Amazing Grace: Whitewashing the History of Abolition

Originally posted on Counterpunch on August 25-26, 2007.

This week the world officially commemorated one of the pivotal events of modern history with deafening silence. On August 23, 1791, a group of slaves in Haiti led by a man named Boukman ignited a revolt that changed the world. They attacked their French masters, and kept fighting until Haiti wrested independence from Napoleon in 1804. Haiti’s rebellion metastasized: the independent nation run by former slaves inspired people held in bondage throughout the world, and forever undermined the “moral” and philosophical underpinnings of slavery. Slavery held on for decades- more than seven decades in the U.S. – but from that time on it was fighting a losing battle.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaims August 23 the official “International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition,” but there is little behind the proclamation. The UNESCO website’s link to “Activities Worldwide” shows a blank page for the United States. France, alone among former slave trading countries, has an activity listed, but that is for last March’s launch of a virtual UNESCO exhibit, aptly titled: “Lest We Forget.” The link to the virtual exhibit does not work. There is no mention of the anniversary in any major U.S. media outlets, and very little even on the internet.

In contrast, the film Amazing Grace, about William Wilberforce and the fight to end the slave trade in the British Empire, made a big splash when it opened last February. In less than four months, enough people saw the film in the United States for the movie to gross $21 million.

Wilberforce, a wealthy member of the British Parliament, risked his reputation, his political career and even his health in a long struggle to convince his colleagues to pass the Slave Trade Act. The Act became a critical step in ending slavery when enacted in 1807, and both Wilberforce and the Act deserve an important place in history.

But neither deserves to overshadow the Haitians and their revolution. Haitians risked their lives as well as their health and careers- over 300,000 Haitians died fighting for abolition, many cruelly tortured and mutilated along the way. Haitians actually ended slavery in the country, for good, while the Slave Trade Act only ended the transport of slaves by ship in the British Empire (the Empire did not actually abolish slavery until 1834). But it is the Slave Trade Act, not Haiti’s revolution, which is widely celebrated as the beginning of the end of slavery.

The orator, statesman and emancipated slave Frederick Douglass was appointed U.S. Minister to Haiti, where he saw the disservice that history was already doing to the country. In an 1893 address to the Chicago World’s Fair, Douglass acknowledged the contributions of Wilberforce and the other abolitionists in England and the United States. But he reminded his listeners that:

“Until Haiti struck for freedom, the conscience of the Christian world slept profoundly over slavery. Until she spoke no Christian nation had given to the world an organized effort to abolish slavery….. Until she spoke, the slave trade was sanctioned by all the Christian nations of the world, and our land of liberty and light included.”

Amazing Grace actually advanced the process of writing Haiti out of the history of abolition. I caught only one reference to Haiti in the film- a sentence about the revolution’s outbreak in a scene from the early 1790’s. The film managed to chronicle the abolition movement’s progress through to 1807 without even mentioning 1804’s actual abolition.

The world had another chance to give Haiti its due three years ago, during the bicentennial of the nation’s independence. On the big day, January 1, 2004, Thabo Mbeki, President of the most powerful African nation, South Africa, came to celebrate. But the former slaveholding nations, led by the United States, disliked the economic policies of the people Haitians had elected to serve them, so they boycotted the events. They also forced the less powerful countries of Africa and the Caribbean to stay away, so Haiti’s historic celebration was muted.

Instead of sending congratulations to Haiti’s government, the United States sent guns and money to those trying to overthrow it. When the international spotlight did arrive in Haiti seven weeks later, it came to witness the violent return of another brutal U.S.-supported dictatorship. That dictatorship led to another 4,000 Haitians dying in political violence.

I enjoyed Amazing Grace despite its slighting of Haiti, and found it a compelling and inspiring film. That might be because I, like most moviegoers, am a lot closer socially and economically to William Wilberforce than to Boukman and his comrades, or even to their descendants in Haiti today. I am willing to work hard for what I believe in, but I do not put my life on the line. At the end of a hard day’s fight I sleep in a comfortable bed with a full stomach.

We all risk being closer morally to John Newton, the slave-ship captain turned preacher who wrote the hymn that gave Amazing Grace its title. Newton had a series of religious conversions that led him to abandon slave-trading and eventually become a prominent abolitionist. But he traces his original conversion to 1748, while he continued to work on slave ships until 1754. By some accounts, he continued to profit from investments in slave-trading companies for decades more.

Haiti has always challenged Americans by embodying conflicts between our espoused ideals and our limited willingness to implement them. In Douglass’ youth, we had declared all men created equal, but we refused to recognize Haiti because it was governed by men with the wrong skin color. In 2004, our government proclaimed that democracy was worth establishing in Iraq by brutal force, but not protecting in Haiti. Our peace and human rights movements protested the Bush Administration’s violations of international law in overthrowing Iraq’s dictator, but silently accepted the same Administration’s overthrow of Haiti’s elected president. In 2007, we make and watch movies that celebrate the end of slavery, but we refuse to allow the slaves credit for their own liberation.

They say that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Americans cannot or will not accurately remember our own past, or Haiti’s, but it is the Haitians who are condemned when we repeat the past. They pay the price for our coups d’etat, our development assistance embargos, and our occupations. We cannot take back the previous punishment we have inflicted on Haiti, but we can remember it, and thereby do our best to avoid repeating it.

Brian Concannon Jr. is a human rights lawyer and directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, www.ijdh.org

Haiti coalition calls for week of activities to save the life of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

A broad coalition of Haitian elected officials, community organizations and human rights groups, including Fondayson Trant Septanm (September 30th Foundation) have announced plans for a series of activities in Haiti calling for the safe return of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. At a press conference in Port-au-Prince on Monday, August 27th, the coalition, Gwoup Inisyativ Pou Sove Lavi Pierre-Antoine (Group Initiative to Save the Life of Pierre-Antoine), announced that it would stage vigils and peaceful marches this Wednesday and Friday.

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is a Haitian grassroots leader, member of the Lavalas Party, and the head of Fondayson Trant Septanm, a Haitian human rights organization that advocates for victims of the 1991 and 2004 coup d’etats against the democratically-elected governments of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He has not been seen since the evening of Sunday, August 12, 2007 after meeting with a U.S. human rights delegation currently in Haiti. He is presumed kidnapped.

