Friday, January 28, 2011

Ambassdor Meece Presents at Woodrow Wilson Center

Ambassador Roger Meece, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo gave a presentation in Washington, DC at the Wilson Center on Thursday, January 27, 2011.

The topic of the talk was “Elections and Peace Consolidation: Prospects and Challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Ambassador Meece provided information that was not widely available. He blew a big hole in the central argument of the Congolese government about why they had to change the constitution so that presidential elections could be one round instead of two. The government argued that they were changing the constitution and electoral law from two rounds to one round in order to save the country money and that the elections would cost $700 million. Ambassador Meece said the 2011 elections would actually cost about $240 million.

Ambassador Meece made two other key points that FOTC took note of. He cautioned the audience that analysts, policy makers, activists, etc do not sufficiently take into account the domestic political context and the role of local political actors when analyzing the Congo and proposing prescriptions to bring about positive change. This is a contention that Congolese have made throughout the 16 years of conflict and instability in the Congo.

A second key point that Ambassador Meece delved into with aplomb was the vaunted silver bullet of Security Sector Reform (SSR). He called upon observers, policy analysts and activists to be more creative when it comes to the issue of SSR. He contends that talking about an overall SSR plan is not particularly useful or constructive but SSR must be unpacked and broken out into different areas or sectors for example, police, justice and military.

Ambassador Meece’s caution and reminders were timely. As one local NGO states outsiders make prescriptions as if there is a Congo without Congolese.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

DRC Elections: Indifference is the Enemy

On 16 December 2010, I was observing the roads around Bukavu, and was impressed by the thousands of people who had come to welcome Vital Kamerhe. Two days before, in Kinshasa, Kamerhehad resigned from the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and his parliamentary seat, in order to announce his candidacy for the 2011 presidential elections on behalf of the UNC (Union for the Congolese Nation). The previous week, the legendary opponent Etienne Tshisekedi had returned to Kinshasa after a three year absence. On 11 December, the UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) named him its candidate for the same elections.These leaders’ “Joyeuses Entrees” and candidacies rallied many people, to whom events seemed to be leading towards an electoral contest between participants with different visions and plans for society.

I was in the middle of a visit to the east, and was concerned by the wall of indifference regarding the elections. People do not feel the elections relate to them, and are disappointed by the few palpable results of the 2006 elections in their daily lives. It is certain that they will register to vote. In a country which for a long time has not issued bona fide identity documents, a polling card is an important document. However, many of the people I saw will not vote.

This lack of interest was all the more worrying when seen alongside the trend towards disintegration that dominates the country. The FARDC remains very undisciplined. Various armed actors continue to recruit, with the CNDP doing so more quickly than others. During 2010, the Congo seems to have evolved from a “post-conflict climate to one of pre-conflict”. I am neither an activist nor partisan in Congolese politics, but the mobilisation around the leaders of the opposition pleased me. It proved that it was possible to interest the population in the res publica

Since mid-January, the situation has changed. The constitutional revision that has taken place means, amongst other things, that the presidential elections will be carried out in a single round. From an immediate perspective, it seems as if this revision is designed to protect the political arena. Stepping back, it is a step towards the evolution of the semi-presidential system of the 2005 constitution to a centralising presidentialism (in terms of justice, control of the provinces, etc.)

It is EurAc’s opinion that the second electoral cycle, which is crucial for the consolidation of the democratisation process, is no less important than that of 2006. The Congo will never leave its insecurity behind unless the Congolese State is strengthened, including its instruments through which to guarantee the state of law and good governance. The elections will only have a chance if massive participation by citizens contributes to maximum legitimacy of the results and a strong mandate for the elected institutions. This will not be possible without the formation of an informed electorate or without a firm commitment to hold grassroots elections, as local elections must play an essential role in the rehabilitation of governance in the DRC. The political arena must ensure the protection of civil society and the independence of the press.

The international community’s interest in the peace process and democratisation seems less in 2011 than in 2006. The indifference of the international community, and of a disillusioned population, may jeopardize the progress made on the long road walked since transition and the installation of the Third Republic.

Kris Berwouts, Director

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Friendly Tyrants of the United States

I adore Roger Cohen's writing. And it is not just the quality of the writing itself. Roger's deep appreciation of soccer, his South African roots, his understanding of Africa and love of the US all contribute significantly.

However this particular essay is disappointing. Reason: He joins the rest of the MSM in hiding from readers the most important fact about the Tunisian revolution: The ousted dictator was propped up by the US, one of many "friendly tyrants" especially in the Arab world and in Africa.

In the Arab world, the US, "for 60 years sacrificed democracy in order to maintain stability but wound up with neither." Says who? Says George Bush 43 and Condi Rice.

