Campaign Says ‘No’ to the Sexual Violence that Rages in DRC

Reposted from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) News Features April 4, 2008.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo
— In mid-March hundreds of Congolese women, men and girls raised banners that read, Together, let us say No to the silence, for the dignity of the Congolese and Enough sexual violence!.

With faces of determination, the women, men and girls waved these slogans high above their heads. More than 1,000 Congolese authorities and civilians, UN leaders, NGOs and civil society groups’ were gathered in Kinkole, a suburb of Kinshasa, to kick off a nationwide public awareness campaign aimed to eradicate an epidemic of sexual violence. An average of 1,100 rape cases are reported each month, according to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Unimaginable Brutality

“Sexual violence constitutes a plague in the DRC,” said Dr. Margaret Agama, the UNFPA representative for the country. “Initially, rape was used as a tool of war by all the belligerent forces involved in the country’s recent conflicts, but now sexual violence is unfortunately not only perpetrated by armed factions but also by ordinary people occupying positions of authority, neighbours, friends and family members.”

The widespread problem of sexual violence throughout DRC—it has been reported that 40 cases of rapes occur everyday in South Kivu—is coupled with a disturbing element of sexual brutality as women and girls are being gang raped, abducted and forced into sexual slavery.

Many survivors of sexual violence have received debilitating damage to their reproductive organs, resulting in multiple fistulas and incontinence. Women and girls have been left with broken bones, missing limbs and even burns. Some have been shot and stabbed in the vagina with bullets, bits of broken glass and corns of cob. Family men have been forced to sexually violate their daughters, sisters, and mothers at gun point.

No more silence!

In January, the signing of a peace deal officially ended the conflicts that have raged in the country for a decade. Thus, the campaign organized by UNFPA along with the national Ministry of Women, Family and Children, comes at an important time, as communities work to rebuild infrastructures and re-integrate over 1 million people displaced by the conflicts.

The campaign aims to raise the level of awareness on sexual violence throughout the national and international communities and to unite authorities, neighbours, survivors, friends and family members in its elimination.

“The DRC continues to record a high number of rapes in spite of the official end to the conflict. Adequate resources and the assistance of the international community are needed to address the problem,” said Dr. Agama.

The weak application of the law on sexual violence allows perpetrators to act with impunity, she added. Thus, the number of rapes reported understates the true severity of sexual violence in the DRC.

“Perpetrators benefit from the climate of impunity and the culture of violence to misuse the women and the children in the provinces, and in the country in general,” said Dr. Agama.

The need to end impunity is a main message in the UNFPA led campaign and has also become a key agenda for the country’s leaders. In February of this year the Congolese Minister for Women, Family and Protection of the Child, Philomène Omatuku, declared to the public, “I would say from now on that we women of the DRC, we say no to sexual violence, no to impunity. The Congolese women require peace.”

Messages of hope

The intensive, multi-faceted campaign to raise awareness and sensitize key actors at all levels is taking place in the 11 provinces of the DRC for one month. A wide range of communication channels – including media outlets, theatre, open telephone lines, films and video forums and debates – are being used to reach out to all, including the government and the diplomatic community. The campaign will also rely on the authority of recognized moral community leaders to influence public opinion.

The DRC initiative, which is being kicked off with marches and motorized caravans of cars, bicycles, motorbikes, buses and trucks, is aligned with the international campaign that was launched earlier this year by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

“Wearing t-shirts relating the messages against sexual violence, women and girls, as well as men, have been involved in these caravans, during which, they are denouncing sexual violence through songs, dances, dramas etc. So far the engagement of the communities has been massive,” Dr. Agama noted.

In each province, keynote speakers have been governors, UN officials and other local prominent figures. When the caravan made its way to Bandundu, the governor invited all women who had experienced any type of violence to address him directly, encouraging survivors to end impunity by speaking out. He insisted that his door was always open and promised that he would strengthen the police force in its role as protector of the civilian population.

In order to widen the level of awareness within the DRC and also the international community, the UNFPA country office organized a media event that was attended by more than 60 national and international journalists.

Looking to the future

UNFPA has been aiding survivors of sexual violence throughout the DRC for many years by providing medical care, economic and social rehabilitation, and legal assistance.

In 2007, the Fund provided 295 survivors of sexual violence with legal support and trained some 7,550 armed forces and police on how to protect and care for survivors of sexual violence. In Kasai Oriental, North and South Kivu. police special protection units for women and children have been established, and 15,340 sexual violence survivors have received medical care. Of this number, 2,886 individuals have had training in income-generating activities to empower them when they return to their communities.

UNFPA also played a key advocacy role in the adoption of the DRC law on sexual violence in July 2006. This law has broadened the definition of sexual violence to include acts such as sexual harassment, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, and other brutal practices.

Challenges ahead

The challenge of providing assistance to the Congolese survivors of sexual violence has been compounded by budget limitations and the high cost of transportation in a country with a fragmentary and poorly maintained road system. Furthermore, the lack of adequate jails or prisons has led to the quick release of perpetrators. These factors, combined with cultural barriers and taboos, have left many victims unwilling to come forward and report the crimes that have been committed.

“Today, in the DRC, sexual violence constitutes one of the greatest forms of infringement of the basic rights of the populations and thus contributes to the increasing vulnerability of the communities as well as the institutions,” Dr. Agama said.

However the determination to combat sexual violence and the enthusiasm displayed by the Congolese population throughout the campaign, as well as the tough stance of President Kabila with his “tolerance zero” against perpetrators of

“Everybody has to be involved in fighting sexual violence in the DRC,” said Dr. Agama. “The women and girls who are affected constitute more than half of the population. They keep together the family, the community and are, therefore, the future of this country.”

— reported from New York by Shannon Egan

Protecting the Women of Congo

Reposted from The Nation on-line, April 16, 2008.

Stephen Lewis’ central argument is that the United Nations and, more specifically, the Secretary General should stake his tenure by coming out against sexual violence in the DRC.

Lewis is talking about his commitment to the UN for the past 25 years. He seems to have forgotten a few things about the UN, how it was created and also how it first operated in the Congo. The UN was created at the end of World War II, very much as an institution which would be an instrument for the big powers to stop wars (look at who are the permanent members of the Security Council). Over the decades, the UN did become more than what the US ruling clique wanted it to be, but they (with their allies) have found another forum where they can deal with world issues as they wish: it is the Global Forum and the G8. In other words, they have always figured a way of making sure that issues of world security (including women’s and children’s safety) did not get discussed in fora where decisions could be binding.

When the UN came to the DRC back in 1960, its presence was used to make sure that Lumumba was pushed aside. It is true that Dag Hammarsjkold was not the type who could be pushed around. That could explain why he lost his life in the process. Overall, the Congolese have a completely different understanding of what the UN can do and WILL NOT do.

Lewis’ conviction that the current Secretary General should and could stake his job on a commitment to protecting women in the DRC makes one wonder where he has been over the past 10 years or so. The previous Secretary General turned out to be a strong one (a bit like Dag Hammarsjkold). It is clear that the ruling clique of the Planet was not ready for a repeat of a strong Secretary General.

he UN has been used as a sort of Planetary Ministry for Social Affairs, a job it does more or less decently depending on whether funding is available or not. On protecting women and children, especially in war zones like the DRC, the record has been dismal.

Rape and sexual abuses, worldwide, strike more than 50% of the population as Lewis suggests. It could be referred to as the most primordial of violences invented by humanity, or rather by its minority, which is convinced that might is right at all times. On an issue such as rape, to expect the UN to act is like expecting the Catholic church to act on its own predatory clergy which abuses the moral protection of the Church to carry out their violence against children and women.

All of this sudden attention of the media will not change much. They had to step up to the plate–in the same way that they could not help but ask to interview Mandela when he came out of jail, even though all of them made sure that they never mentioned his name.

The visibility of Lewis’ piece in The Nation makes one feel that MAYBE something is changing in the dominant mindset. I am trying to say that one is going to need much much more than these convictions (about the UN and what visibility does to issues like sexual abuse against women). The dominant mindset is still extremely hostile to raising an issue which implicates all men and more for not standing up to a crime whose level and intensity of violence would be impossible to measure against the equivalent of a Richter Scale.

Why is there such resistance to making rape and sexual violence of any kind a crime against humanity? Lewis’ piece is welcome, but it is so far below what is needed that one is left wondering whether he himself is aware of the seriousness of the crime, on the one hand, and of the nature of the dominant mindset.

Protecting the Women of Congo
by STEPHEN LEWIS

Today is a day that has largely–and rightly–been given over to Dr. [Denis] Mukwege and his astonishing and heroic work in the Congo. (For those who may have missed his panel, he is, of course, the internationally famed doctor who heads the resolute and magnificent staff of the Panzi Hospital in Eastern Congo.) Driving the work is the endlessly grim and despairing litany of rape and sexual violence. All of us assembled in the Superdome, talk of V-Day and The Vagina Monologues; in the Congo there’s a medical term of art called “vaginal destruction.” I need not elaborate; most of you have heard Dr. Mukwege. But suffice to say that in the vast historical panorama of violence against women, there is a level of demonic dementia plumbed in the Congo that has seldom, if ever, been reached before.

That’s the peg on which I want to hang these remarks. I want to set out an argument that essentially says that what’s happening in the Congo is an act of criminal international misogyny, sustained by the indifference of nation states and by the delinquency of the United Nations.

Dr. Mukwege and others have said time and time again that the current saga of the Congo has been going on for more than a decade. It’s important to remember that it’s a direct result of the escape of thousands of mass murderers who eluded capture after the Rwandan genocide–thanks to the governments of France and the United States–by fleeing into what was then called Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The wars and the horror that followed have been chronicled by journalists, by human rights organizations, by senior representatives of the United Nations Secretary-General, by agencies, by NGOs internationally and NGOs on the ground, by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, by the Security Council, and in the process, accentuated and punctuated by the cries and the pain and the carnage of over 5 million deaths.

The sordid saga ebbs and flows. But it was brought back into sudden, vivid public notoriety by Eve Ensler’s trip to the Congo in July and August of last year, her visit to the Panzi Hospital, her interviews with the women survivors of rape, and her visceral piece of writing in Glamour magazine which began with the words “I have just returned from Hell.”

Eve set off an extraordinary chain reaction: her visit was followed by a fact-finding mission by the current UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs who, upon his return, wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in which he said that the Congo was the worst place in the world for women. Those views were then echoed everywhere (including by the EU Parliament), triggering front page stories in the New York Times, the Washington Postand the Los Angeles Times, and a lengthy segment on 60 Minutes by Anderson Cooper of CNN.

Largely as a result of this growing clamor against the war on women in the Congo, and the fact that Eve Ensler herself testified before the Security Council, the United Nations resolution that renewed the mandate for the UN Peacekeeping force in the Congo (MONUC, as it’s called) contained some of the strongest language condemning rape and sexual violence ever to appear in a Security Council resolution, and obliged MONUC, in no uncertain terms, to protect the women of the Congo. The resolution was passed at the end of December last year.

In January of this year, scarce one month later, there was an “Act of Engagement”–a so-called peace commitment signed amongst the warring parties. I use “so-called” advisedly because evidence of peace is hard to find. But that’s not the point: the point is much more revelatory and much more damning.

