“We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese. They will not abandon the light until the day comes when there are no more colonizers and their mercenaries in our country.”
Wrote Patrice Lumumba in his last letter, December 1960.
Four years later, at the UN General Assembly of 1964, Ernesto Che Guevara said;
“I would like to refer specifically to the painful case of the Congo, unique in the history of the modern world, which shows how, with absolute impunity, with the most insolent cynicism, the rights of peoples can be flouted. The direct reason for all this is the enormous wealth of the Congo, which the imperialist countries want to keep under their control. In the speech he made during his first visit to the United Nations, compañero Fidel Castro observed that the whole problem of coexistence among peoples boils down to the wrongful appropriation of other peoples' wealth. He made the following statement: ‘End the philosophy of plunder and the philosophy of war will be ended as well.’”
Che continued; “All free men of the world must be prepared to avenge the crime of the Congo.”
Then there is the famous statement attributed to Julius Nyerere at the installation ceremony of Laurent Kabila in 1997; That-“There are no uncles any more for Congo, do not wait for them to come and help you – the country is yours and you must take the responsibility for it and for your people”
|The Political Map of DRC|
Congo’s depressing History
Much has been said about the Congo, mostly about its tribulations. In fact, if anyone wanted to make a study of why Africa, 50 years after independence from colonial rule is still struggling, then one needs to look no further than the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If it is about assassinations of progressive and visionary leaders and replacing them with puppets controlled by foreigners, then you will find one of the earliest in the Congo, in the form of Patrice Lumumba, and Mobutu Sese Seko.
If it is western countries arming and supporting rebels to create war and destabilize African nations through demands for secession, then you will find one of the earliest examples will be found in the DRC, with Moise Tshombe and the mineral rich Katanga cessation attempt.
If it is about dictatorships in Africa, lack of democracy, puppet regimes, leaders enriching themselves & looting their countries dry, despicably corrupt leadership, political prisoners, forcing personality cult worship of leaders, nepotism,,,,anything & everything bad about African leaders and leadership, you will find the best example in the DRC, through Joseph Desire Mobutu, aka Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga ( the cock that spares no hen).
If it about UN interventions that worsen matters in world conflicts, then the UN Congo intervention in the 60's is one of them.
If it is about deadly ethnic superstition, you will find it in DRC.
If it is about exploitation of African resources by foreign countries and corporations with extremely little or no benefits to the African people, then look no further.
Slavery, King Leopold II, the Belgians and resistance
Even before the tragedies of the last half of the last century, the people in and around Congo had experienced the unspeakable brutality of the slave trade for several centuries, from both its Eastern and western sides, where millions of the strongest and the fittest were captured and taken as slaves to the Americas, Europe and the Arab world; an atrocity whose negative effects were felt for many generations that followed. (we can only imagine how far the African would be today, if millions of its strongest youth were not taken to slave elsewhere or die in the slave ships, or we can instead imagine, how stagnated Africa could remain, if for the next 100 years, millions of its most able youth are taken out of it, never to come back again)
Then came King Leopold II of Belgium, (whose claim to the Congo he supported by his ‘wanting to end slavery’) who brutalized the people, killed over 10 million Congolese in just 20 years, and left tens of millions of women and children with their hands chopped off and genitals mutilated either because their husbands had not worked had enough to produce enough rubber, or just because it was not possible to produce enough rubber for Leopold.(Most of Leopold's wealth that he had gotten from Congo was taken up by Belgium after his death)
Then Belgium moved in and continued with the murder and plunder (Belgium has the world’s best diamond cutters, and exports a lot of natural diamonds, yet it does not produce any!) until the nationalists managed to gain their independence from their colonizers,,,,,,and the rest of the story is recent history.
[Below are the more known internet photos of the way things were during Leopold's colonization]
|A young girl and her sister with cut off hands|
|Women who's hands were cut off because the husbands did not 'work hard enough'|
|Some Congolese men holding some of the cut hands|
|A father, looking in disbelief and sadness at the hands that belonged to his five year old daughter|
On the other hand, the story of DRC has been that of resilience of the people, people rebuilding their lives after each of the numerous manmade calamities that have been imposed on them. A people whose scars are hidden in their happy faces and their welcoming hearts. A people who have refused to be put down by their sad history and an uncertain future. A people who in them resides a deep sense of Utu.
Armed Conflicts and wars
Over the past two decades, the DRC has been through deadly conflicts, and wars that sound more fiction than real. The two Main recent Congo wars left over 6 million people dead and tens of millions devastated.
