Congo: The Sucking Vortex Where Africa’s Heart Should Be

That’s according to Time magazine’s Alex Perry (7/5/10):

If you want to see what’s wrong with Africa, take a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The size of Western Europe, with almost no paved roads, Congo is the sucking vortex where Africa’s heart should be. Independent Congo gave the world Mobutu Sese Seko, who for 32 years impoverished his people while traveling the world in a chartered Concorde. His death in 1997 ushered in a civil war that killed 5.4 million people and unleashed a hurricane of rape on tens of thousands more. Today AIDS and malaria are epidemic.

This is all a set-up to explain that China is venturing into the Heart of Darkness in a whole new way, investing billions on infrastructure projects in return for things like mineral concessions.

But if you’re going to charge Congo with being “what’s wrong with Africa,” you’d better give credit where credit is due. Independent Congo didn’t give the world Mobutu; that gift belongs to the U.S. and Belgium, who supported the overthrow and assassination of democratically-elected Patrice Lumumba and helped prop up the horror that was Mobutu for decades afterward.

Perry goes on to write that “the Western way of helping has been with aid” while, by contrast, “Beijing doesn’t do gifts; it does deals.” Besides “gifts” like Mobutu, the bulk of Western aid come with so many strings attached that the distinction between “gifts” and “deals” is little more than a semantic game.

The lesson from this article? If you want to see what’s wrong with Africa, don’t look to Time to find out.

(h/t Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo)

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.