The peace commitment is a fairly lengthy document. Unbelievably, from beginning to end, the word “rape” never appears. Unbelievably, from beginning to end, the phrase “sexual violence” never appears. Unbelievably, “women” are mentioned but once, lumped in with children, the elderly and the disabled. It’s as if the organizers of the peace conference had never heard of the Security Council resolution.

But it gets worse. The peace document actually grants amnesty–I repeat, amnesty–to those who have participated in the fighting. To be sure, it makes a deliberate legal distinction, stating that war crimes or crimes against humanity will not be excused. But who’s kidding whom? This arcane legal dancing on the head of a pin is not likely to weigh heavily on the troops in the field, who have now been given every reason to believe that since the rapes they committed up to now have been officially forgiven and forgotten, they can rape with impunity again. And indeed, as Dr. Mukwege testified before Congress just last week, the raping and sexual violence continues.

The war may stutter; the raping is unabated.

But the most absurd dimension of this whole discreditable process is the fact that the peace talks were “facilitated”–they were effectively orchestrated–by MONUC, that is to say, by the United Nations. And perhaps most unconscionable of all, despite the existence for seven years of another Security Council resolution 1325, calling for women to be active participants in all peace deliberations, there was no one at that peace table directly representing the women, the more than 200,000 women, whose lives and anatomies were torn to shreds by the very war that the peace talks were meant to resolve.

Thus does the United Nations violate its own principles.

Now let me make something clear. In the nearly twenty-five years that I’ve been involved in international work, I’ve been a ready apologist for the United Nations. And I continue to be persuaded that the United Nations can yet offer the best hope for humankind. But when the United Nations goes off the rails, as is the case in the Congo–as is invariably the case when women are involved–my colleagues and I, in our new organization called AIDS-Free World, are not going to bite our tongues. There’s too much at stake.

What makes this all the more galling is that in many respects, the UN is the answer. Those of you who intermittently despair of ending sexual violence should know that if the UN brought the full power of its formidable agencies to bear, tremendous progress would be made despite the indifference of many countries. But therein lie cascading levels of hypocrisy.

You heard today about the collective UN campaign to end rape and sexual violence in the Congo–twelve agencies united in this common purpose. But with the exception of some magnificent UNICEF staff on the ground, about whom Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF has every right to be proud, the presence of the other UN agencies ranges from negligible to nonexistent. This is all largely an exercise in rhetoric. Even the UN Population Fund, ostensibly the lead agency in the Congo, is pathetically weak on the ground, and on its own website talks of the problems of funding.

It does induce a combination of rage and incredulity when the UN tries to pawn itself off as the serious player in combating sexual violence when the record is so appallingly bad. In fact it could be said– indeed, it needs to be said–that the V-Day movement and Eve, relatively minuscule players by comparison, have probably done more to ease the pain of violence in the Congo than any one of eleven UN agencies. Who else, I ask you, is building a City of Joy so that the women who have been raped can recover with some sense of security and then become leaders in their communities?

Is there an answer to this collective abject failure of the international community to protect the women of the Congo? There sure is, and the answer sits right at the top, and the answer is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I don’t know who is advising the Secretary-General on these matters, but he’s being led down a garden path soon to be strewn with ghosts that will haunt his entire stewardship, and leave an everlasting pejorative legacy. I know how the UN works; I’ve been an Ambassador to the UN for my country, the Deputy at UNICEF, an advisor on Africa to a former Secretary-General, and most recently a “Special Envoy.” In the incestuous hotbed of the thirty-eighth floor of the United Nations secretariat, where sits the Secretary-General, critics are scorned, derided and mocked. And exactly the same will happen to me. But I want all of you here assembled to know that it need not be.

If the Secretary-General were to exercise real leadership against sexual violence, instead of falling back–as his advisors have suggested–on statements and rhetoric and fatuous public relations campaigns, he could turn things around. What in God’s name is wrong with these people whose lives consist of moving from inertia to paralysis?

The Secretary-General should summon the heads of the twelve UN agencies allegedly involved in “UN Action” on violence against women and read the riot act. He should explain to them that press releases do not prevent rape, and he should demand a plan of action on the ground, with dollars and deadlines. He should equally summon the heads of the ten agencies that comprise UNAIDS and demand a plan of implementation for testing, treatment, prevention and care for women who have been sexually assaulted, again with deadlines. I’m prepared to bet that UNAIDS has never convened such a meeting, despite the fact that the violence of the sexual assaults in the Congo creates avenues in the reproductive tract through which the AIDS virus passes. Dr. Mukwege talks of increased numbers of HIV-positive women turning up at Panzi.

The Secretary-General, taking a leaf from Eve Ensler, should insist on a network of rape crisis centers, rape clinics in all hospitals, sexual violence counsellors, and Cities of Joy right across the Eastern Congo… indeed, across the entire country. The Secretary-General should demand a roll call, an accounting of which countries have contributed financially to ending the violence, and in what amounts, plus those who have not, and then publish the results for the world to see so that the recalcitrants can be brought to the bar of public opinion (How’s this for a juxtaposition by way of example: over the course of over a decade? The UN Trust Fund to end Violence Against Women has triumphantly reached $130 million. The United States spends more than $3 billion/week on the war in Iraq).

But there’s more. The Secretary-General should launch a personal crusade to double the troop complement–that is, MONUC–in the Congo. The protection provisions in the new so-called peace accord, for women, cannot be implemented with the current troop numbers, large though they may seem.

And finally, the Secretary-General should pull out all the stops in getting the United Nations to agree that the Congo is the best test case for the principle of the “Responsibility to Protect.” This principle was universally endorsed by heads of state at the United Nations in September of 2005. It’s the first major contemporary international challenge to the sanctity of sovereignty. It simply asserts that where a government is unable or unwilling to protect its own people from gross violations of human rights, then the international community has the responsibility to intervene. That responsibility can be diplomatic negotiation, or economic sanctions, or political pressure or military intervention–whatever it takes to restore justice to the oppressed. Responsibility to Protect was originally drafted with Darfur in mind–it’s equally applicable to the Congo. We have to start somewhere.

The Secretary-General has a tremendous challenge. He has the opportunity, and the wherewithal, and the influence and the majesty to save thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of women’s lives–physically and psychologically. And once the process begins in earnest in the Congo, it would spread to all dimensions of violence against women everywhere.

To whom else is such an opportunity given? The Secretary-General of the United Nations has said that violence against women is one of the gravest issues of our time. Well, if that’s the case, surely he can understand that speeches aren’t enough. And if he truly believes what he says, then let him stake his tenure on it. I believe that the struggle for gender equality is the most important struggle on the planet: Ban Ki-Moon should say to the 192 countries that make up the United Nations: “Either you give me evidence that we’re going to prevail in this struggle or you find yourself another Secretary-General.”

“Ah,” people will say, “Lewis has finally lost it.” I don’t think so. We’re talking about more than 50 percent of the world’s population, amongst whom are the most uprooted, disinherited and impoverished of the earth. If you can’t stand up for the women of the world, then you shouldn’t be Secretary-General.

Alas, I guess I know what will happen. We’ve already had signals. Last fall, in an unprecedented initiative, a High-Level Panel on Reform of the United Nations recommended the creation of a new international agency for women. The recommendation was based on the finding that the record of the UN on gender has been abysmal. If the new agency comes into being, headed by an Under-Secretary General, with funding that starts at $1 billion a year (less than half of UNICEF’s resources), and real capacity to run programs on the ground, issues like violence against women would suddenly be confronted with indomitable determination.

The women activists on the ground, the women survivors on the ground, the women activist-survivors on the ground would finally have resources and support for the work that must be done.

But the creation of the new agency is bogged down in the UN General Assembly, caught up in the crossfire between the developed and developing countries. The Secretary-General could break that impasse if he pulled out all the stops. He and the Deputy-Secretary General make speeches that give the impression they support the women’s agency, but in truth the language is so carefully and artfully couched as to gut the agency of impact on the ground, in-country, were it ever to come into being. Again, the advisors read the tea leaves in a soiled and broken chalice.

This weekend has been filled with hope in the struggle to end violence against women. Thoughtful, decent men have come to the fore on this very platform, and women from so many countries have made the case for sanity in words that are moving and compelling in equal measure. I have chosen to link the Congo and the United Nations because as Eve said at the outset, the Congo is the V-Day spotlight for the coming year, and the United Nations can truly break the monolith of violence. We just have to apply unceasing pressure so that the issue is joined rather than manipulated.

I don’t have Eve’s rhythm and cadence. But I cherish a touch of her spirit, a lot of her anger and a microscopic morsel of her trusting love, commitment and courage that will one day change this world.

Pétition de l’intelligentsia Kongo à la suite de la tuerie de février et mars 2008 des populations du Bas-Congo…

PETITION DE L’INTELLIGENTSIA KONGO A LA SUITE DE LA TUERIE DE FEVRIER ET MARS 2008 DES POPULATIONS DU BAS-CONGO PAR LES FORCES DE POLICE

I. Condoléances

Au nom de tous les intellectuels Kongo et de tous les esprits épris de paix, de justice et de respect de la personne humaine, nous présentons nos condoléances les plus émues aux familles éprouvées et à toute la Communauté Kongo§ Puissent les âmes de tous ceux de nos frères et sœurs, fauchés par la violence barbare et auxquels nous ne saurons jamais offrir des obsèques dignes, reposer en paix auprès de nos ancêtres glorieux et de tous ceux qui ont payé un prix fort pour notre liberté !

II. Objet

La volonté manifeste du pouvoir de travestir les faits et de manipuler l’opinion nationale et internationale ; la superficialité et la sensiblerie quasi générales de la presse dans le traitement de l’information ; le discours frileux des élus kongo (nationaux et provinciaux) ; l’humiliation, par le pouvoir, de notre peuple présenté désormais à la face du pays, de l’Afrique et du monde comme xénophobe ; la traque, en violation des lois de la République et des droits de l’homme, des membres d’une organisation dont la culpabilité et les chefs d’accusation ne sont nullement bien établis ; enfin, notre responsabilité en tant que conscience de notre peuple nous poussent à prendre, une fois de plus, la plume pour dénoncer et condamner cette nième tuerie des populations du Bas-Congo.

III. Rappel des faits

Face à quelques adeptes de Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) non armés, des forces de police équipés d’armes de guerre, déferlent régulièrement, depuis juillet 2002, à travers la province du Bas-Congo, sous le prétexte de rétablir l’autorité de l’Etat, causant la désolation partout où elles passent. Leur dernier passage dans les territoires de Luozi et de Nseke Mbanza, à Matadi, Kisantu etc. ressemble bien à une véritable expédition punitive dirigée contre, non seulement les adeptes de BDK – même ceux qui n’avaient rien fait de répréhensible-, mais aussi contre tous ceux qui avaient le malheur de se trouver sur leur chemin. A coup de roquettes et d’autres armes de guerre, les maisons ont été détruites et des villages entiers rasés. C’est ainsi que des villages comme Kinsemi (territoire de Luozi, secteur de Mbanza Mwembe), Mbandakani (à côté de la paroisse du même nom), Lufuku (territoire de Luozi, secteur de Kinkenge), ont été totalement détruits. Dans ce déchaînement des forces conditionnées par leurs commanditaires pour tuer, de nombreuses vies humaines ont été fauchées. Plusieurs corps ont été jetés dans le fleuve Congo et d’autres égarés dans la brousse et la forêt ne seront peut-être jamais retrouvés et identifiés. Depuis lors, une véritable chasse à l’homme a été instaurée et l’objectif est, au dire même du Vice-Gouverneur du Bas-Congo, Son Excellence Monsieur Deo Nkusu, d’éradiquer le BDK en occupant ses différents lieux de culte. A Matadi, Kisantu, Lufutoto… les forces de police ont investi ces lieux, semant, dans la foulée, la désolation au sein de la population et des pertes en vies humaines.

