Editor’s Note: This excerpt comes from David von Reybrouck’s Congo: The Epic History of a People. Nothing that follows in Reybrouck’s account comes as any surprise to me. I’ve studied the DRC for years and I am already familiar with this story. Negro rule has done this to civilization everywhere in Africa.
Here in the United States, we often here cries from SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) for the sort of “black empowerment,” emancipation from European concepts like property rights, market forces, and the rule of law, that was achieved in Haiti after independence in 1804 and in the Democratic Republic of Congo under Mobutu in the 1970s:
“But it was still not enough. On November 30, 1973, he made a drastic decision. He had just returned from a tour of China, where he had seen the country’s planned economy. “The peril is more white than yellow,” he said upon his return. “Politically we are a free people, culturally we are becoming that, but in economic terms we are not at all the masters of our fate.”
Mobutu applied the profound insights of “black power” to eliminate the “white peril” from the rest of the economy of the Democratic Republic of Congo:
“Mobutu began a process of “Zairianization”: those small- and medium sized businesses, plantations, and trading companies still in the hands of foreigners, a few thousand enterprises in all, were expropriated and given to his faithful followers. From one day to the next, Portuguese restaurant owners, Greek shopkeepers, Pakistani TV repairmen, or Belgian coffee growers saw the work of a lifetime disappear. At the head of their company came a Zairian from the president’s circles who usually had no sense of how to run a business. In the best of cases he allowed the original owner to work on as manager and came by each month to collect the profits. In the worst cases, he immediately emptied the till and sold all the stocks on hand.”
By this point, Mobutu had already nationalized the lucrative copper industry in Katanga, the economic engine of the Belgian Congo, but when that proved insufficient to finance his growing class of “state bourgeoisie” (later they were nicknamed the “Big Vegetables”) he grabbed whatever in the economy that was still left in the hands of Europeans.
“The consequences were grotesque. An elegant lady who never left the capital might suddenly be running a quinine plantation on the other side of the country. Gentlemen who couldn’t tell a cow from a bull became heads of a cattle company. Generals were allowed to run fisheries, and diplomats soft-drink factories. Minister of Information Sakombi became the owner of a series of newsstands and movie theaters, but also of a few sawmills. Bisengimana received the Prince de Ligne plantations on Idjwi, which comprised one-third of the island itself. Our friend James Kolonga, a small fish in the network around the president, became the head of a lumberyard in his native district.”
It was a great stride forward for social justice.
“The party animal from the capital was now suddenly required to manage a stock of tropical hardwood. Some made a mess out of it, others rose to the occasion. In one fell swoop, pop star Franco became the new owner of Willy Pelgrim’s recording empire, a sector with which he was indeed familiar. Thanks to Zairianization, Jeannot Bemba became the country’s wealthiest businessman. He was made chairman of the employer’s association and even started his own airline, Scibe Zaire. Finally, Mobutu treated himself to fourteen plantations spread all over the country. He controlled a quarter of the production of cacao and rubber, had twenty-five thousand people on the payroll, and so became the nation’s third biggest employer. Thanks in part to the mining revenues, he was now estimated to be the world’s eighth richest man.”
This is pretty much what happened in Haiti too after the triumph of the blacks in the Haitian Revolution. The black political class took over the plantations, drove out the Whites, and wrecked them in spectacular fashion.
“But Mobutu saw his country, and it was not good. In late 1974 he switched to “radicalization.” Ailing companies were now taken over by the state. That way they could continue to yield revenue and with those yields he could stay on friendly terms with his friends. It had not been a good idea, letting them run the companies. But this new economic reform worked out badly as well. Without asking for it, Mobutu, that close friend of the Americans, suddenly found himself stuck with a communist economy. By means of a third reform, this one dubbed “retrocession” (rhetoric was the only branch of business still solidly on its feet), he tried to give the plucked and dressed companies back to their original owners, but they were no longer interested in the least.”
After Africanization, Congo’s economy was now dependent on the capricious whims of a dictator, and once the precedent was set it destroyed trust and there was no changing course. The same thing happened in Zimbabwe in the 2000s.
“In 1960 an unskilled worker had to work one day in order to pay for a kilo (2.2 pounds) of freshwater fish; by the mid-1970s that same worker needed to work ten days to do so. Food became unaffordable and consumed the entire family budget. Farming in the interior had been neglected. Why should a farmer cultivate his land when there were no more roads to bring his goods to market? Zaire, one of the world’s most fertile countries, therefore became highly dependent on expensive, imported food. Cans of tomato paste were unloaded in the harbors, while in the interior, tons of beefsteak tomatoes hung rotting on the plant.”
Social justice had been achieved though.
Note: The Democratic Republic has enough arable land to feed all of Africa several times over, it has the world’s greatest bounty of minerals, it has over a quarter of the world’s potential hydroelectric power, and it has a vast surplus of labor. The only thing it lacks is a population that has the capacity to maintain civilization.