It’s a great honor for me to participate at this Conference with so much significance for all those who really love our dear and beautiful country. This manifestation translates the will of our youth to leave well-trodden paths and to find new solutions to the different problems today being a burden on our society.
Dear fellow citizens, your presence in this place testifies your will to rescue your autonomy of a system of oppression and predation that enslaved and impoverished an entire people. Thus, you express your natural and legitimate thirst for freedom, your existential need for independence that had been withdrawn from you since the assassination of our national hero Emery Patrice Lumumba.
I wish you all a good independence celebration. Although this independence is yet to conquer, we have to remember it. Independence and freedom have to be won every day, we always have to be ready to defend them. This is our freedom. That is, what the dignity of a people is: “Being free forever.”
The Congolese youth has to rally for taking control of their own destiny, rescuing their freedom and finding a new route. Curtly, our youth has to assure not to repeat the errors of past generations, errors keeping our country still suffering today.
To achieve this, the Congolese youth has to approriaste their history, has to make work of remembrance, has to know where it comes from, to know what were the errors of the past, and finally has to take the right direction for constructing a better future. Our national anthem “Debout Congolais” (Stand up, Congolese) is the bridge between these two eras, characterizing our history and explaining our present.
Indeed, the predecessor of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was the free State of the Congo. It was created through the merger of several kingdoms, several tribes who inhabited the current territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some of these kingdoms were merged by sort, or hazard, on others the artists of these mergers persecuted the goal not to unite ethnic groups, but to take in possession the territories on the basis of their natural resources. While all other African countries were colonies that belonged to their colonisers, the free State of Congo belonged to one person as private property.1 What you need to know is that at that time2 in the mind of the other great powers the Congo should be a free zone of exchange where all the great powers could trade at their discretion. That was their condition for consigning such a vast area of 2,345,000 km2 to a single person, the Belgian King Leopold II., who had the “merit” to negotiate the current frontiers of the Congo. For that he presented himself as force of anti-slavery and civilisational force for the natives, but he will yield to the temptation of inhuman exploitation of the natural resources of the Congo and the congolese. This attitude roused the conscience of humanity, so that the Congo was given to the Belgian Kingdom as a colony, what lasted until 1960. Unfortunately for us , after the independence, our various Presidents have always handled the country as if it were their personal property, they were interested in the natural resources and their personal enrichment and not in the people.
Today, one hundred years later, the Coltan has replaced the caoutchouc, but the system of exploitation remained the same. In both cases the Congolese were being massacred by millions and today the massacres continue. The dramatic story of the Congo is repeating for the lack of remembrance. We are unified by fate, and today we should regard this unity as an opportunity rather than a threat.
We must conclude that all enemies of the Congolese people attempt since independence to bring us apart, to balkanise the Congo because they know that united we are invincible, that united we will emerge victorious. In 1960, we were less mixed among our regions but still the secession of Katanga failed. Today, any attempt of balkanisation is doomed to failure because we are more mixed, and are working to build a very solid Congolese national identity. Thanks Mobutu’s policy which was to occupy the public administration with people from all four corners of the country the mixing of the Congolese from all regions has accelerated, so that in our family almost everywhere there is an uncle Muluba, an aunt Mukongo, a nephew Muswahili, or a daughter-in-law Mungala to find.3 There is only a single Congolese family today.
We are a people having everything belonging to this concept, like the Americans, the Canadians, the French and others. How can those links be broken developed between 80 million people during a century, grown on a total area of 2,345,000 km2. Anyone who tries to balkanise the Congo on an ethnic base for economic interests has to be brought before the court, because the losses of human life would go sky high.
We are united by our common destiny and our diversity in unity is an immense richness. Our salvation, our power to create a better future, lies in unity. But the building of the Congo and the consolidation of our independence is the effort of all of us. It is pure utopia to think that a class of Congolese should continue to live in extravagance, with private jets, with villas on the Côte d’Azur and so on, while others must work in the sweat of their faces, only to eat every other day, having no access to education, many having no accommodation. This is a form of modern slavery, which we can no longer accept. We must be united in our common efforts to put an end to man’s exploitation by man, and to the subjugation of one Congolese by the other.
