Friday, July 2, 2010. The Moncton Times&Transcript. Page C3. "Parents bridge cultural gap." It's a pleasant story of how immigrants from Congo have settled in Moncton and, in the process, enriched our culture. The occasion was a celebration of the creation of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1960. It mentions the enormous mineral riches in Congo. It mentions political coups by the army. It mentions that some three million were killed in a recent civil war. It's all true.
And it's also one hell of a lie.
If the land is rich, why are the people so poor and uneducated after well over a century of western control and influence?
Why did the army stage coups?
Is the killing of three million unusual in Congo?
Has anybody profited from all this? (hint - include prominent Canadians in your guessing.)
This impression left by this story is that the people of Congo are just ignorant savages who don't know how to run a country. It was written to give that impression. But there's a bigger story.
It was in the 1880s that European leaders agreed to give Congo (which they didn't own) to Belgium. At the time, the attraction was rubber and ivory. The reason given for the handover to Belgium was to bring Christianity and civilization.
The reality has been over a hundred and twenty years of some of the most brutal murdering, torturing, maiming and thieving in human history. The game at first was British, Belgian and French private business forcing the Congolese to work as slaves - torturing and murdering those who refused or tried to run away. Those who stayed were worked, quite literally, to death. There is no possible count of how many died; but it may easily and by far have exdeeded 10 million.
Joseph Conrad visited Congo at the height of the brutality. The result was his novel, Heart of Darkness. It's the story of how British,Belgians and French businessmen took billions out of that country, leaving only death and starvation behind them.
Belgium could no longer hold Congo after World War Two. So it gave Congo independence - leaving behind no schools, no hospitals, nothing. Congolese elected their first prime minister. He wasn't just deposed by the army. He was murdered. Why did the army do it? Well, the British, French and Belgian businessmen were still there, now joined by the US and Canada. Canadian mining companies had already established one of the worst records in the world for pollution and exploitation. (Just check Canada's record in UN reports on the subject.) Lumumba was said to be thinking of taxing the mining companies to build hospitals and schools. Guess who bought the army off to kill him.
Ever since, there has been turmoil and murder and rape on a scale unmatched anywhere in the world. To the several millions killed in the recent civil war, add more than five million dying just in the last ten years for what the UN lists as "war-related causes".
While the Moncton T&T celebrates fifty years of independence for a country that has never been independent, while western mining companies continue to suck billions out of Congo, eighty percent of the Congolese have to live on less than 30 cents a day. Taxes are close to zero for the companies. Wages are low and hours long by any standard. There is virtually no medical care or schooling for the Congolese.
And Canadians are right up front with the butchers. The board of a gold mining company boasted one of Canada's finest sons on its board of directors. Brian Mulroney.
And, when he was leader of the PCs, Joe Clark was an advisor to a Canadian mining company with a particularly evil reputation at the UN.
As in much of our journalism, the Moncton T&T story looked as though it was telling the truth. But by not telling the whole truth, it misled us as to the full horror of the Congo, and whose fault it has been. It wasn't done by ignorant savages. It was and is done by civilized Christians.