Congolese protesters without cause

20 May

Last week some Kenyans demonstrated against demands by their Members of Parliament for a pay rise even before they settle into their new job. They even enlisted the support of animals to make their case. And boy, did they make their point most pointedly – snout, ears, grunts and all!

The humans made a lot of noise, denouncing their representatives for showing such unbridled greed.  They even had time for a scuffle with other, uniformed, armed, silent but more menacing humans.

The pigs (who said they are stupid?) seemed unperturbed by the unfamiliar surroundings and whole human fracas around them. They rather seemed to enjoy the bloody meal liberally splashed on the tarmac. They went about their grunting licking of the stuff on the road unaware of the bloody letters on their backs, or if they did, they did not show any concern. The writing could have been beauty marks for all they cared.

However, the humans, as is their wont, saw in the whole drama evidence of their wanton spirit and condemned the hastily (and forced) arranged solidarity between pig and man against greed as cruelty to one of the parties and insult to the other.

The religious, especially among politicians (difficult to see how the twain happily lie together) could not stand being likened to haram. Question: Is clamouring for a pay hike before you do any work any less haram?

The self-righteous politicians saw in the symbolism an insult to their dignity. I don’t know how they reconcile such noble concern with an instinct for the self-awarding of pay and other perks. But of course politicians have this singular ability of seeing vice as virtue and vice versa when it suits them. No qualms about the flip flop or contradiction.

By far the loudest condemnation of the unsolicited support of the pigs in the protest came from animal rights groups. They saw in the protesters’ action cruelty and a blatant violation of the animals’ rights. Pigs rarely receive attention, let alone backing, except when is served. But this time people were prepared to die defending their animal dignity. They were lucky. They had someone to stand up for them.

Not so some humans in Oxford a few days later. Last Saturday, a bunch of Congolese were bussed to Oxford to protest President Paul Kagame’s visit to the ancient and famous university. They stood there, hungry, waiting to do their masters’ bidding.

Unlike the Nairobi pigs, however, no one protested that it was immoral to use hungry people this way. No one raised a voice that they had been cruelly uprooted from their land by the sponsors of the plunder of their country. None condemned the abuse of their rights – to food, employment, enjoyment of the bounty of their land and the right tom protest in their own homeland. Not a soul said a thing about their right to prevent their country from sliding into total ruin. Above all no one had told them anything about human dignity.

The sad irony of the sorry sight of the Congolese in Oxford was that their protest was misplaced. They aimed their anger at the wrong person while they actually acted for the continued plunder of their homeland. Without knowing it, they were aiding and abetting the confirmation of their country into failed statehood.

Again, unlike the pigs in Nairobi which had a sumptuous meal to make participation in the protest worth their while, the Oxford bunch had nothing except perhaps misplaced hatred and a free bus ride to the spot.

This is part of Africa’s tragedy. When pigs elicit more sympathy and when their rights seem to be more important than those of human beings, something is sadly wrong.

It is unfortunate that Africans have to leave their home, live in abject conditions in Europe or America only to be herded into demonstrations about things they know little about.

It is a tragedy when they live off crumbs when their country, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, is reportedly awash with all the world’s most precious stones that you can mine by only scratching the surface of the earth. Would it not be more worthwhile for the protesting lot to go back home and pick diamonds and gold by merely straying into the bush than be herded into buses in much the same way other Africans were led to ships off Africa’s west coast to go and enrich other lands, yet remain forbidden from enjoying the fruits of their labour?

Is it not a shame that the DRC, the wealthiest country in Africa in natural resources has the largest number of Africans living in the slums of Europe? The country’s minerals continue to be shipped out by the same people that are all too eager to get the poor Congolese out on the streets to protest against the wrong person.

No one – not even the most vocal of human rights groups – has raised any concern about their rights or plunder of their nation by the sponsors of protests.

In Nairobi, pigs will be protected against abuse. In other places human beings do not matter. That’s sad and shocking, and shouldn’t be allowed to happen.


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