Category Archives: introduction

Comment Comprendre Notre Situation Actuelle, en RDC?

1. Nous sommes dans une situation d’après les élections nationales et provinciales avant les élections locales. Les premières ont eu lieu dans des conditions d’ignorance civique et des textes de base dans la grande population ainsi que de la grande misère des celle-ci. Le choix était affecté par les urgences d’exigences de la survie (tant alimentaire que sécuritaire) humaine.

2. Les électeurs ne savent toujours pas exiger de leurs élus de répondre á leurs obligations constitutionnelles devant la misère rampante de la grande population. Les élus, très attentifs aux exigences des forces extérieures, ne s’obligent que rarement devant la population qui continue d’être gardée dans l’ignorance. A part les vexations sécuritaires et fiscales, les gens ne ressentent pas l’existence d’une autorité qui gouverne.

3. Les institutions de formalisme démocratique semblent être bloquées par la majorité mécanique, construite comme AMP autour du Président de la République et le Premier Ministre ; une situation dans laquelle les décisions importantes se prennent surtout en dehors des débats qui se font dans les institutions et donc sans considération réelle des résultats de ceux-ci.

4. Les dossiers qui ne plaisent pas à cette majorité sont constamment mis en veilleuse : le dossier des massacres au Bas-congo, le dossier concernant les officiels avec double nationalité en violation des lois en vigueur, le dossier de Kahemba, les dossiers des contrats léonins—surtout dans le secteur minier, le rapport d’audit diligenté par le Premier Ministre, le dossier Sénateur Jean-Pierre Bemba, soutenu aux élections par 42% des électeurs congolais, le dossier de la Cour Suprême de Justice qui avait pris des décisions, concernant les résultats définitifs, entachées des irrégularités et de violation flagrante des lois—renforçant ainsi l’impunité, et j’en passe.

5. En subordonnant les institutions à l’esprit et les intérêts partisans de la majorité mécanique—allergique a l’opposition, même légalisée par une loi superflue, on est en plein Parti-Etat : la majorité, dirigée par le parti PPRD, se soumet l’Etat, comme à l’époque de Mobutu, il n’y a pas de vrais serviteurs de l’Etat. Ce qui renforce le caractère discriminatoire de l’Etat qui fait de celui-ci—pour ce qui en reste—un Etat non pas pour tous mais pour des factions clientélistes, ethniques, régionalistes, etc. On entend dire : « C’est notre tour ! »–de bouffer s’entend. C’est pour mieux asseoir cette majorité mécanique que celle-ci voulait amender la Constitution.

6. Les aspirations et les besoins de la grande population ne retiennent pas l’attention des occupants des institutions—sinon en parole et dans les actes de la propagande.

7. Les questions de grande urgence, pour la construction du projet de l’Etat digne—qui traîne depuis longtemps— : l’organisation d’une vraie armée républicaine nationale, des vrais services de sécurité, une vraie administration publique, l’autoconstruction de la nation et du peuple, une vraie politique de l’éducation, etc. traînent. A part les actes de propagande, aucune mobilisation réelle de toute la population autour de chacun des cinq chantiers ne se fait : il devrait s’agir d’une politique de grands travaux qu’il faut déclencher. Celle-ci exige une vraie vision couchée dans une forte idéologie capable d’imprégner les gens de la population entière. Les grèves (éducation, santé, etc.), décriées plutôt que d’être considérées comme des occasions pour débattre chacun des chantiers pour en fixer les priorités dans les tâches et de mobiliser les forces humaines et fixer clairement les étapes, n’ont attiré que l’attention négative des autorités. On compte non pas sur ses propres forces humaines congolaises, mais sur celles chinoises. C’est le peuple, et le peuple seul, qui est le créateur de son histoire–disent les camarades chinois ; on refuse cela au peuple congolais parce qu’on veut utiliser les résultats pour des fins de propagande pour se maintenir au pouvoir.

8. La tergiversation des autorités centrales sur la question de la rétention des 40% des ressources en provinces, viserait à empêcher les autorités provinciales de se rapprocher de leurs gouvernés, c’est, une fois encore, essayer de subordonner ces autorités aux intérêts partisans des factions clientélistes, ethniques, partidaires, maffieuses de ce qui en reste de l’Etat. La créativité provinciale est ainsi frustrée et pour certaines, bloquée. La décentralisation devient un simple formalisme.

9. La difficulté d’émergence d’une citoyenneté active, qui sache conquérir et défendre quotidiennement les droits des gens, est aggravée par les vexations sécuritaires et surtout le fait que l’opposition en dehors des institutions s’oriente vers une politique partidaire, c’est-à-dire une politique d’entrisme futur dans l’Etat. Cela la frappe d’attentisme et d’incapacité de produire, à partir des gens, des prescriptions capables de forcer l’Etat de modifier les modalités de son fonctionnement. Cet attentisme est favorable au régime en place.

10. La crise judiciaire se manifeste par le fait que, à cause de sa composition, la Cour Suprême de Justice a pris des décisions injustes entachées d’irrégularités et violant certaines lois du pays pour satisfaire les autorités cherchant à s’innocenter ou à caser (au Parlement, par exemple) leurs clients. Ces décisions feront malheureusement jurisprudence et servent donc des bases juridiques de la continuation de l’impunité.

11. L’insécurité dans la zone de production de nobium et de coltan, très recherchés par les grandes entreprises transnationales de technologie de pointe, expose au public le caractère de fonctionnement maffieux de ce qui reste de notre Etat—sans parler des autres Etats voisins. Nkunda est l’incarnation de quelle maffia étatique ?

12. Dans le court terme, le seul espoir c’est que les élections locales s’organisent de façon à corriger le caractère extraverti des précédentes élections. Il faut trouver, dans l’actuelle situation, les possibles de sortie. A bon entendeur salut !

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini
Nkiutomba (Kinshasa), le 18 décembre 2007.

DRC’s Economic War

We are pleased, as part of our commitment to sharing thoughtful and insightful commentary on the Democratic Republic of Congo, to post this essay by Zahra Moloo. A full pdf version, formatted and with references is available but for those with assistive technology needs, the full text is posted below.

Congo Mine
Source Oxfam, NZ

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Economic War: Investigating the Origin of Anonymous Commodities in the Global Capitalist System

“Since the 19th century, when the world looks at Congo it sees a pile of riches with some black people inconveniently sitting on top of them. They eradicate the Congolese people so they can possess the mines and resources. They destroy us because we are an inconvenience.” As he speaks, I picture the raped women with bullets burying through their intestines and try to weigh them against the piles of blood-soaked electronic goods sitting beneath my Christmas tree with their little chunks of Congolese metal whirring inside. Bertrand smiles and says, “Tell me, who are the savages? Us, or you?”

-Johann Hari
“Congo’s Tragedy, the War the World Forgot”

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, first published in 1899 and years later subject to a polemical but much-needed critique by one of Africa’s most prolific writers, King Leopold’s colonial project in the Congo is described as “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience.” More than a century later, after a protracted war in which an estimated 4.2 million citizens perished and the nation’s stability was invested in the UN’s largest peacekeeping force to date, Conrad’s oft-repeated phrase is, tragically, just as pertinent. Yet despite such baffling statistics, the Congo receives only cursory attention in the international media. When Western news analysts do find something of relevance to disseminate to their audiences, it remains unknowingly tainted by the same discourse which animated the historical narratives of European travelers and writers such as Conrad, seeking to project an image of this other world as antithetical in its “triumphant bestiality” to civilized European society. To be sure, Conrad’s writings carry overtly racist descriptions considered unacceptable today, but the simple act of using the title “Heart of Darkness” to describe the Congo war, as one American news report did in January 2002, perpetuates historical representations of the Congo as “inherently chaotic and irrational” and guarantees that western observers, worlds away from the daily suffering of the people on their television screens, will dismiss acts of violence as “lacking in political rationale.” With the purpose of rectifying common misrepresentations which by virtue of their carelessness are responsible for enacting a double violence in addition to the more palpable forms of violence enacted against the people of the Congo, this paper attempts to provide a more accurate depiction of the second Congo war which began in 1998 and which has been described as the deadliest since World War II. The very first step in redressing the errors of representation concerns the terminology employed when referring to the Congo war. To describe the Congo war as a “civil war” is not only erroneous but also irresponsible. The connection between American news observers and acts of grotesque violence taking place in the DRC is more direct than most acknowledge; the Congo war was an international war in which legitimate and illegitimate actors alike, neighboring African states, rebel groups, multinational companies and western consumers contributed to the creation of an “alternative system of profit” from the country’s abundant and lucrative natural resources.

A variety of resources abound in Africa. In 1979, the continent was responsible for 80 per cent of the world’s gold production, 75 per cent of its diamonds, and large quantities of antimony, manganese, chrome, copper, cobalt, coltan, uranium and petroleum. Large quantities of these resources are found in the Central African region, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an enormous swathe of land the size of Western Europe. 15 per cent of the world’s niobium reserves and 80 per cent of its tantalum reserves are found in Africa, and of this quantity, the Congo contains 60 per cent of the niobium deposits and 80 per cent of the tantalum. It is estimated that some $6 million in raw cobalt alone exits the DRC daily. In 2004, during the second Congo war, another cobalt ore, heterogenite, was departing the DRC at a rate of 6 000 tons per month. The abundance of natural resources in the Congo has been the primary factor influencing the country’s turbulent past and the profitability of resource extraction for the disparate actors involved in the war was responsible for perpetuating the 6-year conflict. Failure to adequately address and analyze the economic causes of the second Congo war is therefore little short of outrageous. Unfortunately, the problem of insufficient analysis of the causes and determinants of the Congo war is not restricted solely to the realm of media, but also includes scholarly explanations of the war that more often than not are suffused with familiar terminology borrowed from the discipline of political science which become unduly preoccupied with theoretical explanations of “state behavior,” “political order” and the like. Denis M Tull in his book The Reconfiguration of Political Order in Africa: A Case Study of North Kivu claims that in fact, hardly any other issue concerning the conflict in the DRC has attracted more attention by academics, the media and the wider public than the “interplay of violence and economics,” but if one peruses the limited literature on the second war in the DRC, it is clear that the explanations are found wanting. Even among the best literature on the Congo war, one finds that habitual academic detachment which expresses itself in the form of “fascination” with the “postcolonial traumas” afflicting the DRC. This is not to say that most academic works to date have failed to provide thorough explanations of the political causes and consequences of the Congo war, but that the most neglected feature of the war, namely the importance of natural resources, is the one which might best expose the motivations of the numerous actors in the war to continue engaging in conflict.

In no way does the fact of placing the onus for the war on the lucrative resource extraction industry and its respective actors minimize the historical political precedents to the Congo war, but these political factors cannot be divorced from economic determinants. This paper will therefore provide an analysis of the way in which Congo’s resources heralded an age of mass exploitation beginning with the reign of Leopold II of Belgium whose brutal practices resulted in 5 to 8 million deaths from murder, starvation, exhaustion and disease. It will go on to examine the transference of power from the hands of King Leopold II to the multinational companies operating in the Congo during Belgian colonialism and subsequently, during the rule of Mobutu. The main body of the paper will diverge from historical analyses to examine the mass appropriation of resources during the Congo war by the many disparate actors aforementioned and the ways in which they interacted to advance an effective economic agenda. Those who attempt to analyze 20th century civil wars of African countries in possession of lucrative mineral resources without adequately addressing the relationship between violence and profit are committing a gross act of injustice. It is my fervent hope that in addressing this issue, this paper will succeed in exposing the tyranny of modern capitalism in an increasingly integrated global economy and its role in eroding both the sovereignty of independent nations and the dignity of human individuals.

I. Resource Exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo Prior to the Civil War

The Most Profitable Colony in Africa: Leopold II and Belgian Colonialism
If one attempted to conceptualize the loss of sovereignty experienced by the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo over the course of more than a century, the starting point would perhaps be a day in the year 1885 when the state of the Congo was first proclaimed the personal possession of King Leopold II of Belgium. On that day, all “vacant land,” was declared the property of the state. Vast swathes of the country’s territory, including a number of inhabited villages were leased out to private companies whose shareholders were for the most part Belgian, but over 50 per cent of the profits went directly into the hands of the King. His profit making enterprise involved seizing as much ivory as possible from ivory raids, buying tusks from villagers or direct confiscation. Africans were often forced at gunpoint to accept extremely low prices in exchange for the ivory in their possession and tens of thousands of porters, carrying everything from ammunition to red wine on the road which brought ivory supplies from the interior to the sea, endured weeks of hunger and fatigue before perishing of exhaustion at the end of the voyages.
Even more appalling in its brutality than the ivory raids was the establishment of a highly profitable wild rubber industry which arose in the 1890s when the industrial world was developing an appetite for hoses, tubing, and rubber insulation for the telegraph, the telephone and electrical wiring. Increasing competition from the cultivation of rubber in Latin America and Asia acted as a further impetus to the development of the rubber industry in the Congo. The sole requirement for harvesting enormous quantities of rubber was labour, but as writer Adam Hochschild notes, labour could not be obtained through enslavement since it required adept skills for arduous, painful work. The system of collection instituted therefore required each man in a village to collect about 3 to 4 kilos of dried rubber per fortnight which meant full-time labour. If a village refused to provide rubber, its inhabitants would either be shot or have their hands cut off. Soldiers returned to their officials with baskets of hands or heads indicating the number of people killed.

By the turn of the century, the Congo was producing more than eleven million pounds of rubber a year and it was the most profitable colony in Africa, with total rubber earnings increasing by 96 times from 1890 to 1904. Of these proceeds, a significant portion went to companies such as the Compagnie du Kasai and the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber and Exploration Company (ABIR) which invested 1.35 francs per kilo for harvesting, and sold it in Antwerp for 10 francs per kilo, a profit of more than 700 per cent. In order to guarantee such high profits, the company ABIR in 1900 sent 159 firearms and 40 355 rounds of ammunition to a single rubber-collecting post out of the 35 existing ones to suppress rebellions against rubber-collecting. Of the money that went directly to King Leopold, a large part was invested in the development of public works and urban improvement in the country of Belgium. Today, the enthusiastic tourist can visit monuments and public works whose establishment was accompanied by a massacre of holocaust proportions. The Arcade du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, the Tervuren Museum, public works at Ostend, and extensions to the Royal Palace were all funded by the Congo Free State.
With the transfer of the Congo Free State colony from the private possession of the Belgian king to the Belgian government after 1908, the brutal massacres abated but the economic structure of the country remained intact. The country continued to finance the development of the Belgian metropolis, and with time, the development of other European countries. Its very existence, like most African territories under colonialism, was completely oriented toward the development of the industrialized world. So profitable was the colony that during World War Two, the Belgian government in London was in a position to expend 40 million pounds on its armed forces in Europe and Africa as well as on diplomatic service and related expenditures without having to extract any money from the Belgian gold reserve. Some of the tasks performed by the Congolese during this time included the same tasks performed under Leopold, such as rubber collecting and porterage. Economically, the country came to occupy an increasingly significant niche in the international economy, expanding away from the development of the little nation of Belgium to contribute to more ambitious projects such as the development of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were made from Congolese high-quality uranium.

The most efficacious method to ensure that the Belgian Congo would yield profits as high as under Leopold entailed giving more autonomy to the companies established shortly before the transfer of power occurred in 1908. Such companies included Union Minière du Haut-Katanga (UMHK), described by Nzongola-Ntalaja as the “the giant mining company and the single most important business enterprise in the Congo’s economy.” Established in 1906, with direct ties to the royal family, this company owned the Shinkolobwe mine that provided uranium for the making of the atomic bombs. Others were involved in mineral and timber exploitation, especially in Katanga, one of the most economically strategic regions of the country where the second largest company after Union Minière, the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Bas-Congo au Katanga (BCK) began constructing a railroad to transfer minerals from mining centres to international ports in Congo, Angola and Mozambique. Mineral exploitation was not restricted to Belgian companies, but included British involvement through the company Tanganyika Concessions Limited (TCL) which held 14.5 per cent of shares in the UMHK. 48 per cent of these shares belonged to British banks such as Barclays, Midland, Bearing and Rothschild. American and German interests, while limited, developed later in the form of investments in the colonial company Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (CCCI), established in 1887 for the purpose of constructing the lower Congo railroad.

With the proliferation of these companies the economy was re-directed from rubber extraction to other forms of mineral wealth. Before World War One, rubber and ivory extraction comprised 96 per cent of exports from the Belgian Congo; by 1926, mineral exports constituted 61 per cent of total exports. Copper production began in 1911, diamond mining in 1913, tin in 1918, and uranium and radium mining in 1922. By 1932 the country had attracted more than 100 million pounds of foreign capital, 56 per cent of which was controlled by the Belgian company Société Générale, which itself controlled Union Minière. Already by 1929 the company Union Minière was producing 140 000 tons of copper per year and copper accounted for 50 per cent of the Congo’s exports, 7 per cent of total world copper production. The company was the biggest single employer of Congolese labour, functioning in much the same way as had ABIR during the time of King Leopold. Authors Greg Lanning and Marti Mueller claim that the mining companies which grew progressively stronger in the colonial period acted as independent entities “only tenuously connected to the colonial administration,” with Union Minière virtually ruling the copper-rich Katanga province. In total, 61 per cent of capital invested in the Belgian Congo was linked to the development of the country’s mineral resources.

