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Fifty-five years after Lumumba’s assassination, Congolese see no relief

January 20, 2017

An interview with Friends of the Congo Executive Director Maurice Carney

by Ann Garrison

Ann Garrison: Maurice Carney, could you summarize what has happened in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the last two months, while most of our attention was fixed on Trump, Russia and Syria?

Maurice Carney: Certainly. On Dec. 19, President Joseph Kabila, according to Congo’s Constitution, was supposed to step down. Over the past several years, he had demonstrated that he was going to stay in power by any means necessary, including killing Congolese. In January 2015, about four dozen Congolese were killed by Kabila’s security forces as they protested his trying to put measures in place to stay in power beyond Dec. 19, 2016.

Patrice Lumumba – Photo: AP

On Sept. 19, 2016, when Congolese demonstrated in the streets, he killed over 50 of them with his security forces.

So, come Dec. 19, a big day when Congolese are supposed to be in the streets demonstrating, Joseph Kabila unleashed his security forces throughout the country. Tanks, police, military were in all parts of the capital city of Kinshasa and other major cities throughout the country.

So he basically had the country under occupation, and he remained in power beyond Dec. 19. People did come into the streets on Dec. 20 and his security forces killed about three dozen.

The Catholic Church, in the meantime, intervened in an effort to negotiate a settlement between Kabila and his coalition and opposition forces, and they were able to do so on Dec. 31. The main elements of the agreement were that Kabila would stay in power for another year until December 2017, when elections are supposed to be organized.

AG: Do you have any faith in this agreement?

MC: Very little. First of all, the agreement doesn’t really meet the aspirations of the Congolese people. The Congolese people wanted Kabila to abide by the Constitution and step down. Secondly, the agreement says that Kabila can stay in power until elections are organized.

However, if elections are not organized in December 2017, Kabila remains in power. So there’s still no great incentive for him to organize the elections or allow them to be organized.

AG: What would you like readers to understand about the role of the U.S. in this?

MC: Well, there’s a lot of discussion right now in the U.S. media about Russians intervening in the U.S. election. I’d like people to understand that the U.S. has a history of intervening in elections abroad. The Los Angeles Times reported that the U.S., since the 1940s, has intervened in some 81 elections overseas.

One of the most devastating U.S. interventions was the overthrow of the democratically elected leader of the Congo, Prime Minister Patrice Emery Lumumba, in 1960. That overthrow has been devastating for the Congolese people, because not only did the U.S. overthrow and assassinate the democratically elected leader, but they also imposed a dictatorship on the Congolese people for over three decades, and it has crushed and destroyed the country and the people.

AG: That dictator was Mobutu Sese Seko, but they got rid of him when he’d ceased to be useful, and then got rid of his first successor, didn’t they? Can you explain that series of events?

MC: When Mobutu became a liability rather than an asset, the U.S. sought to replace him – not through a democratic process by supporting the vibrant, nonviolent, pro-democracy movement but rather by backing an invasion of the then Zaire led by her neighbors, Rwanda and Uganda.

The two U.S. allies installed Laurent Desiré Kabila, who was subsequently assassinated and replaced by 29-year-old Joseph Kabila, who quickly secured the backing of the U.S. and maintained that support from 2001 to the present.

In the final analysis, U.S. support has been decisive in the Congo. Since the U.S.’ violent overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in 1960, no leader his risen to head of state without U.S. backing and there has not been a peaceful transfer of power.

U.S. support has been decisive in the Congo. Since the U.S.’ violent overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in 1960, no leader his risen to head of state without U.S. backing and there has not been a peaceful transfer of power.

AG: Many people from your part of the world or its neighbors, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – and I’m not talking about the presidents; I’m talking about ordinary people – many of them expressed relief that Hillary Clinton was not elected, despite the fact that Donald Trump was. Could you explain that?

MC: Yes, I understand that because they see the Clintons – not just Hillary Clinton but her husband, Bill Clinton – as being in cahoots with the most sociopathic war criminals in the region over the past 20 years. They felt that if Hillary Clinton was to be elected as president of the United States, they would just continue to support President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

So there is some relief that Clinton did not get elected. Not that they were rooting for Trump, but they’ve experienced the Clintons and seen how devastating their support for strongmen in the African Great Lakes Region has been for the people there, especially the Congolese.

AG: Friends of the Congo is based in Washington, D.C. What do you have planned for Inauguration Day?

MC: Well, this week, on Jan. 17, we’ll be commemorating the assassination of Lumumba. Jan. 19 is another commemorative day for us, when the Telema youth were gunned down in the streets by President Kabila’s security forces in January 2015.

So we’ll be hosting commemorative events and, at the same time, we’ll also be attending other events here in the city, the Womens’ March, the Civil Rights March and forums, and we’ll be trying to bring the local and global together.

As we stand in solidarity with people here as they confront the incoming Trump administration, we’ll also be calling on them to stand with us as we fight imperialism, especially on the African continent.

As we stand in solidarity with people here as they confront the incoming Trump administration, we’ll also be calling on them to stand with us as we fight imperialism, especially on the African continent.

AG: Maurice, thanks for your time.

MC: You’re welcome.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.

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