Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Tragedy of Congo

Today is Wednesday, 24 May 2006.

Your author saw a CNN report yesterday on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the widespread campaign of rape continuing to be perpetrated by the government army and various rebel factions.

How did it come to this? Who is responsible?

The modern history of the Congo, more properly the modern tragedy of the Congo, begins in 1870, when Leopold II, King of the Belgians, assumed de facto control of the area. At the Congress of Berlin in 1885, the area became his de jure, and he ruled it as personal property, not a colony of Belgium. The original moneymaker was ivory, which was supplanted in the early 1890s by rubber, used first for bicycle tires and then automobile tires. To force the Congolese to harvest the rubber from wild vines, Leopold mobilized a private army: hundreds of thousands of wives, children, and the elderly were held hostage under the most brutal conditions, forcing husbands, fathers, and sons to work the harvest or see their loved ones die.

During this period, which lasted until 1908, when Leopold ceded the colony to Belgium, the best estimates are that at least 10,000,000 Congolese were exterminated by exploitation and disease, some 25-30% of the population.

The Congo was ruled from Brussels from 1908 to 1960. Conditions were brutal, but not as genocidal. Few Congolese were permitted to advance beyond elementary school, or to acquire skilled vocations. When the Belgians left in 1960, in an orgy of destruction, they even took care to smash the toilets in government buildings and private dwellings.

In 1959, the Mouvement National Congolais won the first free parliamentary elections, and Patrice Lumumba was selected prime minister. He was overthrown within the year by an alliance of the Congolese army, the CIA, the Belgian intelligence services, and American and Belgian corporations. Lumumba was murdered in January 1961. After years of chaos, the army chief of staff, Joseph Mobutu, seized supreme power in 1965 and renamed the country “Zaire”. Lavishly supported by the United States Empire/United and Subject States (USE/USSA), since he was after all “anti-Communist”, Mobutu looted and murdered until forced from power in 1997 by the army of Laurent-Desire Kabila.

Civil war ensued. Kabila was assassinated in 2001, and succeeded by his son Joseph. The civil war theoretically ended in 2003, when a Transitional Government headed by J. Kabila was formed. By this time, at least 3.8 million Congolese had died, most from disease and starvation. The civil war actually continues, mostly in the east of Congo, at the cost of more than 1,000 dead per day, again mostly from disease and starvation caused by widespread disruption of systems of production and distribution.

Given the role played by Belgium and the USE/USSA in Congo, exploiting and destroying the economy and civil society, is it any wonder that Congo is as tortured as it is today? For over a century, first Leopold, then the Belgian State, then Mobutu and the USE/USSA ruled Congo by the most terrible violence, seasoned by endemic corruption. Is it any wonder that only corrupt military dictatorships continually arise out of such ashes?

One sees this pattern repeated throughout sub-Saharan Africa, its terror now augmented by widespread HIV/AIDS.

Consider: what would be the situation of the USE, had its people been subjected to the same history?

When will the peoples of Belgium and the USE/USSA, and the other terrorist colonial powers, acknowledge their guilt, and their responsibility to restore the treasures of life, resources, and decent society, which they have stolen from the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa? (And, for that matter, peoples on every other continent save Antarctica.)

Or do the Commandments, "Thou shalt not kill", “Thou shalt not steal”, only apply when pinkskins are the victims?


Further reading: King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild (Houghton Mifflin/Mariner; paper ed. 1999.


Blogger RtR said...

See Also: King Leopold's Soliloquy by Mark Twain

King Leopold's Soliloquy

3:23 PM  

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