Friday, March 07, 2008

The African Dream

"What does the future hold in store for us in the Congo? It certainly holds victory, but a distant one."
When I got to college I found out that Che Guevara, Fidel Castro's right hand man, had been to the Congo. 

The Sixties were a decade that saw the assassination of far too many of that epoch's revered figures: John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Robert Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton and Che Guevara himself. 
Guevara traveled to the center of the world in '65 with little preparation and grand aspirations in the wake of what was quite possibly the greatest individual loss to the African continent. 

One of the first assassinations of the Sixties, and the one assassination I intentionally neglected to mention above, was that of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the then Republic of the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). 

Bordering nine different countries, the Congo should be the great hub of African commerce. There should be a sophisticated system of highway roads and railways all leading to the center of that country.  Flights to South Africa should have layovers at Lumumba International Airport. The 2032 Olympics should take place in Kinshasa.

Instead, there has been a war that has claimed the lives of millions. In fact, the sheer magnitude of the Second Congo War has earned it the dual title of Africa's World War and the Great War of Africa.

Who knows what the fate of Central Africa would have been had Lumumba still been alive or if Che Guevara's attempt to stifle imperialism and neo-colonialism in the African continent would have been successful.

Che's flaw was that he believed in the omnipotence of force-particularly the use of violence to enact change. And I can't fault the brother for believing this as the history of all revolutionary struggle is evidence enough to support his modus operandi. 

My point is not to point out his missteps, however, nor offer what I believe he could have done to be more effective, at least not in this post. 

Besides, Guevara analyzes the Revolutionary War and its failure in the epilogue of his diaries. His insights and self-evaluation are profoundly reflective and almost foretelling.

I do want to offer a few quotes that struck me when I picked up this book a second time, however.

In describing one of his first attempts to rally the Congolese Freedom Fighters, Guevara writes, 

"I spoke to them of the fundamental importance which the Congo liberation struggle had in our eyes. Victory would be continental in its reach and its consequences. "

When the fighters did not react positively to this idea of fighting a war to "liberate another country," Guevara writes,

"I tried to show them that we were talking not of a struggle within fixed frontiers, but of a war against the common enemy, present as much in Mozambique as in Malawi, Rhodesia or South Africa, the Congo or Angola. No one saw it like that."

Finally, there's this gem from his epilogue that I've transcribed here for your reading pleasure. It truly captures what I believe is at the crux of the Congo's current plight.

"In Africa, especially the part called Black Africa because of the colour of people's skin, you can follow a long chain from primitive communism to dots on the map where there are a proletariat and a developing bourgeoisie. In keeping with the new imperialist plan of action, there is no opposition of any kind between the national bourgeoisies and the neo-colonial powers. Each individual country, when drawing up its plan for the liberation struggle, must start by treating as its enemies not only the imperialists and the layers on which their strength is based (such as the surviving colonial armies and, more dangerous still, the colonial mentality of their officers), but all the noveaux riches, importers and emergent industrialists who are closely linked to monopoly capital in the form of bureaucratic capitalism."

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