Also during Belgian colonial rule, companies representing the interests of other European countries became increasingly involved in extraction activities. Although these companies functioned relatively independently of the colonial administration, their interests were in no way divorced from the financial concerns of the countries where they were based. The early “internationalization” of the Congo through the proliferation of British, German and Belgian companies is testimony to the country’s enormous economic potential. One author has argued that this internationalization explains the upheavals which occurred during Congo’s independence in 1960 including the political chaos which emerged in Katanga province when secessionists, Union Minière, and Europeans with capital investments in the mineral-rich province favored the separation of the region from the country at large in order to sustain its autonomy. As the following pages will demonstrate, the multiplication of numerous interests expanded long after colonialism came to an end.

Scramble After Independence: The Cold War Years and Mobutu

After independence in 1960, the vast territory of the Congo was subject to a new scramble for resources which led to further internationalization of the region. Manning and Mueller claim that the 1950s just prior to independence was the “heyday of mining companies in Africa” when a “great wave of exploration swept across the continent” and mineral companies discovered huge reserves of unexploited bauxite, iron ore, copper and other lucrative resources. American interests in the Congo in particular had become more pronounced following the end of the Second World War which coincided with the rise of America’s military-industrial complex and its determination to assume control of strategic mineral resources. In the escalating tensions of the Cold War, President Dwight Eisenhower, acknowledged in his 1952 presidential campaign the vital importance of the Congo’s position in the international economy, stating that “whoever controls Belgian Congo will control the rest of the continent.” Exaggerating anxieties that the country would incline toward the Communist side in the Cold War struggle for power after its independence from Belgian, and determined to gain access to the country’s mineral wealth, the American government backed the assassination of democratically–elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and helped install Mobutu Sese Seko as president, one of the most corrupt African leaders who ruled from 1964 to 1997 and eventually drove the country to economic collapse. Assassinating Lumumba was also in the interests of Belgian private interest groups who feared the nationalization of the UMHK under a newly elected democratic government.

The official proclamation of independence in 1960 in no way meant that the country had gained sovereignty over its territory. Even Mobutu’s attempts to provide his country with the opportunity to become the “architect of its own destiny,” in the early years of independence, by instituting the Bakajika law of 1966 to enable the state to gain control of all land and mineral rights, and by transforming UMHK in 1967 into a nationalized company, Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gécamines) were met with swift reprisals. The Belgian government immediately imposed an embargo on copper imports from the DRC and sought the cooperation of other European countries in imposing economic sanctions. The result was a compromise which consolidated foreign dominance over the mining industry as Mobutu granted full compensation, management, processing and marketing contracts to a sister company of the UMHK, the Société Générale des Minerais. The latter company was to take care of all the servicing required for the operation of the nationalized company, including employment of personnel, and industrial and commercial management of the company. This incident in the turbulent history of the Congo demonstrates to what extent governing elites in the post-colonial period became simple intermediaries between resources and international mining companies ardent to gain strategic economic control over the region. Throughout the 1970s, American and European companies extracted tens of millions of dollars worth of minerals, the revenues of which were funneled directly into Mobutu’s private Swiss bank accounts. The Congo’s wealth, as Timothy Longman succinctly states, “helped to prop up the Mobutu regime long after it had lost public support.”

The highly lucrative extractive enterprise initiated under Leopold II was not discontinued with the arrival of Congo’s independence. The type and process of extraction were altered, but fundamentally, the new pro-Western Congolese government continued to operate “under the old economic and administrative structures.” Toward the end of the twentieth century, the Congolese economy was tailored specifically to serve foreign economic interests which had effectively replaced Belgian monopoly over the country. The absence of a strong political culture espousing sovereignty and democracy was testimony to the “political decline” and foreign economic domination which characterized the three decades of Zaire’s independence. In 1997, the end of the Mobutu years heralded a new era in the history of the country, a particularly brutal war, and a new president in the form of Laurent Kabila, leader of the rebel groups Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, (ADFL). The remaining pages are devoted to examining the second Congo war which emerged as a product of the historical precedents described above.

II. The Second Congo War; an “Alternative System of Profit”

Precedents to the War
Although the Second Congo War cannot be properly understood without clarifying the causes and effects of the First Congo War, it is not within the scope of this paper to provide a proper and thorough analysis of the initial war which arose in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when the Former Government of Rwanda, having fled the country, re-established administrative control over an estimated two million Rwandan refugees within the borders of the DRC. What is noteworthy about the first war is the speed with which the Congolese rebel group ADFL, backed by Uganda, Rwanda and Angola, was able to seize control of the mineral-rich areas of Shaba (formerly Katanga), eastern Zaire, Kasai and Kivu. The ADFL initiated a rebellion in early 1996 and by May 1997, its journey from the eastern peripheral regions of the country to the capital was complete. Mobutu fled to Morocco and Laurent Kabila declared himself president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, inheriting an external debt of $14 billion and a formal economy which had shrunk by over 40 per cent from 1988 to 1995.

The rebellion demonstrated that mineral-abundant regions had developed autonomy from Kinshasa, largely as a result of the predominance of mineral extraction of the type described in previous pages, where giant mining consortiums exploited rich mineral fields in disparate regions of the country over the course of a century. The rebellion was also a consequence of state collapse under Mobutu, which enabled a “web of complex power relations” to prevail in peripheral regions in the absence of proper state sovereignty, but this in turn was provoked and aided by the supremacy of foreign interests long after colonialism had ended.

Interestingly, although Kabila considered himself a revolutionary, liberating the country from the cancerous and stagnating rule of Mobutu, his personal desire to maintain power was no different from Mobutu’s, and in the years to come he consolidated rather than dissolved the economic structure in place which gave a free hand to those who wished to continue appropriating the country’s resources. If anything, a reciprocal relationship emerged between the rebel leader and foreign exploitative mining companies; Kabila recognized the importance of resource extraction to the success of his insurgency even before taking control of Kinshasa. In April 1997, he allegedly signed contracts with De Beers, a South African diamond conglomerate which for years had enjoyed monopoly access to Congo’s diamond fields under Mobutu, and with American Mineral Fields and Canadian-owned Tenke Mining Corporation, the latter eager to gain access to copper and cobalt reserves in Shaba province. Tenke was also given permission to buy diamonds in Kisangani, in return for supplying Kabila with cash and a jet for his private associates.

In addition to the companies, the American government, initially responsible for installing Mobutu in power, was one of the Kabila’s staunchest supporters. During the rebellion, an American diplomat and an ambassador frequently visited Kabila when the rebels were preparing to expand their regional insurgency with the aim of overthrowing Mobutu. When Kabila assumed power, the American government, in their unwavering support for both the Rwandan and the new Congolese government, went so far as to distort the number of refugees still remaining in Zaire, and instructed Kabila not to cooperate with UN investigations of the massacres of Hutu refugees during the ADFL rebellion. This sudden transfer of political support from Mobutu to Kabila on the part of mining companies and Western governments clearly indicates that economic incentives took precedence over concerns with democratic political legitimacy: Western countries supported a kleptocratic state under Mobutu until he was no longer useful after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Thereafter, a more promising leader emerged who espoused a “free market” approach in favor of the interests of mining companies and Western governments alike.

Soon after taking power, Kabila’s monopolization of power, frequent use of political repression, and final decision to distance himself from the external support of the Ugandan and Rwandan governments that were responsible for his victory in the first place led to an invasion orchestrated by Rwanda and Uganda in eastern Congo. In response, Kabila garnered support from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and convinced the government of the Central African Republic to grant his troops access to its territory. As the war escalated, the vested interests of the intervening countries grew until the war became not only profitable but also necessary for the various participants.

Regional Interests: Economic or Political?
Among the participants in the war whose primary motives are said to be political in nature include the governments of Angola, Rwanda and Uganda. It is worth considering the various interpretations which examine political motives for the rebellion, for even if economic incentives took precedence over political motivations, simplistic analyses limited solely to the economic domain preclude a nuanced understanding of the entire conflict.

Angola entered the war for the same reason it intervened in the 1996-1997 war: to defend itself against Jonas Savimbi’s rebel movement, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) which had suspected ties to Rwanda and Uganda, and to maintain a regime favorable to its interests in Kinshasa. The Angolan government’s support for President Laurent Kabila came secondary to its internal political motivations and on two documented occasions, the government welcomed, if not ordered, the removal of Kabila.

It is widely held that Uganda and Rwanda initiated the rebellion with the aim of deposing Kabila and enforcing border security and by August 1998, their rebels had seized control of Goma, Bukavu, Uvira and the lucrative city of Kisangani. However, in the absence of a cohesive political ideology or interest uniting the various anti-Kabila rebels, the Congolese anti-Kabila Movement Rassemblement Congolaise pour la Democratie (RCD) as well as the Uganda-Rwanda alliance fragmented in the early stages of rebellion and the war was prolonged for eight years in a climate which precluded a definitive justification for any declared initial motives. Political fragmentation even occurred within military contingents. In the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), Ugandan soldiers were accused of taking sides with Hema communities against Lendu rivals, which alienated the Ugandan army from the Congolese a faction that had formed from the RCD aforementioned. Uganda’s failure to unify the various rebel factions further demonstrates the absence of an overarching aim, and anticipates the carving up of rebel-held territory into “virtual fiefdoms” as each faction tried to take power in eastern Congo.

It is unclear whether the fighting which broke out between the UPDF and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) in August 1999, only one month after the signing of a cease-fire agreement was driven by political or economic motives. Over 600 soldiers and civilians were killed in an incident which political scientist Osita G. Afoaku claims reveals the differences between the two groups over the objectives and strategies of the war. By contrast, Timothy Longman posits that the fighting was fuelled by competition over diamonds being transported through Kisangani, suggesting perhaps that economic and political motives came to be indistinguishable over time. After all, he argues, Rwanda is a “small overpopulated country with almost no natural resources,” making its economic forays questionable to say the least. The tenuous nature of Rwanda’s apparent motives for invading the Congo is reinforced by the fact that Rwandan officials denied extraterritorial intervention in the Congo in the early stages of the war.

Evidence for the extent to which economic incentives determined invasion has been provided in the report, the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the report, several accounts in Kampala suggest that Ugandan military officials who had served in the first war in the DRC “had a taste of the business potential of the region” and had even begun preparations prior to the second war to occupy and import resources from diamond and gold mines located in the east of the country. A witness in the area of Durba claimed that the Ugandan army did not even fight any battles in the gold mining areas, and they were “only here for the gold.” As soon as the war began, eastern territories controlled by Ugandan and Rwandan-backed groups practically became “de facto states,” autonomous from any central governing authority, in a manner reminiscent of the early colonial period where peripheral territories developed separately from the rest of the country under the control of large mining companies.

The remaining countries intervening in the war include Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. Zimbabwe felt justified intervening in defense of the territorial sovereignty of a neighboring country and furthermore had the military capacity to do so, as did Namibia. South Africa did not contribute militarily, and failed to come to Kabila’s defense during the war, but interestingly provided arms to both sides of the conflict and alleged moral support to the anti-Kabila forces.

It is certainly true, as historian Michael Nest argues, that the immediate precedents to the war were in large part political in nature and encompassed a number of issues from Rwandan citizenship rights in the Congo to regime security and ethnic tensions, yet economic incentives cannot be ignored. The well-known “greed versus grievance” concept introduced by former head of the World Bank Paul Collier and developed by several theorists eager to define in concrete terms the motivating factors of rebel insurrections, acknowledges that “greed” for economic resources takes precedence over political grievances. Collier’s theory, while valuable in defining a theoretical framework in which to situate the opposition between the political and the economic factors influencing civil conflicts, is quite simplistic in presenting such a stark distinction between the two motivating factors and undermines both complex causal historical phenomena as well as the human dimension of the suffering of war victims. Nevertheless, it accurately concludes that “circumstances that determine financial viability are potentially important regardless of the motivation for rebellion.” In the Congo war, economic motivations to sustain the war assumed priority over initial political factors as multiple actors found themselves in precarious political positions but absorbed in enormously profitable economic arrangements.

African Countries Profiting from War
Access to the DRC’s gold and diamond fields was enormously profitable for both the Ugandan and the Rwandan economy. Given that Uganda has no known diamond production, Ugandan officials were unable to provide data to the UN Panel of Exports on the quantity and profit of diamond exports, yet statistics provided by the Diamond High Council reveal that diamonds were exported from Uganda in the years which coincided with the second Congo war. Rough diamond exports from Uganda increased from 1511.35 carats in 1997 prior to the war, the equivalent of US$198 302 dollars, to 1 1024.46 carats in 1999, a value of US$ 1813 500. Likewise, Ugandan niobium exports were zero in 1995, but fetched US$780 000 in 1999, according to the World Trade Organization. Uganda effectively “became” a diamond and niobium exporting country, with no official evidence to explain how this occurred. Officials were able to provide statistics on the export of other minerals, including gold, coltan, tin and cobalt; the glaring discrepancies between the quantity of mineral produced and the quantity exported is alarming. For instance, in 1997, Uganda was producing 1.81 tons of tin and exporting 4.43 tons of tin. In 2005, gold was the third top Ugandan export, after coffee and fish, but domestic production of gold is negligible. Statistics document huge discrepancies between gold production and exports during the Congo war:

Official Ugandan Gold Import, Export and Production, Figures in $US
Year 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Gold Exports 18,600,000 38,360,000 55,730,000 50,350,000 59,900,000 45,760,000 45,590,000
Gold Imports 0 2,000 3,076,000 890,000 0 2,000 n/a
Local Gold Production n/a 40,307 477,000 1,412 24,817 23,000 21,000

Discrepancy 18,600,000 38,317,693 52,177,000 49,458,588 59,875,183 45,735,000 45,569,000

Source: Human Rights Watch. From: Ugandan Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and Central Bank of Uganda. Statistics for 2004 are estimates.

The increase in gold exports evidently increased as the Congo war escalated, reaching a peak of US$ 59,900 000 in 2002 which constituted a shocking discrepancy of US$59, 875, 183 between production and export. As can be observed in the table above, official exports began to fall after 2002, the year in which a transitional government was installed in the Congo following the assassination of Laurent Kabila, and the UN peacekeeping forces MONUC were expanded from 5537 international military personnel to 8700.

Rwanda, like Uganda, has no known production of diamond, zinc, cobalt, manganese and uranium, but evidence obtained from the World Trade Organization, Belgium, and the Diamond High Council indicate that Rwanda exported a significant quantity of diamonds, receiving profits of $US 720 425 in 1997, and $US 1 788 036 in the year 2000. In the same period, Rwanda’s coltan exports are said to have doubled and in the years 1999 and 2000 alone, with the Rwandan army allegedly extracted resources in eastern Congo estimated at $250 million. Statistics on the profits garnered by the countries intervening in defense of Kabila are less extensive that those on the eastern regions of the country where Ugandan and Rwandan-backed groups were carrying out widespread atrocities, possibly because these countries were less invested in the clandestine illicit economy in minerals. Kabila himself gave his allies a share in the wealth of the country, including significant mining concessions to Zimbabwe. It has been documented that between 3000 and 5000 Zimbabwean soldiers were engaged in mining in the Shaba and Kasai Orientale Provinces during the war and Zimbabwe was also engaged in a logging contract to cut down 33 million hectares of trees with estimated profits worth $US 300 million through the Congolese company SOCEBO. Also since 1998, Angola has maintained a small military presence in oil-rich Bas-Congo. By the time the Lusaka Agreement was signed in 1999 to put an end to bring peace to the Congo, few of the combatants wanted to disengage from a war that had enabled them to profit enormously from the remaining “carcass” of a potentially rich country.

Perpetuating War: Beyond Regional Involvement
The habitual tendency to define a relationship between “African” issues divorced from a “separate international system” expresses itself, in the case of the second Congo war, in its characterization as “Africa’s First World War.” One of the most serious consequences of ascribing such a definition is that it detracts attention from the global interaction of the many participants without which the continued plunder of mineral resources would not have carried on unchecked. To be sure, certain features of the conflict warrant such a characterization, including the fact that physical extraction of resources took place on African soil, and several Central and Southern African countries were directly involved, not to mention Chad and Sudan. Insisting that the Congo war was primarily an African phenomenon is perhaps justifiable if international involvement occurred in the form of complicity or indifference from international actors or nation states. Yet the continuation of the conflict finds its very origin in the insidious, {albeit indirect}, contribution of Western countries, transnational mining companies and individual actors.

