Some years ago I wrote an article entitled “Congolese Will Decide Their Fate”. That statement is as true today as it was then. Recent events in the Congo show Congolese in agreement that the future is in their own hands.
After years of looking toward the West for some relief - some sign of principled support for their cause - their actions now demonstrate that change will only come when Congolese join together - organize and act.
In September 2016, a reported 50 Congolese died when demonstrators took to the streets to protest yet another delay by President Joseph Kabila in setting presidential elections after his second term in office.
On December 31, 2016, Catholic Church leaders and laymen thought they had brokered a deal for free elections without Kabila, but that has not come to pass.
One year later on December 31, 2017, a reported nine people were killed in the capital city Kinshasa and hundreds arrested while marching in peaceful protests organized by faith leaders to rid themselves of a man who has held power in the Congo since 2001.
A second march organized by faith leaders on January 21, 2018, where an estimated three million Congolese participated was again repressed by the Kabila regime. Six Congolese were killed by the police in the peaceful march to get Kabila to stand down even though he should have left office by December 2016.
It is no mystery that this latest uprising by Congolese men, women and youth would spring from the heart of the churches.
The people of Congo are a deeply spiritual people. Of its some 80 million people, nearly half are Catholic. Aside from its tremendous mineral wealth, Congo is blessed with a population that is also very young - with a median age of 17 years old.
These youth have never known any other reality other than the Kabila regime. One from which they have seen no benefit - despite Congo’s trillions of dollars in natural wealth. They earnestly yearn and press for the day when Congo’s human resource potential is as well regarded as that of its great material wealth.
Interestingly enough, we have lately seen both in Zimbabwe and Cameroon some of this same spirit of resistance. Both countries are now going through upheavals of their own.
We have witnessed the quiet strength of the Zimbabwean people who suffered the regime of Robert Mugabe for decades and are now poised to rebuild their country. To the same extent, is the never ending struggle of the people of Southern Cameroon.
They, just as the people of Congo, know that the roots of the hope and future of the country lie within the people and will long outlast any of the present rulers.
This faith - I believe - lies deep in the psyche of the people - who are so “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Which is why again on February 25, 2018, Congoloese youth and churchgoers continued to pressure Kabila’s government for change and 17 more died in the streets while raising their voices in protest.
And so it does not matter what plans others may have for the Congo - or Zimbabwe or Cameroon for that matter. No - it only matters what its people will stand for or against.
And the United States - who some still say has a “spiritual destiny” to uphold - one that aligns itself with spiritual laws and principles - and the hopes that the Statute of Liberty represent - should stand with the Congolese to restore the sovereignty of the people.
Carrie Crawford is an attorney in the Washington, DC area and a Friend of the Congo. Find out more about Friends of the Congo.