Friday, January 26, 2007

Friends of the Congo Brings its Message of Congolese Self-Determination to World Social Forum

Over 50,000 activists representing many non profit organizations attended the 7th World Social Forum. The forum was set up at the Moi International Kasarani Sports Complex. The Kenyan student division of Friends of the Congo brought the message of Lumumba to the attendees and were well received.

The World Social Forum, initiated to serve as a counterbalance to the World Economic Forum in Davos addressed many of the pressing issues of countries of the South. Friends of the Congo along with other Congolese groups placed the pillaging of the Congo's resources and subsequent impoverishment of Congolese on the agenda.

Our message of self-determination for the Congo was well received. We had the opportunity to engage in an exchange with Nobel Peace prize winner Dr. Wangari Mathai who encouraged us to continue with our fight on behalf of the Congo.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lumumba 46 Years Later

This past week people around the world commemorated the birthday (January 15, 1929) of Martin Luther King, Jr., and reflected on the life and significance of Patrice Emery Lumumba, another slain hero who fought for justice and human rights in the tumultuous 1960s. Lumumba was the first elected Prime Minister of the Congo. To the sorrow of the Congolese and freedom loving people throughout the
globe, he was removed from his elected office only months after ascending to power on June 30, 1960. He was assassinated on January 17, 1961, in a collaborative effort; primarily by Belgium,
the United States
and their Congolese agents such as Joseph Desire Mobutu and Moise Tshombe.

After decades of a brutal dictatorship and resource wars, the Congolese held its first “democratic” elections in 46 years in July and October 2006 and
elected a new President and Parliament. Unfortunately, an election does not equate to
independence, especially one funded “to the tune of” $500 million by the same forces responsible for the assassination of Lumumba; the subsequent installation and maintenance in power of Mobutu for over three decades; and whose multi-national
corporations pillaged the Congo during the recent conflict where Congo lost over 4 million of its population. Surely, the foreign powers that invested a half-billion dollars in the elections will be looking for a considerable return on their investment. The election of Joseph Kabila as president is the down
payment on their return.
Of all the political candidates, he was the most amenable to maintaining the exploitative mineral contracts that are currently in place. The Pole Institute speaking of the exploitation of Congo’s wealth notes that the response from the international community is simply to legalize existing structures of resource exploitation. The POLE Institute adds that "many of the people who illegally exploited natural resources in different regions of the DRC are now part of the government, the same processes of exploitation have become legal.”

In spite of the long-time Lumumbist and Deputy Prime Minister under Lumumba, Antoine Gizenga being appointed as Prime Minister, the forces arrayed against him inside and outside of the Congo will surely prevent him from fulfilling Lumumba’s wishes.
Lumumba stated in his 1960 inaugural speech “We are going to keep watch over the lands of our country so that they truly profit her children.” Should the existing contracts signed by the current crop of Congolese leaders remain intact, Congo’s children will have to wait for at least another generation before
they “truly profit” from their country’s wealth. In Global Witness’ 2005 report "Digging in Corruption,” it notes that the deals signed with foreign corporations are so “one-sided” that they “provide huge benefits to the private companies involved but leave Gecamines (Congolese state-owned mining company) with such a low share that the state will be unable to generate profits from the deals.” In fact, the report goes on to say “the majority of the contracts signed left the Congo with only a 25% share and in some cases significantly lower.” In addition,
these lopsided contracts have been signed for 30 to 40 years.

Some of the most egregious foreign interests profiting at the expense of not only the current generation of Congolese but future generations are:
George Forrest
Dan Gertler and Benny Steinmetz/Global Enterprises Company/Nikanor
Anvil Mining
Phelps Dodge
KinRoss-Forrest/Katanga Mining
First Quantum/Adastra See "Digging in Corruption” for more details of deals established by some of the above mentioned companies.

Multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank will offer no reprieve to the Congo, as they have been equally culpable in facilitating the exploitation of the riches of the Congo. In the November 26, 2006 Financial Times article by Dino Mahtani entitled “World Bank faces questions over Congo mining contracts”, it is reported that the bank ran the risk of "perceived complicity and/or tacit approval" of mining deals signed with a "complete lack of transparency." These deals are worth billions of dollars and account for 75 percent of Gecamines assets, which contain some of the world’s richest deposits of copper. After decades of working with the IMF and World Bank during the Mobutu era, the Congo was saddled with a $14 billion debt; currently at $10 billion. If these institutions were not complicit in the kleptocratic practices of Mobutu they were at the very least grossly negligent. These institutions’ own reports illustrate that their track record produces more impoverishment than empowerment. Yet they are still proffered as part of the solution to the Congo’s
woes. The best that the Congo can hope for when dealing with these institutions is continued indebtedness and the acceleration of the selling off of the country’s assets under the guise of privatization.

No fundamental change has taken place in the Congo since Lumumba’s slaying and none will occur until the Congolese people truly control their resources and freely utilize them for their own benefit and that of Africa at-large.

Lumumba said in his last letter to his wife “I know,and feel in my heart, that sooner or later my people will shake off all enemies, inside and outside our land,
and they will rise as one man to say "no" to the shame and degradation of colonialism and to assume once again their dignity under clear skies.”

We encourage all people of goodwill to work with the Congolese people to stave off the legalization of the looting of their resources and the impoverishment of yet another generation. Nothing short of the independence and the dignity called for by Lumumba will do.

Click here to support the FOTC Lumumba Scholarship Fund and the Lumumba Monument Projects!