos who infiltrated Congo to make trouble and say that Hutu militia are responsible for it. That is what they confessed. Rwanda does not need to fabricate more pretexts.

Tutsi and Hutu have to sit together, dialogue and share power. That is what America which backs Rwanda is urging the Iraqi government to do: to share power with the former Saddamists! Nelson Mandela shared power with those who jailed him for 27 years.

We all know the savagery and the brutality of the apartheid system. Britain and America must cease to be the guarantors of Rwanda's and Uganda's impunity for the genocide and crimes against humanity they have committed in Congo. They must not get away with it.

In any case, the Congolese people are taking their destiny into their own hands. In his Independence Day speech this year, President Joseph Kabila announced that 'the Congolese Armed Forces and Security Forces have now flexed their muscles and their striking force has increased tremendously, so much so that, we have put an end to twenty years of aggressions, wars, armed movements and rebellions [the resounding defeat of Rwandan and Ugandan-backed M23 speaks for itself].

Indeed, since the end of 2013, rebellions and wars in many parts of the country have been put down; terrorist movements operating in the Far North Kivu have been eradicated. Most armed groups joined the ultimatum to lay down their weapons. Thus nearly 4,500 arms have been laid down.

The process is also underway with the FDLR, roughly 200 members of whom have already surrendered. I solemnly announce to the Congolese Nation that our armed forces have absolute control over the entire national territory.'

However, President Kabila added that 'no matter what legitimate satisfaction these feats of arms provide, the Congolese people must remain vigilant because the enemy is watching us and has not given up.'

As Congolese government spokesperson Lambert Mende explained, Rwanda no longer has any pretexts to invade Congo and loot minerals, not even about the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The FDLR are asking for reintegration and a political space in their country, Rwanda.

It is up to Rwanda to seriously take into consideration and respond to issues of substance raised by its Hutu nationals. Of course, it is also the duty of Rwanda to try, as it has always done so far, those responsible for alleged crimes related to the 1994 genocide. There is no justification for Rwandan leaders to multiply quibbles in order to keep away from home their own countrymen.

How long are the Congolese people going to pay the price for the past inter-ethnic killings in Rwanda and for which they are not responsible? In recent clashes between the Congolese army and the FDLR, the Congolese army lost 60 of its men after inflicting a loss of 1,029 lives in the camp of FDLR.

It is therefore wrong for Rwanda to accuse Congo of complicity with a few hundred residues of FDLR, especially when we know that the harm caused to Congo is more important than the injury caused to Rwanda. However, after Congo repatriated 11,000 FDLR, some of them were found on the side of the M23 and recaptured by the Congolese army during the fighting against M23.

The Congolese government envisages two options for the FDLR: either they return to Rwanda their country of origin or go to a third host country. Both contingencies are inexorably based on an absolute prerequisite, that they leave the Congolese territory.

The largest number of FDLR, aged between 18 and 25 years, is requesting repatriation to Rwanda. Only a few elderly ones, perhaps fearing the vengeance of their government, are seeking a transfer to other countries.

The Congolese government is satisfied that the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) recently endorsed the voluntary disarmament of the FDLR within six months. Rwanda also approved the draft.

Importantly, the facilitation that the Congolese government will provide to that voluntary disarmament of the FDLR will be without prejudice to the cooperation of our country with international judicial institutions such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Arusha to which Congo has repeatedly delivered Rwandan genocide suspects found on its territory, as well as to the ICC at The Hague. Congo therefore certainly has no lessons to receive from anyone regarding the fight against cross-border crime in the Great Lakes region.

The Congolese government has never renounced the military option against the FDLR. That option remains on the table in case the FDLR do not materialize their voluntary disarmament within a reasonable time.

The Congolese government went as far as repatriating to their country those Rwandans, mostly aged 18 to 25 years, accused by the Rwandan government of harbouring a 'genocide ideology', despite the fact that, they have obviously nothing to do with the perpetration of the genocide in 1994, which occurred when they were less than five years old, or were not even born yet at that time! Who can really accuse Congo of not cooperating?

Congo has some difficulties in understanding the motivations of those in our neighboring country, Rwanda, who get upset at the prospect of repatriation of 1200-1500 FDLR still living in Kivu, while in recent years, Rwanda has received more than 11,000 former FDLR returnees without any problem.

For the time being, we can objectively say that peace is restored and we want peace with all our neighbours so that we can regionally develop together (however, Congo Brazzaville recently expelled more 1,500 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo 'under conditions that outrage human conscience' as President Joseph Kabila put it. But we are just of the same blood!). The country is reunified and major infrastructures have been rehabilitated during and after the war. War prevented all resources being channeled to development projects.

In the economic sector, 'an economy with a triple-digit inflation and continuous depreciation of the national currency, are nothing more than old memories,' as President Joseph Kabila put it in his independence commemoration speech.

As far as infrastructures building is concerned, at least 6,000 km of roads have already been rehabilitated throughout the Congolese territory (Kisangani-Beni-Nyanya; Lubumbashi-Kasumbalesa; Boma-Moanda Kinshasa-Kikwit), more than 12,000 km of trunk roads are being rehabilitated while new key bridges such as Mpozo and Loange have been built.

A new Investment Code, a new Mining Code, a new Forest Code, a Framework Law of Telecommunications and Post Act have been promulgated and a Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications has been established.

