Sunday, January 30, 2011

Assassination of Patrice Lumumba - 50 Years Ago

TODAY, millions of people on another continent are observing the 50th anniversary of an event few Americans remember, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. A slight, goateed man with black, half-framed glasses, the 35-year-old Lumumba was the first democratically chosen leader of the vast country, nearly as large as the United States east of the Mississippi, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This treasure house of natural resources had been a colony of Belgium, which for decades had made no plans for independence. But after clashes with Congolese nationalists, the Belgians hastily arranged the first national election in 1960, and in June of that year King Baudouin arrived to formally give the territory its freedom.

“It is now up to you, gentlemen,” he arrogantly told Congolese dignitaries, “to show that you are worthy of our confidence.”

The Belgians, and their European and American fellow investors, expected to continue collecting profits from Congo’s factories, plantations and lucrative mines, which produced diamonds, gold, uranium, copper and more. But they had not planned on Lumumba.

A dramatic, angry speech he gave in reply to Baudouin brought Congolese legislators to their feet cheering, left the king startled and frowning and caught the world’s attention. Lumumba spoke forcefully of the violence and humiliations of colonialism, from the ruthless theft of African land to the way that French-speaking colonists talked to Africans as adults do to children, using the familiar “tu” instead of the formal “vous.” Political independence was not enough, he said; Africans had to also benefit from the great wealth in their soil.

With no experience of self-rule and an empty treasury, his huge country was soon in turmoil. After failing to get aid from the United States, Lumumba declared he would turn to the Soviet Union. Thousands of Belgian officials who lingered on did their best to sabotage things: their code word for Lumumba in military radio transmissions was “Satan.” Shortly after he took office as prime minister, the C.I.A., with White House approval, ordered his assassination and dispatched an undercover agent with poison.

The would-be poisoners could not get close enough to Lumumba to do the job, so instead the United States and Belgium covertly funneled cash and aid to rival politicians who seized power and arrested the prime minister. Fearful of revolt by Lumumba’s supporters if he died in their hands, the new Congolese leaders ordered him flown to the copper-rich Katanga region in the country’s south, whose secession Belgium had just helped orchestrate. There, on Jan. 17, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, he was shot. It was a chilling moment that set off street demonstrations in many countries.

As a college student traveling through Africa on summer break, I was in Léopoldville (today’s Kinshasa), Congo’s capital, for a few days some six months after Lumumba’s murder. There was an air of tension and gloom in the city, jeeps full of soldiers were on patrol, and the streets quickly emptied at night. Above all, I remember the triumphant, macho satisfaction with which two young American Embassy officials — much later identified as C.I.A. men — talked with me over drinks about the death of someone they regarded not as an elected leader but as an upstart enemy of the United States.

Some weeks before his death, Lumumba had briefly escaped from house arrest and, with a small group of supporters, tried to flee to the eastern Congo, where a counter-government of his sympathizers had formed. The travelers had to traverse the Sankuru River, after which friendly territory began. Lumumba and several companions crossed the river in a dugout canoe to commandeer a ferry to go back and fetch the rest of the group, including his wife and son.

But by the time they returned to the other bank, government troops pursuing them had arrived. According to one survivor, Lumumba’s famous eloquence almost persuaded the soldiers to let them go. Events like this are often burnished in retrospect, but however the encounter happened, Lumumba seems to have risked his life to try to rescue the others, and the episode has found its way into film and fiction.

His legend has only become deeper because there is painful newsreel footage of him in captivity, soon after this moment, bound tightly with rope and trying to retain his dignity while being roughed up by his guards.

Patrice Lumumba had only a few short months in office and we have no way of knowing what would have happened had he lived. Would he have stuck to his ideals or, like too many African independence leaders, abandoned them for the temptations of wealth and power? In any event, leading his nation to the full economic autonomy he dreamed of would have been an almost impossible task. The Western governments and corporations arrayed against him were too powerful, and the resources in his control too weak: at independence his new country had fewer than three dozen university graduates among a black population of more than 15 million, and only three of some 5,000 senior positions in the civil service were filled by Congolese.

A half-century later, we should surely look back on the death of Lumumba with shame, for we helped install the men who deposed and killed him. In the scholarly journal Intelligence and National Security, Stephen R. Weissman, a former staff director of the House Subcommittee on Africa, recently pointed outthat Lumumba’s violent end foreshadowed today’s American practice of “extraordinary rendition.” The Congolese politicians who planned Lumumba’s murder checked all their major moves with their Belgian and American backers, and the local C.I.A. station chief made no objection when they told him they were going to turn Lumumba over — render him, in today’s parlance — to the breakaway government of Katanga, which, everyone knew, could be counted on to kill him.

