The legacy of Lumumba

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 96 - August/September 1990

30 June 1990 was the thirtieth anniversary of the gaining of independence by Congo (now Zaire), an event that passed virtually unnoticed in the British media. Seen at the time as the most disastrous episode in the decolonisation of Africa, much of the history of the transition to independence, and of the role played by the country's first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, is now ignored. ALWYN TURNER pays tribute to his memory.

Congo was first brought under Belgian rule in 1885, when Leopold II, having failed to convince the Belgian government of the prestige of having an African colony, simply annexed the region under his own direct rule. During the next three decades, he instigated a ruthless policy of exploitation of natural resources that amounted virtually to genocide, with an estimated one third of the African population being wiped out in the drive to extract ivory and rubber from the country. Even by imperialist standards, the violence was clearly unacceptable and, under international pressure, the Belgian government took over the running of the country in 1908.

For the next half century, Congo was not seen in political but simply in economic terms as a source of massive mineral wealth, to be extracted through forced labour. The Belgian government favoured total suppression combined with a policy of silence that effectively cut off the country from the rest of the world; even within Belgium, Congo was ignored, while the government deliberately avoided the creation of a white colonial class with any ties to the country.


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Rwanda continues to destabilise DRCongo /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

Another war has broken out in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In April 2012 about 600 soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied and seized weapons and territory in eastern DRC. Within four months the mutineers had swelled to over 2,000 soldiers. Over 270,000 people have been displaced. The total number of displaced people since 2009 is now 2.2m. There are reports of systematic massacres of civilians. Behind the rebellion is Rwanda, an important regional ally of Britain and the US.

DRC, sharing common borders with nine sub-Saharan African countries, is a potentially vital strategic prize in Africa for the advanced capitalist countries. DRC has the world’s largest deposits of copper, cobalt, coltan and cadmium, and significant deposits of oil, gold, uranium, tungsten and diamonds, and accounts for at least 7% of global tin supplies.

Control of these resources and transportation routes, by the imperialists and their local allies, lies behind the wars that have raged in DRC since 1996. There is growing US and EU military engagement in Africa, usually under humanitarian cover, reflecting their intention to control strategic raw materials. The creation of the US Africa Command (Africom), the resurrected hunt for Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony and the war in Somalia are examples of this.

Neighbouring Rwanda has invaded DRC at least four times under the pretext of hunting those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda invaded DRC (then called Zaire) in 1996 with the secret but direct support of Britain and especially the US. A second invasion in 1998 saw Rwanda and Uganda attempt to create rival proxy administrations in eastern DRC using loyal armed groups. Rwanda continues to maintain troops and auxiliaries in eastern DRC through which it plunders the country’s resources. These invasions have led to over six million deaths (some say ten million) from killings, disease and malnutrition, and mass horrific rapes of men and women, often repeatedly. The UN and Amnesty International estimate 94,000 victims of rape between 1998-2010. Rwanda’s goal is the ‘secession’ of North and South Kivu, the eastern mineral-rich region of DRC.

Britain supports Rwanda

Britain and the US are the two largest bilateral donors to Rwanda, giving over $350m in 2011. Following the reports of Rwanda again destabilising DRC and strong regional criticism, the imperialists made a show of suspending ‘aid’. On 29 July Britain announced a £16m (from £75m a year) suspension in budgetary support, following a $200,000 cut in US military aid to Rwanda and a £4m cut from the Netherlands. By 4 September Britain’s outgoing international development minister, Andrew Mitchell, praised Rwanda for ‘constructively’ engaging to resolve the crisis, saying: ‘Britain will partially restore its general budget support to Rwanda’.

Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president has long been a favourite of Britain’s Africa ministers, especially Clare Short, his ‘number one fan’. Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair is a special adviser to Kagame. Blair called him a ‘visionary leader’. Rwanda has received over £1bn in direct budget support from Britain since 2003, and Britain is the single largest contributor of foreign aid. Rwanda is heavily dependent on international aid (45% of current expenditure in 2010). Other ‘advisers’ to Kagame include Bill Gates and former US President Bill Clinton.

UN report exposes ‘mutiny’

A leaked report from a UN Group of Experts in June 2012 revealed that since February – well before the official outbreak of the ‘mutiny’ – poor unemployed youth have been recruited and trained in Rwanda, then used to transfer ammunition and heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons, to the ‘rebels’, always escorted by Rwandan soldiers. An annex to the report which names the Rwandan military hierarchy and details their provision of political and military support to the rebels has been blocked by the US and Britain. Rwandan officials called military and political Congolese figures, urging them to support the mutineers based on ‘ethnic solidarity’.

The Rwandan military maintains contact with other Congolese armed groups, such as the Mai Mai, and even Hutu extremists from the FDLR (including leaders responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide of mostly Tutsi people) who were repatriated to Rwanda, demobilised, then subsequently rearmed and returned to DRC. It was the DRC’s efforts to break up these gangs that sparked the current mutiny.

Mutiny déjà vu

In August 2008, a Congolese army General Laurent Nkunda, led a ‘rebel’ group, CNDP based in Kivu, that mutinied, massacred civilians and displaced over 250,000 people. He claimed to be fighting to protect the Congolese Tutsi minority. A UN report showed he had direct support from the Rwandan army. A bogus military operation to ‘protect Rwanda’ was nothing more than a pretext to loot DRC. At the time, Britain’s Labour government Minister for Africa, Lord Malloch-Brown, ‘completely reject[ed] allegations that CNDP is a Rwandan force’.

