Death, Destruction & Rape in the DR Congo: It is WAY Past Time to “Break the Silence”

Posted on October 28, 2013 by

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by Mxolisi T. Sowell / Ozo-SowandeDR Congo 6

The awesome potential of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its people has been spelled out as follows:

1. Congo’s people represent its greatest potential with a population of 75 million, half under the age of 18.

2. Congo is a huge reservoir of strategic minerals (cobalt, copper, zinc, gold, diamond, silver, magnesium, germanium, uranium, coltan, petroleum and many other resources.

3. Congo possesses 64 percent of the world’s reserve of coltan (a mineral found in cell phones, laptop computers, jet engines, X-ray film, ink jet printers, hearing aids, pacemakers, game consoles such as playstation, xbox and Nintendo, video & digital cameras, prosthetic devices for humans – hips, plates in the skull, also mesh to repair/replace bone removal after damage by cancer, and more).

4. Congo has 34 percent of world’s cobalt and 10 percent of its copper.

5. Congo is a part of the second largest rainforest in the world, which is vital in the fight against global warming and climate change.

6. Congo has the hydro capacity to provide electricity for the entire African continent, southern Europe and parts of the Middle East.

7. Congo has the agricultural capacity to feed the entire world through 2050.

But the tragic and devastating daily reality for DRC denizens is reflected in the following:

1. It is estimated that nearly six million people have died in the Congo since 1996 as a result of conflict and conflict related causes (as much as 90% due to malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displaced populations living in unsanitary and over-crowded conditions that lacked access to shelter, water, food and medicine); nearly 50 percent of them children under the age of five.  Forty-five thousand continue to die each month.

DR Congo 72. Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped as a weapon of war. One study estimates that as many as 400,000 women may be raped there each year. Additionally, sexual assault is visited on men and children at an incomprehensible level; all of which serves to destabilize, divide, and destroy the spirit of the people.

3. Eighty percent of the population lives on 30 cents or less per day.

4. The international community is systematically looting Congo’s spectacular mineral wealth, while the world’s uninformed consumers demand more of what those inhumanely acquired minerals (“conflict minerals”) facilitate.

Congo Week VI

Breaking the Silence Congo Week (the third week of October) was first organized and put into motion in 2008 by students and community organizers, to commemorate the millions of lives lost in DRC conflicts and to acknowledge the yet enormous human and natural potential that exists in the country.

2013 marks the sixth year that these students and organizers are working to get communities, organizations and individuals throughout the globe to join them in showing of films, holding teach-ins and forums, organizing rallies, hosting fundraisers, putting on concerts and undertaking other activities to “elevate the profile of the Congo throughout the globe.” (Break the Silence!)  Their efforts go forth with the conviction that the voices of religious leaders, scholars, intellectuals, artists, and ordinary people throughout the world can be a positive force when it comes to “acknowledging the lives of the Congolese people and their pursuit for human dignity.”

With the DRC sitting in the heart of Africa, bordered by nine other countries, it is widely held that as the Congo goes so does the rest of Africa. In that light, Breaking the Silence organizers, including Friends of the Congo (FOTC) are seeking on-going support and consciousness-raising on the following points:

  • We must work with the Congolese and other Africans to make sure that the Congolese and NOT external forces determine the future direction of their country;
  • We must put a stop to mass murders in the quest for riches. To profit at the expense of the people is destructive to the human spirit;
  • We must demand that foreign countries and corporations implement humane policies toward the Congo;
  • See to it that Western nations – including the U.S., U.K., Belgium, and others — under the auspices of the cold war, that were complicit in the assassination of an elected nationalist leader (Patrice Lumumba) and in placing a brutal dictator (Mobutu Sese Soko) and propping him up for 37 years while he brutalized the Congolese people and systematically stole the riches of the country, realize that they have an obligation to make sure that international networks and actors refrain from undermining genuine Congolese leadership aiming to create a decent way of life for the average Congolese; 
  • The rapes, slaughter and savagery being committed in the Congo are affronts to the human conscience. Every individual and leader in the global community should be ashamed and outraged that we have allowed an estimated 6 million Congolese to die since 1996 as a result of a resource war. As human beings in a so-called civilized world, we can and must do better.

To get information on how you can help visit http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/index.php.

Devastating History

The Congo has a long history of being pillaged and the people being used as fodder in a rush for natural resources. The Belgian king, Leopold II, ruled over a death chamber from 1885 – 1908, when conservative estimates put the number of Congolese dying as a result of Leopold’s personal rule at 10 million. Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property, naming it the Congo Free State. During Leopold’s era the resources at the root of the suffering of the Congolese were ivory and rubber, today it is coltan, tin, diamonds, gold and copper to name a few.