Still more fateful was what was to come. Four years later, one of Lumumba’s captors, an army officer named Joseph Mobutu, again with enthusiastic American support, staged a coup and began a disastrous, 32-year dictatorship. Just as geopolitics and a thirst for oil have today brought us unsavory allies like Saudi Arabia, so the cold war and a similar lust for natural resources did then. Mobutu was showered with more than $1 billion in American aid and enthusiastically welcomed to the White House by a succession of presidents; George H. W. Bush called him “one of our most valued friends.”

This valued friend bled his country dry, amassed a fortune estimated at $4 billion, jetted the world by rented Concorde and bought himself an array of grand villas in Europe and multiple palaces and a yacht at home. He let public services shrivel to nothing and roads and railways be swallowed by the rain forest. By 1997, when he was overthrown and died, his country was in a state of wreckage from which it has not yet recovered.

Since that time the fatal combination of enormous natural riches and the dysfunctional government Mobutu left has ignited a long, multisided war that has killed huge numbers of Congolese or forced them from their homes. Many factors cause a war, of course, especially one as bewilderingly complex as this one. But when visiting eastern Congo some months ago, I could not help but think that one thread leading to the human suffering I saw begins with the assassination of Lumumba.

We will never know the full death toll of the current conflict, but many believe it to be in the millions. Some of that blood is on our hands. Both ordering the murders of apparent enemies and then embracing their enemies as “valued friends” come with profound, long-term consequences — a lesson worth pondering on this anniversary.

Adam Hochschild is the author of “King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa” and the forthcoming “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on January 17, 2011, on page A23 of the New York Times.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Women March Against Sexual Violenc

The first lady of the Democratic Republic of Congo's today led thousands of women on a march against sexual violence.

Olive Lembe Kabila headed the rally in the town of Bukavu in the east of the country, where Congolese and foreign armed groups have operated for years.

On Friday, the head of the UN mission in DR Congo, The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO), said an estimated 15,000 people were raped there last year.

The demonstration saw thousands of women walk through the streets of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province.

Many of them carried banners with slogans such as "No to sexual terrorism," according to the AFP news agency.
"Coming here is important because violence towards women is used systematically as a weapon of war," said Miriam Nobre of World March of Women, which organised the march.

Nene Rukunghu, a doctor at a hospital in Bukavu said, "We must fight against impunity, so that the perpetrators of violence are punished, to allow women to regain their dignity. Despite what they endure, Congolese women are strong and able to stand up again."


Deliver Justice to All Congo's Victims

Kinshasa — Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a crucial report that describes the atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during its successive wars from 1993 to 2003.

The scale of suffering is staggering. The range of perpetrators is enormously complex. What is evident, however, is the importance of swift and targeted responses that deliver justice to the Congolese people.

We cannot ignore the need for a response to these international crimes. Judicial accountability remains key to ending the country's history of violence and brutality. In the east, massacres, rapes, and pillage are a routine, wretched reality. Pervasive lawlessness has allowed its biggest group of perpetrators – the Congolese army – to operate without fear of being held accountable.

The publication of the report is a critical step towards breaking the cycle of impunity that has fed the crimes that continue today. It comprehensively describes the gravity of the violence, much of which was directed at women and children, and the chronic failure to respond with any measure of justice.

Many suspected perpetrators of past crimes hold positions in the Congolese government and the army. Who they are is no secret. Certain political officials who took public positions to encourage or provoke these violations, for example, are named in the report.

Also, the High Commissioner now possesses a confidential database of alleged perpetrators, presenting a powerful tool for future judicial investigations. If these individuals are not brought to justice, what is the incentive to do the same for the present perpetrators of violence in the east?

The United Nations Security Council must remain active and push the Congolese government, some of whose most senior members are implicated in the crimes described, to follow the report's recommendations. In keeping with its "responsibility to protect" mandate, the council should address the UN report and initiate judicial and other measures to hold perpetrators accountable.

The report's recommendations for a hybrid criminal tribunal with international and national staff, and a truth and reconciliation commission, for example, demand immediate and serious consideration and support. These measures must be a priority, given the chronic failure to improve the security situation in the east, demonstrated graphically recently by hundreds of recent rapes in the Walikale region.

Truly breaking the country's cycle of impunity and violence also requires a major commitment to reform the country's justice and security systems. Only 12 military trials have been held since 1993 for war-related crimes. Despite long-standing calls to do so, the Congolese government has yet to identify and remove past human rights abusers from the army, police and other security forces. International logistical and other support for the security sector must be made conditional on necessary institutional reform, otherwise we risk supporting an unacceptable status quo.

The Congolese army is not the only state actor implicated: the UN report found a host of state armies – including those of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi – and the proxy rebel groups they controlled to be responsible for crimes.

When a draft version of the report was leaked to the press in August, the government of Rwanda reacted angrily to findings of possible genocide of Rwandan Hutu refugees - who had fled to Congo - by Rwandan-controlled armed factions from 1996 to 1997. In response to the press reports, Kigali threatened to pull Rwandan peacekeepers out of the UN.

