After 50 years
Congo still struggles for real independence
Published Jul 15, 2010 10:44 PM
Five decades after the independence of the former Belgian Congo, the genuine
emancipation of this Central African state is yet to be realized. Nonetheless,
the survival of this state — which has been under assault since 1960 when
Patrice Lumumba took charge of the country as prime minister representing the
Congolese National Movement (MNC) — is a testament to the resilience and
fortitude of the people.
At this year’s independence celebrations, several world leaders,
including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, were in attendance. The
Democratic Republic of Congo national army put on a parade and display of
military equipment that involved 15,000 troops.
The DRC is one of the most mineral-rich states in the world. It has been
estimated that the Congo has 30 percent of the planet’s cobalt reserves
and 10 percent of the copper.
However, despite the tremendous economic potential of this nation, the majority
of its people remain poor, living off barely more than one dollar a day. The
wealth in mineral resources has always made the territory a coveted area for
Western imperialism and its agents, who have taken enormous natural and human
resources from the Congolese people.
Beginning in 1876 Belgian monarch King Leopold II established the territory as
the “Congo Free State” and administered it as his own personal
property. A vicious system of plantation agriculture enslaved Africans to work
in rubber extraction; 8 million died in order to create a wealthy ruling class
The consciousness of the Congolese people and the world community eventually
led to the dismantling of this form of colonial oppression in favor of a more
classical arrangement, with control being formally placed under Belgian
governmental rule. Even with these changes, the African people remained the
source of slave labor for the Europeans.
At the time of independence there were extreme shortages of skilled personnel
within civilian life as well as the police services, where Africans served as
subordinate workers to the Belgian officers. The rise of a nationalist movement
during the 1950s, of which the Congolese National Movement under Patrice
Lumumba was the most progressive, provided hope to the masses of people.
Lumumba attended the first All-African People’s Conference held in Accra,
Ghana, in December 1958 and became known as the leading figure in the
independence struggle inside the country. In January 1959, the Congolese people
erupted in a national rebellion, forcing the Belgian colonialists to eventually
negotiate a transfer of power after an election that was scheduled for May
The MNC faction led by Lumumba received the most widespread support on a
national level. Lumumba was made prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu of ABAKO,
an ethnically-based political party, was placed in office as president.
Lumumba’s determination to utilize the mineral wealth of the country for
the people’s interests and his commitment to a pan-African and
anti-imperialist domestic and foreign policy made him a target for both the
Belgian colonialists and world imperialism, dominated by the U.S. ruling
The voice and political will of revolutionaries in Africa remained with
Lumumba’s MNC. When in the aftermath of the independence of the Congolese
state, the Belgians refused to leave the country and prompted a mutiny within
the police and the secession of the southern mineral-rich region of Katanga,
Ghana was one of the first countries to condemn the Western machinations aimed
at this newly independent state.
On July 12 a high-level delegation from Ghana traveled to the Congo capital of
Leopoldville at the behest of President Kwame Nkrumah. By this time not only
Belgium but also the United States was carrying out the plot to overthrow
Lumumba. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on July 14, 1960,
requesting that Belgium withdraw its forces from Congo, but when the
international peacekeeping force arrived in this Central African state it was
working in conjunction with U.S. and European imperialism to ensure that the
country would remain within the Western sphere of influence.
Lumumba had appealed directly to Nkrumah for the support of his government and
military to aid the Congolese state. Nkrumah sent in Ghanaian troops as part of
the U.N. peacekeeping mission. As a result of Ghana’s troops being within
the U.N. force and the leadership of its military being under the command of
Maj. Gen. H.T. Alexander, a British officer inherited from the colonial period,
the Ghanaian troops did not play the role that either Lumumba or Nkrumah
Alexander was eventually terminated by Nkrumah, but it was too late to avoid
the coup against Lumumba, his kidnapping and eventual assassination. Mobutu
Sese Seko and Moise Tshombe were made the dominant political figures in the
country. After Tshombe died in an Algerian prison, Mobutu had free rein to aid
in the assistance of the plunder of the country until 1997, when he was finally
deposed by a coalition of national and pan-African forces.
Civil war and the return of the U.N. (1998-2010)
After the overthrow of Mobutu in 1997, the conflicts within Rwanda and Uganda
provided the rationale for the ongoing imperialist intervention in the DRC.
Fearing a genuinely independent and united Congo, Washington backed both Uganda
and Rwanda’s invasion of the eastern DRC in August 1998.
This aggressive military action by these two states bankrolled and trained by
U.S. imperialists prompted the intervention of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia on
the side of the Laurent Kabila government of the DRC. This intervention by the
revolutionary states of the Southern African Development Community, led by
Zimbabwe, beat back the imperialist plot to seize the Congo.
A settlement ended the fighting in 2003. Then the effort at the balkanization
of the Congo was carried on through the use of rebel gangs that served as
surrogates for the multinational mining interests that continued to loot the
country of its natural resources. United Nations Mission to Congo forces
replaced the pro-imperialist armies from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, as well as
the pro-Congo Zimbabwean, Angolan and Namibian military forces.
Just as the imperialists utilized the United Nations in 1960-61 to undermine
the liberation of Congo, the presence of MONUC [the current U.N. military
mission in the DRC] over the last several years has not brought peace and
security to this area today. Consequently, the Joseph Kabila government has
asked MONUC to begin to withdraw from the DRC. An agreement during late 2008 to
conduct joint monitoring operations with the imperialist proxy states of Rwanda
and Uganda to clear out rebel forces from these neighboring countries has still
not created the conditions for real and lasting stability.
Imperialism continues its stranglehold
The imperialist states also oppose any effort to foster relief from conflict
and international debt. Leading up to the 50th anniversary of national
independence, the Canadian government, defending its mining interests, openly
rejected efforts to write off debts claimed by the industrial states against
the DRC. “Despite [Congo’s] poverty, the Canadian government has
been lobbying the World Bank and IMF not to forgive any of DRC debt until the
country ends a legal dispute with First Quantum, a Canadian mining company with
lucrative Congolese concessions.” (Al-Jazeera, June 30)
“Canada blocked an $8 billion debt relief deal for the Democratic
Republic of Congo in a dispute over mining rights, depriving the African nation
of a chance to mark the 50th anniversary of its independence on Wednesday with
the accord.” (Reuters, June 30)
This same article points out that “a World Bank decision on the debt was
postponed at Canada’s request due to a legal dispute that exploded last
year between Vancouver-based First Quantum Minerals and the Kinshasha
government over mining rights. The accord, which could have slashed
Congo’s annual debt service burden to $194 million from $920 million, was
to have been a high point of [anniversary] events.”
The only real solution for the Congolese people and Africa as a whole is to
break with imperialism and move toward the economic and political integration
of the continent. An article published in the Nkrumaist Ghana Evening News on
July 14, 1960, entitled “Africa Will Resist Imperialist
Aggression,” sums up the role of Western states in the post-colonial
The article states, “Imperialists have diverse ways of perpetuating
colonialism. With the farewell of political imperialism, economic colonialism
is the next phase that has to be attacked but, as it is, this next phase is
trying its hands on African fertile soil. ... Political colonialism is going
back to one of the original methods of enslaving Africans in the form of
playing the part of the ‘good Samaritan’ in extending protection to
Africans. Everyone is aware that the so-called protection for Africans means
political and economic exploitation of Africans.”
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