Written and Submitted by Ann Garrison of KPFA
Congolese rallied around the world this week calling on President Joseph Kabila to step down, not to stand in November's Congolese election, considering the six million war dead, ongoing violence and occupation.
The violence and atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the First and Second Congo Wars, from 1996 to 2003, did not end with the 2003 peace treaty. By January 2008, the International Rescue Committee had documented 5.4 million war dead during the 10 years between 1998 and 2008 alone, with 45,000 still dying each month. Although extreme violence continues, the majority die of easily preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition as a consequence of being driven from their immensely resource rich homelands, the real prizes contested in the conflict. On Thursday, the anniversary of Congo’s independence from Belgium, and, roughly five months before the nationwide elections, Congolese in the European and Canadian Diaspora marched to call for peace and justice, and today, Congolese marched in Dallas and Hurst, Texas as well.
KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Dominic Diomi, a survivor from Congo’s capitol Kinshasa, now resident in the U.S. Diomi is a former chairman of the advocacy organization Voice of the Congo, and one of the organizers of today’s march.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Dominic Diomi, you’ve said you’re receiving footage from Thursday’s marches in Europe and Canada. Are other Congolese in the diaspora calling on President Kabila to step down?
Dominique Diomi: Yes, indeed. I received through the social media such as Facebook and Youtube, a lot of footage showing Congolese in different parts of the world, especially in Europe, marching to prove their point, to call for justice in the Congo, and also peace, and for President Kabila to step down, because of his bad record.
KPFA: Could you explain that record? Could you explain why so many in the diaspora want him to step down?
Dominique Diomi: Yes, of course. We only have to look at all the indicators of the Congolese economy right now, all the indicators of social life in the Congo right now. All these indicators are marking red. President Kabila has done worse than Mobutu at times. We have lost more than six million Congolese during his presidency, and we think that he has had enough time to serve. Time for him to step down now.
KPFA: A number of Congolese say that the Congo election should not be held in November, because Congo is under de facto occupation by Rwanda and Uganda, there’s no hope of a fair election, and an election will just be a show for the sake of legitimacy in the eyes of the West and ongoing support. Do you agree?
Dominique Diomi: Yes, I totally agree with that statement. Because, in eastern Congo, even though Rwanda and Uganda do not have their regular troops on Congolese soil, they have their proxies still perpetrating a lot of atrocities. We have to see Congolese media, to see what's happening there. And not only that, we have had campaign of intimidation of the population. And we have reported already intention to cheat during those elections, such as the enrollment of teenagers who are not in age to vote in some part of the country. And we also have campaign of intimidation of opposition leaders, unlawful arrest, assassination of journalists.
KPFA: So what were this week's demonstrators calling for?
Dominique Diomi: Today's demonstrators are calling for peace in the Congo, for justice for all the crimes that have been perpetrated. Even though the Mapping Report indicated that crimes of genocide had been perpetrated in the Congo, until now nothing has been implemented. No court has been put in place to judge the perpetrators of these atrocities, even though their name is well listed in that report.
KPFA: What about the Obama Bill?
Dominic Diomi: The Obama bill is really the only bill that President Obama has passed as a Senator. It's calling for punishment of the countries that have been involved in the plunder of the Congo.
KPFA: The Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, also known as the Obama Bill, is the only Senate Bill that bears Barack Obama’s name alone. It is widely known, in African advocacy circles, for revealing the truth about the Congo conflict, but it is little known by Obama’s 2008 supporters.
Adapted from Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.