Last month's visit to Rwanda by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should not be interpreted as a way of shielding Rwanda from the consequences of the actions of its army and proxies in the DRC. On the contrary, the severity of the atrocities that were committed and the violence endured merit a strong commitment to international justice, regardless of the alleged perpetrator.

The alleged crimes perpetrated by Rwanda remain only part of the story. The complexity of the situation underscores the importance of establishing an independent, internationally-supported judicial mechanism to investigate past abuses and deliver justice across the board. It is vital that the government of the DRC, as well as those of Rwanda and Uganda, act to support its creation.

The Congolese have borne enormous pain. A holistic approach is essential for the country to heal and forge forward. The Security Council should support a national dialogue on the report, ahead of next year's Congolese elections. Perpetrators must be held criminally responsible, the truth of past and present abuses must be revealed, state institutions reformed, and victims should be provided with the means to recover. The peace and stability of the country depend on it.

Source:  David Tolbert, a legal expert and former deputy prosecutor at the Yugoslav tribunal, is president of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Suliman Baldo spent many years documenting violations in the DRC. He is a well known commentator on African justice issues and director of ICTJ's Africa program.

Senior UN Official to Investigate Mass Rape of Civilians

A leading United Nations official in the fight against sexual violence during conflict began a week-long visit to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today to coordinate a response to the mass rape by rebels of more than 300 civilians two months ago in the country’s east.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallström will make an on-site tour of the area of the attacks in North Kivu province.

The known victims include 235 women, 52 girls, 13 men, and 3 boys, some of whom were raped multiple times, according to a preliminary report by the UN human rights report issued last week. At least 923 houses and 42 shops were looted and 116 people were abducted in order to carry out forced labour.

The attacks, which took place mostly after dark in the Walikale region, were carried out between 30 July and 2 August by some 200 members of three armed groups – the Maï Maï Cheka, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and elements close to Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, an army deserter who has in the past been involved with the rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

“The FDLR is once again responsible for grave human rights violations in the DRC,” Ms. Wallström said yesterday in Geneva on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council meeting there. “The establishment of responsibilities must begin with the leaders of this group and with those of other groups for not having prevented these outrages.”

She called on the DRC Government and the international community to mobilize to bring the perpetrators to justice “before the trail goes cold and media attentions flags.” Her mission is “to fight against impunity” and stop this crime against international law from “abandoning the women in their shame and leaving the perpetrators in liberty.”

A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission is already in the country to assess the issue of reparations for rape and sexual abuse victims.

Ms. Wallström will meet with UN agencies and national and provincial officials to speed up the enactment of a global strategy against sexual violence.

Source: UN News Centre (New York)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chapter 7

Diamanthe built Villa Blanca, a few hundred meters away from Medecin sans Frontieres. She owed them big time. Her mouth, lips and jaw had been hit by hundreds of slivers from an acacia tree. The lower part of her face was badly disfigured. Doctor Valero, a Cuban had painstakingly reconstructed her entire mouth and teeth. It had taken fourteen months. He steadfastly refused any money.

"Please. Let me help your country in kind," she had insisted.

He told her sadly."Diamanthe, no country is in the state in which the Congo finds itself. We need plasma, antibiotics, surgical instruments, mosquito nets, clean water, and plastic syringes. The truth is we need everything. It is mind-boggling. Whatever you can do, we will be grateful.”

Did Dr. Valero say they would be grateful? How can I ever repay them? Nothing I do will ever be enough! She reflected with a quivering heart.

She continued her donations even after Dr. Valero was called back to Cuba. All the doctors would have stayed in the Congo ad infinitum, but their health was usually affected, because they worked long hours and the human suffering they saw took its toll. Diamanthe lost track of the doctors. She was only familiar with Anita, the Italo–Congolese nurse because she lived in Kinshasa and no one could make her budge from the Congo.

Soon, dinner would be served at Villa Blanca. Unless she was entertaining a client at the Intercontinental Hotel, which was a five star hotel, it was her custom to dine "en famille."

They were all smiling at her. The twins, Kuya and Dongo, honor roll students at the Catholic Mission School run by Opus Dei; Tonko had a desire to become a priest and a doctor. There was a two-year difference between Kiru and Moko yet they seemed identical twins. Both had seen Akua disintegrate before their eyes: that made them quiet, and very pensive.

Along the way, Diamanthe had found Pepe, a twelve-year-old boy from Mozambique or Angola. He spoke some Portuguese so it was reasonable to assume one of these countries had once been his homeland. He had no clue as to which it was since he was kidnapped at age two. Almost a year ago to the day, Pepe had lost his left leg just below the knee, by stepping on a small land mine, on the outskirts of Kinshasa. Their family outing among the orchids and majestic canopied acacias was ruined. Now, they had picnics only inside the grounds of Villa Blanca.

