There is a nightmare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the situation there is devastating. Congo is one of those countries with a perennial humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by a grave political situation. President Joseph Kabila is refusing to leave power, long after his mandate as stipulated by the Constitution expired. Kabila is the apt embodiment of the line of dictators that has caused the death of billions of black men, women and children in the Congo since 1961. The blame does not start with him, he is just one of the many who benefit from the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The Congo was once a cradle for proud and excellent African civilizations, before the advent of white colonialism disrupted the glory that marked these civilizations. From Kuba under Shyaam the Great to the Matamba Kingdom under Ngola Kambolo, these kingdoms that preceded the modern day Congo were a feature of the greatness that the region knew. When the whites descended, these civilizations began to crumble one by one, falling to the malicious excesses of missionaries, slave traders and colonialists. The Berlin Conference was held to divide Africa among the whites, a decision in which no African views were brought forth. At that conference, the Congo was given to King Leopold I of Belgium. And that was to be the genesis of unspeakable and unpalatable atrocities ever committed on Africans by one man whose head was filled with greed, evil machinations and an insatiable quest for control and power.
In Leopold’s unhindered pursuit of rubber, ivory and gold, tens of millions of black men, women and children were slaughtered. Leopold was very evil to the extent that some of his fellow white men could not fathom why he conducted his hellish misdeeds. The Congo remained in the hands of the Belgians even after the death of Leopold in 1909. When World War I broke out, more than 300 000 Congolese were forced to fight fellow blacks from the German controlled colony of Ruanda-Urundi. During World War II when Nazi Germany captured Belgium, the Congo served as a source of income for the Belgian government in exile.
The Belgian government was ruthless in seeking their economic interests. All the while, millions of blacks were forced to work in mines and on fields to support their nation. A system of “mandatory cultivation” (cultures obligatoires) was introduced that forced the people to grow cash crops for export, even as they starved on their own land. The primary focus on growing cash crops fuelled the resentment that the blacks had towards the Belgian.
By 1961, the conditions had totally become unbearable and untenable, and the Congolese rose in tremendous unison to overthrow the century-long rule of oppression. Patrice Lumumba, considered the martyr of Pan-Africanism, was chosen as the first Prime Minister. He wanted to do away with the Belgian influence on Congo and allied with Russia. The victory was to be short-lived, as Lumumba was assassinated in a United-States backed coup. Mobutu Sese Seko is the infamous agent who was used in humiliating Lumumba and ending his life, and any of his impact. Lumumba was captured, beaten, and forced to eat copies of his own speeches — all in front of the press. After being tortured for three weeks, he was executed by a firing squad.
Mobutu was merciless and was swift. He had the blessing of the West. He set out to purge the people who had risen in support of Lumumba; peasants, workers, students and civil servants who rallied behind Lumumba’s lieutenants. Mobutu returned Congo to Belgian rule, in exchange for their support. He went about publicly executing members of the pro-Lumuba revolution in open-air spectacles witnessed by tens of thousands of people. By 1970, nearly all potential threats to his authority had been smashed. Mobutu was the perfect proxy for the West, and a blind eye was turned to all the heinous crimes against humanity he was committing (a trend which was to characterize Congo up to this very day).
Mobutu was infamously corrupt- bleeding an estimated $2 billion from the Congo. His historic rhetoric towards his white overlords resulted in him no longer being the favoured proxy for the West. In Laurent Kabila, a perfect replacement was found for him. Sese Seko was overthrown in 1997 as a result of this. Between both Mobutu and Kabila, not only would Congo become the concentration camp of the world — it would become the rape capital as well.
The atrocities were too much. No woman was spared in the bloody path of violence. 7 year olds were raped by government troops in public. Pregnant women were disemboweled. Genital mutilation was commonplace, as was forced incest and cannibalism. The crimes were never punished, and never will be. This was the situation perpetuated and maintained by Laurent Kabila until he was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2001. His son, Joseph Kabila, took over and since then, the humanitarian crisis in the country has rapidly deteriorated – while the whole world is watching and not saying anything with bold emphasis, save for countries like Botswana that have openly denounced the situation there.
Protesters and opposition supporters are killed, the whims of the West are still being followed. That describes Joseph Kabila. The world’s superpowers are silent about it because as it has been proven here, they historically caused it. And they are the beneficiaries of it too. The US shares the largest responsibility. Under Mobutu, the US was the third largest aid donor to the Congo (after Belgium and France) and Mobutu himself was on good terms with the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Things started to look up during the Obama Administration. The former President signed provisions into the Dodd-Frank law that required companies to disclose the origins of the minerals they use. When the law was passed, trade groups representing major U.S. companies tried to block the rule through a federal lawsuit. When they failed, those companies continued to purchase conflict minerals from third parties.By shining a spotlight on supply chains, it would put pressure on companies to invest in removing conflict minerals from their products.
The Congo provides the world with the minerals used to make microchips, cellphones and semiconductors. Companies like Intel, Apple, HP, and IBM are culpable for funding the militias that control the mines, in utterly deplorable conditions. Currently, Donald Trump is seeking to undo the Obama era financial regulations. The US has used neighbouring countries to provoke violence in the Congo. Back in the 1990s, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame invaded the Congo with the help of the Clinton Administration. His invasion was a retaliation on Hutu rebels from the Rwandan genocide who fled into the neighboring country. Most people killed were civilian men, women and children.
The nightmare in Congo is happening while the whole world is watching. The holocaust inflicted on the Jews by the Nazi saw the whole world saying “Never Again!” But this is not the situation in Congo. No one is talking about it. Why? Because the world’s superpowers are dependent on the Congo for their economies and control over the world’s economy.