How does the Congolese diaspora come together to create change?
It is particularly in its failure to organize that the Congolese diaspora has been unable to bring sustainable support and change to the situation in their country. What needs to be done in order to organize effectively and bring to reality the change we want to see in Congo?
TRANSFORMING MOBILIZATION INTO ORGANIZATION
I recently watched the great revolutionary leader Kwame Ture also known as Stokely Carmichael speak on the art of organizing in his speech titled, 'Converting the Unconscious to Conscious: Mobilization and Organization'.
He mentioned something that strongly resonated with me in terms of the methods the Congolese diaspora has been using to initiate mobilization in the last couple years. 'We must make clear distinctions between mobilizers and organizers. We must transform mobilization into organization. If we're not careful we allow mobilization to become events'.
This is what the Congolese movement has become. We haven't been able to make a distinction between mobilizing, which is the unconscious mass reacting instinctively to an issue, and organizing, which is responding to an issue based on reason and a planned trajectory with practical solutions. In 2011, many of us participated in protests and rose up as a result of being fed up with the status quo and the government in place.
What happens is that our protests and our platforms become mere gatherings where we show our discontent.
It is righteous and can have an impact but it is not a sustainable one, because it is unplanned, it doesn't have a clear motive and it simply becomes a waste of energy and which leaves us defeated. In our plight it is essential to be able to transform the energy that brings us together for our country and canalize it into a clear-cut plan of action which can only be achieved through conscious organization.
The real questions we must be asking ourselves in order for us to put ourselves in a positive perspective and to calculate the feasibility of efficient organization of our Congolese communities globally are the following: How do we transform an unconscious mass into a conscious one? What needs to be done in terms of creating a lasting movement, one that won't fizzle out?
Many of us believe that we are conscious, but the reality is that we are merely aware and simply being aware of our situation as Congolese is not enough; it is a waste of time. Being aware is what many of us in the diaspora were back in 2011, when we stormed the streets to protest against the injustice and the lack of fair elections back home.
Many Congolese although far from the situation do realize that the status quo needs to change: Actually I dare say all Congolese know that things need to change, even the one who's benefiting from the oppressive system is aware that the country is in a bad shape.
As we can see, it is not because we know that there are an estimated six million people who have perished in this conflict in the last decade, or that majority of Congolese do not benefit from the resources of their country, that will change the situation.
Actually what has resulted from our awareness has mostly been reactionary mobilization that tends to fizzle out, resulting in many people being fed up and frustrated with a movement that doesn't seem to be bringing any substantial result.
Indeed, the Congolese diaspora is in majority an unconscious mass lacking direction, that is left reacting instinctively when they have had enough with an issue. No to say that the protests that happened in November 2011 weren't righteous or positive, in fact in many host countries these protests put the Congolese struggle on the map.
Whether in Europe, Canada or United States the Congolese diaspora did succeed in catching the attention of the public, where it also birthed new spaces for Congolese to come together and share their projects and ideas.
However, as quickly as that momentum rose up, it quickly vanished, because we spent a lot of energy protesting without a clear direction of the future of our collective struggle in terms of implementing real social and political change in Congo.
Now we are facing the next elections in 2016 without a clear plan of who we want in power. We wanted President Joseph Kabila out of that position and now that he's about to end his term, what are the steps we have taken to replace him?
Therefore we should ask ourselves: What is lacking in order to make this awareness conscious? The difference between being aware and conscious is the actions that come after realizing that there's an issue. Being conscious is not merely realizing there's a problem; it is also taking appropriate actions in order to come up with a concrete solution.
I believe the first step required in the search and accomplishment of conscious social change demands:
1. SELF-AWARENESS: Realizing our weaknesses and what needs to be fixed within our respective communities, in order to move forward in unity as a conscious mass.
Many Congolese communities are struggling to manage associations and community centres that focus on their well-being in their host countries. The same issues that we are facing in our respective community organisations are the ones we are repeating in our quest for a better Congo, such as the inability to respect our own rules such as the constitutions we agreed on, lack of accountability and transparency.