The CNDP became a legal political party in DRC and integrated into the state army (FARDC) as part of a ‘peace agreement’ between Rwanda and DRC on 23 March 2009. The current mutiny is led by Bosco Ntaganda and consists of former fighters from CNDP. The mutineers call themselves 23 March Movement (M23) after the date of the 2009 ‘peace deal’, alleging ill-treatment in the FARDC. Since April the M23 rebels have committed barbaric abuses against civilians and plundered natural resources. This gives the lie to their bogus claims.

The current military rebellion is a mirror image of the one in 2008: the cycle of rebellion, pardons and ‘integration’ into the army, needs to be broken or DRC will remain a source of cheap raw materials for the imperialist powers.         

Charles Chinweizu


DR Congo: Imperialists organise war and plunder

On 30 July 2006, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) will go to the polls for presidential and national assembly elections against a background of a war that has ravaged the country since 1998 and in which over four million people have died. IRENEE KAYEMBE reports.

The DRC, in central Africa, is the third biggest country in Africa with a population of approximately 60 million; it borders nine other countries. The British media occasionally reports the war as an ‘ethnic’ war – this is not true. The DRC has the world’s largest deposits of copper, cobalt, coltan and cadmium, as well as chrome, timber, tin, rubber, oil, uranium, germanium, diamonds and gold and the war is to control these resources.

In 1998 DRC’s eastern neighbours, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, illegally invaded the country with the tacit backing of the US, EU and UN. Armed groups from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and Angola, plus the Congolese army, have been fighting ever since for control over mining rights. American William Swing, UN ambassador to the DRC, commands 17,000 men; Belgian Louis Michel leads an 1,600-strong EU mission. These ‘peacekeepers’ are more powerful than presidents.


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Congo: Imperialists plunder gold

The subsoil of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) is so gorged with minerals that it is Africa’s richest country. DRC has the world’s largest deposits of copper, cobalt, coltan and cadmium, as well as chrome, timber, cassiterite, rubber, oil, uranium, germanium, diamonds and gold. Mongbwalu, capital of the north-eastern Ituri district, contains Africa’s largest gold seam. Control over these vast resources, not ‘ethnic rivalry’, is behind the civil war which started in 1998 soon after the US and British-backed dictator Mobutu died, and which has cost over 3.8 million lives, mostly from starvation and disease.

Looting the gold
Every month, hundreds of kilograms of gold are extracted from the mines around Mongbwalu, taken illegally to neighbouring Uganda and then flown to Europe, usually to Metalor Technologies in Switzerland, a leading European dealer in precious metals. (Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2005). DRC ministers are directly involved in the smuggling, with stolen wealth, worth millions of dollars, stored in offshore bank accounts. In 2003, although local Ugandan gold production was worth $23,000, gold exports were worth $45 billion. Gold is Uganda’s second biggest export after coffee.


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Congo: Nothing changes after DRC elections

In December 2002 a peace agreement to put an end to five years of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was signed in South Africa. It set five main targets:

• reunification of a country torn apart by different rebel factions
• rebuilding the country
• restabilising state power across the whole country
• national reconciliation
• formation of a trained and integrated national army.

These were preconditions for the organisation of free, transparent and democratic elections in 2006 to bring about new and reliable structures for a safe and stable country.


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DR Congo: repression continues

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) president Joseph Kabila is desperately trying to get international support for his puppet government to give it some legitimacy. That is why in late September, on his way to the General Assembly of the United Nations, he visited Belgium, where he was met by demonstrations of the Congolese diaspora . Not that the Belgian government was a reluctant host: with the DRC’s huge natural resources up for grabs, it does not want to miss out on the action, especially as China had just agreed to invest $5bn in infrastructure and mining. The upshot was that Belgium agreed to send an economic mission to the DRC capital Kinshasa with the aim of boosting Belgian investment in its former colony.

Since Joseph Kabila’s inauguration as the DRC president in December 2006, security has been precarious: the regime is using fear and terror to keep the population’s mouths shut. The new government’s relations with the opposition have resulted in a drift to authoritarianism and urban unrest in the west of the country, while militias continue to clash with the weak national army in the east, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, many of whom continue to succumb to hunger and disease. The new governing institutions remain weak and abusive or non-existent.


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Balkanisation of Congo begins

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009

Rwanda invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) in 1996, 1998 and 2004. Rwanda’s fourth major incursion into DRC in 12 years, in October 2008, signalled an intensification of imperialist rivalry between the European Union (EU), which backs current President Joseph Kabila, and Britain and the US, which support Rwanda. The imperialists are battling for domination of mineral-rich DRC and for a stranglehold on the resource-rich region of central and eastern Africa. To camouflage the real reasons for the conflict, once again the distraction of ‘ethnic conflict’ is being promoted. Failure to remove Kabila from power may lead to the de facto annexation of eastern DRC and the balkanisation of the country. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

Rwanda invades again
On 9 October Rwandan tanks entered eastern DRC via the North Kivu province on its border, to aid former Congolese army general Laurent Nkunda, leader of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). The fighting between the CNDP, the DRC army (FARDC), the UN (MONUC) and various paramilitaries actually resumed on 28 August. Since then over 100 people have been killed, including more than 50 massacred at Kiwanja in November. Over 250,000 people were driven from their homes, fleeing south towards the provincial capital Goma, as shelters, clinics and homes were burnt down, refugee camps emptied, women and girls raped and property looted. At one stage 50,000 refugees went ‘missing’, their fate unknown. 12,000 have fled to neighbouring Uganda. This area of eastern DRC is clearly being depopulated – the people driven away in terror – and repopulated by people brought in from Rwanda and Uganda. The presence of Rwanda in eastern Congo is being consolidated so it becomes de facto part of Greater Rwanda.


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