Los Angeles, CA – The Congo is home to the richest mineral deposits in all of Africa including coltan, an ore (Columbite-tantalite) which when refined becomes tantalum, a highly heat-resistant metal powder. Tantalum is a key component in high tech products including cell phones, computer chips, stereos, lap tops and arguably the trigger point of the most recent conflicts in the war torn country.
Yet, amid the abundance of natural resources, Congolese residents suffer in abject poverty with staggering numbers of AIDS cases, orphans and civil wars that leave women and children raped and mutilated.
A Congo primer
The Congo was once a Belgian colony. In June 1960, Patrice Emery Lumumba became the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On Jan. 17, 1961, he was assassinated.
Joseph Kasa-Vubu presided from 1960 to 1965, overlapping the leadership of Patrice Emery Lumumba. Kasa-Vubu was deposed by Mobutu Sese Seko.
Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 and the U.S. friendly Lauren Desire Kabila was installed as leader. The following year, Kabila demanded Rwandan and Ugandan troops leave the country, but they both subsequently returned to fight each other in pursuit of control of the Eastern Congo.
According to Andrew G. Marshall, Congo Resource Wars (globalresearch.com, March 12, 2008), “It was at this time that the United States began funding both sides of the conflict, giving money to both President Kabila’s Congolese Army and the rival Congolese Rally for Democracy. Increased conflict destabilized the country and has made it more susceptible to foreign influence and control.”
Marshall also reported that “Rwandan and Ugandan troops who were trained at Fort Bragg participated in the 1996-97 invasions to topple Mobutu. Military contractor [Kellogg] Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, reportedly built a military base on the Congolese/Rwandan border, where the Rwandan army has trained. Likewise, The Bechtel Corporation provided satellite maps and reconnaissance photos to Kabila…” During this time, former Vice-President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton.
The Bechtel board of directors included George Schultz (President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State) as legal counsel and Caspar Weinberger (former Secretary of State).
“In May 1997, American Mineral Fields (AMF) cut a $1 billion deal with Kabila immediately after his forces captured Goma.” The negotiations were undertaken by “Kabila’s U.S.-trained finance minister,” who gave “AMF exclusive exploration rights to zinc, copper, and cobalt mines in the area. Mike McMurrough, a friend of U.S. President Bill Clinton, was the chair of AMF.” Another large Western mining interest is Barrick Gold Corporation, a Canadian mining company, whose board of directors includes such individuals as former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, and as an previous adviser to the company, former President George Herbert Walker Bush.
Ten days after his father was assassinated in 2001, Joseph Kabila took over power and was confirmed by general election in 2006. He remains in office. The leadership of the Congo may soon be challenged by Guy-Patrice Lumumba.
Our Weekly (OW) sat down with Guy-Patrice Lumumba (GPL), son of slain Congo freedom fighter, Patrice Emery Lumumba during his most recent visit to Los Angeles. Cedric Tanga served as translator for the interview.
Guy (pronounced Gee) was invited by Mothers of Africa to come to Los Angeles and participate in the Pan African Film Festival and to meet with famed sculptor, Nigel Binns, who is creating a statue in honor of his father, a massive project which will take about a year to complete.
Accompanying Lumumba was Nehanda Sankofa-Ra, Mothers for Africa; community activist Shaka Satori; Binns and Tanga.
OW: How would you describe the state or the temperature of the Congo, now?
GPL: Our country was never independent. After Patrice Lumumba was killed, it was pretty much the continuity (of colonization) by the Americans and Belgians.
After World War II, when the Americans and the Russians went to fight against Hitler, America asked every European country to guide their colonies in American favor to keep Russia out.
When the independence came with Lumumba, that did not please America. They asked the Belgians to kill him and to continue with the colonization.
When (former President) Bill Clinton came, he asked Kabila to replace Lumumba, so there really wasn’t any change.
OW: After such a long history of oppression, how can you possibly bring change as president?
GPL: To fix the problem in our country, the solution is in Washington. Our African American brothers who helped the South Africans to become independent have never done anything to help the Congolese. So, I came to you to ask if you can do something to help us.
OW: Do you think that it may be the plan for the U.S. to let the civil war play out, and we’ll go with the victor?
GPL: The mastermind behind the civil war that is happening in the Congo right now is Washington. When you look at things, the fight is between the Hutu and Tutsi. So, if you see the Congolese, they never went to Rwanda to create a fight whatsoever. It is the Rwandais to have this fight.
The war that is happening in the Congo is also due to coltan, a very rich mineral that is used in electronics. Rwanda does not even have a single mine of coltan. The number one seller in the world is in the Congo. Bill Gates went to Rwanda and gave so many lap tops (One Laptop Per Child Initiative).
