Congo in the abyss


Bénédicte Kumbi Ndjoko

The aggression of Western governments has inflicted multiple holocausts on the Congolese people, Congolese historian Bénédicte Kumbi Ndjoko tells Ann Garrison.

This week I spoke to Swiss Congolese historian and activist Bénédicte Kumbi Ndjoko about recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who said, “In Congo, globalized capitalism creates permanent chaos.”

Ann Garrison:
On February 12, 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that there were 4.49 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 630,500 refugees in neighboring countries. The IDP population had nearly doubled in the previous year alone, mainly as a result of clashes and armed attacks. It sounds like conditions on the ground in Congo are getting worse, much worse.

Bénédicte Kumbi Ndjoko: Congo is indeed in a critical situation. We know how much its people have suffered since the genocides in Rwanda and all the displacement they caused, then by the wars that Rwanda and Uganda waged against Congo from 1996 to 1997 and then from 1998 to 2003, with the support of the US, UK, and their allies. Today some observers speak of Congo as a post-conflict country, but it’s still in a low-intensity conflict, off and on, hot and cold. A conflict that drags on like this can become even deadlier than declared war, as it has in the North and South Kivu Provinces bordering Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. More than a million of the 4.49 million internally displaced people are in North Kivu Province.

In the past two years the situation has also deteriorated in the Kasai region, where people are being exterminated or displaced to Angola. There has also been an increase in attacks against the populations of the former Katanga Province, which was split into the Tanganyika, Haut-Lomami, Lualaba and Haut-Katanga Provinces in 2015. Congo and its people are not on the brink of the abyss, they have long since fallen into it.

“People are being exterminated in the Kasai region or displaced to Angola.”

It’s hard to know what to say about so much suffering. What would you most like to say about it here?

BKN: Suffering should inspire compassion, but compassion should inspire reflection. Is the person who looks at a suffering human being able to ask himself if he is not involved in one way or another in the suffering of the individual in front of him? Can he or she grasp the causes of the crimes perpetrated against that human being and the political implications that arise from these acts? If we stop at the suffering of the Congolese people, we won’t be able to address its particularities and causes. It will be no different than the depressing and fatalistic images that have shaped the image of Africa in people’s minds. We must examine Western governments’ imperial aggression against Congo and Africa as a whole.

AG: Dr. Denis Mukwege, the Congolese gynecologist who became known as “the man who heals women” for treating the victims of brutal rape in eastern Congo, finally won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Does that give you any hope?

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Mukwege in person. I saw this man with women from all over the world who had all been raped during conflicts. They came from Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, and Iraq. I could see how this man spoke to these women, the concern he had for them and his way of telling them that their word counted. He has all my admiration.

That said, it seems to me that there is also something cynical about presenting him with the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s an organized, staged reality that obliterates the imperial aggression in Congo and encourages a global consensus to stop the rapes but continue the war. It makes the Western Nobel Peace Prize audience feel good about themselves and their compassionate response to the victims of African savagery. This was reinforced by Nadia Murad, the Iraqi rape survivor who shared this year’s Peace Prize with Dr. Mukwege. She said that she would continue as a global advocate for victims of rape and torture, and for persecuted minorities, like the Kurdish Yazidi minority she belongs to.

“The Nobel Peace Prize encourages a global consensus to stop the rapes but continue the war.”

Consortium News for more

Comments are closed.