Reflecting on why particular article might have been saved. Found article by Eric Margolis, “Fighting over Congo’s corpse”, from the Ottawa Sun, January 29, 2001, p. 14.
Wanted to find out whether it was online, and what follow-up. Found a version, as published by Foreign Correspondent, January 28, 2001, “The Cold War rages in the heart of Africa“:
The biggest problem facing the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, is that there really is no such country at all. Black Africa’s third largest and second richest nation was carved out of the primitive heart of the continent in the 19th century by Belgian colonialists bent on exploiting the Congo’s enormous resources.
But the Congo Basin, known as “Africa’s Treasure House”- a region of 200 different tribes and innumerable languages, extending over vast distances of jungle, bush, and savanna, never became a real nation, merely a geographical expression that was ruthlessly exploited by Belgians as their private plantation.
This week, marking another miserable milestone in Congo’s tragic history, former president, Laurent Kabila, assassinated on 15 January, was buried in the capital, Kinshasa. The roly-poly Kabila was a former marxist-Lumumbist rebel who had waged an ineffective guerillas war against Congo’s ruler, Joseph Mobutu, for two decades. In the early 1960’s Kabila was also a member of the dreaded “Simbas,” a band of painted, feather-bedecked, heavily drugged savages who specialized in torturing, raping and massacring Congo’s colonial whites.
Kabila Sr. was installed in power in 1997 by an army from neighboring Rwanda and Uganda that was secretly armed and financed by the United States. America’s loyal, old-war ally of thirty, years, President Mobutu, was reviled as a crook and sent into exile, again illustrating Henry Kissinger’s quip that it’s more dangerous being America’s ally than enemy. Congo, then Zaire, had no real army of its own because of Mobutu’ s very real fear it would overthrow him. Congo’s 50.5 million citizens were thus naked to their enemies.
Kabila turned out to be an inept, petty tyrant. He was abandoned by Rwanda and Uganda, who sent their troops to take Kinshasa. Kabila called on old marxist revolutionary comrades from the 1960’s – Zimbabwe’s ruler, Robert Mugabe; Angola’s dictator, Jose Dos Santos; and Namibia’s chief, Sam Njoma. They rushed troops to Congo to save Kabila. He quickly became their puppet.
After Kabila’s murder, this marxist troika installed Kabila’s morose-looking son, Joseph, as figurehead president. He remained silent at the funeral: he speaks only Swahili, the language of East Africa, but none of the tongues of the Congo, and must use interpreters to discourse with his people. More Angolan troops were airlifted into Kinshasa, raising the total of triumvirate forces to about 26,000 men opposing a somewhat smaller number from Rwanda and Uganda.
The current bush war in Congo is fascinating. Warlike Tutsis from Rwanda are baffling their traditional Bantu foes, who in 1994 slaughtered 800,000 Tutsis in Burundi [correction: should be Rwanda]. Central Africa’s two most pro-US nations, Uganda and Rwanda, are at war against three old marxist dictatorships from the Cold War. Zimbabwe and Angola are paying a heavy economic price for the war, but their generals and senior officials are amassing fortunes by plundering Congo’s mines and forests.
This is not a war in the usual sense. Small bands of undisciplined soldiers baffle for dilapidated towns and mining centers, raping and pillaging as they go. Congo is so vast, and so lacking in roads, opposing forces are virtually swallowed up by bush. Neither side appears likely to win without more outside support. In the old days, President Mobutu used to rent the tough Moroccan Army whenever he had to fight rebels from Katanga or Cuban invaders. During the early 60’s, a handful of white mercenaries led by the legendary Mad Mike Hoare and Bob Denard almost took over Congo. Today, white mercenaries have been replaced by Africa’s newest colonialists, Zimbabwe and Angola.
This writer covered the bloody bush war in Angola during the l980’s and early 90’s, as US-backed UNITA forces, led by the flamboyant Jonas Savimbi, battled the Soviet-supported marxist MPLA regime in Luanda. Savimbi, in spite of being demonized by western liberals, is a remarkable leader, one of Africa’s very best, and adored by his people.
At the war’s height, 55,000 Cuban troops and 300 tanks, supported by Russian and East German “advisors” battled UNITA forces. UNITA was armed and financed by South Africa and CIA, using bases in Congo (Zaire). Today, UNITA, abandoned by the west and condemned by the UN, fights on, still drawing supplies and the war’s fuel, diamonds, from southern Congo.
But when Angola became a major source of oil for the United States, Washington abruptly ditched old ally Savimbi, and backed Dos Santos’ brutal marxist regime in Luanda, which, is still armed and supported by Russia, Ukraine, and Cuba. To mask this betrayal, Washington, and Canada launched a fierce propaganda campaign against Savimbi and UNITA, accusing them of banditry and diamond smuggling. . Oil certainly makes strange bedfellows.
It’s almost as if the 1980’s Cold War era has revived in war-torn Congo. There are reports of new Cuban troops flying into Angola to free up Angolan forces to go fight in Congo. Bleeding Congo is being torn apart by its rapacious neighbors. The US, which backs both sides in the war, seems content with the status quo.
Meanwhile, long-suffering Congolese must long to return to the “golden days” of old dictator Mobutu who, for all this corruption, knew how to run Congo, and keep it at peace.
What they say, what they betray
Everybody wants a piece of Congo