The struggle for peace and stability in DR Congo will always remain a battle against foreign aggression and domination, which dates back to the confrontations between African societies and European invaders at the turn of the 19th century.
By 1900, the entire DRC had lost its independence as a result of European conquest and occupation; and attempts to assert independence and national sovereignty have been doomed to failure; beginning with the betrayal and assassination of its first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba in 1961, under the noses of Belgian and UN forces.
The patterns of external aggressions against the Congo have continued. In the last two decades, the country was invaded by armies from seven African states.
Today as before, the strategic objective has always been and remain the same – the scramble for and exploitation of Congo’s vast mineral deposits; no matter the costs in human lives.
According to mineral experts, eastern Congo is estimated to hold Africa’s largest mineral deposits; worth trillions of dollars. There is 70 per cent of the world’s supply of tantalum, a metal used in mobile phones, computers, laptops, tablets and digital cameras. Besides diamonds, DR Congo is also home to hefty quantities of gold, tin, tungsten, copper, colton and cobalt.
The recent escalation of violence by the M23 rebel movement again with established support base from not only Rwanda but Uganda, demonstrates the vulnerability of the DR Congo as a nation, to external exploits. Uganda and Rwanda’s active involvement is rooted both in this history of predation and corruption.
For example, on March 17, 2006, a protégé of the Ugandan government, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, was the first person to be arrested on an ICC arrest warrant for the use and abuse of children in armed conflict.
Then on May 24, 2008, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, leader of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC), was arrested by the Belgium government under an ICC arrest warrant. Bemba, a former vice president of the DRC, was charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes in connection with MLC’s raping, pillaging and looting raids through the Central African Republic (CAR).
Africans must understand the present, concrete reality that the powers behind the looting of Africa’s mineral wealth, who present themselves as ‘allies” in the development of the continent, are determined to ensure that they dominate and control the destinies of resource- rich African countries like DR Congo, in order to ensure their unobstructed access to cheap strategic natural resources.
The Congolese people need to wake up to the reality of a collective defence of their people against this imperialism or external aggression. The current crop of African leaders have mortgaged the continent to Western powers in exchange for their existence and creation of dynasties.
These leaders, must not be regarded any less unfavourably than the middlemen collaborator chiefs who mortgaged the continent for trinkets and whiskey during the first wave of mercantile colonisation of Africa; or those who sold their subjects to slave traders. The DRC conflict involves armed groups and foreign governments, fighting over lucrative minerals that keep the fashion and jewellery industries alive and power our computers, laptops and mobile phones.
Yet unlike the robber barons, imperialist ideologues, explorers, rogues and adventurers scrambling for Africa at the beginning of the 19th century, those behind the rapacious war in DR Congo have gone a step further.
Camouflaged as ‘African liberators’, they have employed extreme violence and deception to achieve their objectives; plundering DR Congo of its natural resources, committing crimes of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Their strategies have included employing proxy militias, using underage children and deploying them to fight their wars. There can be on denying that DR Congo is one of the most tragic stories in the history of Africa. With its strategic location in the centre of Africa and its enormous natural wealth, it has always been a prime candidate for imperial ambitions and envy of adventurers, mercenaries and looters of all kinds.
No other region on the African continent has known as much political strife, loss of lives, and social dislocation since the second world war as the DR Congo has.
The author is a human rights advocate.