In Africa the situation is grimmer. The US greeted African independence by helping to murder Patrice Lumumba 50 years ago and then installing Joseph Mobutu on the Congo. With Western protection, he proceeded to bring a vast, very rich country to its knees while personally becoming extremely rich and corrupt.

Fifty years later the Cold War is over and the US president, the son of an African has declared that "Africa does not need strongmen, it needs strong institutions."

Sadly Washington is still propping up dictators across Africa. Zenawi in Ethiopia and Museveni in Uganda are pretty bad.

However because of hagiographic mythology and powerful friends, Kagame of Rwanda is the most dangerous of America's "friendly tyrants" in Africa.

Mr. Cohen these are important facts you must tell your readers, especially Americans. Thank you.

Nii Akuetteh
Africa Analyst
Washington, DC

Friday, January 21, 2011

Patrice Lumumba: 50 Years Later, Remembering the U.S.-Backed Assassination of Congo's First Democrat

Lumumba Resources
50th Anniversary Commemoration videos, articles, speeches and other materials

Read biography of Patrice Lumumba

Purchase Patrice Lumumba -shirts

Commemoration Articles:
Tribute to Patrice Lumumba on the 50th anniversary of his assassination
By Carlos Martinez

Rumba, Lumumba and I
By Awino Okech

Patrice Lumumba: The rise and assassination of an African patriot
By Cameron Duodu

Snapshots of Lumumba
By Chambi Chachage

Lumumba and war politics in the Congo
By Okello Oculi

Lumumba’s ideal and the symbolism of his life
By Lyn Ossome

50 years after Lumumba: The burden of history
By Horace Campbell

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dedicated to the memory and spirit of Patrice Emery Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

Dedicated to the memory and spirit of Patrice Emery Lumumba
(2 July 1925–17 January 1961)

The soldiers stole you and two others
into the back of a truck
in the middle of the night
put you in a bag tied up your beaten bloody body with rope
sweating as they drove you into the middle of the country
Katanga Province, Africa
in a far off field
where there were no lights
where you could not see anything
they assassinated you and two ministers Okito and Mpolo

they attacked to kill you
they ripped apart your body
scattering it bone by bone across the fields
so that the blood mixed with the earth
they hid you and they hid their murder of you
they thought that by doing this your spirit would break
they thought that by doing this your memory would be broken

but a week before the killing you had written to your wife,
“I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakable,
and with profound trust in the destiny of my country.”

Patrice Lumumba – born in the village of Onalua in Kasai province,
the Congo
you called for an independent country in those stuffy halls
where people taunted you with their visciousness
you were not afraid to speak the truth
because you knew that a village, a country, perhaps even
the world would remember your words

the night knows your secrets
the way you envisioned a united Africa
something about your spirit moves me
across these many years
in a land far away
something about your very presence on this earth moves
me to tears
just as your mother stood outside her small house
as the sky was changing to dusk
stood crying into hands which could not stop the tears
from falling, dripping onto the earth
so that a river of tears fell at her feet

your name should become a chant for all free thinking people
you who longed for a corruption free politics
who took pride in every step you walked
for a free independent Congo you said
and those words became sacred chant for your people

they wanted your name to be forgotten
they wanted your warrior feeling to be cast out
they wanted to stamp on your vision
but it is not forgotten Lumumba
your mother weeping into her cupped hands
the tears filling her face her neck her body
your name is not erased from our history books
but bought back to life
and lived…

Copyright 2011 – Dorothy Johnson-Laird.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

European Parliament Subcommittee Hearing on Human Rights in DRC: Natural Resources

Monday, January 10, 2011

Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Lumumba

January 17, 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Emery Lumumba. Friends of the Congo (FOTC) will commemorate the 50th anniversary by joining justice seekers throughout the globe who will be showing films, holding rallies, and organizing teach-ins and forums to commemorate the life and ideas of Patrice Lumumba.

FOTC will encourage its supporters, which span over 50 countries and 300 university campuses and communities throughout the globe, to participate in the commemoration by showing films on Lumumba.

Friends of Congo will also join in solidarity with the family of Patrice Lumumba in calling for justice for the people of Congo. We appeal to all justice seeking people throughout the globe to join in this worldwide call in support of the Congolese people’s quest for justice.

In the United States the anniversary falls on the same day as the official celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Dr. King famously said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We appeal to the disciples of Dr. King to join us in calling for justice in the Congo.

Click here for more information on the commemoration.

