“The day will come when history will speak. Africa will write its own history and in both north and south, it will be a history of glory and dignity.” -Patrice Emery Lumumba
The Democratic Republic of Congo is bleeding. There has been a hashtag campaign drumming home this point in the past few months. The triple evils of the most inhumane extraction of the country’s rich mineral resources, unending wars and a rabidly corrupt ruling class has thrown 99% of the over 89 million people in this fourth most populous country on the planet into a perpetual state of sorrow tears and blood.
The root cause of each of these evils and the bleeding of Congo is capitalist imperialism and stretches back to the brutal rape of the Congo by Belgium. From this, the deadly flowers of continued imperialist intervention and neo-colonial exploitation have flourished. The comprador capitalist class, and bands of lumpen bourgeois readily play different roles of subordinates to the metropoles of capital at the cost of the lives and wellbeing of the people, for the price of ostentatious wealth.
We all know how a broke Belgian King Leopold seized hold of the Congo, a territory 80 times the size of his own country, turning it into his personal property to exploit rubber and subsequently copper. This butcher flogged and cut off the hands and genitals of Congolese people, to force them to produce enough rubber to meet the demands of the international market. 10 million Africans were murdered in this process to feed the accumulation of capital, expanding the wealth of King Leopold and Belgium beyond his wildest dreams.
We all know how Patrice Lumumba was killed for wanting to ensure the resources of Congo would be used to improve the lives of the Congolese. The Belgians who thought they would be in the Congo forever had industrialised it with a bit of the wealth taken from the country itself, for their own purpose. By the time independence was granted in 1960, it was the second most industrialised country on the continent, after apartheid South Africa. But social development was arrested in every way possible, with barely 20 African graduates in the whole country.
One of the most vicious of despots in Africa’s history, Mobutu Sese Seko, was installed to enable the continued rape of the country. To cement this, they looked the other way as he also joined them in robbing the country blind, amassing staggering wealth worth $4bn. The country richest in mineral resources in the world has been reduced to having one of the three poorest populations in the world.
The solid minerals deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo are worth more than $24trilllion. The country is fabulously rich in diamonds, gold, copper, tin, manganese, lead, and zinc. It also has almost two thirds of the global deposits of coltan and more than 30% of its cobalt, two mineral items used to manufacture the ion batteries of mobile phones.
Scores of thousands of poor Congolese slave to dig out these minerals which enable corporations like Apple and Samsung to smile to the bank with billions of dollars. These include 40,000 children, working under the most horrendous conditions. They often run 24-hour shifts underground. And they earn far less than $2 a day.
Many people heaved a sigh of relief when the Western-backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was overthrown in May 1997. This did not translate into high hopes in Laurent Kabila, whose Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) led the rebellion which forced Mobutu out of power. When Che Guevara went to the Congo to support what he thought was a genuine revolutionary guerrilla struggle in 1965, he described Kabila thus: “nothing leads me to believe that Kabila is the man of the hour. He allows the days to go by without worrying about anything other than political infighting and is too addicted to drink and women.”
But Kabila and his family equally showed themselves having no interest in the plight of poor Congolese. He amassed wealth with wanton abandon, owning two local airlines. His son, Joseph Kabila who served under him as Chief of Defence took over the reins of power when Kabila senior was assassinated in 2001. By 2016, the Kabila family’s wealth was to the tune of $750m.
Meanwhile, the country remains ravaged in a series of wars. There are over 120 armed groups fighting in a never-ending spiral of confrontations with themselves and the state. None of these has any revolutionary agenda. Each of them seeks to grab or expand its access to country’s vast wealth of mineral resources.
The wars in the Congo have been the most fatal in the world since World War I. By 2013 more than 6 million people had been killed and many more since then, with 10,000 civilians being killed every month as of today. Over 2 million women have been raped, and almost 5 million persons have been displaced. The tragedies of imperialism in Syria and Yemen pale beside these figures. Yet, the world has not been talking of this catastrophe, half as much as it has been talking of other tragedies spurred by capitalism and imperialism.
That is why Congolese have risen to remind the world that their land is bleeding. Their pain is our pain, their sorrows our sorrows. Like us, they are Africans and even more importantly – the African people being killed are poor working people. The bosses are safe behind their high-fenced buildings surrounded by guards, be these soldiers or the armed goons of warlords.
Unfortunately, the three trade union centres are politically and ideologically weak. And there is no socialist movement with substantial presence. But the working-class movement of Africa and globally owe working-class people in the DRC our solidarity and support. We also have to constantly and consistently point out the interconnectedness of political instability, social anomie and the economic hardships of the poor masses in the country, pointing out and fighting the roots of these manifestations of a systemic crisis, which is imperialist capitalism.
by E. ‘Todun Jagun