It is inconceivable that we have a legion of people with a university degree, but who are not linked to our efforts to achieve the economic independence of our country. How can we raise our so long bowed head when our youth is haunted by an endemic unemployment?
Do we not say that work ennobles man? How can we have dignity if we live up to an age of 40 under the roof of our parents, because we do not have a guaranteed minimum salary?
57 years after independence our heads are still bowed, we have to raise them. For the creation of jobs will enable our youth to work in a climate of peace, a climate that favours trade, attracts investors and encourages start-ups. Thus, we can take the impetus for the bonum commune and really achieve our independence. To achieve this goal, it is not the ardour of the Congolese lacking.
I had the opportunity to visit many countries in this world and to give lectures at many universities. How great was my surprise to see that there are Congolese with university degrees or other high qualifications, who do their work with devotion and enthusiasm, to the great satisfaction of their employers. And then, we lack the words to describe our Congolese women who bring their families through by piteous means and who bear the burden of our country’s economy on their shoulders!
There is no doubt that we are a fervent people, and we are able to build a more beautiful Congo than before by working hard. Today our hard work is more for the profit of others than for the profit of our country. We need a patriotic revival, so that sacrificing ourselves everyday, in the interior of our country as well as in the diaspora, does no longer serve the selfish interests of certain groups or social classes, but the welfare of our future generations. Thus we can build up our country, and make it more beautiful in peace than it is now. We have to tackle this in solidarity, both in the horizontal and in the vertical. The guaranteed basic income and the general coverage of the health costs are achievements that have gained ground in the West in the last decades. But these notions of solidarity are inscribed in our genes, they are transcribed in our traditions. These notions of solidarity have always been the the pride of Africa. Abandoning solidarity would mean abandoning our African identity. But how can we explain that egoism proliferating in the Congo, which makes us a rich country with one of the poorest populations on the planet and with leaders living in provocative luxury? This social contrast is quite simply revolting.
We have become the laughing stock of the whole world. Our pride to be Congolese is severely impaired. But not everything is lost. Our ability to rise and our patriotic awakening can change everything and restore our lost dignity and pride.
For 20 years, our sovereignty has been constantly scorned. We live like strangers in our own country. The choice we have is resignation, exile, prison, or death. But it is even no choice, it is a constraint forced upon us. Is it possible to speak of the sovereignty of the people under these circumstances? Definitely not! We are a people humiliated by our neighbours. They have no respect for us. Whereas we have to carry on our daily operations outside our borders, for we Congolese simply can no longer do business in our country. This is the result of the mass of taxes and administrative harassing paralysing our merchants, our young Congolese businessmen as well as any local initiative. The entire space is left to a mafia gang, which sells all common consumer products and exports our natural resources. We are reduced to mere consumers, the others have to import and to export for us. They do their business on the back of the poor Congolese.
Only when there is an international inquiry into the crimes committed against our brothers in Kasai or when there are sanctions imposed on those responsible for abusing human rights, only then our government refers to the principle of sovereignty of the Congolese State.
Our political leaders forget that sovereignty is tied to the definition of a state, who ceased to exist since 1996. If a state is “a moral person of public law controlling a territory clearly identified by boundaries, where this moral person maintains the social, legal and political order for a relatively homogenous group of people, connected to a collective way of life represented by an authority they have given the power.” What is then the Congo?
Since 1996, our borders have been permeable, and states, armed alien groups, mafia gangs, smugglers, and cattlemen are crossing them at will. They kill and rape without shame, burn our villages without interventions of the government. The “moral person” should maintain the social order, but in the Congo, the rulers destroy social cohesion through unjust action, corruption, and spreading all kinds of anti-values that undermine our society from within.
This is suicidal. The legal order is replaced by favouring arrangements, because of the serious dysfunctions of our judicial system. We have got good laws, but their enforcement is sorely lacking. Impunity prevails in all domains.
All our institutions are illegal and illegitimate, they function without respecting the will of the primary sovereign, as stated in our constitution and expressed by referendum.
