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Congo and Reverse Colonialism
by Greg Pomeroy
9 July 2003Joseph Kabila, President of Congo

Nothing short of a wholesale takeover of Congo by an outside force can save it, and France is just the country for the job.


With President Bush focusing the world’s attention on Africa with his five day, five nation trip, it’s time we took a deep breath and looked at the nation there in the worst situation: the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Congo is a resource-rich country (copper, diamonds, gold, silver, zinc) roughly one-fourth the size of the United States located in Central Africa, just this side of hell. A civil war has burned for the last five years killing over 3 million people, more than any war since World War II. This war kills with vicious weapons: famine, disease, machetes, rocket-propelled grenades. There is an entire town run by children. There are reports of cannibalism.

A peace pact is currently in place in Congo, and Congo is trying to form a new, more inclusive, government. But this almost certainly won’t do anything, experts agree, except create a short lull in the fighting. There have been three previous peace pacts; they did zero.

So what could stop this horrific conflict? Nothing. Well, nothing short of a wholesale takeover of the country by an outside force. An overwhelming force that would go into an African country to save and preserve the country’s riches and rights for its people. How odd. And how desperately needed. Call it reverse colonialism.

Something like this would be quite costly to the occupying country, both financially and in military lives. It would have to be a last resort, the very last resort. But then the Congolese were ready for a last resort years and millions of lives ago.

It is likely that the government in Kinshasa headed by Joseph Kabila (his father Laurent was assassinated in year three of this war) would welcome a temporary occupying army. For one thing, it would mean Kabila would get back the half of the country he’s lost to the country’s various rebel groups. Kabila would likely get to stay on as leader until the rule of law could be established and democracy planted.

And if something like a country going into another country to save it for its people sounds somewhat familiar, it should. Think Iraq.

It is becoming clearer every day that it doesn’t matter if we find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because it is obvious that life was so horrific under Saddam that the invasion was more than justified. And life for the Congolese is worse now than it ever was for the Iraqis. But who could accomplish for Congo what we (and the Brits and Australians) accomplished in Iraq? Who could best learn from our example and follow it?

France. Yes, France.

France has had, and continues to have, very close ties to sub-Saharan African. Stronger than the United States’ and probably stronger than any other European country’s. As evidence, over 50 African countries sent their leaders or other representatives to the annual Franco-African summit in Paris on February 20 of this year. And France is very familiar with the situation in Congo in particular: it is already leading a multinational force there of about 1,400.

This would be a huge sacrifice for the French. So, what’s in it for them? It’s the right thing to do, but with the French, that’s clearly not enough. But there’s much more. France here has a chance to earn the respect of the world. The respect it deeply desires and failed to get through its attempt to keep the United States out of Iraq. A French invasion and temporary occupation of Congo would also help to ease the impression around the world that France has always been, and continues to be, militarily weak.

Now the French didn’t originally colonize Congo (Belgium did), but this isn’t about making up for past wrongs; it’s about doing what’s right, right now. Does France have the power and the willpower to do it? Let’s just say that we only know for sure that it has the power (especially if the Congolese government is accommodating).

An important byproduct of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is the fear and respect we’ve earned in the region. Iran and Syria in particular no doubt feel self-conscious about every move they make. Is Iran next? Is Syria next? These questions have been asked not just in the Washington but also in Damascus and Tehran.

An occupation of Congo by France would also send a message to other African countries. Liberia, Sudan and Zimbabwe come quickly to mind. Zimbabwe, especially, could use a wake up call and a rude awakening. It is clear that Robert Mugabe won’t leave office there unless a gun is put to his head. Reverse colonialism in Congo by the French would serve notice that the gun is locked and loaded.

Put a little glibly, it’s time France invaded another country for a change. Having been saved by others in two world wars, it’s time France saved someone else. And if they resolved to do it, I seriously doubt the United States, or anybody else for that matter, would run crying to the United Nations to try to stop them.

Greg Pomeroy is a high school English teacher and freelance writer who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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