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Life Reflections

If Hammarskjöld was dispensed of, who is tiny Rwanda?

By July 13, 2012June 6th, 2023No Comments

Save for specialist historians, few remember the name Hammarskjöld. Late Dag Hammarskjöld was son to Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden from 1914 to 1917.

From a wealthy family, Dag had no reason to kowtow to anybody. This helped him cultivate an independent attitude to his work. He was a competent technocrat without political views. Like his father, he held many positions in the Swedish government. But, unlike him, at no time did he join any political party. He was his own man.

This independent spirit greatly contributed to Dag being picked for the post of UN Secretary-General in 1957. As a hands-on man, S-G Dag plunged into his work with the abandon of a man who wanted to see global peace established – and pronto.

He personally got involved in efforts to smoothen relations between Israel and the Arab states. He visited China to negotiate the release of captured US pilots who served in the Korean War. He established the United Nations Emergency Force and intervened in the Suez Crisis. In 1960, when then Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, requested for UN help, he secured Security Council backing and sent a UN emergency force to keep the peace.

But, Dag or Patrice, neither man lived to witness the fruition of that effort. 

Yet how the Congolese people needed that peace. It’d been long gone. When Portuguese navigator Diego Cao sighted the Congo in 1482, peace disappeared with that sighting. The race for everything/body Congolese started in earnest. Merchants of sundry nationalities put in motion an effort to deplete the Congo of its population. British, Dutch, Portuguese, French and other vultures of every sort, with the help of Bakongo intermediaries, entered a cutthroat competition to ‘harvest’ slaves. 

Until Belgian King Leopold II beat them at their game and collected the prize: the country. He claimed the country as his personal property and got agents to put the Congolese to work. And, to boot, the European powers endorsed his claim at the 1884-5 Berlin Conference. It is said that upward of 6 million Congolese were killed or worked to death during Leopold’s control of the territory.

I doubt anybody has the count of minerals, timber, ivory, tea and all, that the Congolese delivered to these agents for onward transfer to the killer king. When the din of protests at his agents’ atrocities perpetrated on the Congolese rose, the king sold his ‘property’ to his government. And the looting went on, with its accompanying atrocities.

Until “the wind of change” blew Africans out of their ‘colony’ slumber and they woke up to fight for their independence. In 1958, Patrice Lumumba founded Mouvement National Congolais (National Congolese Movement) and led a series of demonstrations and strikes. Seeing the rising heat, the colonial administration relented and announced elections and independence was granted on June 30 1960. Lumumba became Prime Minister and Joseph Kasavubu, President.

Then the vultures swooped down again. They had seen Lumumba’s vision and did not like its ring: “Africa will write its own history, and it will be…..a history of glory and dignity.” Details apart, disorder spread throughout the Congo. Katanga seceded under Moïse Tshombe, instigated by Belgium. And Belgium sent in troops under the usual guise: to “protect Belgian nationals and mining interests” – with the “mining” bit probably as a slip of the tongue!

With the disorder rising, Lumumba turned to the UN for help to quell the army mutinies, in Katanga particularly. When UN peace keepers came, Katanga welcomed them with fire. Dag’s fateful journey to Katanga was his last-ditch effort to wrest peace out of Tshombe and whoever was behind him.  Dag knew that “whoever was behind him” was from his own backyard, of course, or else why did he write his own dirge? (It is reported that Dag wrote a poem about his own death.)

Anyway, in February 1961, Lumumba was murdered in Katanga. His body was cut into pieces and thrown into a drum-full of acid. In September the same year, Hammarskjöld was blasted out of the sky (“reportedly”). Both deaths are put at the hands of some shadowy systems somewhere in North America and Europe.

And that was the demise of two men whose destinies were knotted together by their will to see a peaceful, orderly Congo.

That “whoever was behind Tshombe” wanted a different order. And it came when a bespectacled soldier, who’d helped dispatch Lumumba to the yonder, took the reins of power in the Congo. When Joseph Mobutu sat at the helm, he careened his country into the mining pit and there he and the vultures settled and satiated themselves, unperturbed. Then some nasty, tiny ex-rebel setup next-door came knocking, in search of their génocidaires and insurgents.

Oh, whither another Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga, the cock that leaves fire in its wake? But, not to worry, the cock may not be around but the fire stokers haven’t gone anywhere. Another must be forged. Luckily, another was spotted, complete with piggy neck. Then again….. And again?

And now a tiny ‘ex-rebel’ country dares contribute to brokering a March 23 2009 peace deal? That hated order rearing its ‘tiny-country-resembling’ head again? “Humanitarians”, rise!

The UN system must urgently boost its behemoth of a contingent. So, with all the war machines they can muster, the combat-ready troops are camped at the Rwandan gate, finger on trigger.

If the vultures could gobble down one of their own over the Congo, who is tiny Rwanda?

I’d say a loud “Happy hunting!” but this Rwanda has the mean habit of punching way far beyond her tiny weight. So, I say: “UN and whoever is behind you, secure your bunkers!”

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