First came what was seen as a progressive struggle against the backward regime of Mobutu, when the rebels from the East, led by among others Laurent-Desire Kabila, and primarily supported by Paul Kagame’s RPF soldiers, and also directly by the Uganda army (and later by Angola) and they managed to quickly take over town after town reaching Kinshasa with no much struggle from the Zairean Armed forces, whose Commander in Chief had already fled into exile in Morocco.
The main reason that Kagame gave for their entry into Congo was that the Hutu Interahamwe rebels were reorganizing themselves in Eastern Congo(including within the refugee camps) with the intention of invading Rwanda for the purposes of retaking power and continuing with the genocide that they had began earlier, and so they had to move into Congo and fight them off from within Congo……but later they realised that they also had to remove Mobutu from power, since he was supporting the Hutu rebels, and so they did remove him from power.
As expected, Laurent Kabila became the President of the then Zaire, which he renamed Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but even before he could settle down, trouble started again.
His government and his Military was dominated by the Rwandan Tutsis, and they were creating trouble for him concerning agreements that Kabila had made with Rwanda and Uganda “while in the Bush.” (It is alleged that they (Kabila, Museveni and Kagame) had agreed that after toppling Mobutu, the mineral rich Kivu would be left under total administration of Rwanda.)
Due to the tensions in his government, he ordered all the Tutsi Rwandan elements in his government out of DRC, and he replaced them with some Congolese nationals.
Rwanda and Uganda immediately began aiding and funding rebels in the East of Congo, and another war began in Congo. Later, Rwanda, Uganda and to some extent Burundi openly joined the War, and began repeating what they had done earlier, taking over town after town with so much ease, with the intention of toppling Laurent Kabila, and this time round replacing him with a person that they could trust, a Rwandese Tutsi.
Intervention of Zimbabwe, Angola and Zambia
Kabila’s young government could not stop what Mobutu’s old government could not stop. He was facing two armies that had toppled three presidents in less than 15 years (Kagame had fought under Yoweri Museveni when NRM/A toppled General Tito Okello from power(just seven months after Okello had removed Milton Obote from Power), Kagame was aided by Museveni when he launched his RPF rebel army from Uganda and removed the Habyarimana regime from Power…..and both Kagame and Museveni armed forces had participated in the overthrow of Mobutu (for Museveni, it was sweet revenge against Mobutu who had earlier supported Okello militarily against the rebels))
Kabila called for help from everywhere, and finally under the strong influence and leadership of Robert Mugabe, some SADC countries, Angola, Zambia and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe agreed at a summit in Harare to move into DRC in support of Kabila. That is when the Rwandan and Ugandan Armed forces met the wrath of Zimbabwe’s armed forces, supported by Angola and Zambia.
By the time Zimbambwe’s Army (born out of the experienced Anti-Colonial Guerrilla Army) moved into DRC, the Rwandan and the Ugandans were at ‘the gates’ of Kinshasa. But after a few battles between the allied forces and the invading armies, the invading army had to run with their dead back to Rwanda(and Eastern Congo)….and then some sort of peace deal was later brokered, which required that Rwanda withdraws all its forces from the DRC, but as expected, this was never to be.
**I regard RG Mugabe highly for this. Many people in DRC do so too.**
Even though another peace deal was brokered in 2002, the Government of Rwanda continued to fund rebels in Eastern Congo, and continued mining the high-value minerals in Eastern Congo.
The Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) would continue openly entering into DRC, with their usual excuse of fighting the Interehamwe who were organized as Democratic Forces for the Liberation Rwanda (FDLR), but they would continue with their mining business and causing terror to the people of Eastern Congo.
Massacre of 200, 000 Hutus
The lowest point of all the RDF invasions was when, with the logistical support of the United States of America, RDF murdered an estimated 200, 000 innocent Hutu refugees in the DRC, having branded all Hutus in DRC as FDLR.
Peace talks and Inclusion of rebels into DRC Government
The DRC would later, in an effort to end all this violence in the east, engage in talks with the rebel armies fighting against it, and most of the rebel groups agreed to the peace process, and joined the government and the army, with their leaders getting senior positions in the military.
By the time these talks (with Kagame and later with the rebels) were being carried out, Laurent Kabila had been assassinated, and his son, Joseph Kabila (through the influence of RG Mugabe) was appointed the President of DRC by the Congolese army.
(At the time of his assassination, Laurent Kabila, who had several decades before fought alongside Che Guevara, had been moving consistently to the left, and some of his advisers were people like Comrade Ludo Marteens, a brilliant thinker and member of the Belgian Workers Party, alongside other Socialists.)