IV. Les raisons avancées par le gouvernement

La dernière expédition des forces de la police, particulièrement dans les territoires de Luozi et de Nseke Mbanza se justifie, pour les autorités provinciales et nationales, par la nécessité et l’urgence de restaurer l’autorité de l’Etat bafouée en ces lieux, par le BDK, du fait :

1° tantôt, de sa velléité de rébellion par la tenue des camps d’entraînement militaire et la détention d’armes de guerre ;
2° tantôt, de la mutilation d’une personne accusée de sorcellerie ;
3° tantôt, que les adeptes de ce mouvement politico-religieux chassent, de leurs postes, les agents publics et s’arrogent leurs prérogatives ;
4° tantôt, du non-respect par ses adeptes de l’hymne et du drapeau du pays ;
5° tantôt, de la xénophobie et de l’antichristianisme de ses adeptes ;
6° tantôt, de la déclaration de ne Muanda Nsemi, à RFI, sur la non pertinence des frontières héritées de la colonisation et de la nécessité pour l’Afrique centrale de se constituer en une confédération des Etats fondés sur l’homogénéité culturelle.

V. Notre appréciation de la situation

1. C’est depuis le gouvernorat de l’Honorable Jacques Mbadu Nsitu, qu’avec forte médiatisation, le BDK est accusé de tenir des camps d’entraînement militaire et de détenir des armes de guerre. Et pourtant aucun camp d’entraînement et aucune arme de guerre n’ont été jusqu’ici trouvés dans le Bas-Congo. Hélas, s’appuyant sur ces allégations, dont la preuve n’a jamais été fournie au peuple congolais, le pouvoir s’arroge le droit de tuer. En plus, il y a lieu de noter que le Bas-Congo est la plus petite province de la RDCongo et la plus militarisée aussi. Où est donc passée la vigilance de nos vaillants soldats, policiers et services de renseignement pour laisser ainsi s’installer, jusqu’à leur phase active, ces prétendus camps d’entraînement militaire de BDK. Et en lieu et place du démantèlement de ces camps et de cet armement, c’est au démantèlement des lieux de culte que s’acharnent les forces de police.
2. En ce qui concerne le corps mutilé, tout le monde s’accorde pour dire que ce n’est pas dans les habitudes des Bakongo de régler les conflits par la violence. Qu’à cela ne tienne ! Le pouvoir qui a sans doute arrêté les coupables les fera juger et on saura s’il y a des complices.
3. . La nature a horreur du vide, disait Francis Bacon.. Le rapport de la tournée effectuée dernièrement par les Honorables députés Mvuemba et Mpaka dans le Bas-Congo et publié dans le journal La Prospérité n° 1290, du samedi 1 mars 2008, établit clairement les conditions et les modalités dans lesquelles les adeptes de BDK s’arrogent le pouvoir des services publics. Il ressort de ce rapport en effet, que c’est plutôt les services de l’Etat, par leur incompétence, leur irresponsabilité et leur injustice, qui bafouent l’autorité de l’Etat. Et le redressement des excès notés par-ci par-là , dans le chef de la population, ne peut-il pas l’être par les voies administratives et policières ordinaires ?
4. Dans un amalgame, du reste mal orchestré, la haine dont est victime le Mukongo et sa culture, se mue en xénophobie dont les adeptes de BDK seraient les porte-étendards. Il paraît pourtant bizarre que ces gens dont on dit être hostiles aux populations allogènes, n’auraient molesté ou tué que des Bakongo. Il y a lieu de noter ici que JP Bemba et J Kabila ont obtenu plus de voix dans le Bas-Congo que tous les candidats kongo réunis, au premier tour des élections présidentielles, et que l’Assemblée provinciale du Bas-Congo compte, en son sein, deux députés non kongo. Si ceux-ci le sont, comme le prétendent certains compatriotes, par le vote des leurs installés au Bas-Congo, alors de quoi accuse-t-on les Bakongo qui, par ce fait même, auraient raison de se dire être victimes d’une colonisation intérieure et de s’en défendre.
5. Fustiger l’idée de la « Confédération de l’Afrique Centrale » comme l’expression d’une velléité de restauration du Royaume Kongo et de balkanisation de la RDCongo c’est faire preuve de sensiblerie, de misère intellectuelle et de manque de vision politique, surtout de la part de ceux-là même qui, dans le même temps, se font chantres de la CEAC, de la CPGL, de l’UA… et même des Etats-Unis d’Afrique. De quoi s’interroger si en faisant de la RDCongo membre de toutes ces organisations, les dirigeants congolais comprennent bien à quoi ils engagent notre pays.
6. Le BDK porte des revendications partagées par l’ensemble des Bakongo et mêmes par d’autres communautés de la RDCongo et qui se ramènent fondamentalement à l’exigence d’un Etat de droit et de justice pour tous. L’acharnement du pouvoir sur ce mouvement n’y fera rien. Il n’est un secret pour personne que les élections fondatrices de la IIIe République étaient entachées de beaucoup d’irrégularités et de corruption ; que la gestion du pouvoir d’Etat de notre pays de fait de façon discriminatoire comme le témoignent les statistiques de nomination des responsables dans l’armée, les entreprises publiques, le gouvernement, les services secrets et spéciaux… ; que la gestion du pouvoir d’Etat dans notre pays se fait en violation flagrante et récurrente de la constitution ; qu’en privant le Bas-Congo de ses ressources pétrolières et d’autres on le condamne à la stagnation. C’est ici le lieu de noter que l’existence, dans les autres provinces, des maux dénoncés au Bas-Congo ne peut en aucun cas vider ces revendications de leur légitimité.
7. Etant donné que ces revendications rencontrent l’assentiment de tous les Bakongo et même d’autres congolais, des voix se sont toujours élevées pour les soutenir. On peut citer à ce propos, le mémorandum des Enseignants Kongo des Universités et Instituts Supérieurs à Monsieur le Président de la République Démocratique du Congo le 9 septembre 2002, Mémorandum des professeurs Kongo des Universités et Instituts supérieurs de la République Démocratique du Congo à Monsieur Muanda Nsemi, Chef spirituel de Bundu dia Kongo du 3 novembre 2002, Mémo à la bienveillante attention de son Excellence Monsieur le Président de la République Démocratique du Congo : S.D.(document rédigé par le R.Père Matota s.j.), Note à l’intention de son Excellence Monsieur le Président de la République Démocratique du Congo par le Groupe des professeurs Kongo des Universités et instituts supérieurs : le 23 février 2003, Convention des communautés culturelles congolaises : le 17 novembre 2003 (document rédigé par quelques enseignants du supérieurs), Mémorandum des professeurs des universités et instituts supérieurs à la bienveillante attention de son Excellence Monsieur le Président de la République Démocratique du Congo : le 19 juillet 2004, Mémorandum des Enseignants Kongo des Universités et instituts supérieurs à la bienveillante attention de son Excellence Monsieur le Président de la République Démocratique du Congo : le 28 août 2004, Fédéralisme : forme d’Etat appropriée à la République Démocratique du Congo : déclaration des professeurs des universités et instituts supérieurs du Congo : le 7 avril 2005., Déclaration commune des Evêques du Bas-Congo et de l’honorable Ne Muanda Nsemi, sur la situation qui prévaut au Bas-Congo : le 26 février 2008. Après avoir pris connaissance de ces documents, aucune personne sensée ne peut condamner des revendications aussi légitimes. Ceux qui persistent, malgré tout, à se comporter en sophistes pour justifier les exactions du pouvoir sur des populations éplorées, doivent savoir que l’histoire les jugera. En poussant le pouvoir à sévir contre une partie de la population, ils diminuent les chances de la cohésion nationale et, partant, de la construction d’un Etat puissant et prospère.

VI. Notre interpellation

1. Aux adeptes de Bundu dia Kongo
Votre impatience à voir la démocratie s’instaurer réellement dans notre pays et spécialement dans le Bas-Congo vous pousse parfois à commettre des actes répréhensibles, ce qui donne l’occasion aux ennemis du peuple d’assouvir leur haine. Depuis 2002, on assiste à des massacres pour lesquels le pouvoir vous rend responsables à tort ou à raison. En fait, vous êtes tombés dans le piège des gens qui nourrissent des projets machiavéliques à l’égard du peuple. Désormais, essayez d’exprimer vos revendications dans le cadre légal et vous verrez que la vérité finira par éclater au grand jour. Vous devez cesser de servir de boucs émissaires. Vous avez affaire à un pouvoir incapable de restaurer l’autorité de l’Etat là où elle est réellement bafouée. Humilié, il pense redorer son blason en déversant ses forces sur des populations non armées et faire croire à l’efficacité de l’Etat. « A vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire », dit-on. Le peuple qui n’est pas dupe parle sous cape. Malheureusement, on n’a pas la culture des sondages en République Démocratique du Congo car l’opinion populaire édifierait sans doute le pouvoir congolais.

2. Aux responsables de l’Exécutif provincial.
Votre attitude pendant le massacre de la population que vous êtes censés protéger étonne tout le monde, sauf évidemment ceux à qui vous obéissez aveuglement comme des satrapes. Vous ne savez que faire de l’autonomie que vous accorde la constitution de la République Démocratique du Congo. Comment ne pouviez-vous pas régler le problème de Bundu dia Kongo par le dialogue. En livrant une population innocente en pâture à des soldats assoiffés de sang et prompts à piller et à détruire, vous avez privilégié vos intérêts personnels et ceux de vos amis politiques. Votre attitude nous pousse à douter de vous. Notre déception est d’autant plus grande que vous êtes vous-mêmes des intellectuels, c’est-à-dire des gens sur qui le peuple fonde son espoir pour sa sécurité et son développement. Qu’allez-vous faire maintenant que le peuple se sent trahi par vous ? Feriez-vous amande honorable en vous excusant publiquement ou persisteriez-vous dans l’erreur, dans la répression ? Vous vous êtes rendu indignes de votre peuple. Quoi que vous fassiez, quoi que vous disiez, vous portez le sang de vos frères et sœurs massacrés à Luozi, Nseke-Mbanza, Matadi, Kisantu etc. sur vos têtes.