Commercial courts have been created for investors to feel secure, a commission and a national strategy against corruption and fraud has been established, (in fact, President Kabila has just sacked Congo's state owned mining company, Gecamines' CEO Ahmed Kalej Nkand for embezzlement as part of the fight against corruption.) A Steering Committee for the Reform of Public Enterprises called COPIREP as well as a National Agency For Investment Promotion, called ANAPI, have been established.

In the education sector, a construction plan of 1,000 schools has already started to be implemented, with 130 schools already built and 230 on the point of being completed.

In the health sector, 135 health centers have been newly equipped and there is a plan to build, rehabilitate and equip about 5,400 health facilities across the entire country. According to the Prime Minister's Office, this program will involve 1,000 centers and 200 hundred hospitals across the country.

The distribution of this program across the country will be equitable: 20 hospitals per province and about 100 health centers per province. The entire program will cost about 80 billion Congolese francs (about $80 million) funded by the government itself from its own purse.

A new public transport company called Transco has been created with 750 new buses to date on the road, the construction of social housing in Kinshasa-Bandalungwa as well as a new program for the creation of agro-industrial parks have been launched, according to Le Potentiel, an opposition newspaper.

In fact, on 15 July 2014, President Joseph Kabila officially launched the Bukanga Lonzo agro-industrial park, 200 km from Kinshasa, in addition to the Kibomango agro-industrial park in the suburb of Kinshasa. The aim is to boost the Congolese agricultural productive capacity (without sacrificing the environment due to agricultural pesticides (causes various diseases), pollution of rivers, the impoverishment of the land by various fertilizers, GMO food... ) and to make Congo food-sufficient.

The Bukanga Lonzo agro-industrial park is a joint-venture with Sopagri, a South African consortium, which is responsible for management, providing services and facilities for the 80,000 ha site.

However, it is this writer's view that white farmers kicked out Southern Africa should NOT be allowed to settle down in Congo, otherwise, in the long term, the same causes will produce the same effects.

Showing to the world what black man can do when he works in freedom in his own land - as Patrice Lumumba put it - Zimbabwe recently recorded 85 percent increase in cereal output‏ (please click here: http://en.starafrica.com/news/zimbabwe-records-85-percent-increase-in-cereal-output.html)

To end the uncertainty on the political front, as President Kabila put it in his speech on the occasion of this 54th anniversary of Congo's independence, Congo organized and held elections successively in 2006 and 2011, thus consolidating its young democracy and national cohesion. In fact, the National Independent Commission is already at work to organize local elections and finally presidential election in 2016 in a peaceful climate.

Of course, all the above mentioned projects are not enough for a continent country that Congo is, but the beginning is re-assuring. National reconstruction through major projects, improvement of the social conditions of the masses, the reform of public administration (the new National School of Administration has just been inaugurated), the recovery of the judiciary as well as putting public finances in order (the government has already spearheaded the de-dollarization of the Congolese economy, all the official transactions now have to be processed in local currency, the Congolese franc and not the dollar)... these are some of the challenges ahead as enumerated by President Joseph Kabila in his speech. In addition, almost all the mining assets in Congo and half of Congo's arable land are still in the hands of or under the control of multinationals.

For the time being, every Congolese must work hard to achieve the Congolese dream which is to make of Congo an emerging country as soon as possible, to make of Congo 'the China of Africa'.

This will benefit not only Congo but the whole of Africa. In fact, the Congolese Senate has just approved a deal the Congolese government signed with South Africa, that is, to built INGA III, the biggest hydropower project in the world comparable only with the Three Gorges Dam in China.

Africa needs a stable Democratic Republic of Congo where peace and development for the whole continent will spring from. That is Patrice Lumumba's vision: to make of the Democratic Republic of Congo the center of the sun's radiance for the whole of Africa.

REFERENCES

"Africa loses $50bn yearly to money laundering, says Mbeki," The News, May 7 2014, http://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2014/05/07/africa-loses-50bn-yearly-money-laundering-says-mbeki/, consulted on 30 June 2014.

AFP, "Mugabe foresees new tasks for Africa's spies," Mail and Guardian, May 7, 2013, http://mg.co.za/article/2013-05-07-mugabe-news-tasks-for-africas-spies, consulted on 30 June 2014.

Edward Marek, "DR Congo News Brief/Report from Marek Enterprise," Reliefweb, 23 Jun 1997,http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/dr-congo-news-brief-23-jun-1997, consulted on November 19, 2013.

Franz Fanon, Towards the African Revolution, New York: Grove Press, 1967; Reprint: New York: Grove Press, 1994, p.419.

Helmutz Strizek, "Central Africa - 15 years after the Cold War: The International involvement," Internationales Afrikaforum, Vol.40, No.3, September 2004, pp.273-288.

Pierre Englebert, "Why Congo Persists: Sovereignty, Globalization and the Violent Reproduction of a Weak State," Paper written for the Queen Elizabeth House Carnegie Project on "Global Cultural and Economic Dimensions of Self-Determination in Developing Countries.", Queen Elisabeth House Working Paper Series No.95, Oxford, 2003.

- Antoine Roger Lokongo is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a journalist and PhD candidate at the Centre for African Studies, School of International Relations, Peking University, Beijing, China.

* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

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