The Challenge of the Congo



An estimated 6 million people have died since 1996. That is 45,000 people per month. This is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here we have yet another example of the devaluing of black or African life and of the necessity of our fight to reclaim the humanity of all African people. Why? Because amid these atrocities, there has up until recently not been a peep heard from the international community. And even now, not many can point to this region on the map let alone tell anyone what is going on. So we will attempt to inform you now.

Lying literally in the heart of Africa, the vast region that comprises the nation-state, Democratic Republic of the Congo is very important to Africa and its future. Leaders and historians such as George Washington Williams, Kwame Nkrumah, and even Barack Obama have researched, wrote about, or mentioned the Congo on numerous occasions. In his work, the Challenge of the Congo,Kwame Nkrumah sets forth a strategic agenda premised on the Congo’s importance to the liberation of the whole of Africa. Set aside as the personal playground, for King Leopold II, the Belgian government was allocated what was now known as the Congo at the Berlin Conference in 1884. As the Congolese fought for their independence, the first prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Emery Lumumba, recognized the need for Congolese people to benefit from the very resources that came from their native land and was extracted on their backs. This caused great controversy from the Western powers, including this country, which plotted to and eventually assassinated Lumumba in one of the more heinous assassinations in the contemporary history of Africa. Lumumba’s vision of a free Congo and a free Africa was too much for the West to stomach. Lumumba was replaced by a more manageable and eventually destructive Joseph Mobutu and the plight of the Congolese further worsened. Mobutu chose to lead the Congo towards its destruction by complying with the mandates of Western imperialism.

The very thing that draws the international economic powers to the Congo is the same thing that prevents or inhibits their action of at the very least exposing the atrocities of the region. These are the vast resources that can be found in the region. The Congo is home to immense mineral wealth in the form of diamonds, gold, silver, copper, zinc, uranium, iron, cobalt, and many more. Its rivers could provide electricity to the whole of Africa, and even half of Europe. Its soil could produce the agricultural potential to feed the entire world through 2050 when the population will be an estimated 9 billion people. Why then are so many Africans malnourished? It is simply the rape of these needed resources that is causing the secondary problems of wars, diseases, and women being raped. As long as this wealth is being used to prop up Western society, the Congolese will continue to suffer. The West has even aided the Congo’s neighboring countries to engage in conflict in order to get their hands on some of the mineral wealth. Congo holds 80% of the world’s reserve of coltan. Where does it go? It is in your pocket or in your bag. Coltan is found in every cell phone, computer, Xbox, Playstation, and many other electronic devices.

Students at Howard have been made conscious of the ongoing struggles of the Congolese, and are therefore organizing with The Friends of the Congo, an organization that supports the people of the Congo. Next week, we will be helping with the Break the Silence in the Congo Week (congoweek.org). As members of the Pan-African community, Howard students must do this work. We will be sponsoring a film and panel discussion and a talent show dedicated to the people of the Congo on Monday October 20th, in the Blackburn Auditorium. We will also have a Cellout all day Wednesday, October 22nd. Finally we will end with a Teach-In on Friday October 24th. Be on the lookout for more information in the coming days.

Our involvement in Congo Week is not a work of charity. It is a work of the realization of the potential of African people, our people. The struggles of the Congolese will not be over until, we, those who believe in the humanity of the Congolese work to put pressure on the beneficiaries of the modern world capitalism and greed. We have to stop those who continuously extract the immense wealth of the region, and allow the people of the Congo to control and benefit from the resources of their homeland. Kwame Ture said that the base of power in Africa, is land. Control of land is an essential step in creating an African-world union.

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Kwame Ture Society (KTS): Africana Studies at Howard University

Originally Posted 10/16/2008

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