As a young psychologist working in Port au Prince, Lovinsky helped establish Fondsayon Kore Timoun Yo (Foundation for the Support of Children) for young street children in Port au Prince; FAM (Foyer pour Adolescentes Mères), a center for teenage mothers; and Map Viv (“I Live”), a program designed to give psychological and medical aid to the victims of the first coup against Aristide in 1991. The September 30th Foundation, named for the date of the first coup against President Aristide in 1991, emerged out of this work. Similar to the work of Mothers of the Disappeared in Central and South America, September 30th Foundation held weekly vigils demanding justice for victims of human rights violations and the release of political prisoners.

Forced to leave Haiti after the 2004 coup, Lovinsky returned to the country in April 2006. Since that time, he has continued his efforts on behalf of human rights. A delegation of activists with the Haiti Action Committee had the privilege of meeting with Lovinsky in his home last month. We are deeply concerned over his disappearance.

Please support the call by the Gwoup Inisyativ Pou Sove Lavi Pierre-Antoine.

Contact the following offices of the Haitian government, the U.S. Embassy and the U.N. occupying powers. Express your concern that all efforts are being made to facilitate the safe and peaceful return of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.

Call the authorities in Haiti, at (011):

Haitian Ministry of Justice
Tel: 011-509-245-0474

UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
Tel: 011-509-244-9650-9660
Fax: 011-509-244-9366/67
Or, Fax, Office of General Secretary (New York) – (212) 963.4879

United States Embassy
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephones: 011-509-223-4711, or 222-0200 or 0354
Fax: 011-509-223-1641 or 9038

Where is Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine? Leading Human Rights Activist in Haiti Disappears

Original alert emailed on August 15, 2007

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is a tireless fighter for the Haitian people: a grassroots leader, member of the Lavalas Party, and the head of Fondayson Tran Septanm, a Haitian human rights organization that advocates for victims of the 1991 and 2004 coup d’etats against the democratically-elected governments of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Lovinsky has not been seen since the evening of Sunday, August 12, 2007 after meeting with a U.S. human rights delegation currently in Haiti. He usually keeps his family posted on his whereabouts, but they hadn’t heard from him on Monday. His car was found on Delma 10 in Port au Prince. His friends and associates in Haiti and around the world are deeply concerned about his safety and well-being.

As a young psychologist working in Port au Prince, Lovinsky helped establish Fondsayon Kore Timoun Yo (Foundation for the Support of Children) for young street children in Port au Prince ; FAM (Foyer pour Adolescentes Mères), a center for teenage mothers ; and Map Viv (“I Live”), a program designed to give psychological and medical aid to the victims of the first coup against Aristide in 1991. The September 30th Foundation, named for the date of the first coup against President Aristide in 1991, emerged out of this work.
Similar to the work of Mothers of the Disappeared in Central and South America, September 30th Foundation held weekly vigils demanding justice for victims of human rights violations and the release of political prisoners.

Forced to leave Haiti after the 2004 coup, Lovinsky returned to the country in April 2006 Since that time, he has helped center the campaign for the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, an end to the UN occupation, economic and social justice, and the freeing of all political prisoners. His work helped bring 10,000 people into the streets of Port-au-Prince on July 15th, commemorating Aristide’s birthday. He has been outspoken in denouncing the continued presence of coup participants and supporters within the current government.

A delegation of activists with the Haiti Action Committee had the privilege of meeting with Lovinsky in his home last month. We later saw him lead a spirited protest on July 28th across from UN headquarters on Avenue John Brown in Port-au-Prince, marking the 92nd anniversary of the 1915 U.S. Marine invasion of Haiti.

We are concerned and outraged over the disappearance of this valiant fighter for human rights and dignity. We call on the UN occupation authorities in Haiti, the government of President Rene Preval, and the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince to account for the whereabouts of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.

Racism and Resistance:The Struggle to Free The Jena Six

Originally posted at Left Turn Magazine, August 14, 2007.

Almost a year ago, in the small northern Louisiana town of Jena, a group of white students hung three nooses from a tree in front of Jena High School. This set into motion a season of racial tension and incidents that culminated in six Black youths facing a lifetime in jail for a schoolyard fight.

The story that has unfolded since is one of racism and injustice, but also of resistance and solidarity, as people from around the world have joined together with the families of the accused, lending legal and financial support, adding political pressure, and joining demonstrations and marches.

The nooses were hung after a Black student asked permission to sit under a tree that had been reserved by tradition for white students only. In response to the three nooses, nearly every Black student in the school stood under the tree in a spontaneous and powerful act of nonviolent protest. The town’s district attorney quickly arrived, flanked by police officers, and told the Black students to stop making such a big deal over the nooses, which school officials termed to be a “harmless prank.” Walters spoke in a school assembly, which like the schoolyard where all of this had begun was divided by race, with the Black students on one side and the white students on the other. Directing his remarks to the Black students, District Attorney Reed Walters said, “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of a pen.”

The white students who confessed to hanging the nooses never received any meaningful punishment. Nor did the white students who months later beat up a Black student at a school party, nor did the white former student who threatened two Black students with a shotgun. But, after these incidents, when Black students got into a fight with a white student, six Black youths were charged with attempted murder, and now face a lifetime in prison. The white student was briefly hospitalized, but had no major injuries and was socializing with friends at a school ring ceremony the evening of the fight. The accused students may not have been involved in the fight, but they were known to be organizers of the protest under the tree. They were also star athletes in the school football team, and had no history of discipline problems.

The Black students were arrested immediately after the fight, in December of last year. School officials and police officials took statements from at least 44 witnesses. The statements do not paint a clear picture of who was in the fight. Statements from white students refer to a group of “Black boys,” but most testimonies are unclear as to the identities of who was involved. Some of the arrested youths are not implicated in the fight at all.

Despite this, when Mychal Bell, the first youth to go to trial, refused to take a deal in exchange for testifying against his friends, he was quickly convicted by an all-white jury. Bell’s public defender Blane Williams, visibly angry at Bell and his parents because the youth did not take the deal, called no witnesses and gave no meaningful defense. This attorney’s behavior gives a vivid example of our nation’s broken and underfunded public defender system. Some have called Jena a throwback to the past, but in fact Jena presents a clear vision of the current state of our criminal justice system.

In Paris Texas, a white teenager burns down her family’s home and receives probation, while a Black student shoves a hall monitor and gets 7 years in prison. Genarlow Wilson, in Atlanta, is sentenced to ten years in prison for participating in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old when he was 17. Like these and many other cases, the case in Jena is textbook proof that there are still two systems of justice functioning in this country, one for Black people, and one for white. The unpunished incidents in the days and months leading up to the fight clearly demonstrate that the students of Jena would never have faced charges if white students had beaten a Black student.

