AU and the legacy of US intervention in the Congo and Libya

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By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

THE Al Jazeera story on US deployment of troops to Gabon in the case of escalating post-election violence in the DRC should have provoked objections from both the AU and SADC on account of the evil legacy of US interventions especially in Libya (2011) and Congo in 1960-1997. 

The pretext given, that the US wishes to re-assure its citizens and diplomatic staff that they will be protected and rescued in case of escalating post-election violence, is not adequate as re-assurance to millions of the Congolese and their African brothers and sisters that the US itself has not already taken sides in internal disputes and does not already have special forces embedded within clandestine forces already in the DRC and already feeding the violence.  

This has been the practice of the US for a long time, worldwide, and in the cases of the Congo in the 1960s and Libya from 2011 to-date.

In fact, the destruction of Libya and the looting of armouries in that country in 2011 can be blamed for the intensity of violence and strife in. 

Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Central African Republic already.

US involvement in any situation of potential conflict in the African region remains provocative to both the people of the DRC and the people of Zimbabwe because of a long and well-known history. 

In both Congo and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), it was US policy which shaped and framed external intervention on behalf of white imperial interests.

Using the cover of the UN and ability to blend white racism with anticommunism, the US was able to subsume different white nationalist agendas under its synthetic whiteness marketed as global anti-communism. 

The British interest — expressed through South Africa and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the Belgian interest expressed through Belgian companies and soldiers in Katanga, and the US interest and suspicion against the Soviet Union — all came together in the 1960s to eliminate Patrice Lumumba and abort the African revolution.

Significantly, the US lobby group American Committee for Aid to Katanga, Rhodesia and Freedom Fighter (ACAKFF) did not only promote the blending of white supremacy with anti-communism in the destruction of the African revolution in Congo; it also lived to become the nucleus of the Rhodesia lobby in the US after Rhodesia, like Katanga, declared its unilateral independence in 1965, four years after the overthrow of the African revolution in the Congo.

The American lobby for white supremacy in the Congo became the Rhodesia lobby after Rhodesia’s UDI. It also became the source of diplomatic support and mercenaries for Moise Tsombe’s Katanga as for Ian Smith’s Rhodesia. 

Therefore, Lumumba’s assassination had far-reaching consequences for the African revolution in southern Africa. Another significant development was the prevalence of media lies and the willingness of all parties in the imperial triangle not to contradict each other. 

There was agreement not just on the portrayal of Prime Minister Lumumba and the Congo revolution as communist and anti-Western, but also on the suppression of information on the roles played by the UN, the US Government, the Belgian Government, the British Government, the Congolese Government and the provincial puppet regime of  Tshombe in Katanga.

This willingness to lie and to cover-up what was happening in the Congo is similar to the willingness not only to misrepresent the Zimbabwe war of liberation against settler-Rhodesia but also the struggle of the Zimbabwean liberation movement in government in later years to reclaim African land from white settlers.

Using the example of the Congo, we notice the following; the victory of Lumumba’s party in elections in 1960 was both surprising and unwelcome to the imperialist settler-interests.

As a result, Lumumba’s victory was followed by a campaign of vilification and demonisation in all the Western capitals, in Rhodesia and SA.

Even more astounding was the cover-up of the collective crime of the Western powers and interests against Lumumba and the people of the Congo.

Lumumba, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo were murdered the night of January 17 1961. The bodies were later exhumed and dissolved in acid on January 18 1961.

The telltale signs of global foul play were everywhere for anyone to see who would bother to exercise curiosity and ask questions. 

For instance, why did the UN, which had come to Congo at the invitation of Prime Minister Lumumba, proceed to impose illegal sanctions on the Prime Minister and his Government as well as place him under house arrest and therefore facilitate his capture and transfer from Leopoldville (Kinshasa) to Katanga? 

After Lumumba and his colleagues were handed to Tshombe and the Belgians, UN officials had opportunity to demand to see the three or to have them handed over to the Red Cross. 