"Part of the cache of the next batch of diamonds, fancy or white, will go to buy Pepe the finest prosthetic leg. Moko needs a complex operation and we may have to go to Switzerland for that,” announced Diamanthe before sitting down at the head of the table.

To honor her mother and father, the table was always set with hand-embroidered Belgian linen tablecloth, Sevre crystal, Cristoffel silver and Capodimonte porcelain.

Catherine Deneuve, an enigmatic, alluring and luminous French actress and star had recently agreed to finance an Italo-French company, which specialized in the most natural looking and flexible prosthetics for children.

"Pepe would be using a Deneuve prosthetic soon,” she vowed silently.

Pretty seven-year old Jinga, another one of the children whom she lovingly referred to as my pickups, wanted to know,” when will the burn marks on my legs go away?"

Her village, near Lumbambasha, had been bombed with napalm and phosphorus.

"You must try to be patient and I know it’s difficult, petit Chou. For that type of operation we may have to go to Zurich or Paris."

"It’s my turn to sing Mama Marena’s prayer,” said Pepe.

"Our dearest, most precious, never to be forgotten mother," declared Diamanthe, her eyes welling up with tears.

They all held hands and waited, "Mo-ne-tua-ka-sule-kango-Sao-Tome …” sang Pepe in a crystalline and melodious voice, then seven voices joined him in reverent song.

"How come we don’t know what we are singing and what the words mean?" asked Kuya.

He always asked the same question. It was part of their ritual of feeling safe and secure.

"We will discover it eventually by process of elimination," Diamanthe replied as she always did.

"It is not Congolese, or any of it’s offshoots," observed Dongo, Kuya’s twin.

"It is not even close to Swahili," added Tonko and Kiru in unison.

"Shangana Zulu and Zulu, it is not," affirmed Diamanthe.

"Someday, I don’t know when, perhaps when we least expect it, we will discover what language our Beloved Mama Marena’s song is and what it says."

She kept her reflections to herself. The melody is a cross between a lament and a prayer. The word – cross, struck her. In Africa, metaphorically and physically, we are very familiar with the cross. The Romans learnt the practice of crucifixion from the Carthaginians, a Semitic people, who conquered and traded in slaves in every direction of Africa. Mama Africa had known the pain of war and death and captivity long before the Egyptian and Babylonian captivity of the biblical Israelites had taken place, she reflected.

No! No! You must not delve into suffering again. Enough for one night’s reliving of past anguish, she scolded herself.

She was unaware that her mother Marena’s song was a lament sang in Kimbundu, one of the languages of Angola. It told of yearning for lost loved ones the Portuguese had sent to concentration camps on the desolate island of Sao Tome, off the coast of Angola.

She did know it had the tone of suffering, and rather than think of her own suffering she remembered that Madiba, Nelson Mandela, Father of South African Independence, spent 28 years in an infamous concentration camp – Robben Island, some place God had for a time, forgotten about.

Madiba was in Robben Island longer than I have been alive. That’s how I see it anyway. I must always remember that suffering is not unique to me or to members of my family or even to the Congolese.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prologue (revised)

Kinshasa. Democratic Republic of the Congo.
December 17. 1998


I am being offered Ten Thousand Pounds Sterling in gold for my ten year old Zizu, she of the turquoise eyes.

The mercenary Marcel de Merode pondered his situation. That’s not a bad business proposition, but I think I can get more argent – money. Zizu is a dazzling beauty, as her mother Flora used to be. I am certain that I am not her father. The Seller and his agents might care about that because they are obcessed with Goddess blood lines. The way these billionaires go on about their camels and horses genes. Putain la Virge! I would never even mention such a thing. No DNA tests. For that I am grateful to my wives supplications to the Goddess Jiyamangiya, I suppose the daughter of a handsome and merciless jackal like me does not displease them. I won’t concern myself if they don’t seem to.

Flora was endowed with a voracious sexual appetite. Her coupling juju was so fierce; it cooled the fever in my swollen cock. She demanded to be satisfied all the time, and I was helpless before her ripe and clamorous body. I will never again hunger for a woman as much as I did for Flora. I neglected my many businesses and the rest of my huge family.

Marcel had fifteen children, eight grandchildren, three wives and three concubines. They appeared to live in harmony, when he was around. It was all make believe. The intrigues and the character assassination, which took place, were as deadly as those in any harem in the Middle or Far East. Men in polygamous situations invariably fooled themselves into believing they could control their women and keep them in line. The women ensured that their husbands, lords and Masters wallowed in this self-delusion.

"Flora was an independent woman, a troublesome feminist. She filled my wives and concubines’ heads with her feminist jargon. It is nothing but Merde. I wish those bitches the worst bubonic plagues to befall them. Flora was a sexy virago and a troublemaker. I ‘m glad that she is about to do me the favor of riding herself from me.”