Local Resistance

Immediately after the arrests, parents of the accused began organizing. Their call, “Free the Jena Six,” was initially heard by activists from other parts of Louisiana, such as the Lafayette public access TV show, “Community Defender,” which was the first media from outside their immediate area to give coverage of the case. Noncorporate media has been vital in spreading word of the case, beginning with blogs and YouTube videos, which then led to articles in grassroots publications and high profile stories on Democracy Now and in The Final Call.

LaSalle parish, where Jena is located, is 85% white. The town is still mostly segregated – from the white barber who refuses to cut Black hair to the white and Black parts of town, separated by an invisible line. LaSalle is also one of Louisiana’s most wealthy parishes, with small oil rigs in many back yards contributing to area wealth. The parish is a major contributor to Republican politicians, and former klansman David Duke received a solid majority of local votes when he ran for governor in 1991 – in fact, he received a higher percentage of votes in LaSalle parish than in any other part the state. Jena was also the former site of a notoriously brutal youth prison, which was closed after years of lawsuits and negative media exposure. The prison is now scheduled to be reopened as a private prison for the growth business of immigrant detentions.

Only one church in town has allowed the parents to hold meetings. There has been local pressure on family members and their allies to stay quiet. However, in the face of opposition, their voice has grown louder. Without an infrastructure of support, without any paid organizers, this struggle was initiated and is still led by six courageous families.

Three hundred supporters, most from the immediate region, but some from as far away as California, Chicago and New York, descended on Jena on July 31 to protest District Attorney Reed Walters’ conduct and call for dismissal of all charges. The largest groups included Millions More Movement delegations from Houston, Monroe and Shreveport, and nearly fifty members of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children from Lake Charles and New Orleans. Other delegations from across Louisiana included members of INCITE Women of Color Against Violence, Critical Resistance, Common Ground and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. The demonstration marched through downtown Jena – reported to be the biggest civil rights march the town of 2,500 residents has ever seen – and delivered a petition with 43,000 signatures to the District Attorney’s office.

In the two weeks since the demonstration, more major allies have begun to come on board. The Congressional Black Caucus – representing 43 members, including Senator Barack Obama – issued a statement calling for charges to be dropped, while the city of Cambridge Massachusetts passed a resolution in support of the families of the Jena Six. Al Sharpton and other national leaders have visited Jena, while Jesse Jackson brought the support of members of the state legislative Black caucus and best selling author Mary B. Morrison offered one of the youths a full scholarship to the college of his choice.

ColorOfChange.org, which has coordinated much of the outside support, has gathered 60,000 signatures on a petition to Louisiana Governor Blanco, calling for her to pardon the accused, and investigate District Attorney Reed Walters. [OBA note: Click here to sign the petition.]

Blanco, a Democratic governor elected with the overwhelming support of Black residents of Louisiana, responded with a condescending statement, tersely informing petitioners, “The State Constitution provides for three branches of state government – Legislative, Executive, and Judicial – and the Constitution prohibits anyone in one branch from exercising the powers of anyone in another branch.” This is the same governor who, as Katrina approached, urged gulf coast residents to “pray the hurricane down” to a level two. When New Orleans was flooded and people were trapped in the New Orleans Superdome and convention center, she informed the nation that she was sending in National Guard troops, and “They have M-16s and they’re locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.” More recently, Blanco created a program to bring federal money to homeowners rebuilding after Katrina – the “Road Home” – that has been a dismal failure on every level.

Mychal Bell’s sentencing is currently scheduled for September 20. The families are planning another demonstration for that date, and also have assembled a legal team for Bell and the other youths. National organizations such as Southern Poverty Law Center and NAACP joined initial supporters such as Friends of Justice (from Tulia, Texas) and ACLU of Louisiana. Legal expenses for the youths could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and funding is still needed. Except for Mychal Bell, who has a bail hearing scheduled for September 4, all of the youths are out on bail.

The case of Jena Six has served as a wake-up call on the state of US justice. It shows vividly the racial bias still inherent to our system. But is has also shown something else. That this group of families refuses to be silent in the face of injustice, and that hundreds of thousands of other people around the world have chosen to stand with them. Together they have said that we are drawing the line, here, in Jena Louisiana.

For more information, see the Jena 6 Resource Page

About the Author
Jordan Flaherty is a New Orleans-based journalist and an editor of Left Turn Magazine. His May 9, 2007 article from Jena was one of the first to bring the case to a national audience. Please see http://www.leftturn.org and http://www.freethejena6.org/ for more coverage of the Jena case.

Tullow Oil’s Congo Exploration Pact to Be Canceled (Update3)

Original post at Bloomberg.com: U.K.

Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) — Tullow Oil Plc’s exploration contract in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be canceled after the government found irregularities in the agreement, said Hydrocarbons Minister Lambert Mende. Tullow’s stock fell.

Tullow said the agreement was valid and legally binding and offered to double its signing bonus as a gesture of goodwill. The London-based company and Canadian partner, Heritage Oil Corp., have been awaiting a decree from Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to allow them to start drilling on two blocks on Lake Albert on the Ugandan border.

“Tullow received a letter from me on July 25 saying I can’t present the dossier unless we’ve addressed the irregularities in the contract,” Mende said today in an interview in the capital, Kinshasa.

Foreign investment in Congo has been growing after seven years of civil war, which left 4 million people dead, ended in 2003. The country produces 25,000 barrels of crude oil a day from fields off its coast.

Tullow fell 3.5 pence, or 0.8 percent, to 429.5 pence on the London Stock Exchange. Earlier the stock fell as much as 7.7 percent. Tullow has a market value of 709 million pounds ($1.41 billion).

The country, which holds about a 10th of the world’s copper reserves, is also reviewing mining agreements and has challenged plans by Central African Mining & Exploration Plc to take over Katanga Mining Ltd. because it will change the ownership of a copper project in which the government has a stake.

International Standards

Mende said the July 2006 contract signed by Nicolas Bandingaka, a vice-minister, was done against the will of the minister at the time. It provided for payment for only one of the two blocks and didn’t follow “international standards” for the tenders, Mende said. The tender was published in only one local newspaper, he added.

“The government reserves the right to negotiate” a contract on the second block, Mende said in a letter shown to Bloomberg News.