They did not.

On February 10, a new lie was made up, that Lumumba and his colleagues had mysteriously escaped from prison in Katanga. 

Then on February 13, a new statement was issued to say that the three had fallen into the hands of hostile villagers who had swiftly killed them. 

Tshombe’s interior Minister Godefroid Munongo was used to produce fake death certificates, instead of bodies, as proof that the three had been killed by villagers. 

The death certificates had been faked by a white Belgian doctor, Guy Pieters, who did not see the bodies but trusted someone else who swore that he had seen the bodies. 

In short, it took from January 17 to February 13 1961 for the world to learn that Lumumba and his ministers had been killed. 

But the announcement itself was meant to compound the multilateral complicity and cover-up.

If we now move to the operations of imperialism in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe during Smith’s UDI (1965 – 1980) and during the Third Chimurenga, that is the land reclamation phase of the revolution from 1992 to 2004 we find both similarities and differences.

In both phases, the US provided the overriding frame and the EU obliged. Zimbabwe was framed as rebelling against the global neo-liberal demand to ‘reform’.

The victory of ZANU PF in the 1980 election, though not completely a surprise, was undesirable to the Western powers who had preferred Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s UANC.

There were assassination attempts on Robert Gabriel Mugabe of ZANU PF, followed by an attempted coup d’etat, once Mugabe had won the election. 

On the eve of independence, the Rhodesians destroyed tonnes of sensitive Government records with the knowledge and connivance of Western powers. 

At the time, this destruction was blamed on the Rhodesians, but it now appears that the British and the North Americans did not object to the destruction of evidence because they were also implicated in escalating violence and prolonging the Rhodesian war through top-level visits to Smith and through the supply of oil, weapons and mercenaries in violation of UN sanctions. 

In the 1965-1980 period, the UN was relatively strong because of the growths of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization for African Unity (OAU)in

the context of a bi-polar world.

In the 1992-2004 period, however, the weakness of the UN shown in the case of the Congo crisis had returned, with the UNDP, the WFP, UNICEF, UNESCO and the Global AIDS Fund being used against Zimbabwe as if they were bilateral instruments of the US and its EU allies.

More significantly, the weakening of the UN in the 1992-2004 period allowed almost a repeat of what happened in the Congo in the 1960s:

The unfolding of an elaborate vilification and demonisation programme against Zimbabwe, based on mass media;

The revival of global and white anti-revolutionary lobbies similar to the Katanga and Rhodesia lobbies of the 1960s and 1970s;

A very high dosage of big trans-Atlantic lies employed against Zimbabwe, similar to those against Lumumba and the Congo revolution in 1960-1961

The camouflaging of white supremacy under the slogan of ‘globalisation’ similar to the camouflaging of white supremacy under the slogan of combating communism in the 1960s and 1970s.

The needs of the multinational corporations which brought the reach of the Marshall Plan to the former European colonies have intensified even more today. 

These needs are reflected in the way the UN Security Council dealt with The Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth of Democratic Republic of Congo of 2001.

The report was authored and presented to the UN as an expose when in fact it was meant to be a cover-up. 

This fact becomes clearer if the report to the UN Security Council is read together with another supposed report called Branching Out: Zimbabwe’s Resource Colonialism in the Democratic Republic Congo, by the British environmental propaganda think tank, Global Witness, a year after the UN report. (Global Witness 2002)

Whereas US policy makers used anti-communism to disguise white supremacy, today they use globalisation, reform and the war on terror to achieve the same objectives.

This fact is further clarified by reading yet another report called George Bush’s Heart of Darkness — Mineral Control and Africa, by the staff of Executive Intelligence Review.