Among the countries that undoubtedly facilitated the continuation of the second Congo conflict is the United States, whose conspicuous historical intervention in the Congo during the Cold War years invariably led to the absence of a functioning democracy and the triumph of a predatory state under Mobutu. Augusta Muchai remarks that that a large percentage of the arms which were in circulation during the Congo war years were not acquired in the past decade, but rather during the Cold War. During the Mobutu years, the US provided $100 million in military training and $300 million in weapons to Zaire, the latter finding their way to a variety of sources over time through army defectors. Following the end of the Cold War, numerous countries in Eastern Europe including Romania, Slovakia, Belarus, and Bulgaria as well as Russia, North Korea and Brazil were willing to sell their arms for profit, and many found their way into Mobutu’s collection. Former colonizers, including France and Belgium also supplied military equipment to the governments of the Great Lakes region, with France providing military training as well as both heavy and light equipment to the Rwandan government in 1990. Shortly after, between 1991 and 1992, over US$ 6 million worth of arms were sent to the Rwandan government. After the overthrow of Mobutu, the US transferred its military allegiance to Uganda and Rwanda even though the state department had accused both countries of orchestrating widespread human rights abuses.

Western governments that provided weapons to African countries during the Cold War are perhaps only partially responsible for ensuring that such weapons are not used in illegal conflicts, but they are fully responsible for the consequences that ensue from direct assistance during or prior to the war years. It has been documented that the US helped to build the arsenals of eight of the nine governments directly involved in the war, trained the troops fighting on both sides of the conflict, and from 1991-1998, provided more than $227 million in training and weapons delivery to the continent, all of which was no doubt indispensable to the continuation of the conflict. Muchai demonstrates how the many resolutions undertaken to end the Second Congo conflict in the early years failed to address the contribution of the arms trade. All initiatives, including the Lusaka Agreement signed on 27 August 1999 focused on diplomatic, political and even military solutions without directly addressing the issue of arms proliferation, which had occurred over the course of decades through direct transfer of military equipment to all parties involved in the war.

One might argue that the provision of military assistance does not directly implicate the governments and weapons manufacturers in the atrocities perpetrated by rebel groups whose hands the weapons fall into, however, direct military aid was not the only contribution of Western governments to the continuation of the conflict. While weapons manufacturers are worlds away from end users in the Congo, and the purchase of a single weapon often involves several nations, corporations and brokers involved in the transfer of weapons at many different levels, political clout or “soft power” wielded by Western governments can go a long way toward impeding the escalation of conflict. Yet instead of adopting a firm diplomatic stance against the countries involved in the war, the US government had a double standard when addressing the conflict. The United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, condemned foreign intervention in the Congo as “unacceptable,” but the government declined to call for the immediate withdrawal of Rwandan and Ugandan troops and instead pressured Kabila to sign the Lusaka Agreement which treated the conflict as a “civil war,” Accordingly, UN peacekeepers were to be stationed along the ceasefire line in the middle of the country rather than at the borders where they could have monitored the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Congo. Not surprisingly, the Lusaka Agreement failed to bring peace to the country and the war was prolonged for several more years. The US was also among a number of Western countries that provided bilateral aid to the Ugandan and Rwandan governments supposedly intended for improvement in sanitation, health, governance and human rights, but which was instead documented in the savings budgets of the two countries, suggesting that these savings were used to finance the war.

International Financial Institutions, often inaccurately perceived as the moral watchdogs of the international political system, likewise contributed to the continuation of the conflict, most notably the International Monetary Fund which declined to take into consideration the uneasy connection between Uganda’s improved Balance of Payments and the exploitation of natural resources through illegal means. From 2001 to 2003, the IMF continued to vocalize its praise for what it perceived as Uganda’s sound economic policies. In a September 2003 review of Uganda’s economic performance, an IMF official expressed the institution’s support for Uganda’s export-led growth. In 2005, the IMF approved a 100 per cent debt relief initiative for the country, not to relieve the impoverishment of its citizens, but rather because it had “enjoyed robust economic expansion with low rates of inflation for more than five years,” a shocking demonstration of the ease with which the IMF can choose to disregard the connection between economic profit and widespread massacres occurring in the DRC.

Congo’s Dirty War: the Intersection of Legal and Illegal in the Global Economic Structure

The economic dimension of the Congo war which hearkens back to the colonial period and constitutes one of the most insidious and flagrant abuses of power in the country concerns the role of transnational mining companies directly implicated in the war. The proliferation of these numerous companies recalls the “internationalization” of the country which took place in the era of Belgian colonialism and throughout the mineral exploration activities of the 20th century. Eighty-five multinational companies operating in the DRC during the war are named in the UN Panel of Experts investigation for violation of the OECD guidelines on multinational enterprises. One of them is a Ugandan-Thai company, DARA-Forest which was denied a forest concession by authorities in Kinshasa, but proceeded with the logging of timber after obtaining permission from the RCD-ML Congolese rebel faction. Governments of the intervening countries granted several mining concessions to powerful multinational enterprises with the aim of financing the war and obtaining arms in return for the profits accruing to the companies, for instance, the Congolese government granted a monopoly over diamonds to the International Diamond Industries which enabled it to purchase arms and military equipment from the Israeli army, with whom the Director of the IDI, Dan Gertler, had “special ties.”

The frequently concealed connection between Western government elites and foreign mining companies enables Western countries to pay lip-service to the issue of resolving foreign conflicts, while quietly sanctioning the illegal activities of these companies whose profits are undoubtedly beneficial to them. Like the operation of mineral extraction companies in the colonial era, these companies function in a remarkably autonomous manner, as there are no legally binding mechanisms in place to regulate their behavior. The UN Panel of Experts lists numerous African individuals, heads of states and rebel groups involved in the extractive industry, but its investigation fails to include the role of Western government elites, leaving its evidence incomplete, and thereby inaccurate. The report by Human Rights Watch, The Curse of Gold, which thoroughly investigates the intimate connection between rebels groups and the gold company Anglo-Gold Ashanti, likewise fails to mention the connections between Western governments and mining companies. For instance, Human Rights Watch does not mention that AngloGold Ashanti is partnered with the company Anglo-American owned by the Oppenheimer family as well as with Canadian company Barrick Gold. Barrick Gold operates close to AngloGold Ashanti, in the town of Bunia where the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces controlled the mines at intermittent periods during the war. One of Barrick Gold’s advisors is former US President George HW Bush and previous directors of the company include Brian Mulroney, the former Prime Minister of Canada and former US Senator Howard Baker. The insidious nature of these economic networks which undermine judicial notions of “legal” and “illegal” become more apparent if one only observes the exchanges which occurred between legally sanctioned mining companies and rebel groups in the Congo.

In 2005, Human Rights Watch published a report on the human rights abuses linked to two key gold mining areas in the DRC bordering Uganda: Mongbwalu in Ituri District and Durba in the Haut-Uélé district. From 1998 to 2003, Ugandan soldiers extracted over $9 million worth of gold from the northeastern districts. Following Uganda’s and Rwanda’s withdrawal in 2003, local proxies were left behind by both sides, including the Hema Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and the Front des Nationalists et Intégrationnistes (FNI) which fought over gold-abundant areas, killing thousands of civilians. On November 18th, 2002, the UPC attacked Mongbwalu in a 6-day military operation. According to a witness in Mongbwalu, the combatants “took Kasore, a Lendu man in his thirties, from his family, and attacked him with knives and hammers. They killed him and his son (aged about 20) with knives. They cut his son’s throat and opened his chest. They cut the tendons on his heels, smashed his head and took out his intestines. The father was slaughtered and burnt.” It has been estimated that at least 800 civilians were killed in UPC attacks from late 2002 to early 2003. Like the Hema combatants who indiscriminately targeted all Lendu civilians, the FNI began indiscriminately killing all civilians suspected of having helped the Hema when they took over the areas occupied by the UPC. In May 2003, FNI forces receiving military support from Ugandan soldiers, killed some 500 civilians in a “48-Hour War” and in June, attacked several villages, torturing, burning and finally killing the Hema women that they found.

During this period, one of the largest gold companies in the world, Anglo-Gold Ashanti, which calls itself “a responsible corporate citizen” and claims that it “aims to operate in workplaces that are safe and healthy,” sent a company representative to Mongbwalu in May 2002 to make contact with the UPC concerning gold exploration activities. Although its mining contract and official communications were with the government in Kinshasa, the area around Mongbwalu where the mining was to occur was firmly out of the control of the central government. Subsequent to the transfer of power from the UPC to the FNI, between July and September 2003 when the FNI were conducting an ethnic killing campaign where victims had their arms tied, sticks shoved into their rectums and body parts cut off, the company AngloGold Ashanti obtained permission from the FNI to commence gold extraction activities. To protect its employees from militia groups, AngloGold Ashanti employed a private security company, ArmorGroup International. Several allegations have been leveled against these private companies for their tendency to resort to acts of terrorism, sabotage and violence against civilian populations. AngloGold Ashanti is only one among several companies supposedly operating within the law, carrying on enterprises which enrich their own pockets, those of their shareholders, as well as those of the rebels and private security firms carrying out brutal atrocities against civilian populations.

In return for granting concessions to AngloGold Ashanti, the FNI were given benefits of various types, including financial assistance in the form of an $8000 dollar payment in April 2005 and frequent levies of 6 US cents per kilogram of cargo flown into the airport at Mongbwalu. The company also provided the FNI with logistical, transportation, and housing assistance and, in a shocking demonstration of the nature of their means of operation, urged MONUC to “adopt a conciliatory stance in their dealings” with some of the FNI armed groups. Journalists have written that Human Rights Watch did not reveal the most damning evidence they found- that AngloGold Ashanti sent its top lawyers into the country to protect rebel militia leaders. In consequence, the intimate relationship between AngloGold Ashanti and the armed groups increased the latter’s prestige in the eyes of the President Kabila and in the area where they operated. As one interviewee ironically remarked, “Ashanti will give dignity to the FNI.” The company’s readiness to proceed unhindered in its extraction activities was revealed by Vice President of AngloAshanti Charles Carter, who in July 2004 expressed his excitement about the “growth prospects in Central Africa” and the Congo, “potentially a huge gold province.” Other allegations implicate Canadian company Anvil Mining in an October 2004 massacre at Kilwa in which the company provided the Congolese army with ground transportation to assist in the military assault of the town and to remove corpses left in the aftermath of the invasion. Clive Newall, the CEO of First Quantam Minerals, the largest shareholder in Anvil Mining, succinctly explained the stance of Canadian mining companies in the DRC, “It’s the holy grail of the copper industry. Companies are saying: to hell with the political risk, we just have to be here (in DRC).”

In many ways, the Second Congo war demonstrates that the colonial enterprise of the twentieth century is still flourishing quite successfully, in the form of direct foreign exploitation of the DRC’s mineral resources. The indisputable link between rebel groups, mining companies, private security firms and Western governments calls into question tenuous beliefs regarding the “legal” nature of economic transactions in the mineral industry. In a climate of war in which each side is invested in the continuance of war for economic profit, the concept of legality is continually reinterpreted, ignored for convenience purposes or discarded altogether. Yet despite the dangerous outcome of granting mining companies virtually free rein in their economic projects, the fact that these companies are expected to abide by the law means that at the very least, there is a possibility that legal action can be taken against them.

Conversely, the creation of what has been defined as an illicit economy in natural resources during the second Congo war precludes the possibility of adopting legal measures since identifying the culprits is almost impossible. In mineral-lucrative areas where mining concessions have not been granted to mining companies but instead exploited on a smaller scale by the rebel armies themselves, the journey of a mineral on its way to the global market reveals the functioning of more insidious forms of power. In this type of transaction, for instance in the case of gold, rebel groups and armies employ artisanal miners to work in the mines like slaves, beating them if they refuse to work under the deplorable conditions in the mines, or if they fail to deliver the amount of gold demanded. In one case, Ugandan soldiers recklessly directed local miners to mine the pillars of Gorumbwa mine which eventually collapsed killing one hundred miners trapped inside. A network of traders then transports the mineral either from the rebels or from the artisanal miners directly to trading houses located near the Ugandan border whose owners are closely connected to rebel groups. From there the gold is delivered to unauthorized Ugandan traders based in Kampala where the gold became “legalized,” which means it is treated as if it were a transit good, registered on various customs documents in order to “make” it acceptable on the unregulated global market. Over seventy per cent is then exported to Switzerland, where it is “officially registered as an import.” Some of the gold exported to Switzerland during the war has been purchased by one of the world’s leading refiners of gold, Metalor Technologies SA. The company has repeatedly denied that its goods are connected to criminal networks in the Congo, but given that Uganda has no domestic gold production, it is probable that Metalor’s gold originated in northeastern Congo. With regard to coltan production, a similar massive trafficking enterprise was undertaken; according to UN estimates, as much as 60 to 70 per cent of total coltan production was mined under the direct surveillance of the Rwandan army by late 2002, using methods of forces labour. The coltan was then transported to Rwandan companies, to international trading companies and finally to processing companies in Europe and elsewhere.

In this very complex web of unregulated and undocumented exchanges, the invisible connection between the first and last stage of transactions involving highly mobile mineral resources simply continues to exist within a global economic structure in which the interplay between legal and illegal factors makes the two concepts virtually indistinguishable. The integration of illegal activities into the very structure of the global economy makes the task of seeking just means to rectify these wrongs almost laughable. Even when it comes to redressing the illegal activities of transnational companies and the direct collusion they enjoy with illegal rebel groups outside the control of the central government, one imagines that the only sensible approach would be the application of legally binding mechanisms to mitigate and stem their illegal practices. However, there are no legally binding requirements that can regulate the activities of mining companies, and at the international level, no political will to directly confront the roots of the conflict. In their final report published in October 2003, the UN Panel of Experts claimed that the cases of the companies allegedly in violation of the OECD guidelines had been “resolved,” without any information on how this decision had been made. As for the UN Organization Mission in the DRC, the organization has not integrated the link between resource exploitation and war in the analysis they use to bring peace to the country. In short, most efforts undertaken at the international level to bring protracted warfare to an end in the DRC have persistently refused to address the economic origins of the problem.

The Final Transaction; Anonymous Commodities in the Market Economy
Presiding over the intricate web of economic exchanges in mineral resources is the global market where consumers at the buying end of the transaction remain incognizant of the fact that their cell phones, pagers, computers, and diamond rings have been obtained at the expense of millions of civilian lives. While many advocates of globalization celebrate the rapid advancement in technology which has transpired over only a few decades, they fail to acknowledge that increasingly efficient consumer goods that are the hallmark of today’s industrialized countries have been purchased with a corresponding deterioration of entire nations. The demand for coltan, a mineral used to process tantalum for mobile telephones, nuclear reactors and missile technology, has grown since 1992 at an average of 10 per cent as a result of the growing market in mobile phones and gold consoles. In the year 2000 during the Congo war, world wide consumption of tantalum rose by 38 per cent. One of the causes of the increasing demand for coltan was the popularity of Sony Playstations filled with coltan. Sony itself may not use Congolese coltan, but its demand for the mineral, 80 per cent of which is found in the Congo, increased the price, which in turn fuelled conflict over the resource. In late 2000, a deficit in supply of the mineral increased its price to $365 per pound. Authors Dena Montague and Frida Berrigan reveal that a global shortage of coltan in December 2000 caused a “wave of parental panic” in the US when PlayStation II suddenly became scarce. The sheer absurdity of today’s globalized and highly unequal economic system is summed up in the unexaggerated image of “kids in Congo… being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms.”

Ironically, Western countries’ attempts to make technological products environmentally friendly by banning lead from the solder used in cell phones and other electronic goods increased the demand for lead-free solder, ninety-five per cent of which consists of tin. In response, the world-wide price of tin was increased by an estimated 150 per cent between August 2002 and May 2004, which in turn intensified the conflict in the DRC. That the invisible hand of the market and consumer demand in Western countries, worlds away from the “civil war” in the Congo can indirectly determine the fate of real human lives begs the question: who is truly responsible for the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Conclusion
It is questionable whether attempts by the International Criminal Court to bring to justice the rebel leaders responsible for carrying out widespread atrocities against Congolese civilians have yielded any concrete and long-term outcomes. Most efforts designed to enforce justice in the aftermath of the war have conveniently diverted attention from the integrated nature of the various actors functioning within elaborate economic networks and instead have adopted a narrow and restricted approach to the definition of “war crimes” and “illegal activities.” It is hardly surprising, given that the Congo war is only one outcome of a historical trend of global inequality that touches even the realm of international justice, that Western actors involved in perpetuating the war by providing financial and military assistance to the rebels are immune from prosecution. On April 3rd, 2007, the Democratic Republic of Congo suspended all new mining deals in order to review the contracts of the companies still operating in the country. One of them is AngloGold Ashanti. Yet given that no legally binding mechanisms exist to curb the illegal operations of transnational mining companies, it is unlikely that the future of the country will be drastically different from a past characterized by continued foreign domination.