Bandingaka, who signed the agreement, was legally entitled to do so as the minister was absent a lot during the signing, Tim O’Hanlon, Tullow’s vice president for African business, said in an interview from London today. The signing bonus of $500,000, the fee agreed to for both blocks, was paid, as specified in the contract, he added.

Oil Contracts

Tullow also secured signatures of the then finance minister and Cohydro, the state-owned oil company, O’Hanlon said. It was Congo’s responsibility to ensure correct tender procedures were followed, he said. The same procedure was followed in the signing of all oil contracts negotiated by Congo in recent years, he added.

“In my letter to the president last week, I said Tullow was prepared to raise its signing bonus to $1 million,” O’Hanlon said.

The contract gave Tullow 48.5 percent of the Block I and II concessions on Lake Albert, which cover about 6,500 square kilometers (2,500 square miles), while Heritage has 39.5 percent and state-owned oil company Cohydro the rest. Lake Albert is on Congo’s eastern border.

Tullow owns all of one block on the Ugandan side of the lake, and has a 50 percent share in two blocks operated by Heritage. The company found crude oil in all of the seven wells it drilled there last year, including the first discovery in Uganda.

It’s too early to tell how much oil the concessions in Congo may contain, O’Hanlon said in a June interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Kinshasa via the Johannesburg bureau on abolleurs@bloomberg.net

CONGO: New lobby group for indigenous people

Originally posted on IRIN, August 19, 2007.

BRAZZAVILLE, 14 August 2007 (IRIN) – Indigenous communities in Congo have set up a national network to promote their interests and lobby authorities to support marginalised groups.
The network, Réseau National des Peuples Autochtones du Congo (REPANAC), was set up at the end of a workshop organised in the capital Brazzaville by the Congolese government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The network is mainly to manage what actions should be taken to improve our life conditions,” the coordinator, Bernard Ngouonimba, said.

The indigenous communities – sometimes referred to as pygmies – mainly live in forests and are short in stature. Currently, most hunt, fish and gather to meet their basic needs.

Experts say they have been discriminated against in educational and health opportunities – they are often at high risk of HIV/AIDS and other preventable infections, yet receive limited help to combat these.

“The network wants national authorities to take care of indigenous people in the same way others are treated,” said Ngouonimba.

“We want RENAPAC to be an important group, serving as an link between indigenous people and the public,” said Marie-Céline Tchissambou, permanent secretary in the ministry of health, social affairs and family.

In 2007, the first forum for Central Africa’s indigenous people brought together participants from all over the region at a meeting in the city of Impfondo, 800 km north of Brazzaville, and urged the Congolese to put an end to marginalisation.

Letter from Bahia

Dear All,

I am responding to Ernest’s [Wamba dia Wamba] message upon his return from Lower Congo and the sense of urgency he conveyed–especially with regard to the work of healing the country and his involvement with a network of people eager to figure a way out of the catastrophic situation in which the country finds itself.

After I read it, I felt really down and, briefly, could not figure out why. After all, there was nothing specifically bad or negative. My initial reaction was to remind Ernest that OBA’s fundraising capacity is not up to par, for now. I felt that such a response did not respond to what I felt I was being called to do.

Then, in the evening I started reading a book written by Françoise Laroussinie (Tête en l’air: Du soleil pour les enfants malades). One of her children was Cécile, who died of a brain tumor in 1975. The book is difficult to summarise because it is a story which goes way way beyond just describing how Cécile died after a two-year battle, or how out of that battle she started a school (sort of ) in one of the Centers in Paris for treating children with brain cancers, so that while they are being treated, they can continue some school activities, however hard it may be.

When she realizes that Cécile is so sick that she will lose her, her mother is shaken up because she thinks that she has not been as generous as she could have been with Cécile, and she begins to splurge on her. Not just on things, but also on quality time with her. For some reason, in my head, Cécile was like the DRC, and I was like Cécile’s mother. I know, it sounds very far fetched, but you do have to understand that, for a few years now, I have lived with the knowledge that the DRC is a terminally sick country. Ernest and others have been warning that a state of emergency should be declared. To no avail. Surely, I keep telling myself, one should be able to do more than one is already doing.

Those who are supposed to see how sick the country is (the so-called leaders) cannot be bothered. In fact, they are convinced they are doing a good job…because that is what they are being told by their international masters. But the tragedy is NOT with the leaders, it is with us, well-meaning people who, little by little, accept the unacceptable or, at least, get so accustomed to the unacceptable that it no longer bothers our consciences.

Describing the DRC as in a state of emergency may sound to some like rhetoric, but it is not. However, repeating it over and over and still seeing no change in mindsets could make one sound just like the usual talker, academic, activist….saying their stuff (as one is expected to). Worldwide, we belong to the privileged. Ernest could have chosen to step out of Kinshasa. He opted to stay and risk everything, because that is the only thing he felt he could do. Remember when Ernest wrote about Marx dying of hunger at the British Museum Library?

I keep racking my brain about how to change things, how to fund-raise in more efficient ways, but also in ways which are rooted in solidarity and not charity.

To finish, here is the quote the mother of Cécile chose under the dedication (it is taken from Fernando Pessoa):

Toute âme digne d’elle-même
souhaite vivre la vie à l’extrême.

Se contenter de ce qu’on vous done,
c’est se conduir en exclave.

Demander davantage,
C’est se conduire en enfant.

Conquérir un peu plus,
c’est être fou…

(A soul worthy of itself
Wishes to live life to the fullest.

To be happy with what one gives you,
is to behave like a slave.

To ask for more,
is to behave like a child.

To conquer a bit more,
is to be mad…. )

The other thought that came as I read was that, in fact, the entire Planet has become sick, but those who are supposed to know how sick it is do not have a clue. Interestingly, it took FOUR MONTHS for doctors, yes in France, to finally understand the cause of Cécile’s symptoms. As a footnote, one of the symptoms was regular violent vomiting, something Dr. Spock had warned in his book was a sure sign that there is something wrong in the brain. And so with the Planet, so with the DRC: all kinds of diagnoses have been made, but the one which would, might (???) lead to real caring, to real healing, does not happen because the nature of the system is not pro-life, but pro-death.

At the end of the book, there is a series of organizations, associations which have grown out of parents trying to change the relationship between caring in hospitals, the children and the parents and schooling. Tête en l’Air is one of the organizations (co-founded by Cécile’s mother). It is a beautiful example of a slow but steady transofrmation of the mindset AGAINST what is established.

Take care, jd

In Search of Congo’s Coltan

Originally posted on Pambazuka News August 8, 2007.