3. Aux Bakongo
Il y a, parmi vous, des gens qui se complaisent dans la sale besogne de délateurs pour quelques prébendes. En oubliant l’idéal de liberté et d’attachement aux valeurs ancestrales, ils ne sont pas dignes de la mémoire de nos illustres ancêtres : Vita Nkanga, Kimpa Vita, Paul Panda, Simon Kimbangu, Simon Toko, André Matsoua, Edmond Nzeza Nlandu, Daniel Kanza, Joseph Kasa Vubu, Bikebi etc.. Ne vous laissez pas intimider par le discours comminatoire des laudateurs du pouvoir qui tentent de vous attribuer des sentiments qui n’ont jamais été les vôtres. Ils disent que vous êtes tribalistes, xénophobes, séparatistes alors qu’ils savent parfaitement que le Bas-Congo n’a jamais fait sécession et qu’il n’a jamais accepté une rébellion sur son sol. En outre, il n’y a pas de provinces qui accueillent autant des populations allogènes que le Bas-Congo. Nous savons que le pouvoir fait au Bas-Congo ce qu’il n’ose pas faire ailleurs. Toutes ses injustices sont connues et nous continuerons à les dénoncer comme nous l’avons toujours fait, c’est-à-dire par des pétitions et le peuple Kongo doit redoubler de vigilance pour savoir qui défend réellement ses intérêts. Ne vous enfermez pas dans le désespoir et l’amertume. Ne vous recroquevillez pas et sachez qu’il existe au sein et en dehors du Bas-Congo des gens qui ont compris la pertinence de votre combat pour la liberté et la justice. Que vous soyez du pouvoir ou de l’opposition, vous êtes avant tout Kongo. Et à ce titre, vous êtes tous embarqués sur un même bateau et votre sort est lié. Qu’on se rappelle de l’holocauste juif !

4. Aux compatriotes congolais.
Lés régimes dictatoriaux divisent les gens pour les dominer. La 2e République a opposé les frères et sœurs de même ethnie et surtout les gens d’ethnies différentes tout en clamant qu’elle travaillait pour l’unité nationale.
Aujourd’hui, l’histoire se répète. Le pouvoir tente de diviser les Bakongo en faisant croire qu’il existe, entre eux, un conflit de nature religieuse alors que l’esprit irénique a toujours régné au Bas-Congo. Il tente également d’isoler les Bakongo de leurs compatriotes d’autres provinces en les présentant comme des gens hostiles aux non-originaires. C’est ainsi que le pouvoir entend distraire les congolais pour qu’ils ferment les yeux sur les injustices et deviennent les complices d’une dictature en voie de consolidation.

Il faut savoir que l’instauration d’une dictature n’est pas l’affaire d’une seule personne. La responsabilité est partagée par chacun des citoyens d’un pays par sa passivité, sa lâcheté, son silence devant les injustices, les exactions commises par le pouvoir. La conférence que les Bakongo réclament ne concerne pas qu’eux. Leurs intérêts rencontrent mutatis mutandis ceux de tous les citoyens de ce pays. Posez-vous la question de savoir pourquoi notre pays est toujours en crise depuis 1960 alors que certains pays qui étaient moins développés que le nôtre sont aujourd’hui en train de sortir du sous-développement. Entre-temps plusieurs forums ont été organisés pour juguler la crise congolaise mais elle est toujours là. Cela veut dire que le diagnostic n’a jamais été bien posé ou alors on n’a pas appliqué le bon remède. Nous connaissons l’origine du mal congolais et nous croyons détenir la solution. C’est pourquoi nous tenons à cette conférence pour en parler. En refusant l’organisation de cette conférence, le pouvoir veut éviter un déballage qui l’éclabousserait en révélant son vrai visage à l’opinion nationale et internationale. Suivre le point de vue du pouvoir, c’est vouloir prolonger la crise congolaise.

5. A la communauté internationale
Nous n’avons cessé de dire que ce qui se passe dans le Bas-Congo, procède d’une haine et d’un mépris du Mukongo par le pouvoir. Un génocide rampant s’y déroule. Et la communauté internationale ne devrait pas s’en disculper demain si elle s’en tient aujourd’hui au discours officiel sur les tueries récurrentes qui endeuillent notre province depuis 2002. Le monde s’émeut aujourd’hui de l’holocauste juif, du génocide arménien, serbe… et plus récemment, tusti. Un autre s’accomplit au Bas-Congo et dont Bundu dia Kongo sert de prétexte et d’alibi.

CONCLUSION

Cette expédition punitive dans le Bas-Congo confirme une fois de plus, outre la dérive dictatoriale du régime en place que d’aucuns avaient prédite eu égard à la manière dont les élections avaient été organisées, sa soif de vengeance annoncée par quelques indiscrétions à la suite de résultats médiocres obtenus par Joseph Kabila dans le Bas-Congo. Ainsi, au lieu de créer un climat de paix et de concorde nationale favorisant la promotion de la démocratie, le pouvoir recourt à l’utilisation des méthodes répressives qu’on croyait enterrés avec la 2e République et a une gestion romantique du pays. On se demande alors en quoi le nouveau régime constitue-t-il une rupture par rapport au précédent.

La destruction des vies humaines et des biens matériels ne peut pas être expliquée par la bavure policière comme on a coutume de le dire dans de telles circonstances. Il s’agit bel et bien d’une action préméditée contre les Bakongo, Bundu dia Kongo, n’a fait que fournir l’occasion rêvée pour soumettre le Bas-Congo à l’arbitraire des affairistes au pouvoir. Car la motivation profonde, c’est de faire main basse sur les recettes de cette province qui est comme on le sait, la vache à lait de la République Démocratique du Congo ou plutôt des affairistes au pouvoir.

Les massacres des victimes innocentes notamment des enfants lâchement abattus sous le regard des parents laissent complètement indifférents les tenants du pouvoir et leurs thuriféraires qui parcourent les médias pour justifier ces crimes, quand bien même la communauté internationale les condamne. De plus, ils ne se départissent pas des propos comminatoires, ce qui veut dire qu’ils sont prêts à recommencer. Ils ont même poussé le cynisme jusqu’à organiser un conseil des Ministres au chef-lieu de la province meurtrie pour intimider les populations et non pour les sécuriser. On peut comprendre alors que la thèse d’un complot contre les Bakongo n’est pas une vue de l’esprit. Ces tueries à répétition ressemblent bien à un génocide rampant dont il faut vite identifier les vrais instigateurs avant qu’il ne soit trop tard. Il ne faut pas attendre l’holocauste pour se rendre à l’évidence. Les Bakongo sont prévenus, mais aussi les autres Congolais, car on ne sait pas qui seront les prochaines victimes de la violence barbare du pouvoir.

Devant tant des morts à répétition, le pouvoir n’a exprimé aucun regret. Au contraire il continue à criminaliser ses victimes sans pour autant prouver leur responsabilité dans les forfaits qui leur sont imputés. Il est illusoire de croire que l’arrestation de Ne Muanda Nsemi et l’interdiction de Bundu dia Kongo, devenus le lieu commun de la réflexion des états-majors de la majorité au pouvoir dans la résolution de la crise au Bas-Congo, mettraient un terme à celle-ci. Sans une réponse satisfaisante aux revendications qui ne sont pas seulement celles de Bundu dia Kongo mais de toute la province et même de la majorité du pays, les gens ne se sentiront jamais sécurisés. Car au-delà des écarts de langage ou de comportement que l’on peut observer chez tel ou tel adepte de BDK et même chez tel ou tel Mukongo, les Bakongo, par le BDK, posent une fois de plus des questions fondamentales qui requièrent des réponses fondamentales et non épidermiques du genre des carnages récurrents perpétrés dans la province. Les Bakongo posent en fait une question fondamentale, à savoir : peut-on bâtir l’unité nationale, la démocratie et le développement dans notre pays sur la corruption, l’injustice, le mensonge et la discrimination ? c’est dommage que, comme à l’indépendance, face à cette question de fond, les Bakongo ne peuvent bénéficier d’un véritable soutien des autres communautés nationales. Traités d’illuminés et de prétentieux, lorsqu’ils posèrent la question de l’indépendance, les Bakongo découvrent encore à leurs dépens, 49 ans après, qu’ils sont en avance par rapport à beaucoup de leurs compatriotes. Et pourtant ils ne réclament aujourd’hui que l’application stricte de la Constitution du pays.

Unis par le sort, les congolais doivent construire et consolider cette unité dans l’effort de bâtir la liberté et la justice pour tous. C’est cela notre combat, il n’ y a pas un autre.

Si le Bas-Congo doit faire sécession, il le fera, si et seulement l’injustice, la prédation de ses richesse, et la discrimination se consolident en mode de gestion du pays. Et par rapport à cela, le pouvoir actuel constitue un cheval de Troie vis-à-vis duquel les congolais doivent se départir du discours creux, pour le juger et le soutenir aux actes. L’ennemi de l’unité nationale, le liquidateur de l’Etat congolais, ce n’est sûrement pas le Bundu dia Kongo, ni les Bakongo, mais ces dirigeants affairistes qui bradent les intérêts nationaux et banalisent, sans état d’âme, la vie des Congolais à l’autel des intérêts personnels et partisans.

C’est pourquoi il est impérieux d’organiser une conférence dont l’objet portera sur l’ensemble des revendications. L’opinion nationale et internationale a le droit de savoir la vérité sur ce qui se passe au Bas-Congo avant de prendre position. En outre, nous exigeons une commission d’enquête internationale afin d’établir clairement les responsabilités et de juger, de manière équitable, tous les coupables de quelque bord qu’ils soient. Après la condamnation des coupables, les familles des victimes devraient être indemnisées. Ce que le pouvoir fait maintenant ressemble à une fuite en avant dont on ne peut prévoir les conséquences. Nous estimons qu’il est opportun que le Tribunal Pénal International diligente une enquête sur ces massacres récurrents. Car il n’est pas normal que la communauté internationale reste indifférente face à ces violations permanentes des droits de l’homme. Attend-elle un holocauste pour réagir ?

RDC : La question nationale n’est pas encore resolue

Here is a piece from Ernest Wamba dia Wamba related to what is going on in the DRC, in particular in the Lower Congo. On the Lower Congo, the so-called big media keep silent, in great part because they know that the only possible position on these issues is solidarity with those who are suffering, being tortured, maimed, violated, killed for no reason other than the killers’ thirst for power. Power for power’s sake.

1. L’hymne national, Debout Congolais, dit que nous, Congolais, sommes “unis par le sort ». C’est une unité extérieure par la force des conquêtes coloniales qui ont forcé ensemble différentes communautés, à différents niveaux de développement social—des communautés sans Etat, celles avec Etat embryonnaire, celles avec royaume ou empire en crise, etc– ; le résultat c’est le Congo Belge, en passant par l’Etat Indépendant du Congo qui organisa « l’holocauste oublié. »

2. Le Congo Belge organisa la forme globale de l’existence sociale—la cohabitation de toutes ces communautés—sur la base de la politique de « diviser pour régner. » Des communautés dites « martiales » étaient opposées à celles dites « poltronnes ». Des tribus étaient créées çà et là. Les BesiKongo, sujets du royaume Kongo, organisés par luvila(un rapport socio-politique d’appartenance au royaume), étaient, au Congo Belge, divisés en « tribus » (Bayombe, Bantandu, Bamanianga, etc.) La visée coloniale de la création d’une sorte d’Etat-Nation dominé, organisant les colonisés pour produire des richesses pour la métropole, faisait de l’Etat un Etat-greffe, c’est-à-dire un Etat implanté artificiellement, sans une base sociologique certaine.

