Long live the Democratic Republic of Congo!
By President Thabo Mbeki, Republic of South Africa
Courtesy of ANC Today
Two days after we publish this edition of ANC TODAY, an event of historic importance to the future of Africa will take place in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Millions of our Congolese brothers and sisters will go to the polls. This will only be the second time since the independence of the DRC in 1960, that the Congolese people will hold genuine democratic elections to choose their President and Members of the National Assembly.
At this critical time, the people of South Africa wish the sister people of the DRC success as they vote on 30 July. We would also like to take this opportunity to urge all Congolese to work together to ensure that the elections take place in conditions of peace and calm throughout the country, to allow the Congolese people to exercise their inalienable right to select a government of their choice.
The first elections in the DRC were held in May 1960. These democratic elections led to the installation of Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister on 30 June 1960. A mere six months later, in January 1961, he was murdered.
In his Independence Day speech, Patrice Lumumba, who is now an Esteemed Member of the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, spoke about the colonial wounds of the Congolese people that were "too fresh and too painful for us to drive them from our memory".
The disaster imposed on the Congo after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and the seizure of power by the late Joseph Mobutu in 1965, leading to dictatorship and plunder, meant that the Congolese people had to continue to suffer pain, even as these masses had hoped that independence had opened the way for them to heal the wounds caused by slavery and a savage system of colonialism.
Throughout the forty-six years since the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the masses of the Congolese people continued the struggle to retrieve the dream of genuine independence that had seemed to perish with the murder of that great Congolese revolutionary and African patriot, Patrice Lumumba.
We are confident that the 30 July elections will convey the firm message to the masses of the Congolese people that, once again, they are back on the high road towards the healing of their wounds.
In his final letter to his wife, before he was murdered, Patrice Lumumba wrote that, "All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives".
Patrice Lumumba not only knew that Congo would be free, but was, together with his comrades, determined to use that freedom fully to restore the dignity of the Congolese people. In this regard, they would use the considerable resources of the DRC and the talents of the Congolese people to defeat the poverty and underdevelopment that had been imposed on the Congolese people through many centuries of the most cruel spoliation by the European powers.
A 24 July 2006 document on the DRC published by the "UN Integrated Regional Information Networks" said: "Turning the country around is vital for the continent as a whole, not just because of its sheer size - 2.5 million square kilometers, bordering nine countries, (with a population of at least 60 million) - but because of its mineral wealth: it holds one-third of the world's cobalt reserves; two-thirds of its coltan, used in mobile phones; and one-tenth of its copper, as well as diamonds, gold, oil, silver, timber, uranium and zinc.
"Its river system could power the entire continent and the country contains 50 percent of Africa's (natural) forests. And yet the DRC is one of the world's poorest countries, ranked 167 out of 177 in the 2005 United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Index. The potential rewards of peace and stability are high. But so are the risks."
We have no doubt that in conditions of democracy, the Congolese people have every possibility to turn themselves and their country into an outstanding African success story, an important part of the vanguard fighting for the renaissance of Africa.
We are privileged that for some years now, our country has had the possibility to work in solidarity with the Congolese people, acting together with them to restore peace, national unity and democracy to the DRC.
This started with our intervention in 1996, when, at their request, we engaged the late Laurent Kabila and Joseph Mobutu to facilitate a peaceful advance towards the installation of a Transitional Government.
It was during this period that we even had to sail a ship, the "Outeniqua" of the South African Navy, into Pointe Noir in the Republic of Congo, to provide a neutral venue for Messrs Kabila and Mobutu to meet under the mediation of Nelson Mandela.
Finally, in two days, the Congolese people will have the opportunity to reclaim the final triumph of the sacred cause proclaimed by Patrice Lumumba, for which many of their compatriots have died.
While we understand that the 30 July elections, critically important as they are, are not going to solve all the problems of the DRC, nevertheless these elections constitute a major step on the road to reconciliation, reconstruction and development in that country.
We know that the leadership and people of the DRC understand the historic responsibility that rests on their shoulders to lead their country out of many years of abuse, misery and destruction.
We say this because, for a decade, we have traveled the road to this moment with them, inspired by their resolve to lead their country to peace, unity and national reconciliation, democracy and development.