Bukavu is perched high above Lake Kivu, gently encroaching on the placid body of water between Rwanda and Congo. Once known as the pearl of Congo because of its beautiful climate and mountains, the Bukavu I found last summer barely resembles the famed city I heard about as a child.

In the past ten years, South Kivu province and its capital city of Bukavu have been known for two things: insecurity and coltan. I came for both. In anticipation of the country’s first multiparty elections in four decades, I wanted to understand the potential effect of insecurity on the elections and learn first-hand the role minerals such as coltan play in fueling insecurity.

Four times the size of France, and as big as the United States east of the Mississippi river, Congo holds 80 percent of the world’s reserves of coltan, a heat-resistant mineral ore widely used in cellular phones, laptop computers and video games. The ore derives its name from a contraction of columbium-tantalite, the scientific nomenclature.

Columbium-tantalite is so vital to the high tech industry that without it, wireless communication as we know it would not exist. Refined coltan yields tantalum, which is used primarily for the production of capacitors, critical for the control of the flow of current in miniature circuit boards. Tantalum is also used in the aviation and atomic energy industries.

Even though it has been exploited for years, this mineral did not come to prominence among the uninitiated until the “coltan rush” of the late 1990’s. At the beginning of 2000, a pound of unprocessed coltan cost between US$30 and US$40 on the international market. By the end of the year, the price had risen tenfold to US$400.

The advent of a new generation of mobile phones, the upsurge of tech products, and the popularity of video games such as Sony Playstation 2 increased demand for the ore to unprecedented levels and drove prices to new heights. Hoping to make money, thousands of Congolese men rushed to the mines.

Insecurity welcomes me as soon I exit Bukavu’s Kavumu airport. On the way to town, we pass a couple of United Nations peacekeepers’ camps – South Africans, Pakistanis and others. On the rest of the road, we see the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, known among the people as FARDC.

The FARDC does not inspire trust. Far from a typical army, it is a patchwork of various militias that fought each other not so long ago and still treat each other with suspicion. They idle at the market, smoke at the street corner or fight for public transportation with civilians. They are always armed, do not receive regular pay, and beg whenever they get a chance. Above all, they are hungry and mean. The FARDC seems to own the 35 kilometer-road to town.
The bad condition of the road mirrors the collapse of Congo’s infrastructure and reflects the failure of the State, which is unable to provide the minimum of public service. It takes over an hour to reach the center of town and I see no sign of coltan’s wealth. It is an old beat up city.

By the end of 2001, coltan overproduction and the subsequent decrease in demand drove prices down to their previous level. Adam Smith’s invisible hand did its job. A few international traders made a fortune and militia leaders stuffed their war chests and foreign bank accounts. Local miners, however, only had their dreams for trophy. Coltan perks had evaporated long before I arrived in town.

Bukavu mimics Congo’s problems. Like the country, South Kivu has unlimited potential, from its physical beauty to hydro-electrical capacity to human and natural resources. Yet, conflict, mismanagement and corruption prevent the region from benefiting from these riches.

“If you want to understand what has gone wrong in Congo,” says Thomas Nziratimana of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) and vice governor of South Kivu in charge of finance, economy and development, “You start with the way the country has been run so far. Despotic regimes cannot attract investors. They create tensions that do not make anyone feel safe to come and invest.”

Congo has had its share of dictatorships, war and civil unrest. From 1965 to 1997, the late Mobutu Sese Seko presided over a kleptocracy – a predatory regime that benefited a few members of the political elite, bankrupted the rich country and left its population in misery.

“In the past we have had a highly centralized system where everything went to Kinshasa, the capital, yet the provinces were very productive. This has continued today,” reflects Nziratimana. “Eighty-five percent of the income generated in South Kivu is sent to Kinshasa and nothing remains here, nothing.”

The kleptocratic culture did not end with Mobutu’s fall. In May 1997, Laurent-Désiré Kabila forced Mobutu into exile and became president.

A former pro-Lumumba guerilla fighter who had trained along side Che Guevara in the hills of eastern Congo in the 1960’s, Kabila launched his rebellion from South Kivu with the support of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda in 1996. Bukavu served as his rear base and suffered great damage in human and infrastructure terms during the fighting.

In the new Kabila regime power remained in the hands of a few cronies who amassed wealth for themselves à la Mobutu. A new millionaire class emerged overnight as Congo sank deeper into misery. In 1998, after Kabila fell out of grace with his backers in Uganda and Rwanda, these two countries invaded Congo in an attempt to overthrow him. A multinational war followed, with Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia intervening on Kabila’s side. Unable to unseat Kabila, Rwanda and Uganda chose to support a second rebellion in eastern Congo.

In 2001, following Laurent-Désiré’s assassination, his son Joseph assumed the presidency. The city did not recover from the suffering. Neither did the country.

The conflict partitioned the country. Supported by Uganda, Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo ruled over northern Congo, from east to west. Rwanda-backed RCD militiamen controlled eastern Congo for five years until a series of peace accords brought a transitional government in Kinshasa, which included leaders of various warring factions.

Rwandan occupation years also coincided with the coltan boom years. In fact, while neither Rwanda nor Uganda have gold, diamond or coltan deposits of significance, both countries have become important exporters of these minerals. A 2003 United Nations Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources accused both countries of prolonging the civil war so that they could illegally siphon off Congo’s wealth with the help of Western corporations.

This second rebellion, which has claimed over 4.4 million lives, has made Congo’s conflict the deadliest in the world since World War II. Mineral exploitation was one of the driving forces behind the war and the proliferation of militias; some of these militiamen still operate in the region and control mining areas.

When I inquire of the people how to get to a coltan mine, I receive different versions of the same response. “It’s too dangerous out there,” they say. “There is too much insecurity. We advise you, ‘don’t go to the mines’.” For several days, I tried to arrange a trip to the mines and found nobody to take me.

My search eventually takes me to the city’s Ibanda neighborhood, to the backyard of a two-story house that someone converted into offices. Olive Depot is one of the largest coltan companies in town, but to my surprise, it is unimpressive.

Considering the publicity coltan has received recently in Western media, I expected a large processing center – an imposing edifice with complex machines and engineers barking orders to their foremen. Instead, I found the most rudimentary of processing systems, two dozen men working with their hands and playing with dirt like children. No one barked orders. They worked in silence, interrupted only by the sound of their own movements.

My attention turns to several men squatting down and playing with dirt – black dirt – in a medium-sized hangar. “That is coltan,” says my guide Alexis Mushaka, a metallurgical engineer.

“Are you joking?” I ask. That dirt in front of me could not be the highly-prized coltan, the bloody ore that fueled the conflict and the subject of several UN investigations. “No, I am serious,” Mushaka responds as he motions me to follow him to the hangar.

The men give us a quick look and return to their business. They are covered in dust, coltan. A couple of them sift through a large bowl of dirt and blow on the dust, which falls on their faces. It looks terrible. Most of them do not wear any mask. Neither do they wear any uniform. They also do not wear shoes, perhaps by choice. I do not ask. They work in silence and quietly listen to Mushaka explain the process to me.

“First, the négociant brings the coltan from the mine,” he says and points to a white sack of dark brown dirt on the floor. “He sells it here and then these fellows start the separation process.”

The process means the men in the hangar have to separate all impurities from the product itself. “Deep in that dirt is coltan or its sister products of cassiterite and wolframite,” Mushaka continues, “and they will have to find it.” The end product looks like crushed gravel.

He beckons me to the other side of the hangar where a man dressed in a tank top and shorts sits on the floor, working with two small piles of black dirt. “Look, he is holding a magnet in his hand,” Mushaka says. “He is separating iron from the rest. The bag of cassiterite comes with all kinds of other minerals. They need to get all of them out.”

When I ask the men what type of work contract they have, I learn that most of them have no contract. Every morning a large group of laborers lines up outside the compound’s gate and ask for work. Few are chosen and the rest are sent home. They make less than US$1 a day.

“If we did not have this job, we will have no work,” says one of them when I ask why they accept to work in these conditions.

The négociant’s situation is not much different. As the middleman, he is very much at the mercy of the depot. “They wait until their merchandise is processed before they are paid,” Mushaka explains when I ask how a négociant sells his load. “The tonnage they bring does not equate their pay. It shrinks quite a bit after the impurities are sorted out.”

The négociant who arrives while I visit the depot says most of the time he is in the red. When asked why he still deals coltan considering his losses, his response reflects what the average Congolese worker in any profession says. “If I did not do this, then what else?” he retorts. He makes US$1.59 per pound.

On the international market, coltan costs between US$8 and US$18 per pound. If anyone still makes any money with coltan, it’s the processing depot and the other dealers on the international market. The final product is exported via Kigali in Rwanda to the ports of Mombassa and Dar-es-Salaam where it is shipped overseas.

The coltan business underscores the failure of the State. Beyond a new mining code adopted by the transitional government, which imposes a high tax rate on businesses and investors, the government has not undertaken any serious initiative to formalize the coltan industry, as is the case with other resources such as copper, cobalt and zinc.

“There is an issue with taxes these days,” says Nzojusa Belembo, director at Olive. “During the RCD rebellion, there was an exportation monopoly through a local company called SOMINGL. Companies paid a fixed tax, regardless of the product price fluctuation. Everyone benefited.”

After a pause, Belembo continues. “It is simple. We have porous borders,” he says. “You can cross the river to Rwanda with coltan in your pocket. They offer better prices there. Our legislation encourages fraud.”

The visit at the Olive Depot did not prepare me for what I saw at the mines. Dug on the steep flank of a high mountain, Mushangi mines are located about 90 kilometers west of Bukavu. Driving as fast as we could on an arduous road, the trip took two hours.

The mines are 15 kilometers from the Nzibira area where several militias have operated, including the Interahamwe and the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda. The FARDC also has a post in the vicinity, which is not encouraging either. Insecurity required that we brought armed guards with us.

At Mushangi, a treacherous path leads to the mines where we find only a handful of adults. The mines are exploited by children of all ages, working in precarious conditions.

From sunrise to sunset, they toil in open pits with the most primitive tools and no protection from falling rocks and mudslides. They crawl through dark tunnels with no structural support.

In my travel across Congo, I have seen a great deal of suffering. Watching children crawl through those pits and tunnels tested my resolve. Ten-year old Bashizi tells me, “I do this hard work because my father is too old to support me.” He has been doing it for several months. “That is the only thing there is to do around here,” he says.

The children swarm around us, seeking attention and asking to be photographed. I snap several pictures as I speak with them and hear their stories. Through my lens, I see lost childhoods and broken dreams. Images from my own youth in a different Congo flash before my eyes when I push the button.

We ask 16-year old Baruti and his friends whether they understand where their coltan goes from Mushangi. “It goes to Bukavu,” they say. “Do you know coltan is highly prized in America and Europe? It is needed for computers, mobile phones and video games,” I follow. “No,” Baruti replies. Their world revolves around the open-pits where they spend seven days a week and make less than 20 cents a day.

One last question before we leave for Bukavu. It is three in the afternoon, and that is late to be out here. “Do you understand that the exploitation of coltan fuels the conflict in Congo?” I inquire. Baruti looks at me straight in the eye and answers, “If we knew that, we would no longer work here.”

* Mvemba Phezo Dizolele is an independent journalist and writer who traveled across Congo in the summer 2006 on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

“Farewell to Political Activism”: Response

Letter to Pambazuka News, August 8, 2007.

Mukoma wa Ngugi’s article is still resonating inside me, but I did not know what to say at the time. But on this anniversary of Hiroshima (August 6th 1945), it hit me again.

Significant anniversaries come upon us now and again like flood
waters and we are caught speechless, and then, the very thing you
point out happens: “Oh well, next time we shall speak up”, thus
losing the opportunity to wake up, stand up, resist with all one’s
might against apathy, lethargy, accommodation to a growing cancerous
mindset.

With regard to Hiroshima/Nagasaki, my sense is that the master
narrative still dominates and threatens us with severe and collective
punishment if we were to call it, as it should be, i.e. the
modernization of Auschwitz, itself the modernization of previous
unspeakable crimes against Africans and Native Americans which
continue unaccountable. If we are going to repair, as in healing, the
human conscience, then one should work at making it ultra sensitive
to any form, intention of maiming, diminishing life in any of its
manifestations. Gaia is a living organism. The level at which it has
been violated is still misunderstood and/or denied through the use of
propaganda which is no longer perceived as such. On this anniversary,
is it possible for people to stop any business as usual? Is it
possible to insert in our lives, consciously, a moratorium, a sort of
time out away from the modernized enslaving system called
globalization? Time out to treat our nuked selves, time out to take
time to heal and rebuild, really, a conscience worth calling a
conscience. Time out to reconnect with the collective conscience of
those who, like the Native Americans, like Corbin Harney, who warned
against the idea of messing up with the yellow cake (uranium), long
before the physicists decided that splitting the atom was not an act
against nature.