He felt a stiff erection growing at the thought of her peach-colored teats, her lithe body, hard ass and sweet smelling vulva. He forced himself not to think of La Belle Fleur – the Beautiful Flower – his unfaithful Flora.

Life in the Congo was difficult enough without a snooty, independent minded concubine who gave herself to every man who struck her fancy.

The tall, urbane, well-dressed Lebanese negotiator Sabry, gazed at his Rolex encrusted with diamonds and did not restrain his impatience.

"Monsieur de Merode, Ten Thousand Pounds in gold is an excellent offer for your daughter. It’s good money. Granted, she is a virgin, has lovely teeth, well-formed bones, and is flowing with good health."

De Merode, ever the mercenary retorted, "Ah! She is a virgin in every orifice, and you forgot to mention those beautiful blue-violet-turquoise eyes, against her olive skin. And you have observed her teeth. They are like pearls from Bahrein. In addition to all that, Zizu can read and write English very well. She is also fluent in French, Portuguese and Congolese."

"Look here De Merode, Twenty Thousand Pounds for your young female. That is my last offer on behalf of my employer."

“In gold? Asked de Merode almost roughly.

“But of course Monsiur,” replied Sabry, who did not attempt to hide the contempt in his voice.

"We have a deal," loudly replied de Merode, who was shocked at the price, but remained impassive at his good fortune. He beckoned to wife number two. "Get Zizu ready. She is going to the Middle East with the gentleman and the veiled woman beside him."

"Should she not say goodbye to her mother?" murmured Onga, in Lingala. As the second wife she was aware that her position and that of her children was tenuous at best, so, she never contradicted de Merode, which is why he shared almost all of his transactions with her. In truth, Onga always agreed to whatever her husband decreed and then did exactly the opposite but in secret. She was devious that way.

"Woman, are you mad? Her mother is dying of sexual putrefaction.” It was his nasty way of expressing himself; that Flora had HIV – Aids.

“If these people come to find out Zizu’s mother is in her last days, they might consider the child contaminated and offer less money or even cancel the sale.”

"But Monsieur husband, they know the child is healthy. They insisted on many tests and even brought their own doctors to examine her,” she protested, keeping her dulcet toned voice even as she glared at De Merode.

"Do as I say. It is in your hands. After a good dinner, when all the other wives and children are asleep, we shall discuss the money and how much I shall give each of you."

"Yes, Monsieur husband, I shall do exactly as you say," Onga replied casting her large eyes demurely down.

To Monsieur Sabry and the veiled woman whom he suspected was either English or American, he explained in French" My daughter will be with you presently. One of my wives is helping her in the preparations."

"Qui. D’accord," replied the husky voice behind the veil. De Merode knew human beings, the kind of venals like him. Indeed, the husky voice was American.

"I think the girl’s mother is either dead, or this killer has disposed of her in some manner. Divorce or murder, I could not give a toss. We have wasted enough time haggling. It is not my concern and I don’t care. I just want to fly back to Riyadh where I am going to mount a seventeen-year-old Princeling, who is equipped with a humongous penis, which is the envy of every stallion in the world. My Grand Master has promised him to me.”

"Candy, Candy, if you are able to acquire the filly with the deepest blue eyes at twenty thousand Euros you have my permission to ride the Princeling and be ridden by him all day and all night," stated her paymaster and absolute owner.

"The elderly Prince had offered fifty thousand pounds for Zizu. The difference will now end up in my Boss and Master’s bottomless pockets. If I initiate the young man into the sexual rites to my master’s satisfaction he might just give me a couple of thousand Euros plus a pretty diamond or two for my pretty pussy."

De Merode spoke to Onga out of the corner of his twisted mouth.

"Bring Zizu to me when she’s dressed prettily. I never liked her. She is not my child. You all know her mother made me cornu (figurative horns of cheated husbands), but we must observe the forms of civility."

There was something feral about the woman with the veil, which reminded him of Flora.

"I can see that she does not tolerate the niqab, which shields her hair and lips from the curious and the lustful. Yet she carries it with grace. She is uncomfortable with the khimar (gown) that covers the naked curves I sense with such craving. This is a creature in a state of perpetual sexual heat. I can smell her. Bien sure. She is definitely wearing the ensemble to hide her true identity."

His antennae warned him to watch his step. He intended to do just that. De Merode was not one to throw away reason in order to whet the appetite of his engorged cock. Flora had vaccinated him against that pussy passion and obsession for all time. He detected a slight Anglo inflection in the woman’s speech.

"And so? Child trafficking and slavery was a global business, just like diamonds, drugs, telecommunications, medicines, weapons of mass destruction, designer clothes, deseases and foodstuffs. The same monopolies involved in all those global empires exploited women and children without a qualm … just like me," reflected de Merode in a greedy and vengeful silence.

