During the Pan Africanism Today Congress in Zambia, María Torrellas interviewed Ernest Wamba Dia Wamba, senator of The Democratic Republic of Congo. He was The President of The Congolese Rally for Democracy against Kabila in 1998. He is also a professor, historian and militant of the social movement Mbongi A Nsi. Link to the First Part.
– In the first part of the interview you were talking about colonization times, the Catholic religion was also an imposition of colonialism? Because there was another African religion.
With King Leopold (1835-1909) in Belgium, agreements were made with the Vatican that in Belgian Congo, all priests had to be Belgian and the pope then accepted this. So this made that the catholic church was almost a State, always in agreement with the colonial government. And they were hostile to the Protestant churches and their schools often did inspections to check the curriculum. I was in a Protestant church, because our school was of Swedish missionaries, and the Swedish couldn’t understand why the Congolese people were being governed by a small country, Belgium. So, while teaching us, they were telling us all the time that we had to be independent. So, there were quite a few protestants coming to be aware of the existence of socialist or communist literature, because many of this missionaries didn’t mind but when the cold war became important and Congo had to be among the free world, then began to came the moral armament organizations. My father was a catechist, so one day he asked, “what is communism?” And I explained: “Communism is sharing and solidarity”, etcetera, and he said: “But that it is good!”. So he went to the missionaries and said: “my son said that communism is to share, isn’t this what the first Christians were doing?” And they said “Oh, no, you got it wrong, your son didn’t explain it well. Communist is to share wives…” (laughs). So my father came disillusioned. And I said: “they were just trying to confuse you, this isn’t true”. This is just to say that because of the imperative that we should not be aware of communism, campaign after campaign, being a communist became something extremely dangerous. The few graduates of the university we had after the independence, many of them were invited to the US, and when they came back they were sponsored by the Belgian intelligence and US intelligence and you find that the Congolese intelligence, up until the ‘66 or ‘67, was pro-US and completely anti-Lumumba.
– You have been studying traditional religious communities in Congo, and you talk about “Spiritual Independence”, can you explain this topic?
Religion has become a field that seems to be one major source of violence up the mass massacres or terrorism. Religion is an organized system of advocacy of the adoration of a deity. Globalised capitalism, dominated by fewer and fewer people (62 people controlling the income of half of humanity) and generating up to 2 billion people who have no place in the system—neither owner, worker nor consumer. These people easily, due to the impasse of existence, give themselves to personal nihilism and be attracted to certain kinds of deities’ advocacy. In part this is facilitated by the lack of spiritual independence. Spirituality is different from religion, it aims at continuous amelioration of character.
I have been studying traditional religious communities, in the D R Congo, which, following prophet Simon Kimbangu’ call, to work for spiritual maturity and achieve spiritual independence, without which there can be no material independence, these are the communities which advocate the idea that the country is still under the triple colonization of spirituality, politics and knowledge producing. The whole issue of mental decolonization gravitates around this question. A French writer, Marc Auge, has recently speculated on how the world without religion would look like. He thought that maybe what the world is facing now would diminish and maybe we would see clearly how to deal with man’s humanity.
In any case, the colonial (and slavery) formatting of colonized people’s culture-psychological consciousness needs to be reformatted to achieve the sought for spiritual independence. This requires a real understanding of the African History since its beginning.
– Now Is there a political party from the left that can go to elections, and is with the people or comes with reforms?
Right now, we have 500 political parties. Christian, democrats, social democrats, there is even a communist party, a socialist party. Those are just labels because they are all doing things to get into posts of State, and there is no real linkage, real deep-rooted into the masses of people. This elites are only interested in joining the state to be close to the treasury, because this is the only place you can get to be rich quickly, because there is no employment even for graduates of the university. So, you can’t say that those parties are communist, nor from the left (laughs). There are some few individuals talking in the sense that there must be a change, we could call this individuals probably “left”. And there is a youth that is starting to be a little more committed to change.
– Your are talking about the social movement Lucha?
Yes, Lucha, Flimby (another popular youth movement) , even the people in my group, Mbongi A Nsi —the problem is that to really get the people mobilized and organized requires some kind of organizational sophistication, not just commitment to help, you also need structure, and so we are trying to advise this. You should also develop organizational capacity, even for self defense, because now most of the leaders are being arrested, if it continues to be this way we may end up leaderless. You need structure, you need organization, and for a long time we all need above-ground organization and underground organization. But I’m just giving my opinion.
– Then, your government is a dictatorship?
Well, a dictatorship and more of a personal kind. People around one person. And off course the sycophants tell him to stay.
Dictatorships in the past often had programs. Even if they were fascists, they had a program. Some people think of Stalin as a dictator: he had a program. In Italy they also had a program. But here there is no real program that we can talk of… It’s more like “he must stay in power”. Even if the mandate is finished you want to stay in power, and they make it difficult for people. You speak, you are arrested. If they have a chance they will poison you, quite a few people have been poisoned. Trying to eliminate those potential people who can make a difference. You stage a march, they shoot and many get killed. Last year, in February, people marched to protest against the change of the electoral law and a shooting took place. The official number of people killed was 40, but this is just the number they can give account of, because about the same time we discovered a mass grave with 425 bodies dead in the massacre. The government said this are just bodies of poor people who couldn’t afford to bury their dead. But you don’t do this, you don’t just treat dead bodies as garbage. So, now they are being asked to get those bodies out and check to see whether those bodies were of the people who died, as the government said, so that they can make a case. Until now, nothing has happened.
The situation is very very tense. People are very scared. What LUCHA are trying also to give a certain confidence to the people, but they are being hit very hard. So, anybody trying to do something that may awaken people is seen as vengeance. So that is the kind of dictatorship we have, people disappearing, people dying, suddenly then you find out that they have been poisoned, that is the situation.
– Another subject you have been studying is the need to achieve the unification of Africa.
Africa is now faced with the danger of a new scramble and re-colonization. Africa, since the emergence of Capitalism, has been the fertilizer of capitalist tree whose fruits it has hardly real access to. Every time Europe faced a crisis—need for people to appropriate the New World, need of products from Africa produced in Africa, etc.—Africa was looked to for possible solution. With Europe in financial crisis, the USA and Asia in need of natural resources found in Africa, Africa seems to be flirted. In 1993, Under Secretary of State (US), George Moose, for example, said in the US Senate, that the US wants to have a direct access to African natural resources without passing through Europe. Since then, we see that the US military presence (Africom) on the African continent is rising. Quite a few American related transnational corporations are operating in Africa. What happened in Libya, Sudan and around the Great Lakes Region, is an indication of what Africa might continue to face. The People’s Republic of China needs also increasingly African natural resources and its military presence has started—South Sudan.
Despite the long history of the OAU/AU, the unification of Africa does not seem to be proceeding. The defense of the continent has not been possible. Africa has been under siege for centuries. NATO intervened in Libya for access to oil under the pretext of the (violent) democratizing mission to Libya. The AU could not do much to defend the AU member. France, for similar reasons of resources, made a coup d’Etat to overthrow Gbagbo, the AU failed to do much. Where the AU has been involved in to restore peace; it has been on the basis of UN support. Of course France’s military presence is being re-consolidated. Faced with this situation, the need for African unity is urgent. The existing microstates are not going to really achieve that unity which, in the main, is seen by many rulers as a threat. The issue must be taken organizationally to the African people themselves to develop, from the grassroots, a solidarity movement for an African people’s unification of Africa. This is the issue I have been studying. What are the social forces most likely to incarnate that movement? There are, for example, so many refugees around the continent; they may be one interested group, etc. What forces in the world are likely to express solidarity with that kind of movement?
(Portrait of a boy with the map of the world painted on his face)
– We have come to this conference, Pan Africanism today, do you think that is a contribution to that unification needed of Africa?
First, It’s a very good initiative because for the first time you have almost three continents, people who are seeking for alternatives to meet and to discuss the way forward not only in each of our countries but also around the world, and most importantly we are focalizing on Africa, the possibility of the unity of Africa, so this is very positive. Also, the second positive thing is that by the year 1890 the proletarian internationalism almost died, so we need a new form of internationalism. Now, we have organizations from Latin America, the Caribbean from the US, so that may also be an element that may lead to some kind of internationalism, of the people that are working with the masses of our various countries.
– Finally, let’s end this interview with a little hope. Let’s talk about the future of socialism, the subject of this Pan Africanism conference. How do you see the situation, the movements that we count on, in this moment that you have explained very well… how can we get to socialism?
More and more the youth, even the elderly, are re-awakening, they are now starting to say: “but why can’t be think on our own?” During the cold war we couldn’t think on our own, we couldn’t have an independent vision, in fact, Dulles has said “neutralism is immoral”, but now they are saying: “why can’t we have our own thinking, we need alternatives”, so now people are looking for alternatives.
For example, some countries, like China… how come China has reached the level it has reached? How come the Russians they are taking the stand they are taking? So maybe there is something different. So, I think that is what is going to make socialist ideas become more widespread in the youth, because for the moment the only socialism we know is in the party, and is the kind of socialism they have in Europe, socio-democratic, etc. But there radical ones now, they are thirsty for literature, radical literature.
About the issue that you asked, the answer is yes, but how can we organize ourselves differently than the way these parties have been organized. Ideologically we need to take a stand on this because there are all these vanguard parties, but you don’t just need people saying “ah, these are nicer than the others”. People have to be committed and come to the conclusion that this is the best way to be organized, at least in our group, that’s what we are doing. What do we learn from Marx, or from Lenin? For a long time I’ve been telling them that Lenin, before creating the party, poses study: “studieren, organisieren, propagandieren”. His study found forces arising, he found the State all the time attacking people. So he arrived to the conclusion of 4 necessities to be dealt with. Necessity of alliance between workers and peasants, necessity of having an aggressive military if necessary to contend the aggression of the State. Necessity for having committed people, Marxist if possible. Necessity of having a global national point of view and because of that you need an operator, this operator is the Party, a social-democratic party. It’s not like we make an instrument and it’s done. I have the feeling that we are going to get there, because even LUCHA is now asking how we coordinate ourselves, those in the South, those in the East, etc., and what to do to resist the aggressive violent element from the State, what do we do to have people who are committed, we can not just rely on the subjectivity of just wanting to change, we need committed people
Sooner or later my feeling is that we’ll get to a real socialist kind of party. In the real sense, not like the sense of the social-democratic Parliamentarian party (laughs).