You asked at one point why do we have to keep laundering our history
as though it was for sale to the richest bidder. From your article I
get that you are wondering how and why our collective mindset,
consciousness have been brought to the point where we would rather be activists than revolutionaries, to the point where Mandela sees
nothing wrong in creating a Rhodes-Mandela Trust so as (my words) “to
capitalize on both sides of the old and new capitalist”, not that
your words are less cutting, as if it is ok for Elie Wiesel to join hands with Himmler to create a Trust Fund. Some people will not forgive you for thinking such thoughts.

Yet, we are living in the kinds of times which do call for thinking
unthinkable thoughts because the unthinkable, the “never again” have
been said and trespassed so many times that it seems futile to
remember all of the unthinkable things which continue to be committed
today.

As we were talking about these things (crimes against humanity) with
another person here (just met), he asked me if I were a priest. I
laughed because that question reminded me of a certain mindset today
in South Africa where such horrendous things are happening that it
has become a custom to turn to pastors and the likes (how many?) of
Desmond Tutu to provide a believable ethical compass for a humanity
which has been so mangled that it can no longer recognize itself,
except by way of people like Desmond Tutu, the presumed Global re-
conciliator.

Here we are once again remembering Hiroshima/Nagasaki, and all of the things which led to it, industrialized slavery to individualized and
industrialized ways of killing as savagely as possible, perpetrated
against the Jews, the Palestinians, the Ota Bengas, the street
children, the raped babies, women, the Armenians, Chinese in Nanking,
the people of Rwanda, DRCongo, pygmies, Namibians, Native Americans, Amazon Indians, Aborigenes in Australia, Inuit, Untouchables, the list is almost endless. If we do not join hands with the current Hibakusha, sooner or later we shall be sorry we did not, whatever the reasons might be, because we are all being led, some knowingly, some not, to a nameless slaughterhouse.

How did we get from Hispaniola to Hiroshima and we’re still doing even more horrendous things than then. We have become so accustomed to them that until we see another mushroom cloud we shall think it is OK.
Yet, if one were to look at the Planet today, from the lens of an astrophysicist trained, in quantum physics, I would not be surprised
if such a physcist were tell us that the Planet is closely resembling
a mushroom cloud…if one looked from a virtual telescope on the Moon.

Mukoma, you have expressed the thoughts which have run in the minds
of the countless terrorized from way way way back when the roots of
the current system were hardly visible. Then, women, children, men
were violated, raped in unspeakable ways. Countless screamed. Are we going to need the help of quantum physicists to confirm to us their
words? The list of names should be put on a roster as a sort of
unfinished, in-the-making Humanity Holocaust, an art project. A sort
of monumental, planetary reminder that the smallest, least victim,
most forgotten, must also be the most remembered.

Which kind of humanity has this become when it is considered ok to
kill anybody, but especially the most vulnerable people, in the name
of making a killing at the bank? Which kind of consciousness are we
referring to when more and more philsophers, psychologists,
psychiatrists and scientists are trying to study it (consciousness),
and understand the material basis of it, while sensing (from which
physical sense?) that such an entreprise would be futile.

My problem is…..and, I am afraid, this rambling letter is not
helping in resolving it: Is it possible to reverse the mindset, the
consciousness (or whatever is left of it) which has brought us to the
point where one is ready to accept any unacceptable outrage, crime
against humanity?

DRC: Will another war break out from the East?