Zizu had known her beloved mama was never coming back. That hyena De Merode had ordered all her clothes burnt, her bedroom suite fumigated and then scrubbed with Lysol minutes after he had paid for an ambulance to take her to a private clinic. This had annoyed De Merode.

"Uff! Mother Teresa’s hospice is more than adequate for the putain (slut) but people would have called me cheap. It might become difficult to bed another desirable woman once word spread that I had placed one of my concubines with the Sisters who dedicate themselves to the indigent and the poorest of the poor."

"Mon ange, the cross will remind you of me forever. Remember to say your prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Saint Jude. Promise me.”

The dying Flora had gasped to her Zizu, before she was seized by a paroxysm of coughing, which covered her white dress a bright crimson red. Her daughter would never know that Saint Jude Thaddeus, one of Jesus’ most loved disciples, was the Saint of the Impossible and of all things hopeless.

"Papa is talking to some people in the garden who are going to take you away. If you must know he has sold you for "beaucoup d’argent" a great deal of money.

"Shut up about it Marie Claude. What am I to do with you? It is not your place to reveal such things. Onga is supposed to talk to Zizu and inform her of her new situation," Marie France snapped at her daughter. She was wife number one, and by Congolese law, the only legitimate spouse of Marcel de Merode.

He had taken the rest of his wives in tribal ceremonies and he had paid in goods, which they had demanded. This rendered him responsible to the tribe for their well being, Tribal law was often fearsome for those who dared to break its bonds. He feared its consequences more than the so- called Law.

Marie France felt pity, guilt and relief at the same time. Zizu outshone all her brothers and sisters without even trying. She was aware of this for she was intelligent as well as perceptive. Marie France was an accomplice to the sale of a human being.

“Better he sell Zizu than one of mine,O chere Mon Dieu,” she prayed not with some guilt. She was sensitive enough that she could not stand to remain in the same room with Zizu. She strode out with her eyes downcast.

This revelation from Marie Claude, her eldest stepsister, an envious troll who spied endlessly on all her siblings, wounded her to her entrails.

"My father is selling me for a great deal of money of that I’m sure. That nasty stepsister Marie Claude would not have told me so if it were not true. In the entire world I have a feeling that people are routinely bought and sold. It never entered my mind that it would happen to me,” she spoke these words out loud for all to hear. But there was only silence.

The man I call Papa is probably not my father. I think he always intended to get rid of me as soon as my Mama had left the house. Why? I do not know. But I am not going to allow anything or anyone to upset me. I am not going to give that hateful man who behaved so cruelly towards Mama and brutally cold vis-à-vis me, the certainty that he has wounded me by his rejection of me. What a hateful way to show his rejection. The monster has sold me like a piece of property or a thing.

"I am so sad that I will not get a chance to say goodbye to my Mama before she dies. Last night I prayed that God end her suffering very soon. I think Onga must have known that de Merode was ridding himself of me like a broken piece of porcelain. I will not break down, come what may, for Mama’s sake. It was kind of her not to tell Mama."

In her childish innocence it never occurred to Zizu that the money, which the hyena that was supposed to be her father received from the smartly dressed man and the veiled woman for selling her, would be shared among his all wives and concubines.

"Running away from the murderous de Merode is useless. How could a monster like that have fathered me? The people who have bought me must be powerful people. They will not hesitate to hunt me down like a lion cub. Jesus have mercy on me," Zizu prayed quietly as she resigned herself to her new fate.
Then she pulled herself as tall and erect as her spine would go. At that very instant Onga came into the room. Zizu assailed her with determination.

"There is no need for you to be diplomatic or to use flowery words. Marie Claude with her usual lack of tact has already informed me that I have been sold."

"Oh Child," she murmured, glancing at her briefly and lowering her head. "What else can I say? I am not such a good hypocrite."

Zizu did not reply. She continued examining her books and belongings.
"I might be a thing to be bought and sold but inside my heart and my mind I will always be a free spirit. Nothing will ever crush or cow me. Nothing! I swear to God and to my dying Mama that I will die a free person."

Zizu strode imperiously in a royal blue organza party dress, which heightened the deep blue of her eyes. It was a hand-me-down from Margotte, another stepsister who despised her.

"This is the last time I shall ever be seen in some one else’s rejects. Even if I am more beautiful than you or Margotte and therefore, the dress looks more ravissant (ravishing) on me. From now on, I shall have nothing but Haute Couture," she hissed at Marie Claude, who was too taken aback at Zizu’s catty comments to retort.

"I will outgrow all my clothes. It is pointless to take them," she addressed the mysterious young woman with the veil, who was shod in the highest and most opulent heels she had ever seen, gold leaf. They looked real and she thought that they might be, considering that their occupation was buying and selling pretty children.

