Sunday, December 25, 2011

DR Congo polls chaos invokes a country with a violent history

Supporters of Joseph Kabila on streets.
As tension is brewing in the Democratic Republic of Congo following elections results announced this month, there is fear that the country may slide back to civil war even as a defiant Jospeh Kabila took the oath of office, this invokes a country marred by a history of violence since the 30th June 1960  independence.

The results had been delayed with Joseph Kabila, 40 trouncing ten contestants to garner forty-nine percent of 18 million votes against his closest rival Etienne Tshisekedi, 78, who got thirty-two percent in polls with had a fifty-nine voters turnout.

“I consider this declaration an outright provocation to our people and I reject it in full. As a result I consider myself from this day on as the elected president of DR Congo” Tshisekedi said in a statement insisting that he garnered fifty-four percent of the votes against Kabila’s twenty-six percent.

Four other contestants have already rejected the results which the international observers say the voting was flawed but it wasn’t fraudulent enough to skew the results.

As tension escalates dozens of citizens have died while others including international expatriates have fled the capital Kinshasa where the government have deployed over 20,000 forces to try and restore calm.

“I call on the international community, which has relentlessly encouraged me to guarantee a peaceful process, to not only find a solution to this problem but take all possible measures so that the blood of the Congolese people is not spilled again” Tshisekedi is quoted by AFP correspondent before he sow himself with a bible in his house.

Analysts have ruled out the Supreme Court which will arbiter on the results before announcing the winner on 17 this month not to be able to quell the tension. Earlier during the campaign Kabila expanded the apex court from seven to twenty seven sitting judges believed to be his supporters.  Earlier this year the clause that required a seconded runoff in case of no definite winner with a 50% win was scrapped off stoking the legality of the court ruling.

“We saw what happened in Kenya . We saw what happened in Zimbabwe and we saw what happened recently in Ivory Coast . Things have got worse because we have not anticipated this” Vital Kamerhe, third placed contestant said.

As sporadic armed conflict starts, memories of conflict as started with the birth of the nation is rekindled. While other African countries stared as colonies, DR Congo started as a personal estate of King Leopold II of Belgian to make him the richest men in Europe with ivory, copper, timber and rubber from the country.

Leopold’s ambition and greed which spurred the scramble and partition of the continent saw him hire Welsh born journalist-explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1878 to cut treaties with over 400 chiefs to form the current DR Congo.

Stanley was nicknamed by locals as Bula Matari- ‘Breaker of Rocks’ from dynamite, for his ability to hand out severe punishments to dissents. By independence several millions, estimated to be a half of the population had lost their lives to what Joseph Conrad in his famous book on Leopold’s Congo Heart of Darkness call “the vilest scramble for loot to ever disfigure the history of human conscience”

As reality of independence dawned and faced with the wind of change engulfing the continent Belgium tried to rig the first election in country against first Prime Minister who had irked the colonialist with his pan-Africanist ideology he got from the 1958 All African conference in Ghana .

“Who can forget the volleys of gunfire in which so many of our brothers perished, the cells where the authorities threw those who would not submit to a rule where justice meant oppression and exploitation” Lumumba said told Belgium delegates during independence “We are no longer your monkeys”

This caused the first loose coalition government headed by Lumumba as election winner and other 12 parties forming to shaky like an extension ladder and lasted only a few days of peace in the country. Chaos was sparked when the army controlled by 1,100 Belgian corps mutinied for salary increase.

Hell bend to outset Lumumba Belgium flew in more troops, liaised with the mining companies on 11th July and reinstate Moise Tshombe to declare Katanga , rich in mineral an independent state.

The bloodshed that followed saw assassination of Lumumba on January 1961 for siding with Russia and Czech Republic to aid in military expedition to rein Katanga and control an uprising in Kasai . USA cold war interests and Belgium mining welfare aided in propping Tshombe and Joseph Desire Mobutu to power fast on 14th September 1960 and later in 1965 as the absolute president. As the western ‘friendly tyrant’ Mobutu lead a kleptomaniac regime enjoying a $9Billion aid, US contribute $860Million of this. 

