Six-million Congolese dead: the genocide the world ignores
By Saeed Shabazz,
Fifty-one years to the day, Jan. 17, 1961 since the assassination of the Congo’s first elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1960; “the most important assassination of the 20th century,” according to Prof. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, a professor of African and Afro-American studies at the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Washington-based Congolese advocacy organization Friends of the Congo plan to hold rallies and teach-ins and a concert in New York City and Wash., DC to commemorate his life.
“We must continue telling the story of the suffering of the Congolese people,” argues Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo. During the Jan. 17-teach-ins people will learn that six-million Congolese have been killed since 1996, and over 200,000 women raped, so that multinational corporations and governments would be able to steal their mineral wealth. A wealth estimated at approximately $24 trillion by experts; the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the U.S. and Europe.
The DRC approximately the size of Western Europe, or slightly less than one-fourth the size of the United States, possesses minerals such as coltan –64 percent of the world’s reserve (essential in the making of cell phones, iPods, MP3s and laptops), tin, tungsten, diamonds, gold, copper, silver, uranium, manganese, petroleum, timber and Hydro Power.
“Everyday – ‘9-11’—happens in the Congo,” offers Mr. Musavuli. Pres. Barack Obama talked about the ‘responsibility to protect’ for the Libyans, but what about the protection of the Congolese people. “When will he address that?” he asked.
The historical timeline concerning events in the DRC posted on the ‘Friends’ website begins in 1000 BC to 1500 AD, when food crops and fishing kept the Congo in the forefront, as the breadbasket in the Horn of Africa. Fast-forward to 1884, the Congo’s fortunes began to turn seriously for the worse after the infamous ‘Berlin Conference’ which was the site of the handing over of African nations to Europeans. Belgian’s King Leopold II was given the Congo as his personal possession; and he ruled there until 1908.
Prof. Nzongola-Ntalaja, in his article in the London publication The Guardian explains that the U.S. played a role in turning over the Congo to the Belgian king, seven months before the Berlin Conference. He also noted that after 1,000,000 Congolese deaths, due to the king’s greed -- stealing ivory and rubber – the U.S. again intervened, joining with other nations in demanding that the Belgian government take over the colonization of the DRC.
The Congo received its independence from the Belgians in 1960, but within a year, Patrice Lumumba was killed by the CIA-backed assassination in concert with the Belgians, and the United Nations under Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold; and for 37-years these same entities propped up dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Mr. Sese Seko changed the nation’s name to Zaire.
In 1997, a former lieutenant of Mr. Lumumba, Laurent Desire Kabila, became the DRC’s leader, but he too fell to an assassin’s bullets in 2001. Joseph Kabila replaced his father as the president; as he is now serving his second term, which is steeped in controversy.
In 1998, a war gripped the DRC, it was known as “Africa’s First World War” because seven nations, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and Angola were all fighting in the DRC to gain control of the DRC’s vast mining interests, according to analysts. The first three mentioned actually attacked Pres. Laurent Kabila; and the last four fought alongside his government. A truce was finally brokered in 2003.
However, the killing and raping has not stopped. “The slaughter of six-million people cannot be taken lightly,” argues Dr. Ngwausungu Chiwengo, professor of English at Creighton Univ. and director of the African and Black Studies department. She is a native of the DRC, and she is emphatic that people in the U.S. “must become aware” of why the Congolese people are being slaughtered and raped.
Dr. Chiwengo was a member of the delegation of activists and scholars that sponsored a Capitol Hill forum on Dec. 6. “We want to continue to engage members of the U.S. Congress in the matter of ending the climate of impunity in the Congo,” states Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Washington-based Institute for policy Studies.
Back in Oct. 2010, the Securities Exchange Commission passed the “Dodd-Frank Wall St. Reform Act of 2010” that requires public companies such as high-tech firms Apple and Intel, who are often the ultimate buyers of tin, tungsten and tantalum from the DRC – to indicate what measures they are taking to ensure that minerals in their supply chain don’t benefit warlords in the DRC.
For the most part, the complicity of American corporations and Washington have been a well-kept secret; but journalist Dan Rather in a 2009 expose, stated that a Phoenix, Ariz.-based company, Freeport McMoRan purchased a copper mine in the DRC worth billions. Mr. Rather revealed that even though the mine makes all of this money, the people in the Congo “do not benefit”.
The report also said that the U.S. government’s role in helping the company acquire the mine can be described as a “modern-day land grab”.
The UN in a 2007 report on “Conflict Minerals” named several U.S. companies as also being complicit in the rape of DRC minerals. Some of the companies mentioned: America Mineral Fields, the Cabot Corp., Kinross Gold Corp., OM Group Inc., and Trinitech International, Inc. For more information see www.conflictminerals.org.
But, the UN was forced to admit on Dec. 30, 2011 that their ‘Conflict Minerals’ campaign wasn’t working, which is interesting given the fact that the 15-member UN Security Council on Nov. 29, 2011, requested that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appoint a sixth expert on natural resources to the Group of Experts. The experts were established under resolution 1533 (2004).
The Security Council recommended that all nations, particularly those in the region, regularly publish full import and export statistics for natural resources, including gold, cassiterite, coltan, wolframite, timber and charcoal. The council also said that nations in the Great Lakes region enhance information sharing and joint action at the regional level to investigate and combat regional criminal networks and armed groups involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources.
So, what has all of this to do with the Jan. 17, 1961 assassination of Patrice Lumumba? He was adamant that the Congolese people must be united in their struggle to fight against the neo-colonial mentality that gripped Africa after nations there began to gain their independence. This was the ideal that cost him his life.
“They do not want to negotiate with the indigenous people of the Congo, who are the legitimate owners of these resources,” argues Mr. Musavuli.
“Too much blood has been shed; and now is the time that Congolese people need to control the solutions,” Dr. Chiwengo stressed.
This story will continue, with the next discussion dealing with the re-election of Pres. Joseph Kabila and the protests that have ensued.