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Congo is still the heart of darkness

The turmoil is mounting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there really should have been presidential elections these days. In few places is the crisis of global capitalism more present than here.



The plane eases off the runway and the sunrise opens with the full color spectrum at the start of the journey. Dubai has also been one of the dark places of the earth, I think where I sit in the seat and do a read by Joseph Conrad The Heart of Darkness. I'm on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even today, in the age of global crisis capitalism, this is still the darkest chapter on the plundering of Africa's natural resources.

The race of the European colonial armies on Africa during the period 1870 – 1920 became a bracket in the consciousness of Western culture. Unlike the Holocaust of the Nazis, which has been explored and portrayed in literature and film, the colonization of Africa is almost absent in both popular culture and other cultural expressions. No one has received an Oscar for filming a film about the Congo Free State. Cutting hands, burnt villages and mass killings – in few places was colonization as brutal as then King Leopold 2. plundered Congo's rubber resources. It was in the late beginnings of Leopold's colonization, in 1890, that Joseph Conrad had his scathing encounter with the Free State. The Heart of Darkness was thus the exception – one of the few literary depictions of the race for Africa. Place names and personal names are mostly absent in the mythical description of the end of innocence and the discovery of evil. The new thing with Conrad was that the shadow side of colonization now appeared. Cruelty gets a voice, Africa becomes a backdrop. There is something pervasively racist about the production, wrote Chinua Achebe, who has been called the father of modern African literature, in his criticism of Conrad: Africa stands as the antithesis of civilized Europe.

Bloody cell phones. I am a white man traveling in Africa. From Rwanda, I cross the border into the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In few places is the crisis of global capitalism more present than here. International companies' race for the country's natural resources has completely fragmented the country. The state is absent, and the militia groups are the companies' extended arm in the looting of natural resources. Congo has a total occurrence of unused mineral resources worth $ 24 billion. One of the world's most resourceful countries, with huge deposits of cobalt and coltan. Minerals needed for high-tech equipment such as mobile phones and PCs. The problem is well known. At the beginning of the 2000s, the campaign "No Blood on my Cell Phone" started, which was to focus on how mineral recovery contributed to conflict. The minefields controlled by rebel groups or government armies had treated the workers as slaves. The introduction of green certificates would give stricter control and better working conditions.

What appears on the surface to be ethnic conflicts is driven by capital's commodity looting – with the UN as a spectator.

The aid industry's campaigns often have unintended effects. The trade in minerals has proved difficult to control: the green certificates have also contributed to the closure of mines and increased unemployment. Marijuana cultivation and militia activity have become a new source of income. Over the last ten years, the number of militia groups in the region has doubled. What on the surface appears to be ethnic conflicts is driven by capital's looting of raw materials – with the UN as spectators. MINUSCO is the UN's most comprehensive peace operation. The white UN trucks loaded with soldiers frequently pass through the streets of Goma, but despite the presence of 20 soldiers, the civilian population has little protection. Eastern Congo is the place in the world with the most human rights violations. The failure was total when the militia group M000 took over Goma in 23. M2012 was later disbanded, but the war is never far away in Congo. A few hundred kilometers into the forests, over 23 different militia groups operate. The world's most wanted war criminal, Joseph Kony, hides here with his child soldiers. Militia groups such as Mai Mai terrorize the civilian population with looting, torture and massacres. "The raped woman in the Congo" has, in addition to being a tragic reality, become a narrative told by aid organizations that reproduce colonial history as whites are portrayed as protectors. Those who will save the African women from their primitive men. However, the precarious threat to the remnants of Congo's corrupt state does not come from the militia groups, but from the people themselves.

On the brink of crisis. Years of mistrust and tyrannization of the population have provided the basis for a popular uprising. The demonstrations have become more frequent, and the authorities are turning them down more and more. Opposition leaders are arrested and protesters are killed. Foreigners living in the Congo report an increasing harassment. The paranoia of the sitting elite I get to experience myself: After moving around in Goma's slum, I am stopped by a man pretending to be "Congo FBI". "What are you doing here? Are you a journalist? ”He asks brusquely. Before I have time to respond, this is confirmed by the amount of spectators who have gathered around us. My alibi, that I am here to visit Virunga National Park, has smoked. Long, bland and repetitive arguments are presented underpinned by threats to call the "agency". My Indian host is contacted and a middleman to negotiate the situation also comes into the picture. The situation is well known to all foreigners living in Congo. Regardless of whether your papers are in order, the orderly authority will often use the opportunity to plunder your resources. "When did it become illegal to take pictures in the street? Is this North Korea? I can take a picture of you here and now, ”says my dealer, picking up the cellphone he is targeting. The cop gets furious and clenches his fist to strike. The bribe barks down and I move out into Goma's streets again.

Congo is on the verge of a total crisis, disintegration and perhaps major war. Now in November, there was really a new presidential election. There is no indication that this will be implemented in the near future. The incumbent President Joseph Kabila came to power after his father was killed in 2001. His second term as president-elect expires on December 20 this year. After Kabila's unsuccessful attempt to change the constitution so that he can be re-elected for a third term, the country is now plunged into political chaos. Violent clashes and protests with several people are still reported. Making an election in a country the size of half Europe and with minimal infrastructure is a comprehensive process – a process that has been tried and tested by Kabila by requiring population census before the election. Kabila is very unpopular. The Congo elite is desperately trying to cling to power.

Gérard Kwigwasa, who is active in the human rights organization Héritiers de la Justice, tells me that the opposition is well organized. This is not getting the big attention in Western media, but there is a growing movement with broad support in the population.

Gérard tells me that there is hope for a non-military solution where Kabila leaves. In a world with a growing global crisis, optimism continues.

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