The historical precedents to the Congo war, and in particular, the prominence of violence in the country from the time of King Leopold II to the period of recent conflict, preclude the possibility of analyzing the features of war in isolation or of dismissing it as a tragic but not so significant anomaly in the history of the region, a tendency which the mainstream media has consistently encouraged. Instead, a critical and nuanced attitude must be adopted for the purposes of rectifying common misconceptions and simplifications about the region as a whole, and more importantly, for the purposes of understanding not only how the second Congo war cannot be characterized as a “civil” or regional war, but also how it embodies the symbiotic relationship between war and resource extraction for profit. This latter feature reveals the true nature of today’s unregulated capitalist economy whose roots have penetrated every region of the world. As film director Hubert Sauper remarks in his statement about the fish industry around Lake Victoria: “I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds, in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil.” Likewise, similar comparisons can be made between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s economic war over mineral resources, and Sierra Leone’s and Angola’s civil wars over conflict diamonds. Perhaps the most disquieting truth about the trade in mineral resources is that upon arrival at their final destination in the market of consumer goods and electronic commodities, all traces of their original identity are lost, including the identities of the countless millions who perished to obtain them.

DRC: Will another war break out from the East?

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

La parité homme/femme, en RDC, comme specificité de la 3ème République?

English translation coming soon.

LA PARITE HOMME/FEMME, EN RDC, COMME SPECIFICITE DE LA 3EME REPUBLIQUE ?

ERNEST WAMBA DIA WAMBA

  1. La Constitution de la Troisième République consacre la parité homme/femme. Voici ce qu’elle en dit, dans son préambule:« Réaffirmant notre adhésion et notre attachement à la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme, à la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des peuples, aux Conventions des Nations Unies sur les Droits de l’Enfant et sur les Droits de la Femme, particulièrement à l’objectif de la parité de représentation homme-femme au sein des institutions du pays ainsi qu’aux instruments internationaux relatifs à la protection et à la promotion des droits humains ; (p.11) » Et plus loin, à l’article 14, on peut lire : « Les pouvoirs publics veillent à l’élimination de toute forme de discrimination à l’égard de la femme et d’assurer la protection et la promotion de ses droits. –Ils prennent dans tous les domaines, notamment dans les domaines civil, politique, économique, social et culturel, toutes les mesures appropriées pour assurer le total épanouissement et la pleine participation de la femme au développement de la nation—La femme a droit à une représentation équitable au sein des institutions nationales, provinciales et locales—l’Etat garantit la mise en œuvre de la parité homme-femme dans les dites institutions.—La loi fixe les modalités d’application de ces droits. »<
    La compréhension/l’interprétation de cette position s’avère difficile ; son opérationnalisation, comme par exemple, dans la loi électorale s’est montrée peu démocratique. Elle donnerait naissance au recours aux listes zébrées bloquées. Beaucoup de gens la comprennent comme une égalité plus fondamentale que la seule égalité d’opportunité accordée à tous les citoyens. Il s’agirait de corriger l’idée commune que la nature humaine est vouée à l’inégalité et que celle entre l’homme et la femme n’est qu’un aspect. A l’égalité, l’idée commune oppose l’équité qui serait plus pertinente eu égard à ce qu’est la nature humaine. L’équité, en pratique, ne fonctionne pas comme une catégorie opératoire qui corrigerait l’inégalité, non plus. La parité ne serait donc pas la proposition de l’égalité comme programme : réaliser l’égalité foncière de la nature humaine dans ses deux pôles.
  2. Bref, on peut dire qu’il s’agit d’une maxime d’orientation surtout dans une situation où la condition de la femme est à la fois d’être victime et porteuse d’espoir. La parité est considérée comme principe égalitaire fonctionnant comme principe de l’action politique. La vraie difficulté pratique est que la politique, en RDC, est rarement orientée sur la base des principes. La parité se comprend donc comme un argument de réalité. Il faut traiter la femme comme on traite l’homme vaut comme principe d’action politique et non comme argument de réalité.
  3. La question peut se comprendre comme un principe d’orientation pour traiter les grandes différences dont celle entre l’homme et la femme. Les autres différences sont : entre la ville et la campagne rurale, entre le travail manuel et le travail intellectuel, entre l’industrie et l’agriculture et peut-être entre une culture et une autre. La liste n’est pas exhaustive. Il n’ y a aucune politique, à ce jour, qui traite de façon satisfaisante ces autres grandes différences.
  4. Il s’agit de s’orienter intellectuellement et politiquement, au sujet de la différence homme/femme, dans les conceptions culturelles (tout le poids culturel issu des matriarcat, patriarcat, mouvement révolutionnaire des femmes, etc.), dans le poids historique du retard imposé à la femme et dans les conditions de fonctionnement de la femme (tâches maternelles, domestiques, etc.,) qui l’empêchent de fonctionner dans les affaires publiques comme l’homme. Comment faire de sorte que la maxime de parité soit praticable dans les créations et les consommations culturelles ? Comment faire pour que le retard historique soit éradiqué. Comment faire pour que les tâches maternelles et domestiques cessent de garder la femme en situation d’inégalité par rapport à la participation dans les affaires publiques ? Les lois organiques prévues dans la Constitution doivent répondre à ces questions.
  5. Aujourd’hui, on ne voit pas que la politique de l’Etat de la 3ème République s’inscrit dans une telle orientation. Sur 60 membres du gouvernement, il n’y a que 10 femmes et sur 608 membres du Parlement, il y a au moins 43 femmes. C’est surtout, dans les institutions où les membres sont nommés, où on devrait voir à l’oeuvre l’engagement du gouvernement. Le législateur avait rejeté l’idée d’un quota des femmes au Parlement, en plus de celles qui seraient élues normalement. On peut dire que ces inégalités reflètent encore le retard dont a été victime la femme congolaise depuis longtemps (dès la traite négrière, le colonialisme jusqu’aujourd’hui.)
  6. A supposer que cette maxime soit une prescription, quelles en seraient les conséquences ? Par fidélité à cette maxime comment réaliser ces conséquences ? Il faut un nombre égal d’hommes et des femmes dans toutes les institutions du pays. Il faudra séparer le rapport d’amour et celui de mariage qui est en fait une contrainte ; il faut réorganiser la famille dans le sens de celle communautaire et spécifier le caractère d’appartenance communautaire des enfants (éviter tout rapport d’oppression, parentale, par exemple), il faut trouver une forme communautaire de gestion des tâches maternelles et domestiques pour permettre que les positions de l’homme et de la femme soit de parité ; il faut repenser tout l’enseignement et le contenu de l’éducation. Certainement, l’égalité numérique, à tous les niveaux de l’enseignement, peut avoir un effet de rupture épistémologique et culturelle. On espère que la nouvelle famille sera à mesure d’éradiquer les préjudices en faveur des garçons contre les filles ou vice-versa. Le Code de famille, tel qu’il est aujourd’hui devra être revu. Il est difficile de dire que l’Etat, tel qu’il est, serait en mesure de prendre de telles mesures. L’Etat doit fixer un temps de discrimination positive en faveur de la femme pour que celle-ci extirpe son retard sur l’homme. Ces décisions pourraient violer certaines des dispositions constitutionnelles. Mais si cela protège la Nation future mieux que la poursuite légale du retard de la femme, il faudra le faire.
  7. Le système éducationnel fonctionne aujourd’hui comme structure d’aggravation de l’inégalité entre l’homme et la femme. Les points sexuellement transmis, dont on fait grand cas dans les universités, ne sont qu’un symptôme. La culture dominante, il suffit de voir le contenu des programmes de la TV, est nettement en faveur de l’infériorisation de la femme. Dans les conditions de misère, la femme porte le plus grand poids pour la survie de la famille. Ce n’est pas étonnant que l’on puisse penser que l’homme aurait un droit de taper sa femme. Des femmes croient que l’homme qui frappe sa femme l’aime beaucoup ; il est jaloux et la jalousie est un indice d’amour !
  8. L’appel lancé par l’UNICEF que toutes les filles, sans exception, aillent à l’école ne rencontre pas un soutien réel de l’Etat. La proportionnalité des filles, par rapport aux garçons, dans le groupe des enfants qui ne fréquentent pas l’école ( 30 à 40 % paraît-il) reste encore plus élevée, surtout en milieu rural. Notre Etat n’est pas encore une structure civilisationnel capable d’influer sur les cultures en les aidant à s’émanciper. Nos villes n’ont pas encore de vraie culture urbaine qui serait un creuset d’émancipation des cultures et les écoles, dans les mains des enseignants clochardisés, n’entretiennent aucune initiative respectable de changement des mentalités.
  9. Même si la parité homme-femme était réalisée, par une prise de pouvoir par les femmes, les survivances culturelles pèseront encore dans les mentalités des gens. Le consumérisme, dominé par l’American way of life, continuera d’orienter les désirs, les sentiments et les mentalités des gens. Ce modèle n’entretient pas encore la maxime de la parité femme-homme, comme telle.
  10. Peut-être que la maxime est un symptôme du spectre qui hanterait notre contexte actuel, celui qui est marqué, selon Alain Badiou (séminaire de juin 2007), par les trois idées suivantes : l’idée égalitaire comme maxime d’action ; l’idée qu’un Etat coercitif séparé n’est pas nécessaire ; et l’idée que l’organisation de la spécialisation des tâches n’est pas nécessaire puisqu’il y a une essentielle polymorphie du travail humain. En d’autres termes, c’est dans une société émancipée que la parité homme-femme sera praticable. La maxime est un aspect d’orientation de la lutte pour la société d’émancipation. Elle inaugure un type important des batailles pour l’émancipation. Elle doit être purgée du fétichisme étatique.

3ème Maboke
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba
Kinshasa, le 28 juillet 2007.

Is this uncivil third DRC republic a state? Whom does it serve?

1. In its most recent report, ICG (International Crisis Group) has deplored the repressive tendencies accompanying the dawn of the DRC Third Republic. Protests are handled repressively, acts of insecurity, throughout the country, seem to be mostly originating from elements of the FARDC. One must also speak of the government incapacity to uproot armed insecurity in the Kivus and northern part of Orientale Province. In Kinshasa itself an average of 5 people are killed daily by people in military uniforms. In parts of the city, one is at a high risk of getting robbed of one’s property (especially mobile phones), by armed people if one goes out past 8-ooh pm. Security and administrative harassment of citizens (through traffic policing, fiscal tax demanding, demolition of houses supposedly built anarchically—even when official title papers exist, etc.) seems to be increasing. Ordinary citizens now experience daily the fact that their principal enemy is the ‘State’.

2. Since the National Sovereign Conference (NSC), the diagnosis of the anti-civilian people character of the repressive apparatuses of the post-colonial state has been done. The decolonization of the colonial Force Publique(the colonial army), changing its army of occupation character and its anti-civilian population ‘mentality’, has not been accomplished. Its colonialist features seemed, instead, to have been worsened by the dictatorial Presidency of Mobutu and the ‘regionalist’ tendencies of rebellions. The Force Publique,ultimately, became a dictator’s militia. Today, rebel militias are having hard time to transform themselves into a real pro-people national army. The desire to have a so-called Republican army is always being expressed in many fora. It has not gotten a solid political support—despite the “correcting strings attached”, by the country’s partners, to the foreign military assistance. Is it accidental that ‘advanced democracies’, such as that of the USA, are now relying on armies of volunteers? Does it not this put private personal interest and desire for upward social mobility ahead over social solidarity with every citizen, especially with the poorest? Clientele militias are not far from that.

3. The fact that “political police” services—the so-called security services (ANR, etc.) have been shaped by dictatorship requirements and rivalry between transitional ruling groups, they tend to function as structures favouring one person or an oligarchic group. Agents of those services are more concerned with finding out possible enemies of the ‘leader’ or the ruling oligarchic group among the people rather than with the security of the whole country and its entire people. People are kept under constant surveillance, harassment and sometime subjected to arbitrary arrest. One needs to experience this to be most aware of it. I learned a lot when I was arrested by the military intelligence and spent months in an underground jail (1981-1982). Recently, I had to rescue my nephew who got detained in a solitary confinement, at Kin Maziere. Rumours spread that he was likely to replace the incumbent minister of health—he was then the Kinshasa medical inspector. The minister made up cooked allegations of embezzlement of funds from one of the program run by the inspector. This program was closely supervised by a UN agency. The minister’s figures created by his office did not tally with the real ones by the agency. Still, the inspector was put in solitary confinement before even the judiciary enquiry was ordered. I had to see the Attorney general and the minister of Justice. At some point, the Attorney asked my nephew to write an apology letter to the minister who accused him of arrogance! He luckily refused. I used this information effectively and got him released. Those who have nobody to intervene on their behalf are kept in confinement to satisfy the ego of some authority. Street children in Kinshasa, suspected of supporting J.P. Bemba, were recently rounded up, without any due process, and taken to Katanga.

4. Recently, a great number of people have been released from the famous Makala jail. Most of them were being kept there illegally. Some should have been legally held only for 48 hours, but were kept there for months. Members of the Bundu dia Kongo, in 2003, were illegally kept there for a full year. The crucial independence of the judiciary could be reinforced by also getting the security forces to function normally as part of a true Republic.

5. The abuse of power is closely related to the nature of state structures. Very little theoretical discussion is, however, done on the nature of the DRC so-called state structures and institutions. In rural areas, people think that the state disappeared (“bwabedi leta ko, nga bwabu..”—literally, when there was a state things were organized..). This is what makes them think of the colonial situation as having been a better situation. One peasant was heard to have asked, ‘when will this independence end?” The rampant systemic corruption has affected people’s capacity to see beyond individual wishes. The state is ultimately looked at by pointing at the ethnic, clientele or oligarchic membership of those occupying the institutions.

6. The needed intellectuality, dealing with what to do to transform the colonial/dictatorial/ethnically discriminatory state structures and forms of consciousness, is not done. What would be the best structures of state, favouring the fulfilment of the needs of the large masses of people? How do we understand the concrete history of state apparatuses (public administration, civil servants’ capacities and ways of developing these, armed forces—discipline, esprit de corps, profiles of courage, exemplary services to the people, ways of rewarding their altruistic actions–, related forms of consciousness, political and professional ethics, forms of confidentiality, forms of workmanship, rules and regulations, forms of promotion and demotion, etc.) How do we grasp the successive prescriptions to the state apparatuses (colonial, UN, dictatorial, democratic, transitional, etc.,) and the forms of fidelity to the consequences of those prescriptions? The failure to have raised and confronted those questions and many more has made the post-colonial functioning as a colonial Trojan horse the new occupants find difficult to wield. Descendants of colonialists, as it were, become necessary advisers to help the new rulers feel comfortable in their new clothes.

7. Advanced countries recognize that, even for the decent running of the state, the best resource is human intellect. States give themselves think tanks, research/study/investigation structures to help them continuously produce necessary new ideas to cope with changing environments. Almost nothing serious is signed without for it having been thoroughly studied by one or more think tanks. The machinery of state itself must be, from time to time, be put under scrutiny and renewed. Our so-called state institutions are allergic and opposed to human creative intellect. Even simple reading of materials outside of what the daily routine tasks demand of the civil servant, for example, is hardly encouraged or seen done. To the extent that 60 million human intellects are not seen as the best resource the country has, the state is organized as a machine for accumulated waste. It is madness that this is called ‘program of development”. People in government laugh at my constant suggestion of the need for creating a think tank to intellectually equip the government. The best copy of the so-called democratic institutions by a country that despises human intellect won’t produce effective democracy at all. Is it not sheer stupidity for a state to get people who have not seen the text of the draft constitution vote in the referendum? Literacy is the life blood of a decent state. A state that organizes university education producing graduates who cannot read nor write is a machinery of wastage. This explains also the absence of real libraries countrywide; their demand seems to be inexistent or minimal. Papers of used books, on sale and bought—often stolen—are used to wrap peanuts, etc. for sale. A friend of mine had to buy 500FC worth peanuts to get the “confidential papers” used to wrap them.

8. It is sad to note that city people (in contrast to rural people) still behave as if they had faith in a state that hardly exists. They certainly believe that the state will come some day collect the garbage. What would happen if people gave up that faith and start to organize themselves as if a separate coercive state were unnecessary? Societies without states existed and they were not worse than the DRC.

9. Let me end here with a song that reveals the understanding of the colonial state by the followers of Simon Kimbangu:
Mpila kiadi kiakala ku Madimba (What a sorrow that was felt in Madimba); Bantu bandombe bu bakangama (when the Black people were arrested); Bantu bandombe bu balomba Dibundu (when they demanded for their Church); Bantu bandombe bu basambila (when they prayed); Ref. Mpasi zazingi tumweni mu nsi yayi kua Falama (we suffered a lot in this country at the hands of the Flemish); Ntumua zazingi zafwila mu boloko dia Falama (many disciples died in the Flemish jail); Tuka kina ye buabu tueti vova ( Since then until now we speak); Mansanga meto makidi vaika (Our tears are still falling down); Tuka kina ye buabu tueti vova zindiamu zau ka tuzeyi ko (Since then until now we speak, we donot know their tombs.) .