  1. In the past, when politics were focused on the State, war was said to be the continuation of State politics by other means. War pitted one State against another. Today, when the weakness of a State is perceived as an ideal for neo-liberalist globalisation, war has hardly been declared by a State. Even the so-called preventive wars do not seem to be tied to States. Terrorism is said to be a trans-State condition of warfare and anti-terrorist war is a war pitting evil against good. Rogue States entertain terrorists. The anarchy of the criminal global economy of money laundering, drug traffic, slave traffic, violent looting of natural resources and corruption, etc. creates zones of tempest where the UN is called either to keep peace or make peace. Military servicing, in the UN, is competing with international servant activities (preaching for respect for human rights, etc.). Those zones emerge where important resources for exploitation exist in a situation of weak or inexistent States.
  2. When the world was organized by Cold War, a war opposing the “Free world” and the “Communist world,” low intensive warfare was used to weaken the adversary camp. This type of warfare seems to coincide with anti-terrorist war seeking to contain the remaining fragments of the “Communist world.” Sometimes it aims at disciplining the “bad Muslims.”
  3. In the Great Lake region, globalisation finds on the terrain ethnic differences that the colonialists had used successfully to set up discriminatory States as a way of gaining submission of the colonized peoples. Colonial States’ looting was organized through discriminatory administration of tribes—often created ex nihilo. Peoples were moved around by force, some declared lazy, others made collaborators of the Colonial State. Colonized peoples’ historical mindsets were exploited fully to advance colonialists’ interests. The growth of cities was carefully controlled and the mixing of people of different cultures was guided by the same mechanism—the trans-ethnic elite had to remain as small as possible, as domesticated as possible, as politically docile as possible and educated to ignore and hate their cultural/traditional backgrounds. Economic crises led to movements of people and these led to genuine mixing only in an industrial setting—mining for example. Ideologies to keep the groups separated, even hating each other, were also invented. The anthropological/ethnological colonial library is a testimony to this factor.
  4. Colonial States were criminal States, publicly organizing genocides sometimes without being really criticized. It is only now that it is being accepted that King Leopold II, for example, organized a holocaust (1874-1906). What about the massive killing and forced deportation of the people of the Kongo’s prophetic movement (1921-1957)? Criminal States can become genocidal States. Two of the post-colonial States have practiced genocide on part of their own people. The minority Tutsi, in Burundi, controlling the State by “owning” its repressive apparatus, and scared of losing power to the ethnic majority Hutu, tried to kill off the intellectual elements of the Hutu (1972). In Rwanda, the majority Hutu, controlling the State through a discriminatory quota system and barring Tutsi refugees from returning to the country, ended up killing internal Tutsi and Hutu opposing the system. Representation in public institutions, other than the military, was respectively 12% for Tutsi, 1% for Batwa and 87% Hutu, with the Tutsi being barred from the military. Threatened by the FPR’s (Rwandese Patriotic Front) armed struggle and Tutsi domination of the economy, among other things, the Hutu leadership unleashed the genocide.
  5. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda brought to the fore the dynamics of State-reinforced ethnic hatred, and it reinforced discriminatory mindsets in the region. Post-genocide healing has not been successful. Despite the legal effort of the creation of the International Criminal Court for Rwanda at Arusha and episodic reconciliation activities, the “never again banner” of determination has not been reached yet to transform people’s mindsets. Despite the holding of so-called democratic, free and fair elections, the Rwandese State has not gotten rid of its communitarian character of singularly defending Tutsi everywhere from being again victimized. It thus exercises some kind of regional gendarme for Tutsi protection. And Tutsi who feel threatened in the region look up to Rwanda.
  6. Since the Rwandese genocide took place, no firm statement against genocide has been made by the DRC State. The Mobutu regime supported the genocidal State of Rwanda and gave asylum to genocidaires (Interahamwe militia and the ex-FAR); with French support (Opération turquoise) it wanted to re-install the genocidal regime in power in Rwanda. This (among other things such as its support to Angola’s UNITA) prompted the governments of the region to unite and support the Congolese people to overthrow Mobutu regime. Rwandese RPA forces were the core of the forces that overthrew Mobutu. Once in power, L.D. Kabila resorted to a solitary exercise of power and felt too restricted by the control of the Rwandese on the new regime. In line with their communitarian fear of another Tutsi mistreatment, the Rwandese felt that any regime in Kinshasa should include Rwandese or pro-Rwandese people to make sure the regime won’t take any action threatening Rwanda. Eventually, conflict arose and L.D. Kabila sent off the Rwandese, after having humiliated them. Another rebellion started. L.D.Kabila had recourse to enemies of the Rwandese regime (the enemy of my enemy is my friend) and adopted their ideologies of hatred, falling back into the policy Mobutu had towards Rwanda. Very briefly, the support to the genocidaires has continued, publicly as well as secretly up to now.
  7. National reconciliation was not possible and the task of re-building the decomposed State was again put aside. The AFDL’s policy of trying to eliminate the core of ex-FAZ (Mobutu’s army), with the Kitona massacre and the ethnic recruitment for the new army could not lead to the creation of a real national army. Politico-ethnic nomination of officers tended to de-professionalize the armed forces, making them less effective. The war had once again to be fought by foreign armies principally. The main issue around which the war was focalized was the discriminatory functioning of the new regime in Kinshasa—the exclusion of the Congolese Tutsi minority and its defence by the Rwandese State. Regional alignment of forces was promoted by a project of democracy for the allies of the rebellion—at least initially—and foreseen economic profits for the allies of the Kinshasa regime. On the ground, most of the troops were motivated by the looting of resources. Two factors kept the rebellion splitting: the project of democracy and the alignment of forces in relation to the resource looting. One side believed that democracy was first of all the rule of the people by the people for the people; it is a rule of the majority and the protection and defence of the rights of the minority. The pro-Rwandese group believed that to correct the discriminatory character of the State, the victimized minority (Tutsi minority, essentially) must lead the State. Democracy is seen as the rule of the victimized minority and the protection of the majority. Any opposition to that minority was seen as a case of ethnic hatred and a possible alignment with genocidaires. Should looting of the national resources by allies be allowed, provided that they put us in power (pro-Ugandan Congolese, especially; also the Kinshasa regime willing to grant the looting, provided that the regime remains in power)? Should the looting of resources by anyone be forbidden (my rebellion group’s position)? At the end, might was right. Power was shared according to the amount of violence one could command. This opened the possibility of organizing a militia as a way to partake in power- sharing. And this still is going on, especially in the Ituri area, where militia groups are emerging to impose themselves in the power sharing process. Leaders of former militias (Peter Karim, Colonnel Jerome, etc.) have been incorporated into the FARDC, supposedly as a way of achieving peace in Ituri.
  8. The fragility of the State favours the emergence of armed banditry, and the looting of resources with the use of violence becomes within reach of whoever can organize a militia. Fast self-enrichment by many so-called leaders has been an outcome of violence or corruption. Instead of being something to get rid of, the fragility is used for such enrichment.
  9. The spiritual landscape needs to be taken into account. During the 1994 genocide, many people were being killed in churches, and some religious leaders were among the killers. A mindset of no fear of God and no respect for the human life of people of the adversary ethnic group got consolidated—to a point where even justice was subordinated to the psychological needs of revenge. A lady, in a meeting in Goma, was disturbed when I said that nobody had a right to kill anybody at any time. She said: “In the 1990s we were targeted, and I lost many relatives; now that the others are being targeted, you are saying that nobody has the right to kill anybody? Is that right?” Strong feelings of revenge remain, buried in many people’s psyches. The society seems increasingly bound to violence. In Ituri, people were being burned in their homes; villages were being wiped out. Those who survive are traumatized to a very significant level. This buried violence in the body, as Fanon would say, once in a while erupts like a volcano. Violent raping of women as a form of war has damaged humans who find it difficult to feel a sense of peace. People are militarized mentally, and the demilitarization of minds and spirits has yet to take place.
  10. Discrimination remains rampant. The Tutsi minority (Banyamulenge, especially), unable to lead the State completely, as they wanted, and having been refused a territorial division (Minembwe being said not to qualify to be one), feel somewhat excluded. They have been voicing their unhappiness; they are accused of wanting to take up arms. Cattle raisers, predominant in our Eastern part of the country, are familiar with weapons and warfare; they are feared on that ground. The new regime, dominated by people from the Eastern part of the country, discriminates against soldiers from the ex-FAZ of Mobutu, keeping them out of the FARDC or jailing them, accusing them of supporting Jean Pierre Bemba; that policy may provoke an armed conflict.
  11. n brief, conditions for the continuation of war or warlike activities are still in place. The Rwandese genocidaires remaining in the DRC, organized as Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), violently create their space for conducting their so-called liberation struggle. Congolese getting close to the area are killed or tortured and maimed. Many casualties are treated in the Bukavu hospital. Increasing military confrontations opposing the FARDC and the FDLR are taking place. Violent looting is still seen as very profitable. Even MONUC soldiers are accused of exchanging weapons for gold in Ituri. The FARDC have started having military confrontations with Banyamulenge in South Kivu. Until the State can have a real organized presence in the area, warlike activities will continue. With their accumulation, given the lack of political will on the part of the government to really organize a real national army and decide to keep out armed rebels from neighbouring countries, another major war is likely.
  12. 5th Maboke.
    Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini
    Kinshasa, August 10th 2007