New York
Monday, January 17, 2011
7:30 PM
Maysles Cinema
343 Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd.
New York, NY 10027

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the tragic assassination of
Patrice Lumumba on January 17th, 1961 the Maysles Cinema presents, in
partnership with Friends of the Congo, the true story of the rise to
power and brutal assassination of the legendary leader of independent
Congo, Patrice Lumumba.

The screening of Lumumba will be followed by a panel discussion featuring:
Kambale Musavuli, Spokesperson, Friends of the Congo
Lubangi Muniania Samar Al-Bulushi will moderate the discussion.

Contact: Phone: 212-582-6050 x221 or email:

Washington DC Event:

Film & Discussion: Lumumba
Time: 5 - 7:30 PM
Where: Sankofa Books & Videos
Contact: Friends of Congo or 202-584-6512

January 17, 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Emery Lumumba. Friends of the Congo (FOTC) will commemorate the 50th anniversary by joining justice seekers throughout the globe who will be showing films, holding rallies, and organizing teach-ins and forums to commemorate the life and ideas of Patrice Lumumba.

Friday, January 07, 2011

American Youth Make Appeal on Behalf of Congo

Increasingly, American youth are taking a stand in support of the people of Congo by calling on world leaders to become more engaged in bringing an end to the suffering in the Congo.

Join these young people in the video and become a part of the global movement.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Interview With Kambale Musavuli

1. There is war in the Congo: who are the major forces involved in the actual fighting?

The major forces directly involved are various rebel groups. However, behind some of the rebel groups is neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda who supports one of the major rebel groups and use them as proxies to destabilize and loot the Congo. Ultimately, The United Sates and Britain are behind Rwanda and Uganda, the two countries that unleashed the killings in the Congo through two invasions (1996 & 1998). The two countries could not have waged the war that they have in the Congo without financial, military and intelligence support from the United States and the United Kingdom.

2. There is a lot of talk about women's rights that have stemmed from the ongoing conflicts there. The sentiment seems to be that the patriarchal aspect of the culture that existed there before colonial times is the cause of the current abuse against women. Most of the reports on this issue listed on the website seem to have been drafted by women. As a Congolese man, what is your perspective?

I take deep concern about the use of the words "women's rights" given that it makes it seem as another problem we have to deal with. I believe that women's rights are human rights. If we understand that it is in fact human rights, we should be pan outraged every day about the conditions women have to endure, not just as a female, but as a human being.

We should also remember that Africans had a matriarchal system before the heavy influence of colonial powers. As a Congolese man, I recognize that on the global level patriarchy has caused many issues in terms of power and control that have affected tremendously our women. We, as men in this world, have to do a better job protecting the ones who have given us life and have made sure we are strong men in this society.

We also cannot forget that in the case of the Congo, we forget that while women are being destroyed, men also are being raped and castrated, all in an attempt to intimidate the local population and move them away from areas rich of mineral resources.

To address your question in the context of violence against women, one must remember the vital role women play in the African society. If you destroy a woman, you destroy many families thus the whole society. Women in Africa are the caretakers and the backbone of the whole entire community. Once destroyed, it becomes easy to get access to the land. In Congo, gender-based violence is directly connected to the conflict raging throughout the country. To stop it, one must stop the conflict. To stop the conflict, actions must be taken to stop the resource exploitation of the Congo.

3. There is a lot on the website about spreading the word and for people to put pressure on government entities to resolve this issue. At the same time, the interests of these governments are what continue to fuel the conflicts. Therefore, the solutions drafted by the UN, etc seem to pay mere lip service to the issue at hand. What do you see as a way that the Congolese themselves can end this conflict and rebuild a peaceful and harmonious society.

You are right. The United Nations and western governments have paid lip service to the demands of the Congolese people. It is not in there interest to change the manner in which they have been engaged in the Congo. They would like to maintain the Congo in a state of impoverishment and dependency for generations to come. As long as American citizens do not challenge their government's policies abroad, it will be much harder for weak states such as the Congo to determine and control their own affairs. A significant part of the reason Congo is in its current situation is because the United States has played a role in the assassination of Congo's first elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba; installed and maintained the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for over three decades, backed the invasions of the Congo by Rwanda and Uganda and continued its practice of propping up strongmen in Africa at the expense of the people.

Remember, Congo's challenge is both internal and external. American citizens must challenge US foreign policy just as they did during the anti-apartheid movement. Remember, your government is counting on its citizens being silent and not caring about what happens to Black people in Africa. It is for this reason we are calling on the American public to be engaged.

As it relates to what the Congolese people can do and are doing. We suffer from over 125 years of slavery, colonialism, assassinations, dictatorship and imposed wars, therefore, our institutions have been weakened and made deficient. We are in the process of strengthening our institutions so that we can protect the interests of our people. Throughout our history, many figures have symbolized our struggle to control our own affairs.