We hear and read about all kinds of statistics about the DRC, but the ones which really provide the vital signs of the political health of its people, of democracy are very rarely, if ever, heard of. For example: Has the colonial state referred to in the above song ever been abolished?

In the massacre in Bas Congo,122 people were said to have died by the state bullets. An important number of the members of the BDK are said to still be missing after they have been taken to be interrogated. How many have so far disappeared in the jails of the Third Republic? How many street children (Chege) have disappeared simply because their visibility stood out like a daily accusation of the inhumanity of the state toward its most vulnerable citizens. The eyes of these vulnerable people, day and night, see; their ears stay open…

Maboke no.2.
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini
Dar es Salaam, July 9th 2007.

The Beginning of the DRCongo Third Republic

1. “Democratic elections” have taken place, the first ones in about 37 years or so. As a UN diplomat said: ‘not the best ones’. Outsiders claimed them to be fair and free, with only minor cases of fraud. But many Congolese felt that they were manipulated and fraudulent. More precisely: would-be Congolese demos was manipulated to the extent of getting it to accept a somewhat imposed conception of democracy. Less than 1% of the electorate in the referendum on the Constitution had read the text before going to vote for or against it. Cases of fraud brought to the Supreme Court of Justice have been said to be unfairly resolved. The case concerning the presidential election was said to have been dealt with as a farce. The winners claimed it to be just and the losers to be unjust. On moral grounds — due to the fear of the possibility for many Congolese being massacred by the winning side — people supporting the case for J-P Bemba’s victory, refrained from going to the streets to protest. This, had it happened, would have alerted the outside world to what actually transpired.

2. The expected political break from the dictatorial past has yet to be experienced: the new civil institutions are not yet hegemonic nor do they have real control over the repressive ones; the autonomy of the state has not yet been felt. Among the first acts of the elected Head of State (inauguration with a military parade in lieu of a people’s one, resolving the case concerning J-P Bemba’s protection guard, the massacre of citizens protesting against corruption in the elections in Bas-Congo, etc.) were more of a recourse to a politics of use of a heavy stick rather than a carrot. They made it look like the Mobutuist Presidency was continuing to serve as the model rather than the dawning of a truly democratic presidency. Although leaders were advocating the necessity for the eradication of corruption (to please the partners?), the Bas-Congo massacre re-instated, instead the use of corruption in elections.

3. Kengo wa Dondo was elected as President of the Senate, defeating the presidential camp’s (AMP) candidate, She Okitundu. This was “unexpected” and was difficult to swallow by that camp. Kengo wa Dondo claims to be independent. His victory stopped the country from sliding towards a Party-State regime, where the presidential camp would have controlled the three powers: legislative, executive and judiciary. The victory thus created a new equilibrium, at least in the Parliament. It is ironic that it is one of the key cornerstones of Mobutuist dictatorship that gives a certain hope of legislative autonomy. One of the Senate President’s first acts was to rule out, as illegal, the request by the pro-AMP Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) to withdraw Senator J-P. Bemba’s parliamentarian immunity. This stopped, in a sense, the dangerous slide towards a politics of vengeance.

4. The formal crisis of legitimacy has received a formal solution. Congolese people at large still do not have confidence in the leaders or institutions and a real crisis of legitimacy remains. People are still treated as children and not as adults worth talking to. Silence is given a mysterious political value. As said the Minister Mayobo: “governing is not speaking; it is doing things.” But things done remain to be seen. For a long time, after it had been put in place, the government went silent, supposedly engaging in an exercise of self-empowerment and preparation for decisions such as the National Budget. Interesting early decisions, such as the requested material audit to retrieve resources stolen by departing members of the Transitional Government and the creation of a commission to review mining contracts, have not produced any results presented to the public. On crucial issues, such as the Bas-Congo massacre, no substantive statement of policy was made by government. Later on, a few months after it took place, the government claimed to have sent the matter to the judiciary. This in a country, where sending a case to the judiciary has tended to be equated with shelving it altogether.

5. The National Assembly (NA), has resorted to holding discussions in camera — thereby pleasing the Executive — of issues claimed to be oversensitive, forgetting thus their obligation before the people who elected them. Issues such as the Bas-Congo massacre, the Angolan military occupation of Kahemba and the violation of the Constitution’s law on nationality by 150 people or so in government institutions who have a double nationality were all tabled in camera. The AMP majority in the NA and the latter’s monolithic composition of its leadership by AMP members, facilitate that way of functioning.

6. On a number of issues, it is clear that constitutional dispositions and other laws are being ignored. The law bars any commissioned military officer from being part of the government or other political institutions. Yet General Kalume is the Minister of Internal Affairs. The SCJ seemed to have failed to uphold the legal limit, required by the electoral law, to officially proclaim the results of the elections. Under the pretext of the absence of the decentralization law, the Executive has threatened to ignore the constitutional right of locally retaining 40% of the revenue by the decentralized provinces. So far, 60 % of the Central Government budget, it is said, comes from the Bas-Congo province. Yet no proportionate representation of the province in the Central government has been accepted. This is one of the reasons for the abusive use of force in handling protests in Bas-Congo. The former head of the worst police house of torture and arbitrary imprisonment, KinMaziere (Mr Rous) has been nominated to be a Police Head in Bas-Congo.

7. The political will to build a professional armed force that would defend the territorial integrity of the country, protect all citizens and property and resist allegiance to particular groups of people or regions, has been lacking. The President’s recent nomination of members the officer corps shows that we have not moved away from Mobutu’s practice. 85% of the nominees are from the Eastern part of the country, with the predominance of Katangese. By 1985, during Mobutu’s time, 85 % of the officer corps came from Equateur, his region. (It is also said that around ½ of the members of the present government are from the Eastern part of the country). Despite that proportion, the insecurity in the East remains still rampant. The double dealing, by the Executive, with cases such as that of General Nkundabatware or the long lasting failure to drive out the 1994 Rwandese genocidaires still operating in the country to ‘liberate Rwanda”, leads to all kinds of speculation — including the embarrassing question: whom does the Executive serve?

8. The usual prescriptions for ‘Development’, by the Bretton Woods Institutions, to the country are still taken as Moses and the Prophets. Development here means the incremental reduction (or eradication?) of poverty, in a country where the majority of people hardly have one meal a day and where people are dying of hunger, malnutrition and diseases already eradicated elsewhere — even in the past in our own country. None explains when this poverty arose in a country said to potentially be, perhaps the richest in the world. The farce of what is called the Ministry of Planning cannot even address such a question, let alone produce a true plan of development. Most economic contracts are primarily signed for the corruptive fee to the signer rather than for the Congolese people’s profit.

9. The political opposition has been given a law to organize itself! The so-called politics of shadow government à l’anglaise have been adopted. The boss of the opposition will have the rank of a Minister. In a sense, it is tragic. But, how else do you occupy and entertain an idle Congolese elite that sees politics as the only way to materially survive? Becoming a bum while waiting for the next elections may be an impossible task and the Government may have at its back so many protesters to deal with. The success of this democracy of the rich would be to avoid, for good, the recourse to armed rebellions. The message of the opposition has always been: the incumbent regime is doing a poor job, people should wait until the opposition gets to power for everything to be okay! The Executive badly wants that law to use it as a reminder for the opposition to make only “constructive criticism”. Neither Government nor opposition seem to have much compassion for the miserable people.

10. The elites who took over the machinery of the state, and who did not know how independence was fought for (1921-1960), how many lives were lost in the Flemish jails, in the bush — resisting people fleeing persecution — in the deportation (some were sent into the deep forest to die); those elites could neither know that they had to make a greater effort to make the independence become real, nor did they even appreciate the suffering of leaders such as Simon Kimbangu dying in jail after 30 years of political imprisonment. There is no official trace of recognition, by government, of that profile of courage until today. Do the present self-proclaimed pioneers of the dawning democracy understand that they need to make a greater effort to make it real? Do they understand that without putting the masses of people, their aspirations, their creativity and resilience; their dreams of a better society — in short, their miserable lives — at the centre of politics, democracy too will fade away like the independence did?

This is my first Maboke, others to come, Wamba Mpungu Tulendo Dezo and the ancestors willing.

Kinshasa, July 5th, 2007

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini

The wider historical context of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade

This story originally appeared in Pambazuka News 302, May 3, 2007. The original is at http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/41131

Trade in African slaves underpinned the British economy in the 18th
century: the rich and powerful, the monarchy and the Church. So why
was an enterprise that was so economically important ended so
abruptly in the first decade of the 19th century? Hakim Adi explains…

In March 2007 large-scale commemorative events were organised to mark
the bi-centenary of the parliamentary act to abolish the trans-
Atlantic slave trade.

This unprecedented commemoration of a historical event, in which the
British government itself is playing a leading role, was difficult to
avoid.

There has been a frenzy in the British media. We have seen government
publications (allegedly designed to enlighten the public); meetings
and exhibitions; a debate in parliament; an apology from London’s
mayor; the issuing of postage stamps; a service in Westminster Abbey;
and release of the film Amazing Grace which promotes the well-
established myth that abolition was largely due to the efforts of the
Hull-based MP William Wilberforce.

It would be hoped that owing to the vast amount of information that
is being disseminated, everyone would be now disabused of such
erroneous views; and would be able to place both the so-called
abolition and the centuries of trafficking of human flesh from Africa
in historical perspective. The commemorative events certainly provide
the opportunity for broad and in depth discussion of Britain’s
history and the crimes against humanity committed over many centuries.

But are we any clearer about what went on 1807? More importantly, do
we know why parliament decided to make illegal an enterprise which
had underpinned Britain’s economy throughout the 18th century, when
Britain was the world’s leading slave trading power?

After all, Britain was involved in the trafficking of kidnapped and
enslaved Africans from the mid-16th century, when this enterprise was
pioneered by John Hawkins and Elizabeth Tudor, until the early 1930s,
when legislation was still being passed outlawing slavery in
Britain’s African colonies.

In the 18th century Britain, as the world’s leading slave trading
power, transported about half of all enslaved Africans not only to
its own colonies but also those of other major powers such as France
and Spain. British ships transported at least 3,500,000 Africans
across the Atlantic.

In total, this entire ‘trade’ led to the forced removal of some
15,000,000 Africans, transported to the colonies of the European
powers and the Americas. Many millions more were killed in the
process of enslavement and transportation. Historians now estimate
that Africa’s population actually declined over a period of four
centuries, or remained stagnant until the early 20th century.

In 1713 the British government was militarily victorious against its
rivals in Europe. By the Treaty of Utrecht (the same treaty by which
Britain lays claim to Gibraltar), it gained the lucrative contract to
supply Spain’s American colonies with enslaved Africans.

The government promptly sold the contract for £7.3m to the South Sea
company, whose first governor happened to also be the chancellor of
the exchequer.

Indeed the trafficking of Africans was the business of the rich and
powerful from the outset. The monarchy was a zealous supporter and
beneficiary, as was the Church of England. The slave trade was
Britain’s trade in the 18th century. The British Prime Minister
William Pitt declared that 80 per cent of all British foreign trade
was associated with it. It contributed to the development of banking
and insurance, shipbuilding and several manufacturing industries.
Most of the inhabitants of Manchester were engaged in producing goods
to be exchanged for enslaved Africans. Their trafficking led to the
development of major ports of London, Bristol and Liverpool. Today it
is difficult to find any major stately home, or cultural or financial
institution which is not connected with the profits generated by this
trade and the luxury items associated with it such as sugar, tobacco
and coffee.

It might be wondered therefore why an enterprise that was so
economically important to the rich and powerful in Britain in the
18th century should have been so abruptly ended in the first decade
of the 19th century.

The answer requires the abolition of various myths and disinformation
peddled since that time. One such myth is that abolition was largely
the work of one man – William Wilberforce; and that it was carried
out largely for humanitarian reasons. And there is another myth: that
abolition was the work of an enlightened parliament, finally
acknowledging the barbarism and inhumanity of the kidnapping,
enslavement and trafficking of other human beings.

However, on the contrary, it is a matter of historical fact that the
struggle to end the enslavement and trafficking of Africans was first
initiated and pursued primarily by Africans themselves.

Historians now speak of centuries’ long wars of resistance in the
Caribbean; of the maroons; of day to day large and small-scale
liberation struggles.

But such resistance also took place throughout the American
continent, wherever enslaved Africans were to be found. There were
also significant acts of resistance within Africa itself, and on many
ships engaged in the human trafficking, most famously on the Amistad.

Such acts of resistance also took place in Britain, where enslaved
Africans who liberated themselves were subjects of court cases
contesting the legality of slavery throughout the 18th century.

It was as a result of this self-liberation of Africans that drew some
leading abolitionists, such as Granville Sharp, into the abolitionist
movement in the late 18th century. While the resistance acts of
Africans culminated in the famous legal judgement of 1772 which
declared that it was illegal for self-liberated Africans to be re-
enslaved in Britain and taken out of the country against their will.
Africans in Britain had organised their own liberation. But they were
assisted by the ordinary people of London and other towns and cities.

African resistance to enslavement and kidnapping contributed to
growing public support and opposition to slave trafficking in Britain
and elsewhere.

In Britain, a popular movement opposing the trade began in the 1780s.
It soon became a broad mass movement of enormous proportions,
possibly the biggest. It was certainly one of the first mass
political movements in Britain’s history, although it is conveniently
ignored in most historical accounts.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people eventually took
part in this movement which involved the petitioning of parliament
and the boycotting of slave-produced sugar. This abolitionist
movement coincided with a more general concern with and struggle for
the ‘Rights of Man’. Its more advanced elements consciously promoted
the view that the rights of Africans were indeed part of that
struggle. Therefore what was required was a struggle for and defence
of the rights of all.

Africans themselves played a leading role in this movement as
lecturers, propagandists and activists. The most notable was Olaudah
Equiano, formerly enslaved, whose autobiography became a bestseller.
But we should not forget the writing of others, for example Phyllis
Wheatley, Ottobah Cugoano and James Gronniosaw.

Africans in London, including Equiano and Cugoano, formed their own
organisation, the ‘Sons of Africa’, which campaigned for abolition.
It worked with both the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
and the wider mass abolitionist campaign.

But African resistance in the Caribbean and elsewhere was an even
more important factor in the abolitionist struggle, since it had the
tendency to make slavery both less profitable and more dangerous for
the slave owners.

Uprisings by enslaved Africans threatened not just the profits of
individual owners but the control of entire colonies and the fate of
Europe’s economies.

The most important of these liberation struggles, the revolution in
St Domingue, the largest and most prosperous French colony in the
Caribbean, broke out in 1791 not long after the revolution in France.
Revolutionary St Domingue therefore became the first country to
effectively abolish the enslavement of Africans.

In Britain, the popular mass abolitionist movement coincided with
wider demands for political change, at a time when the vast majority
were denied the vote. It also coincided with crucial economic
changes; the industrial revolution; the emergence of new social
forces with the workers on one side and industrial capitalists on the
other, attempting to consolidate their economic and political
domination of the country. The industrialists were sometimes at odds
with the economic and political power exercised by those who owed
their position to the slave-based economies of the Caribbean.

Mass petitioning of parliament, the only means open to the
disenfranchised, against the trade was often strong in manufacturing
towns such as Manchester, where perhaps a third of the entire
population signed. This was viewed with alarm by the ruling class.

The Prime Minister of the time, William Pitt, recognised that popular
sentiment might be used to persuade parliament to abolish Britain’s
exports of enslaved Africans to its main economic rival, France. It
was Pitt who first encouraged Wilberforce to bring an abolition bill
before parliament. Wilberforce’s bill was first introduced in 1791.
It was defeated, as were several similar bills during the next 15 years.

But during this period several significant changes took place. First,
the French Revolution of 1789. Britain’s declaration of war against
revolutionary France in 1793 allowed the suppression of the political
activity of the people at home, effectively limiting the popular
abolitionist campaign and driving it underground.

The revolutionaries in St Domingue successfully defended their
revolution against the French army then against invasions by both
Spain and Britain. It is worth remembering that this war was pursued
by Pitt and supported by Wilberforce, who clearly did not belief that
Africans should liberate themselves.

In 1804 St Domingue declared its independence and was renamed Haiti.
The revolution in Haiti contributed to, and occurred alongside, other
major insurrections across the Caribbean, in Jamaica, Grenada, St
Vincent and elsewhere, which severely threatened the entire colonial
system.

Even those Africans forcibly recruited into Britain’s West India
regiment in Dominica mutinied. Toussaint L’Ouverture and some of the
other leaders of the Haitian revolution became nationally known
figures in Britain. Abolition came to be viewed by some both as a
means to press home a naval and economic advantage over France and
its allies, and a means to limit the numbers of Africans imported
into British colonies; thereby preventing the likelihood of further
revolutions and maintain the slave system.

It was with these aims in mind that parliament passed the Foreign
Slave Act in 1806, banning the export of enslaved Africans to
Britain’s economic rivals, a measure that effectively ended around 60
per cent of Britain’s trafficking, but which is now hardly
remembered, and certainly not commemorated.

There is no doubt that for many in parliament and outside, the demand
for abolition was based largely on economic motives. Prime Minister
Pitt, and others had been concerned about competition from St
Domingue and other Caribbean colonies even before 1791. They had
unsuccessfully sought agreement from both France and Holland to
prohibit the trafficking of Africans.

Others were more concerned about what they saw as the subsidies given
to slave owners and sugar producers in the Caribbean; and government
support for economies and a trade that was declining in importance by
the end of the 18th century, not least because there was over-
production of sugar.

Others in Britain became more interested in developing direct trade
links with India, Brazil and other Spanish American colonies. The
trafficking of Africans to Britain’s colonies was no longer so
important and was seen as by some as being an impediment to important
trading links elsewhere.

These economic motives for abolition have long been associated with
the names of Eric Williams and C.L.R. James. Many attempts have been
made to discredit them. In fact very similar views were expressed by
British historians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most
importantly economic justifications for an end to ‘the trade’ were
strongly advanced in the period preceding the Abolition Act.

What is significant is that this explanation for abolition is hardly
ever discussed. It has been largely absent from many of the
commemorative events so far and even from the government’s own
publication which, it is claimed, is designed to educate the public.

Simply stated, this explanation means that the parliamentary act was
passed not for humanitarian reasons but because it was in the
interests of the rich and their representatives in parliament to do
so. And it should be added that it was the actions of people, and
most importantly of the enslaved themselves, in the Caribbean,
Britain and elsewhere that made enslavement and trafficking
increasing inefficient, unprofitable and dangerous.

In 1807 therefore, parliament was persuaded to pass the Abolition
Act; partly on the basis of such economic concerns, partly on the
basis that limiting the importation of enslaved Africans would likely
limit future revolutions and preserve slavery throughout the
Caribbean colonies. Partly it seems, because it was seen as a way of
diverting attention away from an unpopular war against France and its
allies, and persuading the people that such a war was being fought in
the interests of abolition.

Of course after the 1806 act it is arguable that most of ‘the trade’
had ended already. Even some of the major established Caribbean
planters were in favour of abolition since this worked against the
interests of their commercial rivals, both foreigners and those who
had acquired newly captured territory in the Caribbean from Britain’s
enemies. They reasoned that this might be especially advantageous if
abolition could be forced upon other countries as a consequence of
Britain’s military and naval supremacy. Other representatives of the
rising bourgeoisie supported the measure as a means to limit the
economic and political power of those who had hitherto retarded the
development of industrial capitalism and ‘free trade’.

The 1807 Act was subsequently used as the representatives of the rich
envisaged, not least as a means by which the Royal Naval might
interfere in international shipping across the atlantic.

Yet it did not end British citizens’ involvement in the trafficking
of Africans nor slavery itself. Following other major insurrections
in the Caribbean and similar economic and political considerations,
slavery itself was only later made illegal in 1834. But it continued
in some areas of the British empire for another century. The
trafficking of Africans in general increased during the 19th century.
Many British slavers sailed under foreign flags of convenience.

The 1807 Act did not end Britain’s dependence on slave produced goods
such as cotton, the mainstay of the industrial revolution. Even that
so-called ‘legitimate commerce’ subsequently developed with Africa,
such as the extraction of palm oil, was largely produced with slave
labour. The act increased rather than diminished Britain’s
interference in Africa which culminated in the so-called ‘scramble’
for Africa at the end of the 19th century: the invasion of the
continent and imposition of colonial rule.

It is sobering to reflect that Britain’s first colony in Africa was
Sierra Leone. This was the region from where the first enslaved
Africans had been kidnapped in the 16th century. It was established
allegedly as a haven for liberated Africans in 1807, and has now been
under Britain’s domination for the last 200 years Much of this time,
it has been occupied by British troops, while its shores are still
patrolled by the Royal Navy.

Today the government is demanding that even its basic utilities, such
as water, should be privatised for the benefit of British
multinationals. Centuries of interference by British governments have
produced a country that manages to be one of the world’s poorest –
and at the same time the world’s leading producer of diamonds.

The trafficking of Africans over many centuries was one of the
greatest crimes against humanity. The current commemorative events,
which are organised for a variety of purposes, at least provide the
opportunity for widespread discussion.

What is vital is that the myths are shattered and disinformation
combated. We must ensure that appropriate and adequate reparations
are made for slavery, colonialism and all crimes against humanity.
People themselves must draw the appropriate lessons from history, one
of the most important being that it is people that make and change
history; and that therefore, we are our own liberators.

* Hakim Adi is reader in the history of Africa and the African
diaspora at Middlesex University, London, UK.

Rwanda’s Secret War: U.S.-backed destabilization of Central Africa

This story originally appeared in Z Magazine Online, February 2005 Volume 18 Number 2
The original is at http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Feb2005/snow0205.html

On November 26, 2004, television stations in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), began broadcasting alerts that a Rwandan invasion was underway. This followed days of repeated threats by President Paul Kagame to attack Hutu rebels based in the eastern DRC. Belgian and U.S. military sources in Kinshasa said that at least five battalions (1,500-3,000 troops) had penetrated the provinces of North and South Kivu from 5 different points. “This is a sizeable advance force for the Rwandan army,” said one military source in Kinshasa.

With Rwanda’s government continuing to deny their invasion, some 6,000 Rwandan troops had reportedly penetrated eastern DRC by December 4, making this tiny Rwanda’s third major invasion of its huge neighbor to the west.

According to the DRC government, troops of the Armed Forces for the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) had clashed with Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) at numerous locations by early December. The Monitor newspaper in Uganda reported December 6 that RDF troops passing illegally through Ugandan frontier areas had also clashed with Ugandan soldiers. The Monitor reported thousands of Congolese refu- gees fleeing into Uganda.

According to IRIN, news network of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, thousands of Congolese civilians were fleeing North Kivu province as of December 6, with civilians claiming executions and massacres as RDF troops burned and looted everything in their path. NGO staff in the region are bracing for the flood of tens of thousands of internally displaced persons.

These claims were echoed by Rwandan guerrilla groups based in the DRC. “According to our sources five Rwandan battalions are already in the DRC ready to create chaos,” reported Jean-Marie Higiro, former leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). “Kagame’s regime maintains its sponsorship to rebel DRC forces. Under all kinds of tricks, Kagame’s regime is able to continue to pull the strings in the DRC.”

He rejected claims that the Rwandan military is acting in self-defense. “Rwanda and its proxy armies in the DRC maintain an absolute cordon sanitaire at the Rwandan-Congolese border,” Higiro says. “How can Hutu rebels break through this cordon sanitaire and strike Rwanda, then retreat into the DRC without being intercepted?”

Higiro alleges that powerful interests in Washington had, as early as 1989, delineated the now-apparent Tutsi strategy of annexation of the eastern DRC and that there is a very powerful Tutsi lobby in Washington, DC.

Rwanda’s latest bid to annex the DRC’s Kivu provinces was called the “Third War of Occupation of Eastern Congo” by Congolese students who took to the streets of Kisangani in protest on December 4. Despite Rwanda’s official denials of aggression, Rwandan leaders had issued unambiguous warnings in recent days. “You have to make war to have peace,” Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame told United Nations Observer’s Mission In Congo (MONUC) peacekeeping forces on November 23. “We are preparing to return our forces to the DRC,” Rwanda’s regional cooperation minister, Protais Mitali, said on the 25th, according to Reuters. “We cannot watch as these extremist forces advance onto our territory.”

Reuters correspondent David Lewis in Kinshasa reported on November 26 that the Congolese army told the United Nations that its soldiers had clashed with Rwandan troops inside the DRC, although UN peacekeepers found no signs of any fighting, according to Lewis’s UN sources. Lewis also reported that clashes had taken place earlier in the week.

In Kinshasa, long-time Mobutu opposition party leader Etienne Tshisekedi from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress issued a communiqué warning that if Rwanda had again invaded the DRC, then the Congolese people must demonstrate against the UN Mission. May and June 2004 saw major demonstrations across the DRC where MONUC vehicles and homes rented by MONUC personnel were destroyed in protest of MONUCs perceived failure to defend the city of Goma from the invading forces of pro-Rwandan rebel groups in Congo. There are no U.S. military with the MONUC force in DRC.

Rwandan and Ugandan guerrilla groups continue to maintain a destabilizing presence in the eastern DRC, including the ex-Force Armee Rwandais (ex-FAR, the former Rwandan army), Interahamwe (the militia largely responsible for the 1994 genocide), Allied Democratic Forces for Uganda (ADF), and the People’s Redemption Army (PRA). The DRC government and international community have failed to implement the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process called for by international peace accords.

Rwanda has repeatedly threatened to invade the DRC to attack Hutu rebels accused of genocide—Interahamwe and ex-FAR. The “genocidiares” fled Rwanda in 1994 and established themselves in Hutu refugee camps in eastern Zaire (as DRC was then known) with the help of the French intervention force Operation Tourquoise and support from Zaire’s 32-year dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Rwanda also claimed that it must defend the Banyamulenge—Congolese Tutsis—from the ongoing genocide.

MONUC entered the DRC in 1999 after peace agreements signed in Lusaka, Zambia.

Subsequent peace accords in Sun City, South Africa and negotiations with rebels and militias in the eastern DRC ushered in a peace process under a transitional power-sharing government, implementing a joint UN/DRC program of DDR, and the promise of elections in 2005.

The disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program has largely been an empty promise. The DRC was formally cited at the UN Security Council on November 23 for its lack of cooperation in the arrest of people accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In a UN press statement, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Hassan Bubacar Jallow from Gambia, told the Security Council that 14 indicted people were still at large and “the bulk of the fugitives continued to be based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” The press release stated that the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, called n the DRC and Kenya to arrest fugitives accused of inciting conflicts in the Great Lakes region on the border of DRC and Rwanda.

Impunity for government soldiers and guerrillas alike remains endemic in the eastern DRC provinces of Orientale, Equateur, and the Kivus. According to a recent alert by Survivor’s Rights International, reports from isolated areas across the country indicate that populations continue to suffer wholesale extortion, racketeering, theft, rape, and other violence.

Rights groups accused all sides of exploiting ethnic conflict in the region. “Relations between the Banyamulenge and other Congolese groups have been strained and are frequently manipulated by politicians in both Rwanda and the DRC,” wrote Human Rights Watch in a June 2004 report, “War Crimes in Bukavu.” “The past six years of war have contributed to hostility against them as they are increasingly identified as ‘Rwandan’ by other Congolese. Rwanda has often justified its presence in DRC in part as an effort to protect the Banyamulenge people, though this was challenged in 2002 when they attacked the Banya- mulenge homelands killing scores of Banyamulenge civilians, shooting some of them from Rwandan helicopters.”

In a bold article that caught major international press on December 4, BBC journalist Robert Walker, who overflew the North Kivu region in a MONUC helicopter, reported that “President Kabila is getting away with a crime” because the DRC government was fabricating reports of war and Rwandan involvement in eastern DRC. However, by December 20, 2004, UNICEF was reporting “millions displaced by recent fighting.”

Central Africa’s Ongoing Genocide

Paul Kagame’s Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) invaded Rwanda from Uganda in 1990, launching a four-year campaign of guerrilla warfare. Open support for Rwanda’s then-Hutu-led government from French paratroopers failed to prevent the RPA victory of August 1994, following the coordinated genocide of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsis by hard-line Hutus (FAR) and affiliated Interahamwe (Hutu) militias from April to July.

Critics such as Wayne Madsen, author of Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999, assert that Kagame and the RPA orchestrated the April 6, 1994 assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi—shooting down their plane on its approach to Kigali airport with SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles taken from Iraq by France in 1991, then delivered by the U.S. military to Uganda, the base for RPA guerrilla operations against Rwanda prior to 1994.

Evidence was provided at a special hearing held by then Congressperson Cynthia McKinney at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC on April 6, 2001, the seventh anniversary of the assassinations. Journalist Charles Onana of Cameroon, author of The Secrets of the Rwandan Genocide, also aired claims of RPA involvement in the incident and was sued for defamation by Paul Kagame. A Paris court found in favor of Onana. Defense attorneys working at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) maintain that the standard figure of 800,000 Tutsis killed in the 1994 genocide is grossly inflated. At least three major films continue to circulate in the U.S., all furthering the pro-RPA and pro-Tutsi perspective of the Hutu genocide.

Paul Kagame, who was trained by the U.S. military at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has been a regular visitor at Harvard University, the James Baker III Institute in Houston, Texas, the White House, and the Pentagon. U.S., European, and South African military interests have continued to support various factions in Central Africa, arming militias and rebel groups through proxy armies from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in south Sudan. France’s presence in Central Africa is based out of Gabon, the major point of French miltary penetration on the continent.

Terror continued in Rwanda under the new RPA government of Paul Kagame, with Amnesty International documenting a pattern of assassinations, arbitrary imprisonment, and “disappearances.” Nearly all political opponents—Tutsi or Hutu—have been labeled “genocidiares” and Amnesty International has protested that some trials and executions of accused genocidiare collaborators have been tainted and politically-motivated.

The first Rwandan invasion of its huge neighbor to the west occurred in 1996. According to the influential “Africa Confidential” newsletter, Major Gen. Paul Kagame visited the Pentagon in August 1996, conferring with Washington prior to launching a grand plan to unseat Mobutu Sese Seko. While the U.S. public was consumed with the 1996 presidential elections, Rwanda was preparing its war against Zaire. It began with the shelling of Hutu refugee camps in eastern Congo with Katusha missiles, killing non-combatants.

RPA joined with the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and the guerrilla army of Laurent Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) in the “war of liberation” that subsequently ended long reign of President Mobutu Sese Seko in Congo (Zaire). Sources in the DRC quickly add that U.S. military personnel were seen advising the joint UPDF/RPA invasion which swiftly moved across the vast forested territory of Zaire.

Mobutu’s generals were reportedly contacted in advance by high-level U.S. officials in the region; most of those who agreed to support the U.S. invasion remain in high posts in the DRC today; other of Mobutu’s highest military were sacrificed one way or another.

Wayne Madsen reported that the U.S. established major communications and listening stations in Uganda’s Ruwenzori Mountains. Witnesses interviewed in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, support this claim. Communications equipment was also seen on Idjwe Island in Lake Kivu, on the DRC-Rwanda frontier.

Recent interviews with survivors across the country document crimes against humanity and acts of genocide committed against Congolese civilians by all sides in the ensuing war. “In May 1997, hundreds of unarmed Hutu refugees were massacred in the town of Mbandaka by soldiers of Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL), operating under apparent Rwandan Army (RPA) command,” wrote Human Rights Watch in June 1998. In an October 1997 report (“What Kabila is Hiding: Civilian Killings and Impunity in Congo”), Human Rights Watch concluded that “Rwandan troops had a role in some of the killings of Rwandan Hutu refugees on Zairean territory.”

Thousands of Hutu refugees were slaughtered in Mbandaka in May 1997, on the day that the AFDL arrived there. One eyewitness told this reporter: “We ran down to the beach [port] because we heard the shooting. I saw two people shot but there were bodies all lined up on the beach. The soldiers were also throwing dead bodies in the [Congo] river. There were a lot of Tutsi soldiers, but we couldn’t distinguish. I saw soldiers question one woman. The woman was not able to talk in [Congolese] Lingala. He said, ‘Yes, you are among the Rwandais Hutus. Turn, face the river, pray to your God, because you are about to meet your God.’ Then he shot her in the back with an automatic weapon.”

“U.S. special forces were involved,” asserted one DRC army captain interviewed recently in Kinshasa. The AFDL forces included UPDF, RPA, and U.S. military advisers, he claimed.

Colonel James Kabarebe, now Chief of Staff of the Rwanda Defense Forces, is said to have led the campaign to annihilate fleeing Hutu refugees. Kabarebe has been sited in UN reports for massive violations in Ituri. “Kabarebe was reportedly the biggest advocate of Rwandan support to [ethnic] militias,” wrote UN investigators in the MONUC “Special Report on Events in Ituri,” January 2002-December 2003. Rwanda armed, trained, and advised militias in Ituri, as it had in North and South Kivu provinces, the report found. The Ugandan military was similarly cited for atrocities.

The RPA joined with the UPDF to invade DRC again in 1998 after ADFL leader, Laurent Kabila, rejected U.S. and Bechtel Corporation plans for the newly liberated country and annulled mining contracts signed with some powerful Western companies before he had taken power—including America Mineral Fields, based in Hope, Arkansas and said to be linked to then-President Clinton through “Friend of Bill” investors. Kabila also ejected the Rwandan and Ugandan military allies that brought him to power.