Patrice Lumumba inspired not only the Congolese, but our own movement and struggling people as well. We mourned with the Congolese people when he was killed. We took to our streets in defence of what he stood for, together with other progressive forces on our continent and elsewhere in the world.
We went on to work closely with our Congolese brothers and sisters as they took some of the first steps towards the realisation of their dream of a truly independent, democratic and prosperous Congo.
We are certain that this time the leadership of the DRC will not disappoint the masses they lead. Again we say so because we worked even more closely with them as the dictatorial regime of Mobutu Sese Seko came to its end in 1997.
We continued working with them as former President Laurent Kabila arrived in Kinshasa to take over the reigns of government in 1997. We spent many weeks working together in 1999 in Lusaka, Zambia, as they sought to find agreement on a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in their country.
We mourned the untimely death of Laurent Kabila with them. We continued working with them when Joseph Kabila was appointed President of the country.
We hosted the representatives of the Congolese people over many months at Sun City as they negotiated their transitional arrangements. We continued to host them over many days in Pretoria in 2002 as they finalised their Transitional Constitution.
The Transitional Constitution they negotiated made provision for the establishment of a government of national reconciliation, bringing together into government forces that were effectively still at war with each other.
The Constitution introduced new concepts, such as the creation of the presidential space, comprised of the President of the DRC together with four Vice Presidents, three of whom were from parties other than the President's.
This Transitional Government of National Unity assumed office in June 2003. Many so-called experts opined that this government would never survive throughout the transition. However, the Congolese political leadership showed profound patriotism in maintaining this government structure not only during the first two years of the transition, but also during the constitutionally allowed one year extension of the Transitional Government.
We reaffirm that we are confident that our Congolese brothers and sisters understand their historic responsibility to themselves and to our Continent. We say this because have seen how they have faced up to the challenges relating to various matters, such as honouring the termination of armed hostilities and the formation of new integrated security structures.
So too as they drafted and, through a successful referendum, adopted a final Constitution. We joined them in Kinshasa to celebrate the proclamation of that Constitution. Lately, we have worked very closely with the election structures of the DRC to prepare for the elections that will take place on 30 July and later.
Nobody involved in the complex Congolese transition process, including ourselves, had any doubt but that the organisation and conduct of these elections would present many challenges. However, we are certain that the Congolese Independent Electoral Commission and other Congolese institutions charged with the organisation of the elections have met, and will meet these challenges as best as they can, assisted by the UN and many nations of the world.
Already during the December 2005 Constitutional Referendum, in their millions, the Congolese masses demonstrated their determination to bring peace and democracy to their country. Over 25 million have registered as voters to participate in the 30 July and subsequent elections.
They have now participated in an election campaign that in many ways has been more peaceful than what we experienced in our own country during the period immediately preceding our first democratic elections in 1994.
Taking all these developments into account, already we can say - the Congolese people have spoken! They have spoken very loudly in favour of peace, national independence, national unity and reconciliation, democracy and human rights, development and shared prosperity!
As we arrive at a decisive moment in the modern history of the DRC and Africa, we must extend our thanks to the United Nations and all its various echelons and agencies that have supported the Congolese transition. Among these are the MONUC peacekeepers, who include a significant number of men and women of the South African National Defence Force.
Liberated South Africa has done what it had to do in a spirit of true African solidarity, inspired by the 1960 Independence Day declaration of Patrice Lumumba that, "We are going to rule not by the peace of guns and bayonets but by a peace of the heart and will". Long live the Democratic Republic of Congo!
Dawn in the Heart of Africa
A Poem by Patrice Lumumba
For a thousand years, you, African, suffered like beast,
Your ashes strewn to the wind that roams the desert.
Your tyrants built the lustrous, magic temples
To preserve your soul, reserve your suffering.
Barbaric right of fist and the white right to a whip,
You had the right to die, you also could weep.
On your totem they carved endless hunger, endless bonds,
And even in the cover of the woods a ghastly cruel death
Was watching, snaky, crawling to you
Like branches from the holes and heads of trees
Embraced your body and your ailing soul.
Then they put a treacherous big viper on your chest:
On your neck they laid the yoke of fire-water,
They took your sweet wife for glitter of cheap pearls,
Your incredible riches that nobody could measure.
