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FRFI 199 October / November 2007

DR Congo: repression continues

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) president Joseph Kabila is desperately trying to get international support for his puppet government to give it some legitimacy. That is why in late September, on his way to the General Assembly of the United Nations, he visited Belgium, where he was met by demonstrations of the Congolese diaspora . Not that the Belgian government was a reluctant host: with the DRC’s huge natural resources up for grabs, it does not want to miss out on the action, especially as China had just agreed to invest $5bn in infrastructure and mining. The upshot was that Belgium agreed to send an economic mission to the DRC capital Kinshasa with the aim of boosting Belgian investment in its former colony.

Since Joseph Kabila’s inauguration as the DRC president in December 2006, security has been precarious: the regime is using fear and terror to keep the population’s mouths shut. The new government’s relations with the opposition have resulted in a drift to authoritarianism and urban unrest in the west of the country, while militias continue to clash with the weak national army in the east, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, many of whom continue to succumb to hunger and disease. The new governing institutions remain weak and abusive or non-existent.

In early 2007 the population of southwest Congo suffered massive and violent repression with hundreds of deaths after a protest about irregularities in the elections of regional deputies. The UN’s human rights office in DRC has just published a report of what has been called the ‘massacre of Bas-Congo’. The report underlines the fact that those responsible for the atrocity are known, but no judicial action has yet been taken against them. (http://www.monuc.org/News.aspx?newsID= 15423#top)

A couple of months later, in March 2007, war blew up in the middle of Kinshasa. Four hundred people were killed, mostly civilians caught up in the cross-fire as they went about their daily and domestic business. The reason for this second massacre after inauguration was to disarm the former rebel JP Bemba, who came second in the presidential election and thus became the official leader of the opposition. Not only was Bemba a threat because of his militia, but as an indigenous Congolese he had much popular support against Kabila who is still seen as Rwandan in origin. The opposition’s capacity to organise remains severely weakened by the recurrent use of force against its supporters and Bemba’s exile in April 2007. The government uses force to crack down on its opponents entrenching animosity and creating further urban unrest.

The so-called integrated army, which the United Nations mission (MONUC, in fact a front for US, Belgian, British and French interests) in Congo claimed to merge and train, has become the worst human rights abuser, and no one is doing anything to stop it. In the last week of August, militia chief Laurent Nkunda launched a successful attack on North Kivu; he now controls the Kivus region. Nkunda’s troops use rape as a weapon of war, and neither the national army nor the United Nations have succeeded in putting an end to the activities of this former regional commander of the Congolese army. He has 14,000 to 18,000 militiamen and is backed by the Rwandan government.

Although elsewhere the government has used force to crack down on militias, in the Kivus Nkunda remains powerful, refusing to surrender heavy weapons; there are Rwandan fighters among his troops. Both Kabila and MONUC are ignoring Nkunda’s activities; this has led to a rise in anti-Tutsi feeling because the situation demonstrates the alliance Kabila has with both Nkunda and Rwandan president Kagame.

More and more Congolese are being turned into refugees in their own country, especially those living in the east. The population is suffering the consequences of the passivity of the government and Kabila’s tacit complicity with the international mafia network determined to plunder DRC forever. This will be exacerbated with the recent discovery of oil in the lake separating Congo and Uganda. With China trying to settle as an alternative super power, US and European imperialist powers will be using every strategy possible to maintain their dominant position in the country.

The good news is that they can fool the entire population some of the time, but not all the time. Things are changing little by little. It can take a long time, but people are definitively determined to free themselves, whether the neo-colonialists like it or not.
Irenee Kayembe