In 1908, the Belgian parliament, despite initial reluctance, bowed to international pressure (especially that from Great Britain) and took over the Free State from Leopold. As a Belgian colony it was called the Belgian Congo, under the rule of the elected Belgian government, until the Congolese people gained their independence in June of 1960.

But independence ain’t been no crystal staircase for the Congolese people. From the very start, their first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, and first president, Joseph Kasavubu, had irreconcilable differences regarding the path the country was to take. In early September, with the nation’s independence little more than two-months old, Kasavubu “dismissed” Lumumba from office, leading to a crisis between the two, along with chaos, confusion and lawlessness throughout much of the country. It was in this context that a CIA-sponsored / Joseph Mobutu-led coup took place, including the kidnapping, savage beating, torture, and assassination of Lumumba on January 17, 1961 – with the Belgian government joining the U.S. in urging, supporting and aiding that action.

That chaos continued through the early 60’s, with rebellions and separatist movements rising and falling in various regions of the country, destroying the dream of a united Congolese nation. In the midst of the chaos, Mobuto continued to grow as the most favored African in the eyes of those imperialistic outsiders (the U.S., Belgium and others; governments and business vultures as well), not only for his role in the assassination of Lumumba but also his unceasing anti-communist rhetoric and his manipulative management of the largely Western-financed Congolese military. These factors, and a complexity of others, provided for a second Mobutu-led coup in November of 1965 and the emergence of his brutal, economically devastating, 32 year dictatorial reign (kleptocracy); including giving himself a new name, one which reflected the character and nature of his leadership style — Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.”).

Africa’s World War

Since Mobutu’s demise, exile and death in 1997, the people of DR Congo have endured suffering to the extreme in what some have called “Africa’s World War.” An article appearing in the New York Time edition of September 24, 2009 (Kagame’s Hidden War in the Congo) outlined many details of that holocaust/maafa which are still pertinent today. The article starts thusly:

“Although it has been strangely ignored in the Western press, one of the most destructive wars in modern history has been going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s third-largest country . . . millions of people have died, while armies from as many as nine different African countries fought with Congolese government forces and various rebel groups for control of land and natural resources. Much of the fighting has taken place in regions of northeastern and eastern Congo that are rich in minerals such as gold, diamonds, tin, and coltan, which is used in manufacturing electronics.

“Few realize that a main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda, along with several Congolese groups supported by Rwanda. The reason for this involvement, according to Rwandan president Paul Kagame, is the continued threat to Rwanda posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia that includes remnants of the army that carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Until now, the US and other Western powers have generally supported Kagame diplomatically.”

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The article goes on to address:

  • A United Nations report documenting Rwanda’s involvement in the Congo violence in order to advance Rwanda’s interest in Congo wealth; including the recruitment and supplying of soldiers (including children), and the assigning of officers to direct their activities;
  • How the vacuum created by Mobutu’s overthrow unleashed fierce competition for Congolese coltan and other resources, leading to the “militarization of commerce” by both foreign governments and rebel groups;
    • How the U.S. chose to “look the other way” as Rwandan forces invaded Zaire/Congo, ostensibly to eliminate the “vastly exaggerated” threat of renewed genocidal actions by the remnants of the defeated Tutsi army, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of non-combatant Tutsi refugees who had fled Rwanda to escape that madness; how Tutsi army remnants comprised only about 7 percent of that population of more than one million refugees;
    • How Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Clinton administration (or someone from her staff), had reported that Museveni (of Uganda) and Kagame (Rwanda) said they knew how to deal with the danger . . . “The only thing we (the U.S.) have to do is look the other way.”

(You should read that entire article here! http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/sep/24/kagames-hidden-war-in-the-congo/)

The articles at the following links help provide additional pertinent insights and perspectives on “Africa’s World War”:

http://mag.newsweek.com/2013/01/13/the-case-against-rwanda-s-president-paul-kagame.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/03/us-usa-africa-childsoldiers-idUSBRE9920SJ20131003 ~Rwanda Sanctioned by U. S. over child soldiers

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/88649 ~ We Must Swallow These Hard Truths

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/88187 ~ Why Didn’t Obama Name Congo’s ‘Bad Neighbors’ (Uganda, Rwanda)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24396390 ~ DR Congo – Cursed by Its Natural Wealth

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/10/dr-congo-gynaecologist-nobel-peace-prize ~ We Are All Implicated!!)

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