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“Hell on Earth”: Understanding War and Conflict in the Congo

Part 1: Independence

by Devon DB
Global Research
May 16, 2014

The ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a long one, marked with political intrigue among nations, outside influences, ethnic tensions, and staggering amounts of violence. It is something that is often ignored in the mainstream media – even among the Obama-era ‘humanitarian interventions’ – even though it is the theater of the deadliest post-WW2 conflict (over three million people have died and many are still dying). [1] The Congo has become a hell on earth; and to understand how the situation became as it is, a historical examination of the nation is needed and overdue.

Colonial Rule

Having been quite late getting into the Great Game, Belgium moved with purpose in the early 1900s in trying to acquire an African colony. In 1906, the Belgians annexed the Congo, making two separate zones: Belgian Congo and the Congo Free States, the latter of which became King Leopold’s own personal fiefdom where he had complete control. His forces engaged in horrific acts such as holding “the [families] of [men] hostage until they returned with their rubber quota. Those who refused or failed to supply enough rubber often had their villages burned down, children murdered, and their hands cut off.” [2] Leopold’s main concern was the ivory and rubber trades. Eventually, the atrocities that occurred under his watch became widely known and he was forced to fold the CFS into the Belgian Congo. It was among this time that Congolese became politically awakened and active, namely in Leopoldville.

Before discussing the political awakening in Leopoldville, it would be pertinent to first understand the economic situation of the Congo. During World War 2, the Congo was “an important source of raw materials, especially of copper, tin, industrial diamonds, rubber, and palm oil.” Afterward, due to the ever-increasing price of raw materials, the Congo economy expanded greatly: “In 1952 the value of exports was put at 20,000 million francs – an increase of 88 per cent as compared with 1948 – and by 1956 it had reached 28,000 million francs.”[3] However, almost a decade later, a global decrease in the prices of the same raw materials caused the economy to stagger and created a large increase in unemployment (from 4,300 in September 1957 to 16,000 in March 1958), particularly in the Katanga region, a significant mining location.

While this economic downturn contributed to the political awakening of the Congolese, they had already become politically active. In January 1945, the first indigenous newspaper, La Voix du Congolais (The Voice of Congo), appeared in Leopoldville; and in 1955, Conscience Africaine was introduced. In July of the following year, the Conscience published a manifesto which suggested that within 30 years the Congo should be independent. Several weeks later, “a cultural association of the Lower Congo, known as ABAKO (founded in 1950), led by M. Joseph Kasavubu, improved on the ‘manifesto’, demanding complete and immediate emancipation and entirely rejecting the idea of a thirty-year preparatory period.” [4] This political awakening soon manifested itself in the Leopoldville riots.

Though the riots became political, they were economic in origin. Due to the decline in the prices of raw materials, the budget dropped to a 5 million-pound deficit in 1957, and tripled to 15 million pounds in 1958. In the face of runaway unemployment, the government denied there were any problems. On January 4, 1959, following economic turmoil and the government’s refusal to recognize such, riots ensued and lasted for three days. The force publique (the gendarmerie) was used to prevent the rioters from entering the European town.

These riots forced the Belgian political establishment to acknowledge that there were in fact a multitude of problems, and to embrace reform. In seven months, “from January to August, forty acts and ordinances containing discriminatory regulations were abolished or changed,” although discrimination still remained in the European towns. The Congo was given a charter of freedom and, “for the first time, freedom of assembly, of the press, and of speech was finally recognized.”[5] Local elections formed and the first municipal elections took place in Leopoldville and several other towns in late 1957 and early 1958. Also in 1958, the Congolese National Movement political party was formed by Patricia Lumumba. The Movement focused on Congolese nationalism and created a large political rift in domestic Congolese politics, “[dividing] those who [wished] for a strong unitary state from those wanting a federal system of largely autonomous provincial governments based on primary [ethnic] alliances.” [6] After the riots, three Abako leaders, including Kasavubu, were arrested and flown to Belgium to face trial – a trial that would only worsen the racial tensions in the colony.