“Driving the British actions this time, is another Great Scramble. The international financier oligarchy, grouped around the House of Windsor, knows that the world financial bubble (the `casino economy’ of neo-liberal reform) … which they themselves have created cannot be sustained, and will burst. They are getting out of paper financial instruments and into hard commodities; precious metals, such as gold; strategic metals such as cobalt and tantalum; base metals, such as copper and zinc; energy supplies; and increasingly scarce food supplies. They want either to own the physical assets, or, better still, own the mine production facility for these assets.” (Executive Intelligence Review, 1997)

In Remilitarising Africa for Profit, John Peck showed that the North Atlantic powers had upgraded Africa’s strategic importance in the wake of the massive failure of structural adjustment programmes to stabilise the world economy and in the wake of mounting violence in the oil-rich Middle East.

Africa is awash with oil, from the Angolan coast all the way to Mauritania, with high concentrations around Angola, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. This oil is increasingly seen as more critical to the continued dominance of the North Atlantic powers than ever before. 

In addition, the alternative to fossil fuels also seems to depend on Africa. Hydrogen energy is not only clean but it is also abundant. Its development depends on platinum which exists in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Russia.

The significance of Zimbabwe within the US, EU and Africa triangle can be appreciated from the significance of the defeat of the African revolution in the Congo. 

In the Congo, the US succeeded in blending French, Belgian, British and US interests through its doctrine of synthetic whiteness which made white supremacy synonymous with anti-communism and ‘development’.

For this pan-European synthesis to succeed, Congolese society had to be fragmented along clan, tribal and regionalist fissures. 

Therefore, the defeat of the Congo revolution was important for Africa because it implanted in the African mind all over the continent the perception that whites were naturally united while Africans were congenitally tribalistic, sectarian and faction-ridden.

The defeat of the Congo revolution also denied southern African liberation movements the best potential rear-base; that is, the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique, the South African colony of Namibia, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) itself and SA had to rely on Zambia and Tanzania as rear-bases for training and supplying freedom fighters, when in fact the Congo could have been the best rear base in terms of its physical size, its forests for cover, its natural and mineral resources and its population. 

Zambia and Tanzania would have merely supplemented the vast resources of the Congo. Contrary to these possibilities, the vast wealth of the Congo was used to delay African liberation, since it went to Jonas Savimbi, Alfonso Dhlakama as well as the apartheid and Rhodesian regimes.

African objections to the involvement of the US in the DRC today arise from the fact that US policy in the region has worsened the problem.

African objections to the involvement of the US in conflicts in the region arise from the fact that US policy has tended to worsen the problem recognised by Samir Amin in his book Class and Nation, Historically and in the Current Crisis where the author wrote:

“Once independence is acquired, internal contradictions come to the fore… (Examples include) … the break-up of Pakistan, the permanent threat which weighs on India, the civil wars of former Congo during the 1960s, the civil war in Nigeria, current events in the eastern horn of Africa and in the Western Sahara, tribal uprisings (for instance in the Southern Sudan) show the instability of these new national state units.” 

But Samir went further to say that imperialism did not always succeed in keeping the people divided. Imperialist powers and their local collaborators pursue a strategy of national fragmentation because it weakens the national society and the national state, which is the way to facilitate the plunder referred to in the Executive Intelligence Review report already cited on the Congo:

“The conjunction of ethnic fragmentation and comprador bureaucratic power defines a type of state that is particularly unstable. It is no accident that this conjunction, which prevails in Sub-Saharan Africa, is accompanied by absence of national languages and by cultural alienation in its most violent form.”

But Amin went on to say that a liberation movement can deliberately seek to overcome this ‘conjunction’ by adopting a popular strategy as opposed to a comprador strategy. 

The liberation movement in government must base its economic development strategy on the need to uplift and satisfy the basic requirements of the majority. 

That strategy must not come from outside. It must arise from within. 

“The autonomy of the popular strategy must be affirmed in theory and in practice … the popular bloc must try to overcome national contradictions among the people and preserve the largest possible state framework… (The) popular bloc must be extremely vigilant with regard to foreign powers and especially superpowers who try to bend all confused forces to the ends of their overall planetary strategy.”


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