To cut the long sad story short, Kagame continued/continues to support and armed rebel groups in the East of DRC; and the killings, deaths and devastation continued/continues. Kagame also continued/continues to deny the he had any links with these mostly Tusti-led rebel groups, (just as he had at first denied-but later accepted, that there were any Rwandan forces fighting alongside Laurent Kabila to overthrow Mobutu).
All rebel leaders seek refuge in Rwanda
But even to most gullible supporters of Kagame couldn’t help but notice that whenever these rebel groups are destabilized either by the Armed Forces of DRC (FARDC) or through their own internal wrangles, the losing rebel leaders have always found safe refuge in Rwanda, under the facilitation of the Rwandan government. The likes of Colonel Jules Mutebutsi, General Laurent Nkunda, Colonel Baudouin Ngaruye, Eric Badege, Colonel Innocent Zimurinda, Bishop Runinga Rugerero and many others lead open and comfortable lives in Rwanda. This is despite the many warrants of arrests issued by the DRC government.
It is only General Bosco Ntaganda who did not have a good time in Rwanda since he had refuse to respect the leadership of Sultani Makenga in the M23 as approved by Kigali. He had to seek refuge at the US embassy in Kigali and asked that he be extradited to the Hague.
Kagame’s eternal excuse, FDLR, ends
Kagame’s excuse for invading DRC had always been that he needed to exterminate the FDLR rebels operating from the DRC. He has always used the early 90’s Rwandan genocide to blackmail the world, so that he could do whatever he wanted to do to avoid ‘another genocide’ in Rwanda.
Tired of this excuse, the DRC government agreed with the Kagame government that the FARDC conduct joint operations with the Rwandese Defense Forces (RDF) in eastern Congo to weed out all the FDLR rebels in eastern Congo.
The joint military operations, which began in 2009 were named operations Kimia, Kimia II, and Umoja Wetu. The operations were successful and they weeded out almost all the FDLR (Interehamwe) rebels, with hundreds of them having been killed in combat, and over 12, 000 Rwandese repatriated back to Rwanda.
Below is one of the videos taken at the end of the operation in Eastern DRC.
Coming to birth of M23
Left with no other excuse of directly invading the DRC, the only other option that Rwanda was left with was to increase its support to its rebel movements in the DRC, who were consolidated into the M23 movement. (Kagame’s open support for the M23 led to the temporary withdrawal of military funding to Rwanda by some western countries)
(It is observed that Kagame’s mentor, Museveni, has always used a similar strategy but in different circumstances. Even after fighting and exterminating Joseph Kony’s LRA rebel group in Northern Uganda, Kony would always reappear as the election periods in Uganda neared, and Museveni’s soldiers would fight Kony so bravely that his support at the ballots would increase. Joseph Kony also seems to operate where Museveni has interests. If Museveni needs to interfere with the Sudanese government/support the SPLM/A, then Kony will go and hide in Sudan. If Museveni wants to do some joint military operations with the US army in Central African Republic, then Joseph Kony will go and hide in CAR, if he needs minerals from the DRC, then Kony will flee and hide in the DRC……)
After the quick takeover of Goma by the M23/RDF towards the end of last year as the FARDC ran away, while the UN peace keeping forces just stood by the side as the M23/RDF violently took over Goma, Ban Ki Moon gave the rebels an ultimatum to disarm and withdraw, but the rebels ignored the ultimatum and instead demanded for talks.
The process of searching for a permanent solution for Eastern Congo was thus initiated (again)
At about the same time, Ugandan soldiers were also operating in the DRC, with their usual claim that they are after some LRA rebels.
With M23/RDF taking over Goma, and Ugandan military operating in DRC, It was clear that a script from the past was about to be replayed.
This made Kabila look for help within SADC, and Angola announced that it would be sending its elite forces into DRC’s eastern front, a move that had already been consented to by the DRC government.
Of course, if the Angolans were to deal with M23, then it meant dealing with the RDF and in essence dealing with Kagame. Zimbabwe and Tanzania also promised to volunteer troops to the region.
Temporary diversion from hope
Museveni and his wing-man, Kagame, sensed the danger, and instead, they did four critical things;
· Museveni hastily withdrew his armed forces from the DRC.
· Museveni called for an ICGLR (International Conference on Great Lakes Region) led peace talks meeting between the M23 and the DRC government.
· Kagame and his western allies (US & Britain) expanded the mandate of the UN neutralization brigade, transforming it into an Intervention brigade that could engage M23/RDF in open battle. Meaning that the justification for the Angolan/Zimbabwean/Tanzanian direct intervention was no longer there.
