Given Canada’s complicity in 130 years of western exploitation of the African region, it’s time we repaid our debt.
First things first. Why should Canada be involved in the African Great Lakes at all? Because we’re a wonderful caring-sharing people? Great humanitarians? Learned in the way of bringing peace, stability and development to poor, conflict-ridden parts of the globe?
The right reason is that Canada has a debt to repay to that region of the world, as documented in my book The Betrayal of Africa. It’s true our debt is not as great as that of Belgium, the US or France. But at the minimum, we have been bystanders as the western world actively enabled venal leaders in central Africa to plunder their countries and slaughter their fellow citizens, and at worst Canadians have been active in the exploitation and looting of the resources of that region.
The entire squalid history of the Great Lakes for the past 130 years is the story of western interests, both government and business, conspiring with African elites against the interests of the local people. The saga runs from Leopold of Belgium’s exploitation of rubber and ivory, at the cost of perhaps 10 million Congolese lives, one of the greatest mass murders in human history; to the assassination of the first elected prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, by Belgians and local Africans, all working for Belgian mining companies, while the US cheered them on; to the 30-year dictatorship by Mobuto, enabled directly by the USA and the World Bank, as he disemboweled the Congo for his own enrichment.
In Rwanda, without the interventions of the Catholic Church and the Belgian and French governments, the genocide as we know it would never have occurred. If the western world had played a positive role instead of an exploitative one, the central African wars of the past 15 years might not have taken place.
Canada has had a role in all this, from refusing to expose the American support for Mobuto to the foreign aid it lavished on the Habyarimana ethnic dictatorship in Rwanda before the genocide. Equally nefarious has been the role of several large Canadian mining companies working in the Congo, which have been named by UN reports and other recent research as sharing responsibility for the violence in the Kivus.
In short, like all western countries, we owe all the citizens of the Great Lakes an enormous debt to repay them for the incalculable losses we have shared responsibility for.
What to do? Here’s a beginning:
1. Write your MP supporting Bill C-300, a private member’s bill that will set minimum standards for Canadian resource extraction companies operating internationally.
2. The UN mission to Congo desperately needs helicopters in the effort to protect local civilians, especially women. Canada has 140 helicopters, none of which, the government claims, are available for this great priority. Make your voice heard.
3. Many Rwandan genocidaires were allowed into Canada after the 1994 genocide. They are now part of a global network that funds the FDLR, a violent Congo-based militia of Hutu extremists that is fighting to re-conquer Rwanda and complete the genocide. Canada must do all in its power to root out these thugs in our midst and end their operations.