"Oh my dear, you will have the most fabulous wardrobe," she replied loudly, bending slightly over Zizu.

"This woman is bathed in the most delicious perfume or perhaps it is oil? I shall have as much as I want except that it will not be so overpowering,” she decided.

Then she answered the woman, "I shall not bother taking my battered suitcase. My leather school bag which Mama gave me will do nicely for my favorite books."

Mama gave me these books because she said they inspired and comforted her. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche and Le Dame au Camellia by Dumas.

"And so it shall be. You are a clever little girl, Zizu," she chuckled, fiddling with the thick gold and diamond circlets on her wrists, which covered her elbows. Each strand had a horned beast in its center, much resembling a devil.

Very visible on Zizu’s neck was her mother’s cross, of rough blue and white diamonds. This caused the woman to suddenly tense but Zizu did not see it because all she could think off was to get away from her wicked Papa.

She approached her father, wound her arms around his bull neck and whispered softly into his ear.

"Monsieur canaille (sewage scum). I curse you. Jesus told us to forgiv but I cannot and will not. I hope never to see you again. I shall always pray for my beloved mother."

Despite the fact that he had just sold a human being, his daughter, an illegal and immoral act in most parts of the world including the Congo, De Merode was an empty vessel. He insisted and constrained everyone around him to observe "the forms." He would have wanted nothing better than to kick the little tart to death with his heavy boots, but he smiled as if she had murmured the sweetest things into his ear.

“It’s the best thing for you Zizu.You will soon be an orphan and girls like you with beauty and brains surely have a better future elsewhere,”uttered Merode the monster.

Zizu turned towards Onga and ignored de Merode’s remarks She smiled her most captivating smile.

"Thank you, Onga, for your kindness.”

"Onga was the only one who came to visit my maman in the clinic and she was generous enough to take me to her, " she reflected silently.

Zizu turned towards the man and the young woman, symbols of her new Master and of a new beginning.

"I’m sure anything will be better than the inferno of de Merode. He has denied my mother and me the mutual comfort of saying adieu, till we meet again. May God punish him and condemn him for all time."

Without a backward glance at De Merode, Onga and the house she had lived in for ten years, Zizu declared loudly and clearly, "Bien. Allez. Madame et Monsieur."

"Ah jolie Zizu, you may call me Candy,” exclaimed the husky voice.

In Saint Mer, a wealthy suburb of Kinshasa, its residents considered Marcel De Merode an odd personality - the Belgian mercenary who went bush and possessed many wives and concubines. He was a rich man because of the raiding and the plundering he had committed all across the Congo as well as Africa.

"La vengeance c’est une plat qui Se mange bien, quand on le mange froid."

"Vengeance is a plate best eaten cold," so declared the French aphorism.

De Merode had sold Zizu for revenge … against Flora, her dying mother and his former great passion. Indeed, his only passion and the one woman he had ever lusted for with his whole heart and soul. Perhaps, he might even have loved her.

"I do not consider that the handsome profit I received for the transaction would ever be adequate compensation for my wounded pride and loss of face before Society.”

What De Merode would never admit to himself was that he did not give a toss about the opinions of so called Society. Flora had hurt him and his thirst for vengeance would never be quenched.

As a consequence, De Merode never felt any guilt or remorse over his action. The passing of time only exacerbated his rage and bitterness.

"I regret I did not ask more pounds sterling for that piglet daughter of a sow. A cheat to the end, Flora died too soon, thus depriving me of my only opportunity to torment her as she did me."

Flora felt a series of stabs perforate her heart and lungs.

“ Something dreadful has befallen Zizu. He has sent her away. That is the punishment De Merode is exacting upon my person. May Jesus and Saint Jude protect her for I am powerless and unable to lift a finger. I hope she had the opportunity to take the four books we both love. Each one of them has a key to a safety deposit box in Credit Suisse, Banque Pictet, Sal Oppenheim and Julius Baer in Switzerland, There is enough liquidity and diamonds in the banks to see her through the best schools and live a very decorous life away from De Merode’s evil clutches. More stabs of endless pain ran through her whole being. Wave after wave of coughing attacks left her in rivers of blood. They colored her gown and her bed crimson. Tears of blood flowed down her cheeks.

“O Deus Meus, I am about to die. I love you Zizu,” she murmured and entered into a coma.

It was past midnight when Onga was at last able to steal away to the clinic.

"Flora died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon. Brother Jean Leon administered the Last Rites. It seems Flora had turned to Sister Nita of the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s Religious Order) when she felt the end was near. They will give her a proper Catholic burial. Flora was Catholic and never abandoned her religious beliefs even if she strayed very far from the flock," the Head Nurse informed Onga.

I envy Flora and Zizu, thought Onga. In one-way or another they have left the Congo. Perhaps they are the lucky ones?