From your hut, the tom-toms sounded into dark of night
Carrying cruel laments up mighty black rivers
About abused girls, streams of tears and blood,
About ships that sailed to countries where the little man
Wallows in an ant hill and the dollar is king,
To that damned land which they called a motherland.
There your child, your wife were ground, day and night
In a frightful, merciless mill, crushing them in dreadful pain.
You are a man like others. They preach you to believe
That good white God will reconcile all men at last.
By fire you grieved and sang the moaning songs
Of a homeless beggar that sinks at strangers' doors.
And when a craze possessed you
And your blood boiled through the night
You danced, you moaned, obsessed by father's passion.
Like furry of a storm to lyrics of a manly tune
From a thousand years of misery a strength burst out of you
In metallic voice of jazz, in uncovered outcry
That thunders through the continent like gigantic surf.
The whole world surprised, wakes up in panic
To the violent rhythm of blood, to the violent rhythm of jazz,
The white man turning pallid over this new song
That carries torch of purple through the dark of night.
The dawn is here, my brother! Dawn! Look in our faces,
A new morning breaks in our old Africa.
Ours alone will now be the land, the water, mighty rivers
Poor African surrendered for a thousand years.
Hard torches of the sun will shine for us again
They'll dry the tears in eyes and spittle on your face.
The moment when you break the chains, the heavy fetters,
The evil cruel times will go never to come again.
A free and gallant Congo will rise from black soil,
A free and gallant Congo-black blossom from black seed!
Weep, Beloved Black Brother
A poem by Patrice Lumumba.
O black man, beast of burden through the centuries,
Your ashes scattered to the winds of heaven,
There was a time when you built burial temples
In which your murderers sleep their final sleep.
Hunted down and tracked, driven from your homes.
Beaten in battles where brute force prevailed.
Barbaric centuries of rape and carnage
That offered you the choice of death or slavery.
You went for refuge to the forest depths,
And other deaths waylaid you, burning fevers,
Jaws of wild beasts, the cold, unholy coils
Of snakes who crushed you gradually to death.
Then came the white man, more clever, tricky, cruel,
He took your gold in trade for shoddy stuff,
He raped your women, made your warriors drunk,
Penned up your sons and daughters on his ships.
The tom-toms hummed through all the villages,
Spreading afar the mourning, the wild grief
At news of exile to a distant land
Where cotton is God and the dollar King.
Condemned to enforced labor, beasts of burden,
Under a burning sun from dawn to dusk,
So that you might forget you are a man
They taught you to sing the praises of their God,
And these hosannas, tuned into your sorrows,
Gave you the hope of a better world to come.
But in your human heart you only asked
The right to live, your share of happiness.
Beside your fire, your eyes reflect your dreams and suffering,
You sang the chants that gave voice to your blues.
And sometimes to your joys, when sap rose in the trees
And you danced wildly in the damp of evening
And out of this sprang forth, magnificent,
Alive and virile, like a bell of brass
Sounding your sorrows, that powerful music,
Jazz, now loved, admired throughout the world,
Compelling the white man to respect,
Announcing in clear loud tones from this time on
This country no longer belongs to him.
And thus you make the brothers of your race
Lift up their heads to see clear, straight ahead
The happy future bearing deliverance.
The banks of a great river in flower with hope
Are yours from this time onward.
The earth and all its riches
Are yours from this time onward.
The blazing sun in the colorless sky
Dissolves our sorrow in a wave of warmth.
Its burning rays will help to dry forever The flood of tears shed by our ancestors,
Martyrs of the tyranny of the masters.
And on this earth which you will always love
You will make the Congo a nation, happy and free,
In the very heart of vast Black Africa.
Translated from the French original by Lillian Lowenfels and Nan Apotheker.
Lumumba's Letter from his Prison in Thysville (now Mbanza Ngungu) to his wife, Pauline
In Sorrow But Defiant
What Manner of A Man?
We Love You!
My dear wife,
I am writing these words not knowing whether they will reach you, when they will reach you, and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.
All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.
But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst certain high officials of the United Nations, that organisation in which we placed all our trust when we called on its assistance.
They have corrupted come of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?
Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo; it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.
But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the dear light of the sun.
As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty for without justice there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.
Neither brutality, nor cruelty, nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.
History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or at the United Nations, but the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and to the north and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.
Don not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country, which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.
Long Live Congo, Long Live Africa