Former Nigerian President, General Obasanjo, has been appointed by the UN Secretary General to be his representative in the DRCongo. His major task is to put an end to the current fighting between rebel general Nkunda and his CNDP [National Congress for the Defense of the People] and the government troops of the DRC. Since 1996, the people in the eastern part of the country have never really experienced complete, sustained peace. The hope brought about by the signing of the peace agreement of 2003 did not materialize in a sustained way. There are many reasons for this (see Prof. Ernest Wamba dia Wamba’s most recent interviews on this website). The question in almost everyone’s mind in the country is whether this mission will produce the same results as the previous ones—namely, a temporary peace, followed by another round of fighting. For things to evolve differently, Obasanjo would have to do his best to call on those who have constantly been marginalized in the process of healing the country, not just since 1996, but at least from as far back as 1960.
Like others before, Obasanjo has said that he will talk to all parties. Of course, he has in mind the ones who are currently fighting. Like others before, he is setting a course which will ignore the most important party. This party is made up of many, but they all have one thing in common: they are despised by those in power and/or by those aiming to seize power by any means necessary—fair, foul and in-between. The most visible among the despised people are the ones running for their lives, caught between the fighting parties (or their armies). Then there are those who have been decreed with or without consensus as the nameless, voiceless, homeless, jobless. They are humanity in all of its diversity: babbling and mute babies; haggard children with bloated tummies; barely walking old people; pregnant women, each with a child on her back and a load on her head; raped, bleeding, dying women; the sick, the just born, the near dead. Hopefully, some day, a painter (one who will survive from among them) shall immortalize these Damned of the Earth trying to keep death at bay. Inside each of them is humanity in all of its resisting splendor, but on the outside their pain and misery can only trigger humanitarian charitable mumblings among the richest of the rich of the Planet. They would rather donate their wealth to their bankers, even at the risk of losing it all. Between salvaging humanity and salvaging those financial institutions that have squeezed (or massacred as Fanon put it back in 1961) every drop of blood and sweat out of its multiple and diverse members, the richest of the rich have shown where their heart (money) is.
These richest of the rich should be called the executioners of humanity. The images of humanity on the road, suffering, dying, barely breathing is a perfect illustration of humanity heading toward extinction. Humanity they are, but not for those who have labeled them the greatest humanitarian crisis of the DRC. These negationists of humanity who present themselves in humanitarian clothes belong to the same family of rhetoricians who, in a search for shocking words, called the war in DRC the first African World War (1998-2003). As often happens, such display of high moral ground distorts our history. During slavery, every “civilized” country was involved in what the French parliament has called a Crime Against Humanity (Law Taubira). England, France, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, countries bordering the Indian Ocean, the United States, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany, Brazil. Wasn’t that crime the first World War ever? Wasn’t that the holocaust which the same bleeding humanitarians refuse to certify as such?
To be named or to be baptized/branded, as happened to many Africans landing at their destination on the other side of the Atlantic, has been part of the process of losing one’s identity and having the newly imposed name maintained for the sake of the enslavers/colonizers/globalizers’ tranquility and sense of moral superiority. But that is not how the globalized world likes to look at the history that has led the DRCongo and humanity to this point. Their argument usually goes something like this: one cannot apply the morals of today to what happened centuries ago. But isn’t the humanity which is running for its life on the roads of eastern DRCongo the same which, centuries ago, was trying to run away from wars triggered by the search for THE commodity of those days: African black humanity? Each member of the latter saw then, as each member sees herself or himself today, as a full member of humanity, not just African black humanity. The commodity of choice has changed, but in order to access it, humanity has to be subjected to genocide, slaughtered, maimed, and silenced so that the same kinds of profits can be made for a system which has been consolidated, and, from the look of it, gone beyond control.
Between all the parties Obasanjo will call to the table and all those who are organizing the party, who, confronted with such an onslaught on humanity, can really say that they are on the side of those who continue to remain nameless, voiceless, homeless? Each one, among the latter, knows that he/she has a name, a voice, has/had a home, has/had a family, has/had a life, has/had a job. Like the ones who were dragged to the waiting ships, the ones from North-Kivu have asked what wrong have they done, why do they deserve to be treated as if the consensus is for them to be dead.
Will General Obasanjo be willing to ask himself why no one seems to be able to resolve the never-ending crisis in the DRC? Will he take time to go beyond the usual bureaucratic routines imposed by the logical mind-set of the Market? Will he pose questions and tell himself that he has to listen to, to call on, those who, since 1960 and many centuries before, have never been called to discuss their future? They were not asked who should be enslaved and who shouldn’t. When the enslavers decided to abolish slavery, those who had suffered from that Crime Against Humanity were not asked to sign on to the decrees. Abolition was a humanitarian gift…Or was it a poisoned chalice? (2)
When Africa was parceled out in Berlin in 1884-5, not a single representative of African black humanity was called to the table. When the so-called WW I and WW II broke out, the same African black humanity was dragged into them by their colonizers and colonizers’ allies but were not asked for their opinion.
The history of how one overwhelmingly wealthy and powerful side of humanity has treated another side of humanity has been known for a while. It is a history of a humanity that has been de-skilling (3) itself, becoming increasingly less of itself. It has been turning part of itself into humanity-less-ness, humanity without weight, weightless humanity. More and more members of humanity are being pushed into the ranks of weightless humanity, a humanity which does not count, except as second or third class. As they say in French, “ils ne font pas le poids”. They do not make the cut—at least in the currency of those who decide who shall live and who shall die. Yet, it is this very mentality which shall wipe out everyone. Not just in the eastern DRC.
It is known that weightless humanity can speak, and with unmatched eloquence. It is in their ranks that Obasanjo will find the Truth tellers (as in the late Ahmadou Kourouma’s play Le diseur de vérité (4) —Truth Teller). There are many tellers of truth in DRC, but collectively they do represent the Truth Teller of Kourouma’s play. Willy Kabwe’s essay on how easily people in Kinshasa lie should have gone on to explore how the truth has been kept, maintained. After all, the fact that he could distinguish between lies and truth makes him one of the Truth Tellers.
November 26, 2008
(1) Part of this essay was inspired by a column written by Wily Kabwe in the Kinshasa newspaper Le Potentiel of November 22, 2008. This is not a translation of the french essay with the same title.
(2) Responding to this question would require another essay. The question is posed in that manner because what followed abolition ensured that those who had most benefited kept all the privileges and accumulated wealth, including the cultural, social, political and ideological superiority derived from slavery. One of the most incurable outcomes, racism, will take many more generations to eradicate.
(3) The term is borrowed from Harry Braverman’s work Labour and Monopoly Capitalism (1974). For a critical discussion on de-skilling see: http://www.whywork.org.uk/workorg_3.htm