3. C’est l’indépendance réelle seule qui allait permettre aux communautés colonisées et divisées d’arriver à une vraie unité intérieure. L’hymne dit que c’est par l’effort pour l’indépendance qu’on allait y arriver. Ce ne devait être qu’une unité négociée participative de toutes les communautés. Dans certains cieux, cet effort, cette négociation participative, a donné naissance à une Charte d’autodétermination—en Afrique du sud, par exemple. Chez-nous, la synthèse nationale entre le Manifeste de la Conscience Africaine et le Contre-Manifeste de l’ABAKO exigeant l’indépendance immédiate, n’a pas eu lieu avant que la Belgique, par des tables dites rondes, ait repris l’initiative de la décolonisation. Le Congrès de Kisantu, préconisant l’autodétermination avec autonomie relative des communautés, était encore partiale.

4. L’initiative de l’ABAKO, qui rencontrait certaines pesanteurs—des gens opposés à l’indépendance immédiate ou celle de ceux exigeant des colonialistes de préparer les Congolais pour l’Indépendance—commençait à être accusée de « séparatiste » parce qu’elle demandait l’autonomie du Kongo Central si les autres communautés n’étaient pas prêtes. Mais, avec les résultats du Congrès, l’ABAKO insista pour l’indépendance totale—sans sacrifier le droit à l’autonomie relative des communautés.

5. Le fait que l’effort pour l’indépendance s’était presque arrêté, en 1960, en faveur du seul fait de remplacer les colonialistes dans l’Etat colonial sous condition de l’approbation de ceux-ci et leurs alliés occidentaux, la négociation pour une unité participative et solidaire de toutes les communautés—avec droit démocratique de chaque communauté à l’autonomie relative—n’a pas encore abouti. On a vite posé l’équation coloniale : Etat=Nation. L’Indépendance n’était plus basée sur une forme globale d’existence sociale reconnaissant l’autonomie relative de chaque communauté comme un droit démocratique. Ceux qui occupent le centre de l’Etat se sont souvent proclamés garants de l’unité nationale qui n’a pas été un résultat des luttes d’autodétermination de différentes communautés et donc en l’absence d’une Charte d’autodétermination. L’unité dans la diversité dont continuent de parler les Constitutions qui se succèdent, n’est qu’une sommation mécanique à la coloniale—qui nivelait toutes les cultures en une culture sauvage des indigènes, culture considérée comme une anti-civilisation (civilisation Européenne s’entend !). Aujourd’hui, on oppose chaque affirmation d’identité culturelle à l’exigence d’ « universalité ou de modernisme ».

6. Il faut remonter au mouvement prophétique—dirigé par Simon Kimbangu Diatunguna—qui avait mis en cause « la domination blanche religieuse et laîque » pour commencer à comprendre l’enjeu de la nécessité de la résolution de la question nationale, celle d’arriver à une forme globale d’existence sociale participative, c’est-à-dire négociée participativement par toutes les composantes aux fins d’en finir avec la domination. Les gens oublient l’objectif final du mouvement, c’est pourquoi ils s’arrêtent sur les qualités de non-violence des dirigeants du mouvement, s’identifiant ainsi avec les responsables de la domination. Ceux-ci ont compris le caractère violent, c’est-à-dire son exigence de rupture avec la domination culturelle, spirituelle et politique européenne, du mouvement. D’où la répression disproportionnée (le non-violent Kimbangu est jugé par un Conseil de guerre) pour « la restauration de l’autorité de l’Etat colonialiste » dans toutes ses dimensions : spirituelle avec le renforcement des Eglises coloniales (Catholique surtout mais Protestantes aussi) ; politique avec la déportation et la relégation des adeptes des prophètes pour empêcher les effets organisationnels du dire et faire spirituels ; et économique avec la reconsolidation protectionniste des entreprises coloniales. Même les enfants des prophètes étaient pris en charge pour qu’ils soient « mieux amadoués » pour grandir avec des idées acceptables et des comportements respectueux de la domination.

7. Il faut comprendre le BDK comme une tentative de proposer une solution à l’épineuse question nationale, lorsque les dominants des appareils étatiques soi-disant post-coloniaux organisent l’Etat comme si le droit démocratique d’autonomie d’identité culturelle et ses effets politiques était interdit. Au moment où le BDK commence à se former, en 1969, les processus de connaissance, celui d’arriver au leadership national et celui de la foi sont tous extravertis. L’aspect positif de l’ « Authenticité » c’est d’être un cri d’alarme de l’absence de processus de créativité endogène. En appelant à un enracinement culturel pour relancer cette créativité, le BDK vise à une révolution culturelle. Comme toute révolution culturelle, visant à une critique des institutions entretenant une domination extravertie par une répression comme politique, c’est-à-dire une critique de l’artificialité de l’Etat dont le leadership culturel (ou son absence) étouffe les identités culturelles créatrices. L’émancipation, le BDK, n’est possible que sous condition de la rupture avec la culture occidentale dominante et aliénante—c’est sa prescription.

8. Faute de culture urbaine résultant des luttes de la défense populaire de la culture urbaine, avec l’insuffisance d’organisation ouvrière capable de donner une direction aux communautés paysannes, l’Etat compradore est incapable de produire une vraie culture nationale faisant écho de la diversité culturelle. La musique où cette possibilité se manifeste est parfois tenue à l’œil par l’Etat répressif qui veut la soumettre à sa dictature. Mais avant de poursuivre l’analyse de la problématique BDK, venons-en à l’échec lumumbiste de résoudre la question nationale par une centralisation du pouvoir, abusivement appelée « unitarisme ».

9. Après la conférence d’Accra, Lumumba épouse la thèse abakiste de l’indépendance immédiate et la porte au niveau national. Au lieu de tisser l’alliance avec l’ABAKO, enracinée dans les masses les plus politisées, relativement, de la colonie, il critique celle-là de « séparatiste » et ne voit pas la valeur positive du Congrès de Kisantu, par ce qu’il n’a pas la notion d’autonomie relative de communauté comme un droit démocratique capable de servir de levain dans la restructuration de l’Etat colonial. Il conçoit le fédéralisme comme ouvrant la porte au « séparatisme ». Ce n’est que peu avant l’élection présidentielle qu’il visualise que son gouvernement sans l’appui de l’ABAKO, ne pourra pas bien fonctionner à Kinshasa—faute de la confiance dans les masses Kongo. Il devait composer avec Kasa-Vubu.

10. Entré dans l’Etat, suivant l’exemple de certains pays africains dont les masses populaires étaient plus organisées politiquement, il adopte la politique du « révolutionnaire d’Etat », c’est-à-dire de la subordination de l’Etat à la politique de l’articulation de la volonté (de poursuivre l’effort pour l’indépendance), la confiance dans les masses (dont il ne contrôle pas l’organisation), l’égalité (chacun compte pour UN, dans un Etat colonial qui a institué la discrimination) et la terreur (redistribuer les ressources en faveur des masses contre les couches des riches ou clients de l’Etat colonial). C’est ce que les adversaires vont nommer « communisme ». Son parti politique n’est pas à la hauteur de servir d’opérateur de cette articulation d’autant plus qu’il contient beaucoup qui sont opposés à cette politique et qui sont aussi des taupes au service de l’adversaire. Il ne peut utiliser que les appareils d’Etat colonial dans lesquels, il est minoritaire. Il est donc tenté par la centralisation du pouvoir qui l’amènera à aliéner Kasa-Vubu et son ABAKO, bien qu’en crise, se privant, ainsi de l’appui des masses Kongo, bien déterminées de poursuivre l’effort pour l’indépendance. Au lieu de s’efforcer de réconcilier Kasa-Vubu et N’Kanza Daniel pour une ABAKO forte en sa faveur, il soutient la division et donc l’affaiblissement de l’ABAKO. Coincé, il n’a plus d’autre chose que d’aller tête haute vers la mort.

11. La critique du lumumbisme doit tenir compte des limites de la politique d’alliances du MNC-L, de sa conception de l’Etat indépendant et de l’absence de conception du droit à l’autonomie relative des communautés sans lequel, la démocratisation, en l’absence d’un mouvement ouvrier indépendant, ne peut réussir. La centralisation du pouvoir ne peut conduire qu’à une politique de parti-Etat. —Il faut cette introduction pour comprendre notre analyse du BDK dans le prochain dépliant.

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini
Nkiutomba, le 1er avril 2008.

The Brutal Truth: A Filmmaker Confronts the Rapists of the Congo and Finds No Remorse

The Greatest Silence is an apt title for the film this article reviews, since it keeps under wraps one of the most common crimes, so common that people just shrug their shoulders, sometimes with the words: it is human nature.

The filmmaker, Lisa F. Jackson, has brought out something which horrifies people, but the horror, strangely, does not seem to lead to anything serious enough to change the dominant mindset about rape. Why do the offenders brag about raping one might ask? I think, from what is in the article about the HBO film, that she could have gone further. At the risk of offending some sensibilities, rape, and how it is allowed, could be compared with any other crime against humanity (e.g. slavery, Herero, Armenia, certified and uncertified holocausts, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Rwanda, etc…)–more specifically, comparable with any crime against humanity which goes on unacknowledged and unpunished. It reproduces the mindset which says that might is right.

This being said, there is more with regard to what rape does to its victims and, paradoxically, the movie/interviews, etc. cannot capture the type of suffering the victim endures in the process. As Primo Levi, the holocaust survivor, once said about having been there (i.e. a witness), only those who did not return could really be said to be the real witnesses. My understanding of what Levi is trying to articulate is that there is a type of suffering in which no amount of words can convey/represent/describe/render what was really felt–in part, because no human being has ever been prepared for such experience.

How does one wipe out rape? Should it not be easier than, say, getting rid of nuclear weapons? It certainly would be less costly to do and, in the process, give a lesson to the nuclear weapons monopolists. I have not researched the question, but there are very few countries (Sweden, I think is one of them) which have introduced legislation to treat rape as a serious crime. Will there ever be a country which will make rape go away….without wiping out the rapists and potential rapists?

Reposted from The Washington Post, April 8, 2008.

Six rapists in the lush forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo: One in a green hood, another in a red baseball cap, another in military fatigues and a camouflage hat, another in black sunglasses. Their guns are pointed down. Smoking cigarettes, they swagger. They hold up their fingers, counting the number of women they have raped, violated, damned. Sexual terror as a weapon of war, perpetrated sometimes with sticks, knives, tree limbs.

The men seem unafraid to confess. They are bragging to an American filmmaker who holds a camera, recording their words.

“Ask him to tell me what he did,” says Lisa F. Jackson, whose chilling documentary, “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo,” debuts tonight on HBO. In a 10-year-old conflict that has left some 5 million people dead, the tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically raped and mutilated by an array of combatants are the silent victims among the living, Jackson tells us. What makes her documentary more stunning: She goes into the forest and confronts the rapists.

“I slept with some women,” says the rapist, a gray sweater wrapping his head, the sleeves tied around his neck.