America signed a contract with Belgium, France and Great Britain that they would never go to Africa without their approval. Great Britain allowed the Americans to go to Uganda. From Uganda, every single Rwandais soldier went and got trained in the United States as Ugandese. So, the guy who is in power in Uganda is going to help.
The plan was to create a genocide. The weapons were coming from the United States to Rwanda, they became allies to the United States. America asked for minerals that are in Eastern Congo, so they told Kabila, ‘You going to take Mobutu out, but we don’t want you to trust the Congolese army, we want you to go with the Rwandais.’ So, Kabila gets into power with the help of America and the Rwandais.
OW: Are you connected with Friends of the Congo?
GPL: I came to the U.S. on behalf of the Friends of the Congo, who asked me to come here and plead for the raped women and orphaned children.
OW: The child-soldiers, are they considered a necessity of war?
GPL: It is one of my biggest fights today. After I was born, my mother had to send me far away to live with my aunt (to avoid fighting). I had to leave my mother for about 5 years and she died when I was 12.
OW: Who is using the rape of women and children as weapons of war?
GPL: What they are doing to women right now (is terrible). I see them as my mother and as my sisters. In African tradition we respect women. The rapes in the Congo are brought by the Rwandais, so they can destroy our morale.
It’s not just a rape when you put some stuff into a woman’s body, like they shoot into a woman’s vagina to destroy her reproduction. And us, as men, and me in particular, if I am elected to become president, I would take care of the women and children that have been raped.
I was working in France and stopped–a very big sacrifice. I decided to travel around and talk about what is happening in the Congo, especially for the children that are harmed and abandoned.
When these children are abandoned, tomorrow they can be terrorists and they can attack America. When they learn the story, they will find out that they are victims of America. I came here to talk to you and I need your help.
OW: Do you feel hopeful with our new president? Do you feel that with Obama’s connection to Africa, problems will get more global attention?
GPL: When my father visited America, what was the condition of Blacks in this country? I would not only like to talk to politicians, but also to my brothers and sisters in this country. I want to go to churches and talk with the pastors, because they (African Americans) listen to them. It is you that must talk to your president because we cannot do it ourselves.
We really need your help because your voice really counts. If you are able to help us it will touch your president as well.
OW: You are reaching out to the youth…
GPL: I have visited universities and talked with many of them who said that they didn’t know and that they are ready to get behind us.
OW: You went to Bethel AME on Wednesday, for their revival on the night that Rev. Jeremiah Wright was speaking. What religion do you practice?
GPL: I am Christian, not Catholic. My dad was fighting churches. They asked him not to go to school anymore. He said, ‘You are bringing us the bible, that says that you have to love each other, but why is it that only White people are whipping Black people. Why can’t we whip you, too?’ He wanted to have a church where Jesus was (represented as) Black. And he wanted to fight the Catholic Church because Jesus is Black.
OW: Can you compare our gang violence with tribal warfare?
GPL: We don’t have tribal problems. We are not writing this story. We can see a war that is going on in tribes and we see other Africans fighting
For example, we (gesturing to Cedric Tanga, the translator), met yesterday. He doesn’t know my tribe and I don’t know his. That shows you that we don’t really have a problem with tribes.
With the youngest people here in America, there is a need to put more value into our families and (ensure) that men have jobs. Since you don’t have tribes here, the most focus should be to listen to elders, to respect women. Since America gives weapons to everybody, the only thing left (to help) is religion, whether it is Muslim or Christianity. In my country, I would love to change the language so that we could speak English instead of French, so the young people can come (visit). We are not just asking for help. We would like them to come and see how we live.
GPL: I did not go to China or Europe. I came here. Whenever I go to the other countries, I don’t see my brothers, so I came here. We are trying to build a bridge that will connect us. We want to write our own story instead of other people writing it for us.
We are a very rich country and we want to sign a deal with Washington so there will be a strict Washington-Congo relationship. We are passing by others–we don’t want that anymore. We want peace.
We have so many minerals and also provided radium to the U.S. during World War II.
We didn’t go to China and Russia, we came here to secure a deal.
What is needed
GPL: In the East (Congo), women are being rejected and they have no place to go. It is raining there now, and what we are asking is for you to provide clothes, things that you no longer wear, and blankets. The children, the orphans, they don’t have money to buy clothes, where are they going to get it? Most of the time, when people come to America and talk about the Congo, they show photos and videos that really touch your heart, but all of the money that you give doesn’t get there.
Those who wish to donate goods for the Congo, can contact Nehanda Sankofa-Ra, Mothers for Africa, at (626) 376-4010 or (866) 978-6277; e-mail at MothersforAfrica@yahoo.com; or visit the Web site at www.MothersforAfrica.org.