Freedom News

Whose lives matter (we who are darker than blue)

Palestine is burning. Ukraine is on fire. That’s just the facts. The genocide in Gaza and the constant siege Vladimir Putin is putting Ukraine under are worthy causes to shine a spotlight on. Both conflicts have involved the deaths of untold thousands. Journalists and aid workers alike have been the victims of senseless murder by State machines insatiable for the blood of those unable to defend themselves. These are conflicts that the world has been up in arms about,. While those who rule over us allow these atrocities to continue, we have made our stances clear by taking direct action to oppose our States’ implicit approval of these acts.

However, if you dig (and I mean really dig) for stories that aren’t getting as much coverage, you’ll notice our darker-skinned comrades around the world, especially on the continent of Africa and in the Caribbean are going through just as much suffering, though with noticeably fewer eyes on them. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why, but I’mma break it down in case you didn’t know. I’d like to look at the world’s biggest humanitarian crises and why you’ll have barely heard a mention of them on the news, or even on your social media feeds.

A brief picture

In the Congo, nearly 7 million people have been internally displaced or made refugees, making it one of the largest displaced countries on planet Earth with over 25m struggling every day even to get a scrap of food in their bellies. It is the largest hunger emergency in the world by a country mile. The conflict between M23, a militant group funded by the Rwandan State, and the army of Felix Tshisekidi, the new president of Congo (who won an election that was called a farce by many election observers), is replete with extrajudicial killings and rapes committed by both sides. Since 2022, one in three children have been forced out of education and one in seven women have experienced sexual violence under the age of 18, showing plainly to the world that two despotic dickheads with their hands on the levers of State power have almost done enough to damn a generation to poverty, illiteracy, hunger and bloodshed.

Why, you may ask? Well M23, the militant group backed by Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, is mostly ethnic Tutsi, while the Congolese soldiers based in the east of the country are mostly Hutu. “Just blacks murdering each other!” you might exclaim. “Nothing to do with us”. But you’d be dead wrong; it has everything to do with us, as I’ll explain a little later. Another reason is the minerals, particularly coltan. Congo is one of the most mineral-rich countries on Earth, and coltan (of which 64% of the world’s deposits reside in the Democratic Republic) is an absolute necessity for the production of smartphones and laptops. These minerals, as well as the labour of the Congolese who mine them (in some messed up conditions, I might add) are exploited by the State actors of Its neighbours and the corporations in the West and China that go on to build our everyday luxuries and weapons of destruction.

Sudan is in equally dire straits; its slide into the status of a “failed state” was halted only by the grassroots work of Sudanese people on the ground. Rival generals have been locked in a spiral of bloodshed to gain control of the levers of power, resources and strategic importance that Sudan has. Ten million people have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict last year, making it the largest internal displacement catastrophe in the world, and 18m face starvation, making the food insecurity second only to the Congo. What’s worse is that there is evidence of the ethnic cleansing of the Masalit people of West Darfur, committed by one of the forces in this conflict, the RSF (Rapid Support Force).

The genocide of the Masalit people is a stain on our collective conscience and is just as appalling as the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. The war in Sudan is exacerbated and complicated by proxy conflicts from States which all have a vested interest, not in the people of Sudan, but in the power they can accrue. The UAE is in conflict with Saudi Arabia and Turkey against Libyan forces, Egypt against Ethiopia, and even the European war between Russia and Ukraine has spilled out into Sudan. How and why, you may ask? Well, I’ll spill the tea. Omar Al-Bashir, Sudan’s genocidal former authoritarian, formed the RSF as a pressure group to protect him from coups and as a rent-a-soldier to Libyan and UAE forces in their respective conflicts. After the popular Sudanese uprising, Al-Bashir was deposed. The people were, once again, betrayed by those in power, the generals in both the Sudanese military and the RSF, which led to the fighting we see today. The advanced weaponry we see in the conflict has been brought to Sudan by regimes which seek to protect their “investments” in the country, namely its massive oil and gold reserves.

