The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have begun protesting against Joseph Kabila, who has been in power in the Congo since 2001. Kabila was required to step down from power since last year, but elections in the Congo have been delayed until December 2018. The Congolese government has responded to these protests with violence force; the same type of violence force that has been used against protesters in other African countries such as Cameroon, Togo, and Kenya. Police and soldiers have been sent out to brutalize the protesters. The government also ordered that internet services be cut off in an attempt to restrict communication in the country, much as the government of Togo did when the protests began there.
The current crisis in the Congo is just the latest crisis for a country that has been in constant crisis since obtaining its independence from Belgium in 1960. It would be more accurate to say that the Congo has been in a crisis for several centuries now, but for the purposes of this piece I will focus specifically on what has happened in the Congo since 1960. Patrice Lumumba became the Congo’s first prime minister after the country became independent, but not long after independence the Congo was thrown into turmoil, which resulted in Lumumba being assassinated. Both the United States and Belgium were opposed to Lumumba and conspired to eliminate him. After Lumumba was assassinated, Mobutu became the president of the Congo, which he renamed Zaire.
Mobutu remained in office from 1965 until 1997. During that time his government was notorious for its corruption, mismanagement of state funds, and for its human rights abuses. Despite being one of the worst dictators in Africa, Mobutu enjoyed the support of the United States, France, and Belgium. Mobutu was finally deposed and was replaced by Laurent Kabila, Joseph’s father. Laurent was assassinated in 2001 and his son Joseph has been the president of the Congo ever since.
Aside from poor leadership, the Congo has also been plagued by ongoing internal conflicts which have resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people. Sexual violence has also been so prevalent in the Congo that the Congo has been labeled as the rape capital of the world. Rather than address these issues, the government of the Congo has tried to cover up the atrocities. For example, in 2015 the government banneda film that was about Dr. Denis Mukwege, a surgeon in the Congo who has treated thousands of women that were raped during the conflict. Mukwege has also been an outspoken critic of the conflict in the Congo, which resulted in an attempt on his life.
Despite the deplorable human rights situation in the Congo and the fact that Kabila has shown a refusal to give up power, Western governments continue to support him. When Kabila did not step down after his term ended in 2016, American ambassador Samantha Power called for Kabila to organize elections in 2017, despite the fact that Kabila’s term ended in 2016. Donald Trump came into office and his administration has continued the same policy of simply calling for elections to be held the next year. Over the years Western governments had provided aid to Kabila and helped to legitimize him. These same governments have also backed Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who has also played a significant role in the instability in the Congo. The crisis in the Congo is not only a crisis that has been caused by corrupt and incompetent dictatorial leadership, but it is also a crisis that has been caused by the legacy of neo-colonialism in the Congo. The foreign forces that conspired to remove Lumumba are the same foreign forces that continue to support the very African politicians that are responsible for the Congo being destabilized.
By Dwayne Wong (Omowale),