She thanked the Head Nurse and gave her a generous tip. It was a local custom.

"Thank you Madame de Merode, but I cannot accept it. A young stylishly uniformed Congolese Officer, Police I think, who may also be involved with one of the multinationals in the Congo, delivered a thick envelope with more than enough money to build a small mausoleum for Flora dos Santos, beloved mother of Zizu. He assured us that someone powerful in the West would assume the financial responsibility of educating Zizu in Switzerland."

"That could only mean Zizu’s birth father!"

Onga fainted on the spot. When the smelling salts revived her she revealed that just a few hours ago, Zizu was sold in marriage by Marcel De Merode to an unknown family in the Near or Middle East."

"Please keep the secret," she implored the Head Nurse. "There’s no telling what influential and bad men will do to all of us in their wrath. My husband hated Zizu. He might have abandoned her on the streets of another African country or even sold her to marauders who would have raped her until she died."

"Perhaps we could say Zizu just disappeared? She ran away because of the cruel attitude of De Merode towards her? I shall stick by that story if you will," suggested the Head Nurse in desperation.

"We are comforted by the fact that Flora will have a lovely final resting-place. Zizu will certainly lead a serene and pampered life. May God forgive us for passing out these lies," sobbed Onga, who embraced the Head Nurse. Tears of guilt blinded her and she ran out of the clinic to disappear into the night.

"Flora, forgive me. I could do nothing. How can you ever rest in peace? How will I spend the rest of my life knowing I was an accomplice of De Merode because I did nothing?" Onga cried silently.

Her lover’s car was waiting a block away from the clinic. She sat next to him and made sure that her thighs rubbed hard against his. He was ready for her. She saw his unbuttoned trousers. She ran her hands over his genitals and bent down to greet them with her tongue. "Comme ca va mon grande dessert?"

"Don’t be too upset about it. You could do nothing to stop the sale of the child. Your position and mine is precarious enough as it is," said Thierry in solidarity tinged with bitterness.

He was himself one of de Merode’s mercenaries. If he ever found out that all his wives and concubines had chosen men in his army as lovers he would shoot them all dead. Danger was always a concomitant to howling dog sex.

"How much time do we have?" asked Thierry, caressing her thigh and slowly lifting her soft skirt. Onga raised it past her pubic area and spread her legs as an eagle would its wings.

"We have all the time in the world. I gave him a strong sleeping potion," she murmured

"Whose turn is it to look after all the children?" he asked stroking her clitoris lightly.

"Monique (wife number three) is sleeping with him tonight to make sure he does not wake up for any reason. All his drinks, including the water have been mixed with valerian, passiflora, hawthorn and Bella Donna." She explained in short and quick breaths.

"My sweet. Tonight’s the night for good coupling," replied Thierry.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmast Comes Late to the Congo

Christmas comes late to DR Congo
By John James 
BBC, Kinshasa

Millions of members of a Democratic Republic of Congo sect have been celebrating Christmas.

Members of the Kimbanguist church believe Jesus Christ was born on 25 May and not 25 December.

Followers, wearing green for hope and white for purity, have spent the day eating, praying and dancing at a centre in the capital, Kinshasa.
The church has around three million believers, mainly concentrated in central Africa.

It was founded in 1921 by Simon Kimbangu, a self-styled healer and prophet, who was educated by Baptist church missionaries in the west of what was then the Congo Free State.

In 1999 the leaders of the Kimbanguist church decided that after several prophetic "revelations", Christmas should be celebrated on 25 May instead of in December.

This was coincidentally the birthday of one of the church leaders, Salomon Kiangani Dialungana.
They urge the rest of the world to follow suit.

'Great atmosphere'

Encouragement to join the all-day ceremony came from a marching band which headed out of the main compound at the conference centre and into the suburbs to literally drum up enthusiasm.

Mama Annie Sita said she had gone to join her fellow Kimbanguists and spend the whole day together at the church dancing, praying and eating.

Man selling T-shirts
The village of the Kimbanguist founder is called New Jerusalem
"There's a lot of joy here and everyone's singing, which makes for a great atmosphere. People have walked from far and wide to come and celebrate," she told the BBC.

Alcohol was not allowed but the crates of soft drinks were stacked high.
Beside them people sold photos of church leaders. There were also photos of the church's headquarters in the village of Nkamba, which was Simon Kimbangu's home and is now called the New Jerusalem.

Many of those celebrating took their own plastic chairs and large colourful umbrellas to create their own patch of shade.

"We have a revelation - we want everyone to celebrate on 25 May," says Bienvenu Sakuameso, a journalist who works for the church's national television station.

"We don't force, but we only ask them. We say that we have found out this day and we ask them to pray and they too will find out and join us."

So what do Kimbanguists do on 25 December, the traditional date of Christmas.
"For us it's just a normal day," he said.