“Did they want you to sleep with them?” Jackson inquires, her voice incisive, a bit on edge. A translator repeats her words in Swahili. Is it about control? Sex? Why violate a woman, leave her to bleed in her village, while her husband watches, tied to a tree? Why would 20 men line up and take turns, one after the other, raping a girl until she passes out and separates herself from a pain too evil to imagine?

Why insert a machete into a woman, leaving her organs so torn and dysfunctional that she flees her village and hides her shame and her stench in the bush, another victim of war?

“After we’ve been raped, our men don’t want us anymore. We are considered half-human beings,” a lonely woman confides to Jackson and her camera.

In another scene, the gray-sweatered rapist doesn’t flinch at Jackson’s question: “If she says no, I must take her by force. If she is strong, I’ll call some of my friends to help me. All this is happening because of the war. We would live a normal life and treat women naturally if there was no war.”

The war started in 1998 when Congolese rebels and Rwandan troops tried to oust the country’s president, Laurent Kabila. But the fighting metastasized into a conflict over land, ethnicity and natural resources and lasted long after Kabila’s 2001 assassination and well beyond a 2003 peace accord. Eastern Congo, the flashpoint of the conflict, degenerated into a state of near constant violence, with regular troops, rebels and regional militias routinely looting villages and routinely raping women and girls.

* * *

Rain pours outside. Jackson’s camera takes us inside the shadow of an abandoned building, pointing at another rapist. His gun is slung across his back. He wears a green beret and talks of the “magic” that makes him rape.

“Well, we were just abiding by the conditions of our magic potion. We had to rape women in order to make it work, and beat the enemy.”

Another rapist, wearing a black skullcap, is sitting in a corner. “Well, those women were not taken by force. The thing is they were in a combat zone where most of the fighters relied on magic power. This magic potion worked in such a way that you’ve got to rape women in order to overcome the enemies who’ve invaded our country, the Congo. That is why all those things have happened.”

Here is where the film shows the twisted layers of damage from war, twisted until the soldiers believe they must rape to win. Twisted until the viewer becomes engulfed in the twisted message of magic and enemy control and devastation. And you shout at the screen. Because the film shows you the pain of women raped in front of their husbands and children. Rammed with sticks until the uterus ruptures. And they bleed. And urine seeps forever. And they are cast away. And children are born of the rapes. And their mothers must carry them because they are obliged. One mother, raped at age 15, says in the film that she named her daughter Lumiere, which means light. She will tell her daughter she did not know the girl’s father.

How many such children will be born of rape? One cannot say. But the number of rapes, as told by the film’s collection of rapists, is staggering.

“Well, those that I remember, I could number them to 18.” It’s green beret again, touting his rape tally.

Camouflage hat says he has raped seven women. Green hood says five. Red T-shirt admits to two. Black sunglasses: about 20.

Black skullcap says, like an accountant: “It’s hard to keep record of the number of women that I’ve raped. The thing to keep in mind is the fact that we have stayed too long in the bush, and that induced us to rape. You know how things are in combat zones. We raped as we advance from village to village.”

The rapists melt back into the bush. But their chilling words now are caught forever in this film that takes us deep into the horrors of a silent war waged by Congolese government forces, by rebels, and sometimes even by United Nations peacekeepers.

“He who rapes a woman rapes an entire nation,” a policewoman says in the film.

Says Jackson, “They are forgotten women in a forgotten war.”

She is both witness and survivor. The viewer learns that Jackson herself was gang-raped — assaulted here in the District in 1976 as she was leaving her office late one night. “The three men who attacked me that night in Georgetown were never found,” she says in the film.

She shared her story with the women in Congo. “They all asked about the war that was happening in my country. I explained to them that even in peacetime, women are not safe. . . . The idea to them that women, and white women, could be raped in peacetime,” she said in an interview, “they could not imagine such things could happen.”

It was not her aim to put herself, her story into the film. But once she told her story, women opened up. “It became clear the connection I had with the women resulted in incredibly honest interviews,” Jackson said. “It also made the film less voyeuristic. It helped the audience understand.”

To gather the women’s stories, Jackson, 57, visited hospitals, sat in mud-floored huts and churches, putting names and faces and grief on camera until the viewer is moved to feel, turn away, do something. People are always asking Jackson, “But what can I do?”

“People have to find their own thing to do,” she says. “There is so much you can do. I made a film.”

Jackson, who calls herself a “Foreign Service brat,” went to Holton-Arms, a private girls’ school in Bethesda. She attended Sarah Lawrence College, then studied film at MIT with the documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock.

After college, she returned to the District to work at WETA television. For about two years, she worked as a film editor with legendary documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim. She eventually started her own production company and, over the next 30 years, made documentaries in Siberia and Guatemala. She won three Emmy Awards.

For her next film, she wanted to document the fate of women and girls in conflicts around the world. In 2006, she went to South Kivu, a province in the eastern Congo.

“I ended up going to the worst place first,” Jackson said in the interview. “I had good friends working for the U.N. peacekeepers there. I cashed in frequent flier miles and went where the conflict was raging. After two days, I realized this was not a segment in a larger film. This was the story nobody was telling.”

She “found many dozens of raped women, women of all ages, too many women, who at times would line up for hours, waiting until after the light disappeared and my camera could no longer record an image, waiting to talk to me, waiting to tell their stories to someone who would listen to them without judgment, hoping that I would relay their stories to a world that seemed indifferent to their horrific plight.”

One woman told of being kidnapped and held with other women in the forest as sex slaves. “We were raped by 20 men at the same time. Our bodies are suffering. They have taken their guns and put them inside us. They kill our children and then they tell us to eat those children. If a woman is pregnant, they make your children stand on your belly so that you will abort. Then they take the blood from your womb and put it in a bowl and tell you to drink it.”

To find the rapists, she asked her guide to find men willing to be interviewed. “In work with the U.N., he knew a lot of Congolese army officers. He went to a commanding officer and said there is an American journalist who wants to interview your men about raping women. He said okay and put the word out among the soldiers.”

She ended up deep in the forest, led by a dozen men.

“For a moment, going into the bush, I was completely panic-stricken,” Jackson said in the interview. “Then I realized they wanted their moment on videotape. If anything happened to me and my camera, they wouldn’t have that. My camera was as good as a gun. They wanted to be memorialized, bragging about what they did to women.”

* * *

“This type of sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner by armed groups.”

That is Denis Mukwege, director of the Panzi General Referral Hospital in the Congolese town of Bukavu, testifying last week before the Senate subcommittee on human rights and the law. “The rapists are not seeking to satisfy some kind of sexual desire but to destroy the woman, destroy her family and destroy her community.”

Jackson, who appeared with him as well as several other human rights activists, asked the senators: “Why is it that rape in conflict is so infrequently prosecuted in the world’s courts? Where is the outrage?”

Rape has been used systemically in several war-torn countries to humiliate, demoralize and destroy, Physicians for Human Rights said in a report it released at the hearing.

Millions of women and girls have been tortured, mutilated, impregnated as a form of ethnic cleansing. It happened during the Rwandan genocide, the civil wars in Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Chad, the former Yugoslavia and Liberia, as well as during the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

“Mass rape in war is frequently not the random act of individual soldiers but a determined strategy to destroy populations,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “The perpetrators are not held accountable and turn to mass rape because it is cheaper than using bullets.”

Jackson explained that armies and factions in Congo were killing civilians in order to loot the country of its riches: most recently, tin, cobalt and coltan, used in electronics.

“Perhaps another hearing might more thoroughly explore the causes and ruinous consequences of this illegal plundering,” she said. But everyone in this room should consider the fact that there is the blood of Congolese women on their laptop computers and on their cellphones.”

After 90 minutes, the gavel sounded. The hearing adjourned. Senators filed out. Reporters tapped out stories. People pulled out cellphones. The paneled room emptied into the marbled halls of power.

But the question remained: What would be done to help the women?

In the film, a 70-year-old rape survivor says: “Women are suffering. We have forgotten what happiness is.”

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo airs at 10 tonight on HBO.

Christmas in Hell

In this lucid and eloquent article, John Maxwell traces the connections between European genocide in the West Indies and the devastation produced in Africa by the slave trade with modern day poverty, oppression, and degradation in both places. It is a powerful condemnation of the hypocrisy of western trumpeting of human rights. Maxwell writes a column called “Common Sense” for the Jamaican Observer where this was originally published. Reposted from Haiti-Cuba-Venezuela>Analysis .

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas in Jamaica is bad enough. One good thing about Christmas Day is that it means the end of weeks of aural assaults by mindless rhymesters perverting songs of worship to paeans of praise for hucksters of all kinds, from shopkeepers to banks, from auto-parts dealers to purveyors of cheap, non-returnable, eminently breakable, non-biodegradable trash tricked out in plastic, tinsel and lead paint to lure innocent children and entrap their parents.

And, as a bonus, there are the sound-system parties, which allow you to dance in your own home to music played two miles away.

AN ALTERNATIVE SCENARIO

If you think this is bad, consider another scenario.

Consider that you are a citizen of another land, one steeped in history – a history of resistance to oppression, a history that includes the first proclamation on earth that all people were equal, including women and children.

This land, which for convenience we’ll call Ayiti, was introduced to Christianity by a bunch of marauding savages bearing swords and caparisoned in the fierce colours of their leader, a Genoese adventurer named Cristobal Colon, aka Christopher Columbus. This character had induced Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the monarchs of two Spanish kingdoms – Aragon and Castile – to bet their farms on the discovery of a new route to China, then as now, the fabulous land of magical herbs, spices and other goods, which would make life bearable for the inhabitants of Europe, just emerging from the Dark Ages.

Our hero had managed to convince Ferdinand and Isabella, on the basis of a map obtained from an African who claimed to know the way to China aka Cipangu. If the Spanish got to Cipangu before their European cousins, great wealth and power would be theirs; all the tea in China would be theirs for the asking, in addition to carpets, silks and luxuries only dreamt of in Europe.

When Columbus’ “doom-burdened caravels” hove to in Ayiti, the million or so people who welcomed him could never have guessed that they would soon be history.

Within 30 years, the populations of the West Indies had been so reduced that in the four larger islands, now re-christened the Greater Antilles, less than a thousand remained alive in 1519. This is according to the testimony of Bartolomeo de las Casas, a Spanish monk who came with the conquistadors and was an eyewitness to the conquest. Another historian, Gonzalo Oviedo, estimated that of the one million Indians on Ayiti when the Spaniards arrived, less than 500 remained half a century later- the “natives and . the progeny and lineage ” of those who first occupied the land.

‘They died in heaps, like bedbugs .’

In the Caribbean and in Mexico, Peru and Colombia, smallpox and other diseases introduced by the Spaniards killed the ‘Indians’ by the million. Relatively small Spanish expeditions were able to conquer huge empires because the native populations were swept away by diseases, to which they had never been exposed and for which they had no immunity.

Toribio Motolina, another Spanish priest, wrote that in most provinces in Mexico “more than one-half the population died; in others the proportion was a little less; they died in heaps, like bedbugs.”

More than 100 years after Motolina, a German missionary writing in 1699, said the so-called Indians “die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up the ghost.”

