(18i) Congo and its relation with its coloniser Belgium

A month or two ago I heard an interview on the radio about Congo and its first PM Lumumba who was assassinated on order of western countries, including Belgium that was its past colonizer.

The interview
The person who was interviewed seemed to be quite right-wing as he didn't seem to understand some of the nonsense he said. For instance, he included PM Lumumba in the same list as other leaders such as Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, Romania's Ceausescu and other dictators, all killed he said because the West didn't want them (this should include "any longer" as they became uncontrollable and thus unwanted). The person added that PM Lumumba was killed only months after taking office and thus before he could become a dictator whereby the respondent seemed to suggest PM Lumumba would have become a dictator if he wasn't murdered, thus one can conclude that his assassination was an act of mercy.

He continued to explain that even today, children at Congo's schools learn little about their first PM as Congo continues to teach what its colonial power told they should teach, and thus not the truth about (Belgium's involvement in) the assassination of PM Lumumba (and by extension Belgium's brutal rule as coloniser and its involvement in the killing and mutilation of people of whom colonisers decided they didn't work hard enough and thus yields were considered too low.

Further, the person explained, few Congolese know about their first PM because they have too much other things on their mind in order to survive than to read about their own history, except according the respondent, the few who have too much time (and thus he seemed to suggest those people who don't work enough) so they can investigate their history and politics. He ridiculed these people by reducing them to youth who now wear glasses, not because they need them but in honour of the murdered PM Lumumba. And thus, the respondent said, those in Congo "who have too much time" waste this time to investigate their past and bother about politics while in the past only Congolese diaspora (those living outside Congo, often political migrants) learned about their own history but they were no threat as they left their country. He seemed to suggest they are so wrong because they want to know their past as Africans should not have a history and thus don't need to study their past because that results in Congolese who waste time they could spend working for foreign companies but also because they even start to demand better government. Probably those who are educated are also some who lived outside Congo but returned and started to tell others about their past and how it was taken from them. Compare this with the West where we encourage people to read and think, including about their past, while in Congo (more general Africa and any developing country), people who read and thus gain knowledge are blamed to waste time as we understand that education may result in empowerment and thus Congolese (Africans) who start to demand fairer (and thus more expensive) workers rights that no longer mainly benefit Western multinationals (and increasingly also Asian countries) and a few corrupt leaders who abuse human rights but instead benefit the whole society.

My interpretation of the interview
However, Mr Lumumba doesn't belong alongside the other leaders in the above-mentioned list because he was never a dictator. Indeed, the respondent is right when he said that these politicians were killed with permission of the West but, and this he didn't mention, was only after they were no longer useful for the West and even became dangerous. Indeed, many of the other persons in the list were kept in power because they sided with and therefore benefited from the West against the Soviet Union and its communist block although some were protected by the communist block, to divide and rule and get cheap oil and gas and other minerals from the Middle East and Africa. And thus, bye bye Ceausescu after the collapse of the Soviet Union when he lost his protection but also bye bye colonel Mobutu of Congo (Zaire) who was used by the West as a buffer against communist influence in Africa.

Indeed, this was also the reason why Mr Lumumba was not allowed to rule Congo as PM as he called himself a communist who wanted to liberate Congo from the non-communist Belgium. It also meant he didn't agree that the Congolese minerals were almost given to Belgium and others but instead he asked that countries would pay a fair price for Congo's products.

And thus, after PM Lumumba was assassinated (i.e. a communist gone), the West allowed colonel Mobutu to rule Congo (who opposed communists) because he didn't mind to abuse human rights to enrich himself, his family and supporters while the West profited from cheap minerals taken via western companies that exploited African employees directly or via some Congolese who were allowed to have "fake" companies that sold products to the West that paid them well and even made them rich but not the employees and thus those top Congolese were loyal enforcers of western companies. On the other hand, Congolese shouldn't dare to mention that minerals should be exploited by African companies to sell the minerals more expensive to the West as indeed, many opponents (such as PM Lumumba but also those in unions) were and still are imprisoned and even killed. Only after colonel Mobutu was starting to show resistance because Western countries started to question his human rights record and started to demand better treatment of Congo's workforce and certainly of people in unions, the colonel was no longer wanted and had to leave.

No, for me the assassinated PM Lumumba is in the same list as e.g. President Allende of Chile who killed himself to avoid imprisonment and torture after a military coup under leadership of Pinochet that many high-ranking Westerners approved although they knew many left-wing Chileans were killed during its rule. Even today Latin-American presidents who try to reform their country receive so much opposition from Western governments and from very powerful (foreign) right-wing groups who damage the countries' economies but blame the countries' governments that in the end the policies of left-wing politicians fail unless Russia agrees to support the country and right-wingers gain power. Brazil is an example. And whoever thinks the right-wingers bring order, think again: previous right-wing governments impoverished and criminalized large groups of society, resulting in the current problems. The same in Europe where right-wing groups kept Greece's dictators in power to prevent communists may gain power, even when people on the left fought against Hitler's army while the right supported him. The result of this dictatorship is a failed state that, again, can't control its own future. Indeed, if those military rulers had introduced a fair society, afterwards problems may be less. And thus, history, when will it stop to repeat its failures?

Africa museum and stolen art
Recently Belgium's Africa museum reopened after a restoration and thus there was again a discussion about returning the "stolen" African art to Africa. I can agree with the request from countries as the art was taken out the country by the coloniser so the country impoverished while the coloniser enriched. This happened throughout history such as important Flemish art that has been stolen by colonisers or occupying forces.

Belgium's  Africa Museum in Tervuren
However, instead of returning all African art, why not consider to empty some of the Western archives? Indeed, a still growing amount of art are stored in archives to be seen by no-one except a few experts, even when there are some beautiful pieces of art that include paintings, sculptures and books. These archives are often larger than what can be seen in the museums and contain sometimes hundred thousands of pieces, including stolen art.

And thus, while some artefacts of African history (and from other places Europeans colonised) can remain in the West, the West can give in return some of its (hidden) pieces of European art to African (and other) museums so also Africans (and Asians and Latin-Americans) can discover our history in their own museums. This way, European and American museums can keep African (and Asian and American) pieces while other continents can also exhibit Western art. Doing so, everyone is happy. Of course, this can only when wars and civil wars are over to avoid lost of pieces. Further, European and American museums can help countries in other continents to preserve the art such as protection against high humidity. And, if some countries insist that the West returns some of their own (top) art, then this should be respected as the West will not easily give away its own masterpieces unless it is taken by force. This way, it can highlight and improve friendships between countries.


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