The fundamental law has been put in parenthesis. We call strongly and publicly for the return to the constitutional order. The political opposition, who was meant to bring to life democracy, has been lulled by the rulers, and is now being pulverized by political manoeuvres. The political order no longer exists. The political parties of the opposition must recover, reconstitute themselves and define a new strategy to ensure democratic change. What then remains of the definition of a state in Congo? Alas, not much!
It can be seen with the naked eye that our dear congolese state has systematically become the target of the enemies of the Congo, enemies inside and outside the country. Yet, we are by our common past a strong nation, we want to live together today and to remain united in the future. We Congolese are connected to our nation and fight every attempt to separate us.
With all the blessings the Lord has given to us, the Congo is a true gift of God, with its waters, its rivers and streams, its fertile fields, its forests, its riches in its soil and its people. We can change the course of our history, we can change the perception the world has of us. We can put those right who bet on our disappearance as a people. We can disprove the prognoses. All we need is to believe in us and to choose good allies for the restoration of our state.
Our ancestors and the founding fathers of our independence would be turning in their graves if they were to learn that the Congo they had given us has become chaotic after 57 years. We have betrayed Kimbangu, Lumumba, Kasavubu, Bolikango and others. Where are the remains of love for our Congo? We behave like thieves of our own heritage, the Congo.
We only kept one promise: to populate the land. The 14 million inhabitants have become 80 million inhabitants. This we have accomplished because natality is bound to poverty. What a sad result. Forgive us, my dear Congo, we have forgotten the obligation to preserve your greatness and to promote it, by means of acting low and mocking any reasons of state. On 30 June5 , we celebrated our independence under the sweet sun, but today, in the face of the deforestation of our forests, the destruction of our environment, we celebrate the day under a sun clouded by dust and sulphurous climates. We have profaned an immortal day.
Our fellow citizens Frank Diongo, Muyambo, and our young artists are currently in prison, like so many other innocents, after being recently arrested for condemning the massacres in Beni and Kasaï. This is a severe breach of our oath of freedom we have to bequeath to our posterity.
Stand up, Congolese! Freedom must be fought for every day! Even if you have suffered a lot: the remaining strength is enough to fight for freedom, as the fathers of our independence have done.
Stand up, Congolese! It is never too late to act. Your freedom, your destiny is in your own hands.
Stand up, Congolese! •
* Address by Dr Denis Mukwege on the occasion of the manifestations of the 30 June 2017 in Kinshasa on the 57th anniversary of independence transmitted by video
1 King Leopold II. of Belgium
2 Berlin Conference, 15 Nov. 1885–26 Feb. 1886
3 the designations refer to main regions of the Congo with each original language.
4 he refers to 30 June 1960
(Translation Current Concerns)
In a recent distributed communiqué, the President of the Commission Justice et Paix (Commission Justice and Peace) of the Congolese Bishops’ Conference (Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo), Abbé Clément Makiobo, points out the missing track record of the current Kabila government:
“The Kabila era (2007–2016) is not characterised by great achievements, on the contrary: The east of the country is still torn by the continuing attacks of various armed groups. The devaluation of the Congolese Franc has pushed large sections of the population into impoverishment. The infrastructure, for example, in basic services such as school and health care, is among the worst in the world. At the same time, Mr Kabila has enriched himself privately in a scandalous way. The enrichment of the Kabila family within 10 years exceeds by far that of Mobutu within 32 years.”
(Translation Current Concerns)
“Between January and June 2017, 2800 violations of human rights were committed in Congo. This was announced on 26 July by the director of the UN Joint Human Rights Office in Congo (UNJHRO), headquartered in Kinshasa, José Maria Aranaz, on the occasion of a video media conference at the UN. According to Aranaz, 884 assassinations are documented in the areas affected by the conflict, 210 victims of sexual aggression and 430 abuses linked to the exercise of democratic rights. The UNJHRO states that state officials are responsible for 58% of all violations, 25% of which are attributed to those of the Congolese National Police (PNC). According to his listing, 591 victims of extrajudicial execution were executed by the PNC agents, compared to 527 by members of the Congolese national army (FARDC, Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo)“.
Source: Radio Okapi, 27.7.2017
(Translation Current Concerns)
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