Wednesday, September 27, 2017


I have a friend, who lives in Uganda, but who travels regularly into the Congo to bring encouragement to believers there. Congo, right now, is a very dangerous place. The media very seldom report on what is happening in that country. Violence seems to be the primary way of running the country. 

President Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down on 19 December 2016. But despite opposition and international condemnation, he has refused to relinquish power. It now looks like the election rescheduled for 2017 will not happen. Kabila is now talking about constitutional changes that will allow him to be President for Life. Whenever that has happened in Africa, it has not been good for the people or the nation as a whole - only for the President, his family, and closest advisors (who are obviously "yes" men).

Understanding the source of conflict in the Congo (formerly Zaire) is not all that difficult. There are two main factors.
  1. The mineral wealth of the country.
    Congo is a rich country, almost limitless water, from the world's second-largest river, the Congo; it's climate and rich soil make it fertile; and, beneath the soil are abundant deposits of copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan, and oil - just some of the resources that should make it one of the world's richest countries. For many years, it provided the world's largest supply of rubber for bicycle and automobile tires, as well electrical insulation.

    Instead, those resources have led to incredible abuses: forcing tribal groups off the land, without adequate compensation; destructive mining techniques; government, rebels, and others (from outside the country) involved in the conflicts taking the majority of the profits; outside countries and companies, including Canada, have made whatever deals necessary to get access to the resources, with little regard for the people.
  2. Congo's history.
    It was common, not too long ago, to blame the woes of an underdeveloped or developing country on the lack of leadership of the government - some even saying it was a clear sign that black people are not made to lead. But look at the history. Almost everything bad that we see happening in Congo (and sadly, some of the atrocities are repeated in too many places) happened under Western control.

    King Leopold II of Belgium, basically treated what he called the Congo Free State (although it was anything but free) as his personal property. Nearly all the infrastructure projects, such as roads and railways, were built so that assets could be removed from the county. During the time of rubber sales, the army was called in, to cut off the limbs of people who didn't make quota.

    As in many places, western freedoms were defended with Congo's resources while native Congolese were denied the right to vote, or form unions and political associations. They were denied anything beyond the most basic of education, which suited the mine owners just fine.

    But as a result, when independence came, in 1960, there were no home-grown experts who could run the country. Of the 5,000 government jobs, pre-independence, just t
    hree (3) were held by Congolese and there was not a single Congolese lawyer, doctor, economist or engineer. Within weeks of Independence, the majority of Belgians left the country. leaving behind a predictable disaster.

    As chaos threatened to engulf the region. The Cold War superpowers moved in to prevent the other gaining the upper hand. The Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba, was horrifically beaten and executed by Western-backed rebels. A military strongman, Joseph-Desire Mobutu, who had a few years before been a sergeant in the colonial police force, took over. He became a tyrant. In 1972 he changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, meaning "the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake".
    The West (mostly the USA) tolerated him as long as the minerals flowed and the Congo was kept out of the Soviet orbit. Which has often been the way - the West doesn't really care about the people - all we care about is getting stuff. And so, the West installs and removes dictators and tyrants, based on selfish economic benefits.
The future does not look much better. Congolese leaders are following the example set before them by the Belgians and the French and the Americans. Millions have been killed in the last 20 years: many as a direct result of the many wars; many more as the result of the war-induced famine and rape of the land.

In recent years China is pushing its way into many places in Africa. They offer infrastructure projects and funding for government projects, but, they end up controlling the projects; they offer little in skills training, preferring to bring in their own people; leaders (again many of whom are extremely short-sighted) are selling the future of their country for immediate financial gain.

Joseph Conrad's statement is still true:
"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary: men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." ~Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
Anyone who says they have a simple answer to resolve the issues in Congo, or in many other places, doesn't know or understand the Congo. I'm thankful for people like my friend who makes repeated trips into the Congo to help strengthen and encourage the church in holistic ways. Pray for the people of the Congo. Be aware of what is happening in our world beyond the headlines of the mainstream media. Respond, as God directs to give to credible organizations already on the ground.

No comments: