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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Thu, 22 May 97 11:18:40 CDT
From: "Workers World" <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: What's Next After Mobutu?
Article: 11399


Mobutu Out: What's Next for Congo's Workers and Peasants?

By Monica Moorehead, in Workers World, 29 May 1997

The Congolese people are rejoicing. Mobutu Sese Seko, the former president of Zaire, finally fled the country on May 16 in utter humiliation. He has requested asylum in Morocco.

During his 32-year reign, Mobutu came to symbolize the grossest insensitivity and complete disregard for the needs and aspirations of the Congolese masses. He also amassed a great personal fortune off the backs of the workers and Zaire's abundant resources.

Laurent Kabila, the leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo/Zaire, which carried out a seven-month military campaign against Mobutu, has declared himself the new president. Kabila renamed Zaire the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the help of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Mobutu had been installed as president in 1965 after seizing power from his previous ally, Joseph Kasavubu.

Mobutu's career with the CIA began earlier, however, when he was head of the army. Together with Kasavubu he overthrew the immensely popular Patrice Lumumba in 1961.

Lumumba was the first democratically elected premier of the Congo after independence from Belgium in 1960. He was thoroughly anti-imperialist. When mineral-rich Katanga province seceded at the instigation of Belgium, he called on the Soviet Union for help.

This triggered the coup by agents of Western imperialism. Mobutu and Kasavubu handed Lumumba over to his enemies in Katanga, who immediately killed him.

The assassination of Lumumba set back the national- liberation movement in the Congo for decades.

Mobutu--a willing imperialist stooge

For 32 years, Mobutu was the eyes and ears of his imperialist masters. While Lumumba had been a friend and ally of the Soviet Union, Mobutu proved to be a pro- imperialist counterweight to Soviet support for African national-liberation movements.

This made Mobutu even more attractive to the imperialists. In fact, President George Bush, a former CIA director, referred to Mobutu as "America's oldest and most valued friend on the African continent."

Mobutu played a dual role during his tenure. He used the repressive police and military to crush any mass resistance to the brutal super-exploitation of the Congolese people. And he gave carte blanche to monopoly finance capital based in the United States, England, France and

Belgium to plunder the extraordinary resources of the third- biggest country in Africa.

The imperialists made billions of dollars in profits in the Congo--home to 60 percent of the world's cobalt reserves and rich in many other minerals, including diamonds.

The Congo's raw materials make it potentially the richest country on the continent. Yet it is one of the world's poorest in terms of infrastructure and development, thanks to hundreds of years of foreign domination.

Annual gross income is $150 per person.


Despite Mobutu's role in the past, the U.S. ruling class was happy and relieved when he left the country. In fact, it was Washington's covert actions that finally pulled the rug out from under him.

Did Washington suddenly realize that Mobutu was no friend to the Congolese people? Or was there an underlying reason why the United States wanted to get rid of its former puppet?

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Washington and Wall Street decided that Mobutu had become a liability. They had been maneuvering to get rid of him ever since.

The big-business press started labeling him a "brutal dictator"--as if this was news to them.

The imperialist powers are the biggest enemies of the Congolese workers and peasants. The United States wants to deepen its exploiting role in the Congo via the imperialist banks and corporations in any way possible, including using the United Nations.


The May 17 New York Amsterdam News reported that the UN Conference on Trade and Development has issued a report called "World Investment Directory on Africa." It encourages foreign investment in Africa.

Another study--this one by the International Monetary Fund-- encourages transnational corporations to transfer their capital from Southeast Asia to Africa because labor is cheaper there.

What remains to be seen is whether the new Kabila regime will pursue a course independent of Wall Street and the banks, whose agenda is keep all of Africa under the thumb of international finance capital. The New York Times reports that Kabila wants to create a "free-market" economy and encourage foreign investment. Only time will tell.

Washington and Wall Street don't seem too worried. In April the Wall Street Journal reported that Kabila was signing contracts with super-rich U.S. investors looking to privatize the Congo's copper mines and cobalt reserves.

On the other hand, the United States was a little alarmed at Kabila's plans to nationalize Sizarail, which is a consortium of South African, Belgian and Zairian companies and an important railroad link. Right now, President Kabila seems an enigma to U.S. and Western finance-capital interests.

He seems to be preoccupied with putting together his new cabinet. Some of the main prospects include Mwenze Kongolo, a lawyer who worked in the Philadelphia district attorney's office, for justice minister, and for finance minister, Mwana Mawampanga, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky.

There is also the task of reconstituting a native armed force. Kabila's AFDL, which routed Mobutu's army, is made up mainly of troops from Uganda and Rwanda and is dominated by Tutsi officers.

Washington is "encouraging" Kabila to set up a broad provisional government that would include other bourgeois elements. Encouragement in this case means that the more Kabila "behaves," the more financial aid he will receive. Washington also wants Kabila to hold "democratic" elections as soon as possible.

Chester Crocker, assistant secretary of state for Africa from 1981 to 1989, sounded confident in a May 17 commentary in the New York Times: "The point is that we and our friends control the keys to the clubs and the treasuries that Kabila will need to tap if he is going to rebuild the country--the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, our development fund and those of the Europeans. So we have a tremendous amount of influence if we choose to use it. ... Kabila naturally concluded that he had a blank check, so it's important that we condition any support to his sharing power with other people."

What will President Kabila's relationship to the masses be once his presidency is consolidated? Will his coming to power give impetus to the class struggle? What will his relationship to the already established compradore bourgeoisie be?

It was not the revolutionary intervention of the masses that got rid of Mobutu, as much as they hated him. There is every indication that U.S. imperialism helped finance the outside African military force that brought about his downfall.

But the ouster of Mobutu does signal a new phase in the struggle of the Congolese people for true national liberation. Hopefully, it could lead to new formations of mass and political organizations.

Mobutu's ouster is also a significant development for the African continent as a whole. There remains great revolutionary potential to carry out a protracted struggle against neocolonialism--the greedy imperialist bankers and the billions of dollars in profits they have accrued with their cruel austerity measures, low wages and domination over whole economies.

It would certainly be justifiable and in order, for the struggle of the long-suffering Congolese people to develop under more favorable conditions, for the debt incurred under Mobutu's rule to be canceled. Of equal importance would be for the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist forces-- especially in the United States--to take up this demand in a concrete, political manner.

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@workers.org. For subscription info send message to: info@workers.org. Web: http://workers.org)