Independence

The move to reform forced a decision by the Belgian government to hold a roundtable conference in January 1960, which allowed for face-to-face meetings with Congolese political leaders. At the conference, “the Congolese delegates had presented a common front in their desire for immediate independence, no matter how divided they were on other issues,” and the Belgians awarded the Congo full independence on June 30, 1960. However, the Belgian government limited this independence to the political realm. Economically, the intent was to retain the Congo “as a neo-colonial country whose resources would be exploited for the development of Belgian and West European economies, and the continued underdevelopment of the Congo.” [7]

Nevertheless, the announcement resulted in a scramble to form political parties. The result was that in May 1960, “Of the seven major ‘parties’ in the Congo, none gained enough seats in the election to assure it of even 30 percent of the votes in the Chamber of Representatives. Patrice Lumumba, whose MNC party won some 38 of the 137 seats, emerged as leader of the largest single bloc.” Of the other parties, “the Abako, under Joseph Kasavubu, the Conakat party of Katanga, led by Moise Tshombe, and a dissident wing of the MNC led by Albert Kalondji in Kasai Province, together garnered about 27 votes, but were allied chiefly by their growing opposition to a tightly centralized, unitary type of government.”[8] Ultimately, the philosophical conflict between having a centralized government versus a nation of largely autonomous provinces was a major source of division in the formation of the new Congolese government.

A spat between Kasavubu’s Abako party and Lumuba’s MNC quickly escalated. Based on the weak elections of the MNC, the Belgian Resident Minister allowed Lumumba to look into forming a coalition government. However, Lumumba was unsuccessful as he was unable to persuade Kasavubu and his Abako party to join him, thus the offer was given to Kasavubu. Lumuba refused to work with the Abako party. On June 20th, it was reported that “a ‘deal’ was apparently taking shape, whereby Mr. Lumumba would head the Government as Premier and Mr. Kasavubu would become Chief of State.” [9] Lumumba would eventually become Premier of the Congo, after being offered the Premiership by the Belgians; however, more drama was to come in the form of a military mutiny, two secessions, and a UN intervention.

Endnotes

[1] Integrated Regional Information Networks, DRC: Conflict Deadliest Since World War II – Aid Agency, http://www.irinnews.org/report/42969/drc-conflict-deadliest-since-world-war-ii-aid-agency (April 8, 2003)

[2] Yale University Genocide Studies Program, Congo Free State, 1885-1908, http://www.yale.edu/gsp/colonial/belgian_congo/index.html (2010)

[3] Majory Taylor, “The Belgian Congo Today: Background to the Leopoldville Riots,” The World Today 15:9 (1959), pg 354

[4] Taylor, pg 358

[5] Colin Legum, Congo Disaster (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1961, pg 59

[6] Legum, pg 66

[7] Omajuwa Igho Natuf, “The Cold War and the Congo Crisis, 1960-1961,” Africa: Quarterly Review of Studies and Documentation of the Italian Institute for AFRICAE the East 39:3 (1984), pg 358

[8] Byron Fairchild, The Congo 1960, Historical Division Joint Chiefs of Staff, http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/International_security_affairs/africa/415.pdf (July 1961)

[9] Ibid

This article was originally posted on The Hampton Institute.


VIDEO — #WaveOfAction: Violent clashes as cops disperse protesters in Brussels

RT
Apr 4, 2014

Thousands rallying in waveofaction protest in Brussels against austerity measures. FULL STORY: http://on.rt.com/zoitcf

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MUST SEE — Belgian shelf cloud goes viral

The Weather Network

(youtube video is dated August 5, 2013)

by Daniel Martins
Digital Content Editor

Monday, August 12, 2013, 11:13 AM -

With that ominous orange glow and menacing lighting, the folks in this Belgian seaside village must have been wondering what kind of apocalypse was descending on them when this storm rolled in.

The shelf cloud heralded a powerful storm that local reports say brought strong winds and very heavy rain to the town.

[READ THE FULL ARTICLE]


NATO Baltic Buildup Threatens Belarus And Russia

by Rick Rozoff
Stop NATO
April 21, 2012

The defense ministers of Belarus and Russia, jointly the Union State, met in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on April 18 and underlined the need for the two countries to strengthen military cooperation in response to the qualitative intensification of North Atlantic Treaty Organization deployments and operations on and near their borders.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Serdyukov stated, “We are troubled both by an increase in NATO’s activity near the borders of the Union and plans of the U.S. and other members of the alliance to deploy elements of a missile defense shield in Europe.”