2. EDUCATION: We have the privilege of constant access to resources that people on the ground do not have. We must consume the information at hand in order to be the bridge of information between us and our counterparts who are struggling to be heard. We must use our knowledge to create a new narrative and agency for Congolese people.
Our lack of knowledge on the situation of our country doesn't come from our not having access to resources; in fact we have enormous access, from history books to reports written by the UN and many different organizations.
We have enough intellectual resources to position ourselves as conscious citizens by depicting who are our enemies in this conflict, who are the mining companies, the multinationals, the governments and the individuals that are perpetuating this war. The issue lies in the lack of practical links between the conscious and the unconscious mass. It is the responsibility of the intellectuals in our communities to transform this information into information that is easily comprehensible to the unconscious mass.
3. WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE: Being part of the diaspora gives us privileges such as security and removes the fear of being reprimanded or silenced; for many of us it is an opportunity to act and take on that responsibility.
If we want change we cannot afford to be lethargic or discouraged by the struggle. It is not enough for us to announce our dissatisfaction or frustration on social media and not act on it. We have to be more active and willing to make this change. It is the only way we can remove this feeling of hopelessness. We also have to understand that by deciding not to act and prepare accordingly, we are actually enabling the system that is destroying our country.
Like stated earlier on, one of the privileges of being in the diaspora is being removed from the conflict or the socio-economic challenges that most Congolese face on the ground.
As a member of the diaspora, we have to understand that we do have political and economic spaces which give us the opportunity to have direct or indirect influence on our host as means of support to the civil society and social movements on the ground.
It is imperative for Congolese in the diaspora to organize in a way that we can create important pressure groups within our respective communities because today we are unfortunately unable to articulate and come to a consensus in terms of what needs to be said to the different governments that benefit not only from our taxes but also from the on-going chaos in Congo.
This is a significant issue especially in countries such as Canada, where 75 percent of mining companies are registered at the Toronto Stock Exchange. It is not the number of Congolese that are lacking in Canada. For example in Montreal alone, we make up to 58 percent of the immigration population according to Immigration Quebec.
It is only a matter of bringing forth substantial organizational techniques that will help mobilize Congolese to raise awareness on the situation in their country. Other than raising awareness of the public, political organization does give the power to Congolese in the diaspora to become pressure groups in order to affect policy changes concerning Congo.
If we take the example of the United States that already has a law in place concerning Congo and it is only a matter of garnering enough support to put pressure on the government to actually enforce the law, PL-109 - 456. Through political organization and advocacy we directly become the voice of the voiceless to the international community. We are able to become a force and not let people forget about the millions of Congolese that suffer in order for the rest of the world to benefit from our natural resources.
We need to realise that change will not occur without having substantial means. Whatever we are planning and want to achieve whether it is in Congo or abroad will call for our communities to create a sense of economic responsibility through financial support. We need to organize economically in order to sustain our struggle and support the work of the people on the ground.
It is perhaps one of the most important roles of the Congolese diaspora. In 2011 the African Bank of Development reported that Congolese migrants had sent a total of $9 billion to their countries with money transfer systems such as Western Union.
That is not including any other means of sending money back home such as giving it to family and friends who are going on vacation etc. Now, think about it: What if that money was canalized in order to support and organize the Congolese civil society working towards lasting social change?
How many technology centres would we have been able to build in order to give internet access to many Congolese, in a country where only 1.3 percent of the population have internet connection at home?
How many children would we be able to send to school? We wouldn't have to worry about finding enough money in order to help Congolese who are being kicked out and mistreated by the Congo-Brazzaville government.
Many grassroots organizations in the North and South Kivu wouldn't have to rely on foreign aid in order to keep doing the amazing work that they're doing for their communities affected by the conflict.
Being able to sustain ourselves financially is not only empowering but it also gives us complete control over our struggle and the work that we are trying to accomplish. It is important for us to organize in order to create a mass movement, which in return has favourable financial outcome.
As a grassroots movement allows for many people to work on different tasks supporting the movement, allowing for the funds that would traditionally be allocated to paying workers in a non-profit organisation to be directly used to support the work that is being done on the ground.
- Samya Lugoma is an undergrad student in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Montreal and a youth coordinator with Friends of the Congo.
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