Why not break Congo up into workable pieces for peace?
“And, gentle friends, let’s kill him (Africa) boldly, but not wrathfully,” Marcus Brutus might have pleaded. “Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the Gods, not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds.” (Julius Caesar).
Tragically, at the 1884 Berlin Conference, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Portugal did not carve Africa as a dish fit for the Gods. They hewed her “as a carcass fit for the hounds,” which is what they were, and still are.
With respect to my Belgian friend (an outstanding diplomat), the seeds of the vicious cycle of unspeakable violence, which has gripped the Congo since the 1840s, were not planted by Paul Kagame or Laurent Nkunda, but by King Leopold who treated his piece of the carcass, the “Belgian Congo” as a killing field, and executed the first organised, but yet unrecognised genocide in history.
According to the “White King, Red Rubber, Black Death”, a 2004 BBC documentary, “While the Great Powers competed for territory elsewhere, Belgium’s King Leopold II carved his own private colony out of Central African rainforest.”
“He claimed he was doing it to protect the ‘natives’ from Arab slavers, and to open the heart of Africa to Western civilisation; but he turned his ‘Congo Free State’ into a massive slave labour camp, made a fortune, and caused the death of some 10 million innocent Congolese!”
Unlike the British who built elaborate transport and communication networks, provided quality health services (Mulago Hospital and Makerere University included), nurtured democracy from village councils to the national legislative assemblies, and developed administrative systems at local, regional and national levels throughout her colonies; the Belgians simply plundered the Congo, oversaw genocide and left.
No wonder, the first elected nationalist Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was assassinated within six month, and replaced by Marshal Mobutu Sese Sseko, an ultra-stooge of the west, who continued the pattern of brutality and plunder from where the Belgians had left.
Worse still, Mobutu’s Congo became a conduit for arms, which sustained the diabolical Apartheid system in South Africa and other white-minority regimes in Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique and South West Africa.
Today, the Congo is like a middle-aged, fat but very rich African princess, pursued by everyone from the original western hounds to new ones from Africa and China, not because of love, but to grab her wealth, leaving her bloodied and dying, slowly.
But the Banyamulenge of Eastern Congo, headed by Gen. Nkunda have said enough is enough. Last year, Gen. Nkunda turned down an irresistible $2.5 million offer to go into a luxurious life in exile in South Africa, and decided to say put, fight and die, if necessary, defending his people.
And last week, he made reasonable demands for proper discussions on “a £5.5billion deal giving China access to vast mineral riches,” as well the “urgent disarmament of a Rwandan Hutu militia” or else he will take the war to Kinshasa.
The British in particular, and the European Union generally should not prop up Joseph Kabila, as they did with Mobutu, knowing very well that he will neither provide a strong central government, nor unite myriad ethnic groups, which have nothing in common except their mutual suspicion and hatred of each other.
Instead, they should let the Congo to break up into small, autonomous and governable parts. With time, these parts will mature and decide whether to unite in a larger and truly [Democratic] Republic of Congo.
There are precedents. Southern Sudan and Somaliland, which became autonomous from the Arab-dominated north and dysfunctional Somalia respectively, are now relatively more governable and peaceful than their former colonial mother countries.
And, Belgium, which introduced a culture of violence and pillage in the Congo, has granted autonomy to its Flemish, Walloon and French communities.
But sending more UN troops, some of whom have been selling arms to Congolese rebels and raping local women and children, according to a January 2007 UN report, or blaming Gen. Kagame and Gen. Nkunda, is not just missing the point.
It also means prolonging the suffering of the Congolese people and postponing the inevitable and messy break of the Congo.
But isn’t eastern Congo already a de facto autonomous region? Why did the UN ask Nkunda, not Kabila, if they could deliver aid to rebel-controlled areas?
And why is the EU pushing for a political settlement? Have they recognised, belatedly, that a peaceful piece of Congo is better than a violent and ungovernable block of Congo?