· Museveni quickly ran to Luanda, and begged Eduardo Dos Santos not to sent any troops, since the peace talks were about to begin, and since the mandate of the UN forces had been expanded.
Those ICGLR talks began and failed because the M23 stuck to their demands which included that:
· The government of DRC should share power with M23, and they should be appointed as ambassadors, that they should be allowed to head some of the government parastatals and institutions and that there leaders should also be appointed as provincial heads.
· The M23 soldiers should be integrated into the FARDC and given high ranks.
· Amnesty should be given to all rebels who have engaged in Eastern DRC from 2009.
· The M23 should be given total administrative and military control of the region of Rutshuru for a renewable period of 5 years.
Also, SADC seemed to agree to the UN plans, and so Tanzania and South Africa contributed troops for the UN Intervention Brigade. (The idea of an Intervention Brigade is good, but not better than the idea of direct intervention against M23/RDF)
M23 and Kagame react
The M23 responded by threatening both Tanzania and South Africa, with a stern warning letter to Jacob Zuma that ‘should he send SA troops into the DRC, then they should prepare for more body bags than they had gotten from Central African Republic’ a few months earlier.
Then there were allegations of Rwanda’s plan to cause destabilization in Western Tanzania, by infiltrating the region with rebels so as to keep Tanzania busy with some internal affairs, since Jakaya Kikwete was openly becoming more critical with Kagame’s activities in the DRC.
Kikwete followed up with a warning to Kagame that “Anyone who dares invade or provoke us will face dire consequences” and a few weeks later, thousands of Rwandese national who had entered western Tanzania illegally were expelled from Tanzania.
Recapture of Goma and new ICGLR talks
As for the better part of last month, the MONUSCO(FIB)-FARDC forces have been battling the M23, with a lot of success, as was expected.
They quickly recaptured Goma, and they are still trailing the M23/RDF into the hills of Eastern RDC/Western Rwanda.(where the geography of the area makes it difficult to further battle the M23/RDF, unless they get into Rwandan territory)
Kagame has claimed that the FARDC has shelled its territory, and has send thousands of RDF soldiers along its borderline and some of these RDF soldiers openly engaged in combat alongside the M23 during their retreat from Goma (and Ban Ki Moon’s best reaction to this brazen involvement of RDF was to ‘strongly condemn Rwanda’ for its involvement!).
Kagame is also claiming that the FARDC & the UN forces are being aided by the FDLR (interehamwe), which ironically they had almost completely wiped off during the Kimia I, Kimia II and Umoja wetu joint operations.
The just ended ICGLR peace talks meeting in Uganda (whose resolutions were actually overshadowed by photos of Kikwete and Kagame shaking hands) demanded for the halting of all hostilities and also demanded for new talks between M23 and DRC, which must begin and end within the next 14 days. This for me appears to be just another plan to buy time, and help M23/RDF reorganize.
The Congolese armed forces
as a way forward, Joseph Kabila needs to reorganize his Army and all his security apparatus. For a country like the DRC, security should be more important than everything else. The DRC should be one of the biggest military spenders in Africa.
A question that comes to anyone hearing about the Congo conflicts usually is; How comes a big country like the DRC, is always troubled by smaller countries like Rwanda and Uganda?
In as much as this question may sound too simplistic, it still holds a lot of water. Joseph Kabila has been given legitimacy through two elections in the past, and he should take proper charge of the DRC. He should not encourage war, but he should not fear engaging in it when it has been imposed on him. Most importantly, he must prepare for war. It doesn’t make sense having a big and beautiful capital while you are living in constant fear that it might be destroyed anytime.
African countries that have experienced Wars, both external and internal, or are situated in unstable regions do not joke around with their military expenditure. Algeria, which has been invaded in the past by Morocco; has had a bloody civil war; and continues experiencing threats from the imperialist countries and Islamist terrorists, has an annual military budget of over ksh 800 Billion.
Angola, having been faced by civil wars that were imposed on them spends over ksh 300Billion. Sudan and Nigeria, having faced civil wars in the past, and still facing constant internal threats spend annually over 160Billion and 140Billion respectively.
Morocco, spends over ksh300Billion on its military, which has in the past been used to invade Algeria, and has been illegally occupying/colonizing Western Sahara Republic since 1975(keeping in mind that its economy is dependent on Tourism, Sale of drugs like Hashish& Heroine and minerals stolen from Western Sahara)
Military spending alone will also not be enough. Brother Leader Muammar Gaddafi went down without any real fight, despite spending heavily on his army. (They never even tried to bomb France which is not far off!)
