Reflections on the Heart Africa from a Congolese

Some have called it the cradle of humanity. Some have called it the heart of darkness. A place where it’s hard to tell fact from fiction; where swindling, stealing, and doing whatever else it takes to survive has become the common modus operandi. It is a place that has known many names, but my family has only associated it with one – home. Centuries ago, like many other African nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo (or simply Kongo at that time) was a great empire, respected by fellow African empires all across the continent. However, like many other African empires, contact with Europeans proved to be catastrophic. I have no interest in passing value judgments on the Europeans, first because the emperor of Kongo (known as the Manikongo) suffered from the same level of hubris and belief in social degradation as any other emperor in any kingdom at the time had. Second, fear of that which we don’t understand – especially people different from ourselves – is common to all human beings, and has led to countless acts of violence and discrimination across the entire span of history, a fact that remains both horrific and strangely intriguing. But either way, it is a fact nonetheless. A collapse in the empire revealed a lack of social cohesion that plagued Congolese society for the last half millennium. People often ask, why can’t certain African nations unite and work for peace? The answer is complex, but I would say that it’s due to the entirety of certain nations being in a constant state of survival. Many revolutions and ideological uprising are rooted...