The Congolese people call it the “war of aggression,” but it was dubbed “Africa’s First World War” by the western press, as it involved six regional nations, as well as arms and advisers from western countries. Troops from Rwanda and Uganda (now backing anti-Kabila rebels), as well as Zimbabwe (allied with the DRC government) worked with commercial agents to pilfer DRC’s ivory, diamonds, gold, timber, cobalt, and other natural resources. Foreign agents moved these plundered resources onto the international market, as militia groups raked in local profits.

At least 3.5 million people died due to warfare in the DRC, according to the International Rescue Committee report on the region. From 1999-2001, through networks of Rwandan military and commercial agents, Rwandan interests aligned with the state earned at least $240 million in the sale of coltan (columbo-tantalite)—a precious ore essential to Sony playstations, laptop computers, and cell phones. In December 2000 alone the main RPA-supported rebel group in the DRC earned some $600,000 in coltan sales. Coltan moved through criminal syndicates to U.S., Swiss, Belgian, and German clients. Rwandan syndicates continue to dominate the coltan trade out of eastern DRC, local sources claim.

Friends of the Earth and the UK-based group Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) filed a formal complaint with the U.S. State Department on August 4, 2004 against three U.S. companies accused by the UN Panel of Experts of fueling war. The UN panel’s three-year investigation implicated Cabot Corporation (Boston), Eagle Wings Resources International, and George Forrest’s OM Group (Ohio) in collaboration with various rebel groups trafficking in coltan from DRC. Current deputy director of the U.S. Treasury Department, Samuel Bodman, was CEO and chair of Cabot from 1997-2001.

It is important to note that the conflict in Central Africa revolves not around “governments” so much as militarized power blocks and multinational corporate alignments which are transnational. Thus while powerful U.S. government interests may back the Kagame and Museveni regimes in support of destabilization of Central Africa and the annexation of the Kivu and Orientale provinces, other powerful interests—such as the International Rescue Committee —maintain a constant international media presence that appears to be in conflict with that agenda, but which nevertheless exists as a major lobby in support of or defense of certain interests at the expense of certain others. Notable personalities on the IRC’s Boards of Directors and Overseers include Morton Abramowitz, Tom Brokaw, and Henry Kissinger.

An Unraveling Peace Process

The DRC frontier with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi has remained the locus of instability and guerrilla warfare since at least 1994—long before the first Rwandan invasion of Congo in 1996—and the rising insecurity and terrorism has all but annihilated the local civilian population. North and South Kivu provinces continue to suffer from widespread violence and killings in the Goma and Bukavu areas are rampant. The Ituri region of Orinetale Province, bordering on Uganda, Sudan, and the Central African Republic, is cited as one of the bloodiest corners of the world by numerous human rights agencies. The UN Security Council’s “Special Report on Ituri,” outlines the history of conflict in Ituri, the role of Ugandan and Rwandan government forces in arming factions, bombing villages, massacring and torturing civilians, and provoking and, at times, abetting, acts of genocide.

Given the rising insecurity in Ituri in recent months, with assassinations and nightly shootings, the population in Bunia increasingly sees MONUC as a hostile and aggressive force of foreign military occupation. Said one Bunia resident formerly employed by MONUC: “Public opinion is that MONUC has done nothing. People thought that MONUC came here to bring peace, but to their surprise people find that MONUC is like a spectator in a football match. People are dying in their presence. People are being terrorized in their presence. People are being killed in there presence and MONUC is doing nothing.”

“Firing incidents occur daily,” admitted one public information officer for MONUC. “I don’t think there is any area except maybe in Bunia [town] where the human rights situation is improving.”

Reports of MONUC personnel buying and transporting contraband goods—leopard and okapi skins, gold, ivory—are also widespread; one western photojournalist witnessed Belgian troops openly purchasing ivory; troops are immune to customs search and seizure.

Arms continue to flow into the region. Uganda’s government newspaper the New Vision reported on November 23 that arms shipments reportedly destined for the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), a regional militia aligned with Rwanda, were seized by the Armed Forces of the Congolese People (FAPC), a rival Congolese militia in control of the lucrative Ituri Province customs posts in northeastern DRC.

“According to local sources, local government officials have delivered firearms to civilians in Masisi, North Kivu, long the site of conflict between different political and military groups,” wrote Human Rights Watch on November 19. “Other shipments have been delivered to Ituri, another persistently troubled area in northeastern Congo. UN sources reported that some 300 Congolese high school students, refugees in neighboring Rwanda, abruptly left their schools and are said to be undergoing military training.”

According to recent reports from northern Ituri, the FAPC has reportedly executed child soldiers seeking to enter the DDR process and attacked the families and looted the homes of reintegrated ex-child soldiers. The UPC and the Force for National Liberation, another militia, continue to extort a weekly war tax from citizens, persecute those who refuse to comply, and terrorize the citizenry.

“All armed groups in Ituri have integrated children into their ranks,” wrote MONUC investigators. MONUC conservatively estimated “at least 40 percent of each militia force are children below the age of 18, with a significant minority below the age of 15.” The MONUC investigation found that Ugandan and Rwandan military were frequently training children abducted and forcibly or willingly recruited into DRC militias. MONUC documented cases where hundreds of children were taken by road or plane to Uganda or Rwanda for military training.

The UPC and the Force for National Liberation continue to extort a weekly war tax from citizens, persecute those who refuse to comply, and terrorize the citizenry. Said one witness, “The UPC is collecting money. They say, ‘Either you pay 100 francs Congolese or we come at night.’ Then when they come they cut off your hand or violate women.”

“Sexual violence is a national epidemic in DR Congo,” wrote Survivors Rights International (SRI) in a December 5, 2004 alert, “involving all military factions, both current and past military forces involved in the internal affairs of the DRC, and it appears to be sanctioned by all levels of military command.

SRI also reported that the presence of hundreds of internally displaced girls and women currently resident in Mbandaka has spawned commerce in prostitution and survival sex involving both Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and MONUC troops. “FARDC further prey on female sex workers by forcing sexual relations, raping those who refuse, and universally robbing desperate females of their livelihood,” SRI wrote.

Forgotten Resource Wars

Rwanda and Uganda continue to benefit from high-level military arrangements with the United States. Entebbe, Uganda is a forward base for U.S. Air Force operations in Central Africa. According to the Global Policy watchdog, there are 11 U.S. servicepeople permanently stationed in Entebbe. Sources in Uganda and the DRC confirm that weapons move freely through Entebbe airport from U.S. interests. The BBC reported March 23, 2004 that U.S. General Charles Wald confirmed that the U.S. is directly involved in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. “I have met with [Uganda’s] President Museveni,’ Wald reported on the BBC. “I have heard personally that he is very pleased with the support we are giving him…. Its not just moral support…. But many things need to be kept a bit more private.”

In July 2004, members of the DRC military flew to Tampa, Florida to participate in an unfolding U.S. “anti-terrorism” military program called Golden Spear.

The Canadian mining firms Barrick Gold and Heritage Oil & Gas arrived with the Ugandan and Rwandan military during the “war of aggression” to exploit mining opportunities in the north. Barrick principals include former Canadian premier Brian Mulroney and former U.S. president George H.W. Bush. Heritage has secured contracts for the vast oil reserves of Semliki basin, beneath Lake Albert, on both the Congolese and Ugandan sides of the border. Heritage is reportedly tapping the Semliki petroleum reserves from the Ugandan side, where a huge pipeline to Mombasa, Kenya, worth billions of dollars, is now in the works.

According to a petroleum futures report (Africafront), Heritage Oil was poised to exploit the northern Lake Albert basin, southern Lake Albert basin, River Semliki basin, and Lake George and Lake Albert basin areas in partnership with the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB) of China. Heritage is currently exploiting petroleum in neighboring war-torn Congo-Brazzaville in partnership with ZPEB. Notably, ZPEB is the petroleum firm currently operating behind the genocide of indigenous Anuak people in southeastern Ethiopia (see the December 12, 2004 report by Genocide Watch: “Operation Sunny Mountain”).

Ashanti Goldfields has reportedly secured a contract for the vast gold reserves at Mongwalu, north of Bunia. Ashanti has ties to South Africa and the British Crown and some sources in Bunia report that the Ashanti interest in nearby Mongwalu is guarded by Nepalese Gurkhas, possibly of the Gurkha Security Group based in Britain. The Clintonite multinational America Mineral Fields in May 2004 changed its name to Adastra Minerals and the corporation has multi-billion dollar copper and cobalt mining projects underway, in partnership with the Kabila government, in Katanga province. Elsewhere in DRC, major foreign mining and logging contracts are underway.

Meanwhile the death toll in Congo’s war has easily exceeded five million people.

Harry Kreisler in conversation with Wamba dia Wamba

This interview was conducted in 2004 by Harry Kreisler, as part of the University of California’s Conversations with History series. You can see the original pages here.

Background

Professor Wamba, welcome to Berkeley.

Thank you very much.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in the DRC, Congo, in Bas-Congo at a place called
Sundi-Lutete.

Looking back, how did your traditions and your family influence
the way you thought about the world?

I was raised in mission schools at a Swedish mission. My father was
Christian, and my mother also. They both went to school. In fact, my mother taught me to write and read the first time. There was a lot of respect of moral principles. But also within that context, there was still the lineage community. In fact, the first name I was given was by my mother’s uncle, who was the head of the lineage. So the community ties were very strong, and at the same time, Christian-related moral values.

So very early there was a tension or a dilemma for somebody growing up between modernity, what the West had to offer, but also a traditional way of life. Was that hard or was that easy to navigate?

At our level, in our generation, it wasn’t too difficult, but I think in the generation of my father it must have been very difficult, because they had to give up certain taboos, certain rituals that had to be made, and to internalize the Christian values into the traditional culture. But my father was very successful. He was a leader in the lineage, but also a leader in the Christian church. He actually became a minister of the church.

And you were born in what year?

In 1942.

So your formative years as a young man were probably at the time of Congolese independence. The prelude to independence, the struggle for national liberation, how did those events affect you as a young man?

I was in the Bas-Congo, which at the time was the area of an important political organization called ABAKO, Alliance of the Bas-Congo people, which initially was organizing and defending the culture and the
language. Later on it developed into a political party.

I come also from the part where you had long tradition of prophetism, religious prophetism, people who initially were praying in the bush, hiding from the authorities. And through this tradition came Simon Kimbangu who spent his training years not so far from my father’s village. So you have the excitement of Simon Kimbangu’s demands for certain autonomy in terms of culture, in terms of contact with God. He was actually saying that we don’t need intermediaries to be in touch with God.

So that tradition, added to the political tradition, made us become politically aware, and we knew that the demand was for independence. In fact, the slogan was "What do we want? Independence!" It was being said all [the time] in all our classes. Kasavubu, who was the president of ABAKO, was seen as almost a king. Yes, so there was that tradition.

What was it like to be drawn into that as [a young man]? What age were you then, in your twenties?

Yes, eighteen, twenties, yes.

So the excitement of the national liberation must have really gotten to you as a young person.

But also, since the schools were Swedish schools, most of the teachers we had were very old-style Belgians, saying to class, "How did you get yourselves to be pushed around by little Belgium?" So we were ready to demand self-determination.

We always spent time meeting, and I was into this program of "world journal." Every day we had to put what sorts of news was coming from Kinshasa, what kind of actions the ABAKO was taking and so on. From ’57, for example, to ’60, in our area, people were paying taxes to ABAKO, not to the government. When the colonial government wanted to start political reform of the colonization after the uprising in Kinshasa on January 4, 1959, they put up the slogan that we are not going to vote in favor of those reforms. We want independence right now, immediate independence.

So we were all, without necessarily having the official status of making the propaganda, but as students we were spreading the message of ABAKO everywhere, in our families as well as in [families at] lower schools, because by then we were in secondary school.

You're suggesting that even in this earlier period, there was this
dilemma of whether the parts of the Congo would stay together, whether the Congo would be one or whether it would break apart.

Yes. When it became clear that the other parties were not necessarily following, because we were told that some of the people in the other areas of the country didn’t want immediate independence, people started saying, "Well, just independence for our province. We must have independence. If they don’t want it, we want it now." There was that sense, yes.

When did you take your first steps into politics? We should tell our audience that you have a dual-track career -- on the one hand you're a distinguished academic, the head of the Social Science Association in Africa; but on the other hand, you've entered politics and statecraft. Did you have to go away to college before you entered politics?

At school I was in the leadership of student organizations, and in the leadership of [what you might call] debate clubs, which prepared me to get involved when the ABAKO youth started, to get involved in that. But the political decisions came when there was a split in the ABAKO after
the political roundtable conference in Brussels.

There was a split, and [for] the first time, we were now asked to make an evaluation and decide which side one is on. I was on the side of a gentleman called Daniel Kanza, who was the vice president of the ABAKO, and who was in our opinion the most dynamic of the leadership of the ABAKO, and who was excluded from the Party simply because they thought that he, having very educated children, would monopolize the power and that [they themselves] would not be able to have positions. So they invented stories like that he went to Belgium to ask the king to marry his daughter, who was then completing university studies, and that he had sold the land to Belgium. Because of the level of consciousness in the area, those were accepted as enough reasons to exclude him.

We took a position against that. I went to my house, in my father’s house, they took off all the pictures of Daniel Kanza, so I asked why. He said, "Oh, because they said that he has sold the land." I said, "But how do you sell the land when we are here?" So then he said, "Oh, then it’s probably not correct [what they are] saying. But they also said he’s going to get his daughter married to the king." I said, "But a king marries a princess. Now, this one is not a princess, and on top of that she’s Black. How could this [story be true]?" So then he put back the pictures.

So it was at that time that we started getting more or less involved in politics.

You came to the United States for education. How did you wind up coming to the United States? Was it the situation in the Congo changing for the worse that brought you here to study?

Our school was on the list of the best secondary schools. The African-American Institute usually gave a number of scholarships. So in this particular year, when I finished, they gave three scholarships, so three of us were supposed to go to the U.S. from the secondary school where we graduated. We went to Kinshasa for an interview. In fact, this was the first time that I was asked questions which I’d never thought of, because they had this psychologist who was asking, "Ten years from now what are you going to do?" So I said, "Well, I never thought of that!"

Then she said, "Judging from your background, you could be a professor at the university." I didn’t know what that was, because I had never even visited a university. So then I said, "No, I want to be a professor of secondary school." So then she said, "Well, we will send you to a school that trains secondary teachers, but if you change your mind, we will try to see to that." So that’s how I ended at the Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, where apparently the strongest program was training for secondary school teachers.

You went on to Brandeis and to Claremont here in the United States. We can't go into what you learned at all those places, but overall, what did you learn in the United States that you were able to bring back to the Congo and that shaped your ideas about all the exciting things you were to do down the road?

While I was here I got involved in the movements which we were going on, like the Civil Rights movement, and ended up, in fact, getting married to an African-American woman. So I went into the history of slavery, the Reconstruction, and so on. I got involved in the movement of Black students, SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], which was linked to the Southern African Christian Conference. I was also involved in the African students’ movement, which was a pan-Africanist orientation. Later on, when the liberation movement started in Africa, I was in the supporting committees of those movements.

At Western Michigan University, I had very close relationships, because I was in what they called the "honor college" program, where you’re assigned to teachers that most of the time you are working with. One was a professor of philosophy of history, Hans Brycer, who helped us conceptualize certain things about history. There was a professor of economics, but more of political economy, and who helped us criticize the program offered by the university. At that time, there was almost nothing said about African economics. I took, also, a minor in philosophy. Somebody called Polasky, who helped me to write my honors dissertation on Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre.

In Claremont, I was closely linked with Peter F. Drucker. We had some things in common — he liked Jean Bodin, and I’d read Jean Bodin. What impressed me was his way of asking questions of management, and things that I’d never really thought of: where your time goes, and what do you do with your time; and, the objective or the outcome of an organization must be in the community. It was very challenging and much more stimulating than the other classes, which were more technical in the sense that, "marketing is profit, managing is just maximizing profit" — more technical.

At Brandeis, first of all, it’s the environment. You’re dealing with an environment [where] for the first time you get a little bit more awareness of Israel, of the problems involved with the Middle East. Also, you get people who have very strong ideas about how humanity should be moving, and people whose ideas seemed rather — not so much liberating, like Diamandopoulos — but who basically were thinking, "Unless you know a great deal about philosophy .." or something like that.

In the Boston environment, because I also taught at Harvard, I met quite a few people coming from different countries. [They raised] questions of civil rights, questions of democracy, questions of freedom of speech, of thinking, of organizations; questions also of the impact of what we may call the critique of U.S. involvement in the world: interventions, military interventions. At that time, things like the treatment of foreign leaders were being discussed in Congress. So I learned quite a bit from my stay in the U.S.

The Recent History of the Congo

You've gone back to the Congo, and now you're involved in
the project of building a democracy in your own country. Before
we talk about your work in the Senate and your ideas about how
to do that and how you mingle these traditional elements with the ones
that you learned in the United States, give our audience a little understanding of what happened to the Congo in the forty years after independence. The Mobutu regime create a failed state, I guess is the only way to describe it. Help our audience briefly to understand the situation that you inherited in your new role in the transition.