He will need to instill Patriotism, courage and boost the morale of his soldiers. His soldiers need to be loyal to the DRC and her people. He will need to mobilize the whole country to itself.
The stories of the DRC soldiers fleeing like cowards should be stories of the past. Che Guevara wrote about that problem during his engagement in the Congo in the 60’s. Mobutu’s forces did the same in the 90’s. Laurent Kabila’s forces continued with the habit, so have Joseph’s forces as was even seen last year during the M23 takeover of Goma.
The worst thing about the FARDC is that whereas they used to be biggest cowards when faced with foreign invaders, they are also known to be very brutal and undisciplined when dealing with its own population. This means that Kabila will need to work on the discipline and order in his Army.
Over the past few months though, the FARDC has engaged the M23/RDF very courageously and with utmost discipline, which not only shocked the M23/RDF, but also surprised people like us who support DRC’s sovereignty. Even though the intervention brigade has really helped in beating off the M23/RDF rebels, The FARDC also managed to recapture strategic positions from M23/RDF all alone! This is an extremely positive turn for the FARDC.
This is because all indications show that, just like Kagame needed to get into DRC territory to weed out the Interehamwe rebels, the FARDC will need to get into the Rwandan territory to weed out the M23 rebels and other rebels.
It also follows the same logic that just as it was necessary to remove dictator Mubutu Sese Seko from power in 1997 so as to reduce the possibilities of war in Rwanda, it is now, more than ever before, extremely necessary to remove dictator Paul kagame from power, so as to reduce the possibility of further wars in the Congo.
|Photo of a FARDC Soldier being cheered by the population after the re-capture of Goma from M23 rebels (Photo from the FARDC facebook page)|
At least dealing with Yoweri Museveni is much easier. He is more pragmatic than Kagame, and he is also a coward. A call from a few African heads of states is enough to tame him. He seems also to be brighter than Kagame; It is easier to deal with bright people, than it is with the opposite.
Imperialism will not rest.
Even with the extermination of M23, even with the removal or death of Paul Kagame, imperialism will not rest, nor will it allow the DRC to rest. Instability and interference in the DRC were there even before Kagame came to power.
There is a common saying among some people that war in the Congo will only end after all its resources are depleted.
The Americans have never abandoned their plans to divide the DRC into several countries.
The Americans, the British, the Israelis, the Belgians, the French, the Japanese and many others are still mining Coltan, Uranium, Platinum, Diamonds, Gold, Timber, and many other natural resources in the DRC.
The DRC leadership needs to learn from its history, and also from the experiences of how other mineral rich countries like Angola saved themselves from its past wars. Only they themselves can solve their own problems as they move forward.
In the meantime, all progressive people in the world, and especially in Africa must speak up, show solidarity and work hard to support the sovereignty of DRC and the prosperity of Bana ba Congo.
8th September 2013
The DRC is, and has been Africa’s Superpower in terms of Music for a long time. Right from the days of Franco and his TPOK Jazz, Madilu, Papa Wemba, Pepe Kalle, Tabu Ley, Tshal Mwana, Mbilia Bel, Kanda Bongoman, Awilo Longomba to the invigorating bands of the early 90’s. Great musicians like Koffi olomide, JB Mpiana, Werrason, General Defao. Beautiful voices of people like Lokua Kanza and Barbara Kanam…..to the current sensations like Ferra Gola and Fally Ipupa among many others.
Maybe the DRC government should work with these artists to promote unity among the people of DRC, and also to act as Peace/Sovereignty ambassadors for the DRC. If for instance Fally Ipupa stood up and told M23/RDF off, it would be more powerful than when the same is done by DRC’s foreign affairs minister Raymond Tshibanda. Koffi Olomide’s word will have much more impact across Africa than that of Louise Mushikabwo (Rwanda’s minister of foreign Affairs)
After President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration, President Joseph Kabila stayed around a little bit longer than the rest of the visitors, and he held several talks with Uhuru Kenyatta.
Even though we do not know about the content of their discussions, Uhuru should definitely play an active role in resolving the never ending DRC conflicts. He is at a good position to influence both Museveni and Kagame (even in the midst of the supremacy battles with Tanzania in the EAC).
His predecessor Mwai Kibaki did very well with Somalia. Under him, Kenya hosted peace talks after peace talks, eventually sending her Defense Forces into Somalia, and it looks like Somalia’s future will improve.
I do not see why Kenya should not work closely with the DRC, so as to end her never ending conflicts, and possibly engage with her and others in the Intra-Africa trade that Uhuru keeps talking about. Supporting the DRC is first as a matter of principal, and secondly as a way of promoting Africa’s interests right from its heart.