Your solidarity from the outside, will help create space so that we can realize the generational pursuit of controlling our own affairs. If we were left to our own devices and all we had to do was deal with our own elites, we would have dealt with them long ago but we have to fight against our own elites and the financing, military training and arms that is provided to them from countries like the United States.

In the final analysis, if Americans hold their government accountable, it will accelerate the liberation of the Congo.

4. There seems to be a lot of involvement of the Hutus and Tutsis who were also involved in the Rwanda Genocide. What is the connection between the Genocide in Rwanda and the Genocide in the Congo and what is the continued role played by the Hutus and Tutsis throughout?

Ethnicity has to be part of the equation in analyzing the situation in the Congo. However, the predominant driving factor for the divisions along ethnic lines is the drive for power. You have select groups who want to acquire power at any cost and they use ethnicity as a means for achieving power. This is essentially what happened in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and that has spilled over into the Congo. So we have to be careful and place ethnicity in its right place. An elder shared with me a while ago that "if Religion was an ethnicity, that is what people would have used to gain power in Rwanda." The pursuit for power at any cost is the predominant reason for the conflict and instability in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Day of the Martyrs of Independence

January 4th is a seminal day in Congo’s history, which serves as a national holiday. On January 4, 1959, Congolese stood in defiance of Belgian colonialism demanding independence. Congolese in Kinshasa unleashed an uprising out of frustration against the repressive Belgian colonial regime. Several hundred people died in the riots that grew out of what was otherwise a peaceful march organized by one of the leading voices at the time (ABAKO).

Nine days later the King of Belgium announced that in due time Belgium would grant Congo full independence. In the conscience of the nation, the day represents the historic point of departure for the independence of the Congo from Belgian colonialism.

The courageous stance by that generation of Congolese served as a key catalyst for Congo’s independence in 1960. Since the 1960s Congolese have celebrated and commemorated that generation’s actions and named the day “la journée des martyrs de l’indépendance.” Without a doubt, Congolese of that era made enormous sacrifice for freedom and independence. This begs the question – what sacrifice are the Congolese youth of today making for the future of the sons and daughters of the Congo?

Click here for more information on January 4, 1959

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year's Message to the Congolese Youth

On this New Year’s day, the Congolese youth of America wishes you a wonderful new year in 2011. May it be a prosperous and successful one that brings us closer to peace in our country.

I write to the youth, men and women, to remind you of the prophetic message of our elders who worked tirelessly and made the ultimate sacrifice for us to be called not only African, but also Congolese united in the effort to rebuild the land of our ancestors.

When Patrice Lumumba sent his appeal to the Congolese youth in the 1960s, he realized that without the youth, the future of the Congo would not be guaranteed. Our youth long asleep, long exploited, he said, must understand their role as the vanguard of the peaceful revolution and the salvation of the Congo.

Living in the United States, we have been able to learn how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the age of 26, began his illustrious work for equality of the black man and woman here in the West. The same is true for our Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, age 34, who embarked upon the task of leading a country the size of Western Europe. We cannot forget our brother Steve Biko in South Africa who also fought against the apartheid regime by mobilizing the youth in his country and was assassinated at age 30. I would not do justice to the history of our country if I do not invoke the name of Kimpa Vita, the young Dona Beatriz, who mobilized Congolese against the Portuguese invasion and lost her life in the process. She was only 21 when she was burned alive at the stake.

All these historic examples remind us that today we are also able to create a revival in our country. We can make the Congo a great world power. This will not be easy. We will have many difficulties, but our elders will be there for advice and wisdom. It is our duty we owe our ancestors who, even ’till death, fought so that we would not lose our land. We in the diaspora, are counting on you.

Rest assured that we, your brothers and sisters in the diaspora, and also the many people of goodwill around the world, from China, Canada, Japan, Australia, Belgium, the United States, and elsewhere are here to provide you with support, moral as well as financial.

The awakening of the Congolese youth is paramount in achieving a new and prosperous future for not only the Congo but also Africa as a whole. The pride of being Congolese should compel us to toil day and night for peace as it will come only through our hands in synergy and unity among us in the Congo and the Awaken Diaspora.

Congolese Youth, the Great Congo of today is ours. This gift is not just hereditary, but also because millions of Congolese have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country since 1482. We must do everything in our power to assure that our beautiful Congo remains in the hands of the sons and daughters of the Congo.

Long live the Congolese Youth!
Long live the Democratic Republic of Congo!
Long live Africa and Africans!

Kambale Musavuli
Friends of the Congo
New York, USA