The Belarusian defense minister, Major-General Yuri Zhadobin, issued a comparable and complementary warning; he was paraphrased by the state-run Belarusian Telegraph Agency as commenting: “Preparations of international troops near Belarusian borders have been stepped up in recent years: plans of neighboring countries, which are NATO members, to modernize their military forces are being implemented, including ten military airfields and four seaports meant to receive foreign troops. There are plans to station US air forces in Poland in Q4 2012, with a modern air defense system deployed in the immediate vicinity of the Union State borders. All these factors force one to seek effective military and technical solutions to these threats.”

To believe that NATO has shifted its focus entirely away from its Cold War-era target, the now former Soviet Union, in favor of waging neo-colonial wars in the Balkans, Asia, Africa and the Middle East is both inaccurate and dangerous. Sophisticated, next-generation interceptor missiles slated for deployment in Poland, which borders both Belarus and Russian territory, no later than six years from now are assuredly not directed toward Iran, much less North Korea, and have no conceivable role in such standard NATO casus belli ruses as combating terrorism and piracy, fending off computer hacking or enforcing the Responsibility to Protect.

As the Russian and Belarusian defense chiefs noted, the most menacing moves by NATO are in Europe, most particularly in the Baltic Sea region, where any military conflict would immediately, inevitably, escalate into a confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers and the only nations with a triad of strategic delivery systems: NATO mainstay the U.S. and Russia. In particular, military aggression against Belarus, linked to Russia both through the Union State and the Collective Treaty Security Organization, could not avoid triggering a clash between NATO and the Pentagon on the one hand and Russia on the other.

At the end of February the European Union, in conjunction with the United States – collectively NATO – enforced new sanctions and travel bans against Belarus and recalled all its member states’ ambassadors from Minsk in an escalation of “regime change” measures alarmingly evocative of similar ongoing actions against Syria and those against Libya in 2011.

That NATO, emboldened by what it has celebrated as an unprecedented victory in Libya last year and avidly seeking a new mission after (if there is an after) Afghanistan could take military action against Belarus – or in the South Caucasus or against nations like Zimbabwe or even Venezuela – is not an unimaginable possibility. The bloc certainly arrogates to itself the option of doing so.

As mentioned above, the Western alliance is preparing the military infrastructure for doing just that: Air and naval bases, training and command-and-control centers, missile and radar sites, cyber defense (read warfare) and airlift capabilities, and integration of the armed forces of regional and NATO-wide armed forces in the Baltic region.

In March of 2004, three months before the three countries were inducted into the alliance, NATO began air patrols over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in the air base at the Šiauliai International Airport in Lithuania. Conducted under the deceptively innocuous name of Baltic Air Policing, three-month rotations of four warplanes supplied by the U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Portugal the Czech Republic and Romania have flown near the borders of Russia and Belarus for over eight years. Estonia and Latvia border the Russian mainland and Lithuania (as well as Poland) abut its non-contiguous Kaliningrad district. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland border Belarus.

Before the patrols were instituted, the Russian defense minister at the time, Sergei Ivanov, warned that they would entail the deployment of NATO, including American, warplanes “a three-minute flight away from St. Petersburg,” Russia’s second largest city.

This February NATO announced it was extending the air mission until 2018, fourteen years after it commenced. Early this month U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cited the Baltic operation as an example of NATO capabilities to be discussed at the bloc’s summit in Chicago next month.

The current rotation consists of German F-4 Phantom II long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter-bombers. Germany has been responsible for four of the past nine rotations. Only in a world without a sense of history – even a sense of irony – could the Luftwaffe deploy combat aircraft near Russian territory and the fact pass without notice.

On September 25, 2010 Lithuania’s near neighbor Estonia completed a three-year project to upgrade the Ämari Air Base to accommodate NATO warplanes. The government in Tallinn announced that the expanded, modernized Soviet-era base could accommodate 16 fighters, 20 transport planes and 2,000 personnel a day.

Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves – born in Sweden and raised in the U.S. where he worked for Radio Free Europe during the Reagan years of the 1980s – at the time stated, “NATO will have one of the most modern air force bases in the region at its disposal.”

Three years ago a Polish news source disclosed that NATO had allotted over one billion euros to upgrade and expand military capabilities in Poland and had modernized seven military airports, two seaports and five large fuel bases (12 in total were planned) and that six strategic long-range aerial radars had already been completed. The Atlantic bloc also equipped military airfields in Powidz, Lask and Minsk Mazowiecki with new installations to increase their logistical and defense capabilities.

NATO projects also include the establishment of air defence headquarters in Poznan, Warsaw and Bydgoszcz and a radio communications center in Wladyslawowo on the Baltic coast.

In June of 2009 then-Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich disclosed that NATO would inaugurate a Joint Battle Command Centre in the northern city of Bydgoszcz where NATO had run a Joint Force Training Centre since 2004, stating that “NATO has decided to heavily invest in Poland by modernizing military infrastructure including air and sea bases.”

Between 2006-2008 the U.S. delivered 48 F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters at a cost of $3.5 billion, which represented the largest defense contract by a former Warsaw Pact member state (except for Russia) since the end of the Cold War, the most expensive arm deal in Poland’s history and the first deployment of F-16s to Eastern Europe.

In addition to those F-16s, based near Poznan, last May the Pentagon announced that the U.S. will transfer 16 of its own F-16s from the Aviano Air Base in Italy to Poland along with Hercules C-130 military transport aircraft and special forces transferred from Special Operations Command Europe in Stuttgart, Germany.

A year before, the U.S. deployed a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missile battery with over 100 military personnel to the Polish city of Morag, only 35 miles from Russian territory, in the first long-term stationing of missile interceptors in Europe.

In the third stage of the U.S.-NATO Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense program, to be implemented no later than 2018, 24 third-generation Standard Missile-3 interceptors – SM-3 Block IIAs – will be based in Poland.

In August 2008 the U.S. signed an agreement with Poland which includes a “commitment for both states to come to each other’s assistance in case of military threats.” It was the honoring of an analogous treaty with Poland by Britain and France in September 1939 that, the initial phony war notwithstanding, marked the beginning of World War II.

As part of regular exercises conducted by the U.S. and its NATO allies in the Baltic Sea, the latest Baltic Region Training Event (BRTE XI) wrapped up this March 28 at Lithuania’s Šiauliai air base after German, Finnish and Swedish warplanes – Phantom, Hornet and Gripen fighter jets – participated in aerial exercises in support of the NATO air patrol operation. Finland and Sweden are being dragged into full NATO membership, first in Afghanistan and now in the Baltic, behind the backs of their populations.

Also last month, a planning conference for this summer’s Baltic Host 2012 exercises was held in Lithuania. The drills will be part of host nation support obligations in relation to NATO forces and conducted simultaneously in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The U.S. Marines Corps last month released details of its role in the upcoming BALTOPS 2012 war games in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the latest in annual Baltic Operations exercises, by quoting an officer with the Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO:

“This year the exercise includes land, air, and at sea activities all coordinated under a maritime-based Combined Joint Task Force led by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (Strike Force NATO). Having performed the CJTF role in 2010 and leveraging recent Libyan crisis experience as part of Operation Unified Protector, Strike Force NATO is looking to achieve a much higher degree of interaction amongst subordinate air, land, and sea components spread across the 1,000 km wide training area.”

The U.S. Marine Corps website added that the exercises “will bring Marines and sailors from Black Sea Rotational Force 12, stationed in Romania, to conduct amphibious/land operations with Lithuania Army Forces, to include counter-insurgency and peace keeping training.”

A planning conference was held by U.S. European Command’s Naval and Marine Forces Europe and the Lithuanian armed forces at the General Adolfas Ramanauskas Warfare Training Center in Vilnius, Lithuania from February 27-March 2 for the purpose.

The U.S. and NATO have turned the Baltic Sea into a powder keg that can be set aflame by a single carelessly tossed match, and “leveraging recent Libyan crisis experience” will not permit the resultant conflagration to be contained.

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Source -
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/nato-baltic-buildup-threatens-belarus-and-russia/


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