Well, first of all, as you know, the Congo wasn’t created as a country to become a democracy. This was a territory for looking for resources, essentially. That’s how King Leopold II, for instance, viewed it. The state was created as a way of getting ivory and rubber. So it was not a state in the sense of institutions, per se. Despite the paternalism of the Belgians, there was still arbitrariness and there was no sense that Belgium was ready to prepare anybody for independence.

So when the independence movement started, but also the influence of the socialist/communist world, and also the U.S. was asking that colonies be more or less freed, [then] independence was given very precipitously, without much preparation. The pioneers of the movement of independence didn’t develop a capacity that would help them deal with the problems that open up in a country [becoming] independent.

We were dealing with the situation of the Cold War, for example. In the Cold War, it was understood that either you are on one side or you are on the other side. You can’t be neutral. In fact, a [U.S.] Secretary of State, I’ve forgotten who, said that neutralism was immoral.

Sounds like John Foster Dulles.

Yes, that is a possibility.

So when independence was proclaimed, we ran into difficulties of formulating a national program, because the program had to, for the first time, start creating institutions, because the colonial state was not meant to [create] institutions leading to any democracy. The person who advocated the necessary program was the premier minister, Patrice Lumumba. The U.S. either misunderstood him, or he was taken as being on the other side.

The other side of the Cold War ...

The Cold War. So all the forces came to bear, at the end, that he was assassinated, and those following him were also assassinated. And then the country was brought to the side of the Cold War crusaders, essentially.

That’s how Mobutu came in, with no vision of his own except to do whatever he was asked to do. You can say that maybe the vision was to make sure the country was always on the side of … well, the "correct" side of the Cold War, [without] a program of organizing institutions or a program of dealing with the needs of the majority of the population. In fact, at some point, he was just somebody doing predation, taking resources for his own needs. At some point, he became also a sort of regional gendarme, involved in helping UNITA in Angola, and so on.

At the end, that autocratic, kleptocratic rule almost destroyed the country. The state, as you said, collapsed. That meant, also that those wanting to change things didn’t just stay quiet, so once in a while you’d get an uprising, rebellions. So from the sixties’ independence up to now, you can count something like eleven phases of some kind of war. These wars hardly ended up with any program of institution-building per se, so that the legacy of the state, we can say it’s no legitimacy at all.

So if we are serious, now is probably the first time that we can deal correctly with the causes, the conditions [bringing about] these never-ending crises of the country. Probably it’s now that institutions can be put in place.

We should say that at the end of this reign of the despot Mobutu, as a result of the genocide in Rwanda, the Congo got entangled in what was essentially comparable to the world wars that Europe had experienced, where various state actors from outside came into the Congo and a war involving Congolese nationals on the one hand, but outside states on the other, went on for many years, resulting in the death of probably over 3 million people. So this was an additional layer.

Yes.

Consolidating a Modern Democratic State

Now, in talking about what you're trying to do in the Senate, can you give us an example of what institution-building comes to mean in what is now a legislative body in the new Democratic Republic of the Congo?

At the end of the war in the entire Congolese dialogue, we arrived at an agreement which was called the Global and Inclusive Accord, which lays the ground for the kind of work which is being done now. So besides the state structures, we thought of structures that support democracy. We call them "commissions." One of the tasks of the Parliament is to make sure that these institutions supporting democracy are properly created and properly put in place.

[Another task is] to make sure that the transition is going according to the principles of the accord and the transitional constitution, and also to make sure that a new constitution is drafted which will be the basis of the elections. For example, the Senate is in the process of drafting the constitution.

Since the past constitutions were drafted without any input of the Congolese people at large, and they ended up, in fact, just being left at the door without being followed in any case, we also feel that there should be a national debate on the constitution, that people should express their ideas of what they want — what kind of state, what kind of regime, and so on. After we have gone through this debate, the Senate can make the synthesis and draft the constitution, and then put it to a referendum. If it is accepted, then that is going to be the basis of the elections.

So, hopefully, by doing that we will have institutions that could give us a basis for sustained peace.

In this dialogue about the constitution and the work of the Senate, to what extent are you drawing on African ideas of what democracy is -- which may differ from notions that we in the United States have or that grow out of the history of Europe?

So far, I must say that the task of actually trying to find out what in our culture’s ideas could be constitutional ideas, or ideas of conflict resolutions, ideas of how we could handle the multiethnic character of our society — these are already issues that are dealt with by individuals, not necessarily the Senate focusing on it, but there are some individuals who are dealing with those [ideas]. In our group, for example, we have been reflecting on the notion of palaver in the Congo culture, and how conflicts in the community were resolved, and the notion of the right of an individual in a community, and the community’s role in terms of protecting the individual and also the property of the community.

For example, we have this notion that crime is not committed by an individual, but the individual carries the crime committed by the community, so that the punishment is a punishment which must address the community part, not just the individual. So the punishment must be followed with a ritual of cleansing in the community, so that the punished person can now be reinserted in the community without suspicions. This is not quite the same notion of individual crime in other [societies].

And there’s the whole notion of how the state can be made responsive to the needs of the population. These are questions that some individuals are addressing.

The main issue that the Senate will contend with is the impact of foreign interventions on the Congo. If one looks at the history, one has the feeling that instability has always been caused by the difficulty of articulating the national interests with the interests of powers that be and the interests of neighboring countries. How do you make sure that a partnership of equity can come about? What sorts of constitutional principles have to be adopted to [ensure] respect, so that you don’t have a situation where the strongest interests dominate the interests of the population and the nation? So, some of these issues are being addressed.

We should tell our audience that the Congo, in addition to being a large, important country, is very rich, potentially, because of its wealth of natural resources. This makes it an inviting target for both regional actors and for international actors, as was shown in the Cold War.

Charting the Congo’s Future

What kind of institutions might be created to protect the national interests of the Congo, and define it? And in your work, what part do the ideas that you have acquired in your travels and education play in your contribution to the debate?

First of all, the real issue is how do we get from an economy of war, of conquest, an economy of looting, of predation, an economy open to all kinds of solicitors, to an economy of peace, which first of all serves the needs of the majority of the population? Right now in the economy, a lot of wealth is produced, but even the maintenance of the country is not taken seriously, let alone the reproduction of those [things which] produce the wealth. We are trying to address the structural break in the way the economy is organized as an economy only of extraction of natural resources which don’t have a market inside the country and which go out. [We need to] empower the population by creating specific institutions that would make sure that the resources [benefit the population], that even when we’re dealing with foreign investors, there is a partnership of equity, with mutual interests. It is difficult at this time, because globalization tends to mean a weakening of national states in favor of transnational enterprises sometimes dominating.

For example, the whole program of good governance tends to say that the smaller the state, the better. Now, in a post-conflict situation, one would think that there are major works that have to be accomplished, and that one would want to develop the state capacity to address some of these questions. But what is being said is, "reduce the expenditures of the state and focus only on the maintenance of order and the police," essentially. Education, health, and all the things which are crucial are more or less left to the private sector, which cannot be in a position to have an equitable relationship with transnational enterprise. What is actually being said is that you leave these to the transnational enterprise.

So there are difficulties, but we also think that if we come to a state which is decentralized (we sometimes call it a federal system) where you have local initiatives being respected and given legal integrity, people at that level will realize how important it is to protect their interests, and when it comes to selecting leaders, how important it is to change them if they’re not doing what the community wants. So that lesson can probably help ensure that the national government doesn’t act from commands from outside more than from the needs of the population inside.

So a dynamic federalism would offer the possibility of balancing a state that might otherwise become a servant of outside global forces.

Yes.

What other mechanisms should there be, if any, to break with this
tradition of the Congolese state as another predator of resources and of the people?

It is difficult, because the mentalities take a long time before they can change. Even the occupants of the state structures don’t look long-term, but mostly to their own needs, using the state as a resource rather than as a protector of institutions, a protector of the integrity of the country. So it’s a little bit difficult. But we feel that if people become [mobilized to take responsibility] locally, the notion that all you need is to have some part of the state get a piece of the pie probably may change.

The international environment in our opinion is also important. For example, if the International Criminal Court can be given the leverage that it [needs to] have, certain people who may not be tried locally may probably [be tried in the ICC]. So that kind of institution may serve also as a constraint in making sure that things now move as they should.

Also, the network we are trying to build, networking even in the U.S., [helps] the U.S. civil society and population get a sense of what their government does outside [the U.S.]. In our case, [we can suggest] some things that people here can help us do, so that instead of the pressure which make it difficult for our institutions to function, we can ask for help from this side, to make sure that their government can also help. Most of the institutions of globalization are based in the West, and in these institutions, often Africans have no real impact. So if the [U.S.] population makes sure that some of the institutions are [operating with] a sense of equitable partnership, then that probably may help.

On our own we need to address issues of civic education, issues of being able to elect people who are going to make a difference. [We need to make] sure we have the institutions that make it impossible for anybody to function as if there were no laws. This means that we have to move to a real republic with autonomy of justice, autonomy of the legislature. The executive [branch of government] shouldn’t be as prominent or as linked to outside interests as it is now.

So you're saying, if I can summarize, that state building and nation building involves a sophisticated strategy of working at home to build a sense of norms and values you need, but at the same time working the globalization process to make sure that you win support elsewhere, and that the forces of globalization don't work against what you're trying to do at home.

Yes, precisely.

In your distinguished career you have been involved in many of the negotiations to bring a resolution of the conflict that was based in the Congo and coming from outside. Talk a little about that experience.
What made it possible through this series of negotiations (some of which failed) to bring the international security environment to a stable place where you could move ahead with these processes? Was it that people just got tired of fighting, was it a new balance of power in the region, or was it because of external intervention of great powers from different parts of the world?

I would say all of those. The population, first, got tired of the war and was becoming vocal in demanding that the Congolese actors come to an agreement. Civil society organizations and some individuals appealed to the actors to come to an agreement. Then you have the international community, the UN, all the humanitarian organizations also pushing for the process of peace.

Within the region, not all states were involved [in warfare]. Some
states from the very beginning of the war wanted questions to be resolved through negotiations. We had what was known as a "proximity talks" committee composed of those states who were opposed to the pursuit of war — Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. They made sure in their discussions with Uganda, Rwanda, Namibia, Angola, that some kind of consensus would come, which in fact led to the Lusaka Accord. The international community, because of its capacity in terms of finance, came in also; and the UN, using its organs. At one point, even, a personal envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN became in charge of the negotiations themselves. And South Africa, because of the relative capacity that it has (which other African states lack for the moment) offered its services, and offered also resources. So all these elements meant that we came to some kind of agreement.

Not that all issues were resolved. As you know, the conception of peace that dominates in the world is more like peace brought from without. It’s a peace that responds to the demands of those who threaten peace, not the demands of the victims. So it ended up saying, look, we must satisfy the actors, those who may resume or want to continue the war. If they stop fighting, the victims also benefit because there is no war, but the victims are not necessarily the starting point in terms of what kind of peace we want. At one point, when it was a zero-sum game, it was difficult, because this one wants more, that one [wants more].

And so we came to an understanding of what now is described as consensus and inclusivity, that all these actors are included. It’s now a matter just of working out the proportionality, who is supposed to have more, who is supposed to have less. That makes it also a little bit unstable, because the message is clear that if you have more arms you can have more power. That is why some people are trying to also do something like in Inturi, because they feel that by so doing maybe they also will be given something.

All the actors involved in negotiations are also given what we may describe as a responsibility stake. South Africa has certain things that it has to do. The Rwandese, the Ugandans, the Burundis too, and so on. And there is an international committee which is supposed to be the guarantor of the success of the transition. Now, it so happened, and I don’t know whether it is accidental, but it so happened that the UN mission to Congo, headed by a personal special envoy of the Secretary-General — the person of Ambassador William Swing, who is an American, so I don’t know if it’s just accidentally or whether it was planned — but he is also in charge of this committee that is the guarantor of the success of the transition.

So you have these checks and balances which make sure that nobody is going to break the accord without being accused of the responsibility of pursing the war, and that each party is, so to speak, watching the other parties, so that nobody is going to do things that are not accepted in the accord. That’s what probably is maintaining a little bit of the balance.

What are the factors that will enable the Congo to stay together as a state and not fall apart into the various regions?

The strong element is that all the categories of people — street people, leaders — they all want the country to be unified. Even when we were in the war, you ask Bemba, he says he wants the country to be unified. You ask Onusumba, he says the country has to be [unified]. You asked the government in the Kinshasa, you ask people in the streets, "What do you want?" "We want the country to come back together." So I would say that the strongest element is the fact that people want the country to remain together. There have been cases of Balkanization, but it’s also clear that no movement really has wanted the Balkanization. In fact, one guy mentioned that Tschombe’s son also said, "No, no, no, we want unity of the country." So that is the strongest thing.

The second element is that we need the infrastructure to reintegrate the country. Roads — the infrastructure right now is almost nonexistent. We have a natural road — the river! — which is now what [connects] Kisangani to Kinshasa. Building roads, building telecommunications and so on will bring people more and more together.

The third thing is the capacity of the state to at least be able to attend the borders, because at some point there were almost no states in many, many areas. The state wasn’t present, so those fighting the civil wars in the neighboring countries could just come in When it was discovered that not only could you come to organize yourself, but you discover, also, that you can have access to resources, it became a free-for-all. So the state needs the capacity to make sure that boundaries are attended to.

Fourth is the necessity of having clear people-to-people relationships. The way these countries were created was artificial, with many of the ethnic groups present in both contiguous countries. If there is a sense of people-to-people relationships and there are institutions that express that, that also will favor, in our opinion, [an unwillingness] to make a Balkanization or to start a war. If the state is based on discrimination, then this element of extending to other countries may become a negative element. That is why we need solidarity structures among the population to make sure that people understand that I, from the Congo, and the neighboring people in Rwanda are brothers and sisters in the sense of people-to-people relationships. That will make it possible to have peace and to have unity prevail.

Professor Wamba, on that hopeful note, I want to thank you for
coming to our program today and for participating in this fascinating story of your journey in the Congo to the United States and back to a leadership role in the Congo. And thank you, also, for coming to the campus to be a Regents Lecturer.

I thank you. It’s a pleasure.

And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with
History.

The DR Congo: Wars, Resources, Politics and History

The most overused explanation for the continuing chaos and warfare in the DRCongo is its fabulous and legendary resources (gold, copper, cobalt, uranium, diamonds, coltan, timber, water, etc.). Recently, thanks to Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, the public can connect today’s situation to what happened a century ago. This book was not only a useful reminder of the genocidal impact of Belgian conquest on the Congolese people, it also provided a graphic, raw illustration of the principles by which political and financial leaders having been ruling the world as a whole. However it was AFTER the Leopoldian Regime (1908) that the demographic decline of the population was most notable; and it was in 1921 that one of the greatest figures of Congolese resistance, Simon Kimbangu (founder of the Kimbanguist Church) was arrested. He died in prison, 30 years later, in 1951.

With Independence on June 30, 1960, the possibility arose for the Congolese people as a whole to enjoy the wealth of their country, under the leadership of a government led by Patrice Emery Lumumba, the first and only elected Prime Minister the country ever had. His assassination and the disposal of his body in an acid bath were meant to act as a deterrent to any other would-be disciple.

Extreme and exemplary punishment has always been part of the strategy to ensure that indigenous peoples anywhere on the planet are crushed into submission to the system. In 1706, the King of the Kongo, lobbied by Italian Capuchin missionaries, arrested Kimpa Vita (aka Dona Beatriz) and her daughter and had both burned alive. Her crime was her opposition to slavery.

Throughout their history, the Congolese have never had the possibility of really deciding by themselves, for themselves, on the future of their country—leading some to argue that the DRCongo’s wealth has been more a curse than a blessing. By themselves the resources do not trigger wars; it is the manner in, and the purpose for which they were sought and extracted that led to terror and violence. The colonial state and the repressive structures which went with it (army, police, and legal system) were never transformed to serve the interests of the former colonial subjects.

They could not transform it because their most precious resource, the one which hardly receives any attention in the press, was maimed and tortured into submission, into forgetting that they do not have to beg anyone for recognition of their humanity. This happened when the “discoverers,” having exterminated the Arawaks and the Amerindians, turned to Africa for cheap labor and invented Atlantic Slavery. However, the unmarketability of humanity makes it our (not just the Congolese’s) most precious resource. The rationale for treating indigenous peoples all over the planet as less than human has been a constant of the system. IT IS THAT TREATMENT WHICH HAS TO BE CHANGED. Unless this happens, having the right price for more or less of diamonds, gold, copper, uranium, timber, hydroelectric power, cobalt, coltan, oil, will not change much. Milan Kundera, a nonindigenous person, understood this when he wrote the following words:

The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was… The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

–From The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

2-26-06