The destruction of the ‘American Indian’ populations and cultures has meant an incalculable loss to human ethnic and cultural diversity. It was they who gave us words like barbecue, canoe, hammock, and hurricane, and crops like corn, potatoes, cassava, and tomatoes.

The people of ancient Egypt, the pyramid builders seem very far away in time; the Olmecs, Maya, Aztecs, and Incas, who also built pyramids and played games very much like basketball, soccer and Jai alai, seem much closer.

To Jamaicans and people of the Caribbean, the sense of loss is almost palpable in relation to the lost civilisations of Africa, destroyed by the slave trade, which, like globalisation, set brother against brother, tribe against tribe and nation against nation.

Africa was targeted because the Europeans knew that their own people could not survive for long in the hot, humid, mosquito-ridden Indies and that sugar, replacing gold as the commodity most likely to make men rich, was too hard a work for them.

Turning to Africa meant the devastation of many ancient civilisations – many disappearing almost without trace, further impoverishing mankind’s cultural diversity and robbing Africa of the populations and skills it needed for its own development.

Although the Europeans found large quantities of gold, silver and copper in the ‘New World’, gold was never as lucrative as sugar and the cotton and rubber extracted from the plantations of the Americas. And nothing was as lucrative as the slave trade.

As Sybille Fischer remarks in her book Modernity Disavowed: “Colonialism in the Caribbean had produced societies where brutality combined with licentiousness in ways unknown in Europe.

The sugar plantations in the New World were expanding rapidly and had an apparently limitless hunger for slaves.”

‘A WRETCH LIKE ME!’

One of the modern Jamaicans’ favourite hymns at funerals is Amazing Grace penned by a slave trader after he retired from the trade, rich and comfortable. It was his way of atoning for his crimes, and perhaps, of saying thanks to God.

Nothing can atone for the misery and degradation imposed on the 25 million or more people transported into slavery or the millions more slaughtered when they fought to avoid capture. Nothing can atone for 500 years of racist victimisation, nor the 500 years of brutality and dangerous behaviours, beaten, inculcated and burned into the psyches of the enslaved and their descendants.

The inhabitants of Ayiti, now almost all African, like the people of all the enslaved islands and lands of the Americas, were engaged in an unending struggle to destroy slavery.

In Suriname, in Barbados, and Grenada, in the United States of America, in Nicaragua and in the Caribbean the slaves rose time after time to break their chains.

In Jamaica, they had some success. The Maroons fought the much better armed British to a standstill and wrested from them a treaty of non-aggression and non-interference in 1739. It was a treaty soon broken by the British.

Desperation and the will to be free fuelled the Tacky rebellion of 1760. This rebellion dwarfed the Maroon Wars and was an islandwide conspiracy, which lasted six months. The aims of the leaders included driving out the white population, and partitioning Jamaica into principalities in the tradition of the Akan-speaking Koromanti who were at the heart of the rebellion.

One of them, a man called Bouckman, fled to Ayiti when the rebellion was finally crushed. There, in Ayiti, he ignited a struggle for freedom, which ended with the expulsion of the last foreign soldiers from Ayisien soil.

In 1804, after 10 years of warfare, the rebel slaves and their free allies defeated the armies of Napoleon (twice), and of Britain and Spain. Dessalines declared Ayiti independent and free and declared the country a refuge from slavery anywhere.

He also pronounced the first known declaration of universal human rights, giving legal equality to all human beings, men, women, and children.

It was 144 years later, in 1948, that the world caught up with Ayiti in producing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Next December 10, almost exactly a year from now, the world will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations proclamation of the Universal Declaration.

The preamble to the Declaration is not very well known. It goes like this:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts, which have outraged the conscience of mankind;

And the advent of a world, in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realisation of this pledge,

“Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms, and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

The declaration then proceeds to list the basic principles of the declaration beginning with Article 1, which says that:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

And it continues to explain in Article 2 that

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional, or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty”.

The declaration is intended to be universal, as was Dessalines’ declaration in 1804. Unfortunately, for us there are billions of people in this world including many in this country, who do not enjoy all the benefits of this universal declaration.

But some are much worse off than others. Among those are the people of Iraq, of Palestine, and right next door to us, the people of Ayiti, that imaginary place where slavery was abolished by the slaves themselves.

In Ayiti, aka Haiti, these rights, and the Universal Declaration do not apply.

Rather like the captured Islamists in neighbouring Guantanamo Bay, a little to their northwest, the Haitians, all 8 million of them, live in a concentration camp.

The Haitian version is designed to stifle their freedoms and liberties and engineered to prevent them from being led by leaders of their own choice.

Nearly four years after US Marines landed there for the third time in 100 years, the freely elected president of Ayiti is an exile in South Africa.

He was kidnapped from the presidential palace by US Marines led by the US Ambassador to Haiti and transported, as “cargo” with his family to the Central African Republic – the American idea of hell on earth. From there he was rescued in a mission led by the black US congresswoman Maxine Waters and TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson.

They chartered a plane and headed off to the Central African Republic themselves to bring President Aristide and his wife Mildred and their two daughters back to the Caribbean. It took them hours of negotiating with the country’s dictator to get him to release the Aristides.

President Aristide came to Jamaica where the government felt constrained by tradition and popular sentiment, to welcome him, but found itself unable to resist US pressure to get him out of the Caribbean.

Aristide’s sin was to want to fulfil the mission of his ancestors, to build a paradise on the dungheap left behind by Haiti’s colonisers and exploiters.

Nearly four years later a Haitian president is in office, but Aristide’s and his people’s enemies are in power.

The country is ruled by the US Ambassador, and is policed by a so-called United Nations force – MINUSTAH whose second commander, a Brazilian general, killed himself after a friendly chat with leaders of the Haitian elite.

MINUSTAH’s only distinctions are killing a large number of women and children in their pursuit of so-called bandits who seem to be mainly pro-Aristide youth, and the rape and other sexual abuse of young Haitian children, some as young as ten.

A DREAD OF BLACK FREEDOM

From the earliest days as an independent nation, the Americans have feared and dreaded Haiti. As an asylum for escaped slaves, it threatened the slave system in the American south. And after France extorted billions of dollars in gold from Haiti in ‘compensation’ for the loss of capital (slaves) and land, in Haiti, the US lent money to the Haitians to pay the debt and ruined them with the interest.

As I have said before: while arms never subdued Haiti, it was defeated by the power of financiers in a sinister preview of the modern tactics of the IMF and the World Bank.

Despite all the harassment, the 10,000 murders of activists and leaders, the Haitian people, united in the Fanmi Lavalas, have continued to support their leaders and their culture. A few months ago, one of their leaders, Dr Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, was kidnapped after a meeting with some Americans. He has not been heard from since. A few weeks later another leader, Dr Marlyse Narcisse, was kidnapped but released when there was a tremendous howl of Haitian and international outrage that apparently embarrassed the powers that rule Haiti. And so, the Haitians survive, without rights, at the mercy of a United Nations corrupted and intimidated by the power of the United States, Canada, and France acting in concert.

The United States, Canada, France, and Haiti all signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

They all agreed that “. disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts, which have outraged the conscience of mankind”, and they promised to make the world a more civilised place.

The spectacle of these three self-styled democracies combining to crush the rights and hopes of eight million poor people is obscene, but perhaps not as revolting as the fact that Haiti’s relatives and friends in the Caribbean, Jamaica and the others, but especially Jamaica, can sit and watch the Haitians’ sojourn in hell as if they were watching a Disney fantasia or a Christmas pantomime.

Copyright©2007 John Maxwell
jankunnu@gmail.com

NZ campaigner says no to SA award

Reposted from IOL January 28, 2008.

Wellington – A veteran New Zealand anti-apartheid campaigner has rejected a nomination for a prestigious South African award for foreigners, saying he is dismayed over conditions in the country, local media reported on Monday.

John Minto, nominated for a Companion Of OR Tambo Award by a South African government official, asked for the nomination to be withdrawn, the Christchurch Press newspaper said.

“South Africa was the democratic country with so much hope and I think for so many people it’s been the deepest of disappointments, and certainly it has been for me,” Minto said.

“I’m just deeply dismayed at what’s happened,” he told the newspaper.

The Tambo award is the highest honour granted to non-South Africans in recognition of friendship, co-operation and support.

Previous recipients include Mahatma Gandhi, Kofi Annan, Salvador Allende and Martin Luther King Junior.

A union organiser, Minto was national co-ordinator of the Halt All Racist Tours movement during the controversial 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand – when an all-white rugby team representing South Africa was strongly opposed by many New Zealanders.

In an open letter to South African President Thabo Mbeki, Minto blasted the African National Congress government which, he said, had left black South Africans “worse off than they were under (white) minority rule”.

“When we protested and marched into police batons and barbed wire here in the struggle against apartheid, we were not fighting for a small black elite to become millionaires,” Minto wrote.

“We were fighting for a better South Africa for all its citizens. The faces at the top have changed from white to black, but the substance of change is an illusion,” he noted. – Sapa-AP

Open letter to the President of South Africa

Dear John Minto–Thank you for your open letter regarding (and refusing) the nomination for the OR Tambo Award. Your voice against the continuing impoverishment and discrimination against those who suffered the most under apartheid is a salutary reminder that one should not rest till everyone does benefit from the promised transformation of South African society.–In solidarity, Jacques Depelchin

Reposted from Abahlali baseMjondolo January 28, 2008.

Tena koe Thabo Mbeki,

I understand a nomination has been put forward for me to receive a South African honour later this year, the Companions of O R Tambo Award, on behalf of HART and the anti-apartheid movement of New Zealand for our work campaigning to end apartheid in South Africa.

I note the particular honour is conferred by the President of South Africa and awarded to “foreign citizens who have promoted South African interests and aspirations through co-operation, solidarity and support”.

We are proud of the role played by the movement here to assist the struggle against apartheid and I appreciate the sentiment behind the nomination. However after the most careful consideration I respectfully request the nomination proceed no further. Were an award to be made I would decline to accept it either personally or on behalf of the movement.

New Zealanders who campaigned against apartheid did so to bring real and meaningful change in the lives of South Africa’s impoverished and disenfranchised black communities. We were appalled and angered at the callous brutality of a system based on racism and exploitation of black South Africans for the benefit of South African corporations.

However while political rights have been won and celebrated, social and economic rights have been sidelined. It is now 14 years since the first African National Congress government was elected to power but for most the situation is no better, and frequently worse, than it was under white minority rule.

The number of South Africans living on less than $1 a day more than doubled to 2.4 million in the first 10 years of ANC government. Despite strong economic growth overall poverty levels have not improved and the gap between rich and poor has increased with many black families being driven more deeply into poverty. Unemployment remains high at around 26%.

It seems the entire economic structure which underpinned apartheid is essentially unchanged. Oppression based on race has morphed seamlessly into oppression based on economic circumstance. The faces at the top have changed from white to black but the substance of change is an illusion.

None of us expected things to change overnight but we did expect the hope for change to always burn brightly as people looked ahead for their children and grandchildren. This is now a pale gleam, dimmed by the destructive power of free-market economics.

