a reflection on the ashes of the Congo
As another year breaks and some of us prepare to celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, for millions in the Congo death has become their only friends. Their lives no longer mean anything to anybody. Not to those killing them like flies; our brothers and neighbours helping to kill them or those we call the international community. Highlighting their suffering or speaking against those responsible for their ordeal and those harbouring those responsible has become blasphemous.
For many of them 2008 was the sixteenth year of life under rains of artilleries, compulsions of lashes, searing of bloodstained machetes, deployment of sexual atrocities as a weapon of war and the spiralling HIV AIDS and Fistula epidemic caused by orchestrated campaigns of sexual atrocities against women and young girls.
The on-going inactions of major aid donors to countries implicated in this human tragedy, the inability of blue hamlets on the ground to protect civilians in the face of war crimes and sexual atrocities and the failure of the species of man running Kinshasa to decisively deter those perpetuating these inhuman acts and secure Congo’s borders have generated fury and extreme views in many in the diasporas and at home - fury which often finds its voice in placards, emails, articles, debates, speeches and behaviours toward others.
Given the above, how do we go forward? What platform should we use? Which path should we follow? And what each and every one can do to in our quest of peace, security, justice and human dignity for the Congo?
The urgency of the situation, I believe, requires that we, the grand sons and grand daughters of the warrior men and women who fought for equal rights of all God’s creatures in the Congo, pioneer a new cultural approach towards all living creatures and the way in which Congo is run.
A cultural approach rooted in the principles of non-violence, tolerance and commitment to the universality of justice, security, peace and rights: a cultural approach that is not single minded; that does not speak the supremacy of a non inclusive value or express views that do not submit to a reasonable public discourse.
Why a non violence approach one may ask!
Because more blood will not cleanse bad blood! Rather, would breed more hatred and fear, deepen ethnic disharmony that has paved the way for the human tragedy that has gripped the Congo; and kept the Great Lake region and beyond hanging under the cloud of war for the past sixteen years.
Also, because peace and violence have an inverse relationship: when one increases the other decreases. Hence the more violent we become, the far away we get from restoring peace.
Surely, we all reserve the right to be angry about the human tragedy engulfing the Congo and the inactions of major aid donors to countries implicated. This anger, however, as the Great Ghandi once said, can be useful and powerful as electricity if it is used intelligently and wisely; and can equally be deadly and destructive when abusively used or channeled through ethnic or religious rhetoric and the politics of fear.
Hence, as electricity when channelled intelligently and wisely serves the goods of humanity, we need to channel our anger, frustration and energy intelligently and wisely to save the Congo.
This requires that we guard against tribal and religious rhetoric that leads to equivocation that honours the divine image in some but not in others; and the politics of fear which paves the way for conflict.
The new cultural approach requires that we adopt an adequate language and cultivate an inclusive and compassion spirits. It requires us to have an awareness of the world and history… it requires us to strive to win the hearts and minds of the good willed people of the world… explore paths that others have not or refused to explore… it requires that we influence the flow of events… directly engage influential actors in the world... pursue the highest good… and seek reconciliation.
How would the above help Congo overcome a human tragedy overwhelming her? (One may ask!)
The answer is simple: the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation for lasting peace, security, justice and human dignity.
To achieve the inherent dignity of all members of the human family, we need to pioneer or adopt a non-violent cultural approach towards all members of the human family that is rooted on the universality of rights, justice, security and rights as briefly elaborated above.
Further more, in history, changes in face of great injustice have always occurred when the victims renounce or abstain from the art of retaliation and embark on an improbable journey: to win the war of the minds. It’s a journey which Ghandi took for India, Dr. King struggled for in the US, Mandela followed in South Africa! It’s a journey that helped Obama win the US election!
They abstained not because they were coward but because they unlocked a divine teaching that all religion in the face of the earth confess: “not to do to others what we would not like be done on us”. Hence they chose never to perpetuate the pain and humiliation they have endured onto others.
Its through such journey –abstaining from the art of retaliation and winning the war of the minds- that walls of ideology and politics that had set community, regions and countries in once hidden and now open opposition have been torn down! Its a journey that has; and could once again bring free and liberated people from every corner of the world to save the Congo!
Such a stance is the only way of saving oneself from achieving power without conscious; victory without lasting security; brilliance without wisdom and politics without principles which have been our history since 1965.
But ultimately, the success of the new cultural approach (advocated above) in restoring peace, security, justice and human dignity in the Congo rest upon our ability and perseverance to never put off the quest of saving the Congo for another day!
To never again place peace before justice or instead of justice! To never again let any one who had made mass killing, arbitrary arrests or deployment of sexual atrocities as weapon of war his hobby or any one whose mismanagements or affiliations have helped to descend the Congo into chaos decide the future of his or her community, region or country again!
Happy New Year
Chair, Save the Congo