“The Congo paid heavily for the chaos surrounding the advent of independence. For years to come it became the battleground for warring factions, marauding soldiers, foreign troops, mercenaries forces, revolutionary enthusiasts and legions of diplomats and advisers.” Martin Meredith writes in his book The State of Africa .
Most serious and detailed conflict detailed in The UN backed report on Illegal Exploration of Natural Resources and other forms of Wealth from the DRC published from 2001-2003which unearth the extent of the great lakes war fought in the country.

It is from the start on 1988 that DRC was engulfed in humanitarian crisis in four stages according to the report; 1993-1996; July 1996-July 1998; August 1998-January 2000 and the final transition of January 2001- June 2003.

From 1988 to 2003 conflict drew a score of African countries; Angola , Zimbabwe , Rwanda , Burundi , Uganda , Namibia , Chad and all the way to the bloody diamond fields of Sierra Leone . The main allure being DRC’s vast mineral resources with the uncanny ability to bring to her doorstep hounds picking on he carcass amid plundering, war inhumanities and smuggling. 

In 1988 DRC was rotting under corruption, weak central government and huge debt. Mobutu was ‘dinosaur’ against the second democratic wind of change which turned the world against him. The fall of the Berlin wall and the extent at which aid was misused was enough cocktail to bring the world against Mobutu.

Joseph Kabila
To shore his failing image, Mobutu took a populist angle by being a regional powerbroker to meddle in Rwanda and Burundi’s genocide conflict despite DRC hosting over 1.5 million Rwandan refugees like Interahamwe, Mayi Mayi and Banyamulenge escaping the prolong tribal conflicts in the region.

Rwanda and Uganda resentful at cross border raid in Kivu and Eastern Congo chose to support Laurent-Desire Kabila rebellion against Mobutu. Angola too joined the fray by supporting Katanga rebels to hit back on CIA and Mobutu’s support to Jonas Savimbi and Unita by spying on her and the support offered by Cuba and Russia . 

When Angolan backed rebels tried to overthrow Mobutu in 1977 & 78 the west swiftly came to his aid, this was hit back time for Angola .

The second stage saw Kabila becoming the president of DRC on 17th May 1997 while Mobutu died four months later in Morocco . Uganda ’s Yoweri Museveni is quoted by Times journalist Martin Meredith in State of Africa to capture the all incident thus:

“The big mistake of Mobutu was to involve himself in Rwanda . So it’s really Mobutu who initiated the programme of his own removal. Had he not involved himself in Rwanda, I think he could have stayed, just like that, as he had been doing for the last 32 years – just doing nothing to develop Zaire, but stay in what they call power, by controlling the radio station, and so on”

The third stage (August 1998-January 2000) flared when Laurent Kabila dismissed Rwandan who aided his rise to power. His advisers couldn’t understand why a country ‘so small to be found in the map’ could control their government.

After propping him to power, Burundi , Rwanda and Uganda financed rebels because Kabila could not control the cross border raids by rebels from DR Congo to their country. On the other hand, Zimbabwe and Angola aided Kabila with help from Namibia and Chad .
Although the initial aims was to control their borders, the president’s otiose ambition of being regional kingmakers and unbridled greed for diamond, petroleum, gold, timber, Colton and other minerals the  DRC was a proxy war for looters. Generals from these foreign countries unleashed terror on citizens on mines to loot minerals. 
The acme of this stage was in 2000 when Rwanda and Uganda turned against each other in three occasions to control Kisangani the diamond hub. The illegal exploitation become an open secret.
Etienne Tshisekedi who sow himself as president
“Outraged by their ill-concealed looting enterprises and the damage inflicted on Kisangani, The UN Security Council demanded that Rwanda and Uganda withdraw from Congo with both Museveni and Kagame cited as ‘accomplishes’ by the UN panel” Meredith writes.

The last stage (January 2001-June 2003) saw the withdrawal of foreign armies after the July 2002 peace treaty by Joseph Kabila after his father was shot at a close range by his bodyguard on 16th January 2001. 
The just concluded election rekindles a history of bloodshed in DR Congo as the world waits with abated breath the outcome of Supreme Court ruling as Tshisekedi , US and France already call for calm in the country.

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