My own country New Zealand preceded the ANC in adopting free-market economic reforms. Since 1984 we have experienced a particularly virulent dose of these vicious policies which have brought wealth to the few at the expense of the many.

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealand families have been driven out of decent employment into poverty where they struggle to raise families on part-time, poorly paid work. They are worse off now than they were 20 years ago. The same policies have brought the same outcomes to South Africa. For the majority life is tougher now than at any time since the ANC came to power.

The promises made by those who drove through the reforms in New Zealand were a lie just as they are in South Africa. Wherever these policies have been put in place anywhere in the world they have resulted in a reverse Robin Hood – a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

When we protested and marched into police batons and barbed wire here in the struggle against apartheid we were not fighting for a small black elite to become millionaires. We were fighting for a better South Africa for all its citizens.

I take heart from the many community groups in South Africa fighting against privatisation of community assets; supporting settlements against forced removals; opposing police harassment and brutality; struggling for decent healthcare, water supplies and education; campaigning for decent pay, reasonable working conditions and affordable houses. These people, such as the Durban Shackdwellers, are looking for respect and dignity as human beings. Many carry the ideals of the Freedom Charter, once the bedrock document for ANC policy, close to their hearts.

Apartheid was accurately described as a “crime against humanity” by the United Nations and the ANC. I could not in all conscience attend a ceremony to receive an award conferred by your office while a similar crime is in progress.

Receiving an award would inevitably associate myself and the movement here with ANC government policies. At one time this may have been a source of pride but it would now be a source of personal embarrassment which I am not prepared to endure.

Yours sincerely,

John Minto

China still a small player in Africa

The demonization of China in the mainstream US media has risen to a high pitch with China’s suppression of the Tibetan independence movement in the past few weeks. In this well-researched article, Pambazuka News editor Firoze Manji debunks the myth that China has become the dominant imperial force in Africa.

I entirely agree with Firoze. I would add, however, that one of biggest problems that Africa has been suffering from is a type of leadership which has generally been focused on how to get richer as selfishly as possible, turning the exercise of leader into one comparable to a feudal CEO (e.g. Mobutu). When a leader like Jean Bertrand Aristide appears on the scene, determined to change the equation imposed by the West and follow up on what was squashed after 1804, the West finds a way to remove/kill him (Kimpa Vita, Kimbangu, Lumumba (DRC), Moumié (Cameroon), Sankara (Burkina Fasso), Muhtar Mohamed (Nigeria), to mention only a few.

Firoze, quite rightly points out that both China and the West are engaged in maintaining the same system (e.g., working hard to increase the rate of profit). What he does not mention and a topic which is creating a great deal of tension in some countries is China’s practice of insisting on using its own workers. Most African countries suffer from extremely high unemployment rates. If I were a skilled or unskilled worker in any of these countries, I would not like the practice at all. But, even here, the practice of the West is not much better, especially if one looks at skilled labor. China itself is suffering from growing rates of unemployment as the gap between rich and poor in China gets deeper. Will the emergence of China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, etc. trigger the badly needed awakening within the African leadership? Issues like access to food, education and health for all have become a world problem in a way that it will become increasingly difficult if not impossible to resolve within the dominant mentality of capitalism, whether Chinese or Western. Firoze’s piece is very much welcome, but I also think that, given the situation in which humanity finds itself, it is important to pay attention to ideas coming from thinkers like Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, Lewis Ricardo Gordon, Alain Badiou, who have been thinking about emancipatory politics beyond and away from capitalism and its accessory institutions.

Reposted from Pambazuka News March 27, 2008.

Firoze Manji argues that in comparison to Europe and the US, China in Africa is still a small player. While keeping an eye out on China, Africans should not be distracted from paying attention to the West’s continued exploitation of the continent including the use of military might to protect its economic interests.

“What I find a bit reprehensible is the tendency of certain Western voices to … raising concerns about China’s attempt to get into the African market because it is a bit hypocritical for Western states to be concerned about how China is approaching Africa when they have had centuries of relations with Africa, starting with slavery and continuing to the present day with exploitation and cheating.”
Kwesi Kwaa Prah (2007)

Open any newspaper and you would get the impression that the African continent, and much of the rest of the world, is in the process of being ‘devoured’ by China. Phrases such as the ‘new scramble for Africa’, ‘voracious’, ‘ravenous’ or ‘insatiable’ ‘appetite for natural resources’ are typical descriptors used to characterise China’s engagement with Africa. In contrast, the operations of western capital for the same activities are described with anodyne phrases such as ‘development’, ‘investment’, ‘employment generation’(Mawdsely, 2008). Is China indeed the voracious tiger it is so often portrayed as?

China’s involvement in Africa has three main dimensions: foreign direct investment, aid and trade. In each of these dimensions China’s engagement is dwarfed by those of US and European countries, and often smaller than those of other Asian economies.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) of Asian economies globally has been growing. The total flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) from Asia to Africa is estimated to have been an annual average of $1.2 billion during 2002-2004 (UNCTAD, 2006). Chinese FDI in Africa has in fact been small in comparison to investment from Singapore, India and Malaysia, which are the principal Asian sources of FDI in Africa according to UNDP (2007) with investment stocks of $3.5 billion and $1.9 billion each by 2004, respectively. Such investments are greater than those of China. The same report goes on to say, however, that Asian investments in Africa are dwarfed by those of the United Kingdom (with a total FDI stock of $30 billion in 2003), the United States ($19 billion in 2003), France ($11.5 billion in 2003) and Germany ($5.5 billion in 2003). And if China sits in fourth place amongst the Asian ‘tigers’, the scale of its investments in Africa are miniscule in comparison to the more traditional imperial powers.

Asian FDI flows to Africa have certainly grown 10-fold since the 1980s, but smaller than the 14-fold growth in FDIs globally in the same period. Compared with India, for example, China’s FDI is small. India has a larger investment in oil in Sudan and Nigeria than does China. Of 126 greenfield FDI projects in Africa, Indian companies accounted for the largest number. Indeed, amongst the Asian economies, Malaysian companies dominate in mineral extraction sector in Africa. Africa’s share of total outward flow of Chinese FDI is marginal – only 3 per cent goes to Africa, while Asia receives 53 per cent, Latin America 37 per cent. It should be borne in mind that China is a net recipient of FDI, and receives a flow of FDI also from Africa: SAB Miller breweries and SASOL from South Africa, Chandaria Holdings in Kenya, amongst many others.

Africa is certainly important trade partner for China, the volume increasing from $11 billion in 2000 to some $40 billion in 2005. China has a growing trade surplus with Africa. According to UNDP (2007), China has become the third largest trading partner of Africa, following the United States and France. China has focused primarily on the import of a limited number of products – oil and ‘hard commodities’ for a few selected African countries . China’s trade with Africa represents only a small proportion of Africa’s trade with the rest of the world, and is comparable to India’s trade with Africa, although both have been growing rapidly.

China imports from Africa five main commodities – oil, iron ore, cotton, diamonds and logs. The export of these commodities, and in particular oil, has grown significantly in the last ten years. A few African countries (Sudan, Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya) source a significant share of their imports of manufactured products, mainly clothing and textiles, from China. (Kaplisky, McCormick and Morris, 2007). China has been vigorously castigated for its support of repressive regimes. In almost all cases, China’s involvement has been in support of its need for strategic natural resources, especially oil. And it is perhaps here that one finds the reason for the fears expressed in the west about China’s role in Africa. USA is the world’s largest consumer of oil products , with 25% of its requirements destined to come from Africa. While China sources some 40% of its oil from the Middle East, it currently sources 23% from africa 23%.

Much attention has been drawn to the negative impact of the cheap Chinese commodities on African economies. Certainly this has contributed to the decline of industrial production and the growing retrenchment of workers. But China has essentially taken advantage of the ‘opening-up’ of Africa’s market that has resulted from the adoption of neoliberal economic policies that the international financial institutions, backed by the majority of the international aid agencies, have forced Africa’s governments to comply with. Given that the relative size of Chinese imports is small in comparison to imports from industrialised countries, the blame for the decline in industrial production and growing unemployment in Africa can hardly be place entirely at China’s door. Furthermore, it is important to recognise that some 58% of exports from China are manufactured by foreign owned companies. The retrenchments and closures of local industries occurring as a result of cheap goods imported from China need to be placed at the door of the multinationals concerned as much as on the Chinese government and Chinese companies.

Just like other western powers, China has used aid strategically to support its commercial and investment interventions in Africa. Aid has taken the form of financial investments in key infrastructural development projects, training programmes, debt relief, technical assistance and a programme of tariff exemptions for selected products from Africa, not dissimilar to the agreements that Africa has had with Europe, US and other western economies. China’s aid is attractive to African governments not only because of the favourable terms offered, but in particular because of the lack of conditionality that is offered that has so constrained, and many would argue, undermined develop that would have the potential for bringing about social progress.

The most serious worry for the US was expressed by the spokespersons of the IMF and World Bank who complained that China’s unrestricted lending had ‘undermined years of painstaking efforts to arrange conditional debt relief’. There is clearly concern that China can now offer favourable loans to Africa and weaken imperial leverage over African economies. (Campbell, 2007). “The US and World Bank claim to be fighting poverty in Africa,” he continues, “but after two decades of structural adjustment the conditions of the African poor have worsened, with indices of exploitation and deprivation increasing by geometric proportions. According to one estimate, at the present pace of investment in Africa from the West, it will require more than one hundred years to realise the Millennium Development Goals. Chinese investment potentially provides an alternative for African leaders and entrepreneurs, while providing long term potential for the development of African economies.”

“China’s official development discourse is explicitly non-prescriptive, employing a language of ‘no strings attached’, quality and mutual benefit. It emphasises the collective right to development over the rights-based approaches focused on individual rights. Once the dust settles on the current China-in-Africa fever, and notions of China’s exceptionalism wear off, all involved will need to harness hopes to realistic vehicles in order to make the most of the current potential.” (Large, 2007). Rocha (2007) suggests that Chinese investments in Africa are having and could continue to have some positive impacts. China is helping African countries to rebuild their infrastructure and providing other types of assistance to agriculture, water, health, education and other sectors. This could have very positive spin-offs in lowering transaction costs and assisting African governments to address social calamities such as poor health services, energy crisis, skills development. However, it is true that ‘Chinese companies are quickly generating the same kinds of environmental damage and community opposition that Western companies have spawned around the world’ (Chan Fishel 2007).

The evidence available suggests that the drive to increasing the rate of profit is exhibited as much by Chinese as by western capital. The west has the advantage in having already established its dominant position that is potentially being threatened by the ‘new boy on the block’.

But China has the advantage of never having enslaved or colonized the continent. China has also not made any false promises coated with neo-liberalism. While the West, the IMF and the World Bank put conditions that only aid in their fleecing of Africa, China has so far been willing to provide unconditional aid and invest in infrastructure. At the same time, however, it freely takes full advantage of the opening up of markets that neo-liberal economic policies over the last 25 years have offered, unencumbered.

And so far, unlike the US, China has not sought to establish military bases in Africa to protect its economic interests, which the US has sought to establish through AFRICOM

* Firoze Manji is director of Fahamu and editor of Pambazuka News.