“So, why have I never heard of these conflicts? Or the crisis in Haiti, which you didn’t even mention?”

After all, with these conflicts, there are genocides, rampant forced migrations and upcoming or present food crises, just like in the conflicts we’ve been following in Ukraine and Gaza; what is the difference? Well, these people are black. As much as we all loathe to admit in polite society, there’s no difference between one dead n*gger and 1,000. In both the US and Britain, from the healthcare system (in the US, black women are four times more likely to experience complications in childbirth and die from them) to mass incarceration (despite making up 3% of the UK population, black people make up a majority of the sufferers of Britain’s carceral terrorism) black lives are seen as invisible, inferior and disposable and this doesn’t change when we get out of our own countries.

Remember the comment “nothing to do with us” earlier?

The ethnic tensions in both Congo and Sudan, Hutu vs Tutsi in the former, Arab and Non-Arab in the latter, have roots in British and the Belgian colonial rule. For decades they used the age-old tactic of divide and conquer, inflaming tensions between ethnic groups that did not exist beforehand. Our so-called leaders do not give a damn about people with dark skin and have shown time and again they will grind them underfoot to achieve what they need, be it minerals in Congo, gold in Sudan, or the Saudis for the strategic importance of the Red Sea. Black bodies mean nothing to these bloodthirsty parasites, they will continue to let them pile high. And as long as we get our smartphones, laptops, cameras and electric cars, we’ll be tempted to turn a blind eye too. The Global North is in debt to the Global South for the resources they extract and the labour they exploit, not only in the era of chattel slavery but today. They see the Congo and Sudan as pieces of a puzzle to be moved about in a morbid game of geopolitics, not as starving children, raped women or dying men. For every dollar raised for Ukraine in 2022, there were barely 25 cents raised for the world’s ten next neglected crises combined, even with the significantly higher numbers of people in need in Sudan and Congo, because a face that is more European seems to naturally elicit more empathy. The disgusting slurs of Africans being seen as savage and conflict prone are not engaged with as issues that global capital and Western hegemony have inflicted, but as part and parcel of their very nature. So, the mainstream media gives it as little coverage as is necessary. Just blacks, nothing to worry about.

I contend that unless we see white supremacy as an integral part of the state of affairs that blinds us to the suffering of Africans and Caribbeans, in our own country and abroad, and unless we highlight these conflicts and make as much noise as we (rightly) have for Gaza and Ukraine, the people of Congo and Sudan will never forgive us for disregarding their plight because they are of darker skin.

So what do we do my comrades, what do we do?

The lack of coverage on the catastrophes described above has hampered efforts for effective mobilisation, although both Congolese and Sudanese communities have rallied in their capitals and elsewhere. We have to start by listening to diaspora communities, many of which obtain the most up-to-date information on conflicts and their subsequent humanitarian crises. Spreading the word, in person or on social media, is critical. If we are able to make the plights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sudan even half as visible as the plights in Gaza and Ukraine, we will have done what the British Establishment could not — challenged our biases and not privileged one catastrophe over another.

Mutual Aid groups like Goma Actif, in Congo’s main eastern city of Goma, which has existed since 2020, weathering the coronavirus pandemic, a volcanic eruption and the barbarism of M23, succeeding where many bourgeois international aid groups have failed. Sudan, since the people’s uprising against Al-Bashir, has shown some of the most exciting prospects for mutual aid in the region. Spontaneous, grassroots organisations, known as Emergency Response Rooms (ERR) work in hospitals, neighbourhood clinics and communal kitchens helping to ease the pressure on those hardest hit in both Khartoum and Darfur. Every ERR that is set up is unique, flexible to the situations on the ground and completely non-hierarchical.

Spreading the word about organisations like Goma Actif in Congo or the different ERR’s and grassroots groups in Sudan is vital, as is helping to donate to them wherever possible.

~ Daniel Adedirant

This article first appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of Freedom Journal.

Main picture: Armed forces in the Congo, by MONUSCO

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