Professor Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba’s work in the political reconstruction of Congolese society, characterised by ‘remarkable self-sacrifice and humility’, is worthy of support, writes Jacques Depelchin. Let’s show solidarity for ‘one of the most committed intellectuals for another Africa, for another humanity and for another world’, Depelchin urges, to ensure that Wamba-dia-Wamba is not faced with ‘destitution and isolation’ as a result of his singular path.
Dear Friends of Professor Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba,
I urge you to read the following appeal for solidarity for and with Professor Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba currently residing in Kinshasa (DRC). I hope that you will read it closely and that together with others we can together find an answer worthy of Africa the cradle of humanity and the site of a civilisation in continuous construction. I thank you for your attention.
We are currently living at a crossroads never before encountered in the history of humanity. It is at this crossroads that I wish to make an appeal in order to draw attention to the work of political reconstruction of Congolese society currently undertaken by Professor Wamba-dia-Wamba in Kinshasa. This work is characterised by remarkable self-sacrifice and humility given the current context of a generalised frantic and often desperate search for personal advancement.
Since the end of the transitional government (2006) during which time he was a senator, Professor Wamba-dia-Wamba has continued with the work he has known best, namely teaching by sharing his knowledge and by learning from those who are too frequently forgotten despite their fundamental role in building an emancipatory political culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An initiator and leader of the Centre Ota Benga Pour La Dignite Humaine [Kinshasa, DRC] he has followed this objective in partnership the Ota Benga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity [Berkely, USA]. Some of this work can be read on the following site: www.otabenga.org.
From this daily work was slowly born a site of affirming and undertaking a politics of fidelity to all the figures who have struggled for the total and universal emancipation of humanity. In a country which has been targeted for destruction by those who could not accept people such as Patrice Emery Lumumba as head of state, the evaluation of this continuous process can be read in the text ”What Can be Said of the Republic of Congo Today?” which was an outcome of the collective discussions of the Mbongi a Nsi (Palaver Cafe) articulated and presented by Professor Wamba-dia-Wamba on the 12th January, 2009 (see: http://otabenga.org/node/157). This text can also be read as a statement in progress regarding how to think, affirm and undertake an emancipatory politics from the point of people.
Many people have not understood Professor Wamba-dia-Wamba’s choice to continue the struggle when others advised him “to return to teaching” (that is to say inter alia to the University of Dar-es-Salaam where he used to teach until 1998). This advice had not taken into account the fact that his choice was based on a simple practice emanating from a fidelity to the emancipatory subject of Congolese and African history. One of the components of this subject, Patrice Emery Lumumba, had written in his testament letter to his wife Pauline that the History of Congo would be written from Congo itself and not from foreign capitals such as Brussels, Washington, London or Paris. This is only one of the roots among many of Wamba’s choice which is founded in a cultural, philosophical and historical knowledge profoundly anchored in the country of his birth. One could in fact recognise in this choice another fidelity to the subject which is central to Aime Cesaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal.
In such a context is his choice really surprising? Should we rather not be surprised at the loneliness in which he finds himself especially given the radical voices always keen to cite Lumumba, Nkrumah, Fanon and Cabral but which in practice like to maintain a safe distance from the place where the socio-economic and political climate would make the task of “feeding the family”, of “survival” or even of “functioning as a university lecturer or researcher” an impossible one. The multiple obstacles in the path of a fidelity to the subject of emancipatory politics are today too numerous to list. Without wishing to be too harsh, does it not seem that pharisaic intellectualism today practiced under all skies (not only under African skies) far too easily absolves itself of a lack of fidelity to an ethics of the principles of truth, thus transforming its declarations into a masquerade which would not be that serious if it only blinded its authors.
To sum up, even at the risk of repetition, at the place where Professor Wamba is acting, principles of fidelity to emancipatory politics are being stated and constructed on a daily basis, thought by and for people from all walks of life, at a distance from a politics conceived and practiced by the state. Together they are in the process of building a political practice in which people speak in their own name. Together they are bringing into being a site of the production and reproduction of knowledge founded on the conviction that people think, including and especially those who do not arrogate to themselves the right and the expertise to think on the grounds of possessing a diploma.
In order for this appeal to be heard should we recall the curriculum vitae of Professor Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba? According to what criteria should his singular path be evaluated? Which criteria other than the patent proof of his continued militancy for the most disadvantaged, the most exploited and the weakest should decide the response of the judges? The principal reasons for this appeal relate both to the urgency of the situation and to the necessity of avoiding the outcome that one of the most committed intellectuals for another Africa, for another humanity and for another world, end his life like a dog, hungry, ill and abandoned in the street. A few months ago it was practically in such conditions that he nearly left us, and the worst was only avoided because of the generous solidarity of parents, friends, brothers, sisters and comrades. What the present appeal seeks, is a solution which would enable Professor Wamba-dia-Wamba to give his all without having to worry if he is going to eat the next day or to afford a visit to the doctor to find out why he is not feeling well. This is not an appeal for charity but for a solidarity which could avoid what happened to Professor Archie Mafeje (not to mention others less well known) a few months ago, an end in destitution and isolation which recalls the fate reserved for those on death row.
I would like to leave to Professor Wamba-dia-Wamba’s peers the task of judging whether his career has been and continues to be up to the standards which the history of Africa today requires of its most committed intellectuals for the total and complete emancipation of humanity. I dare to hope that the response to this appeal will give the lie to the following observation (a working hypothesis in the process of being confirmed) that practically all the great resistors of the history of humanity, with a few rare exceptions, found themselves chained to distress and solitude in their last moments - with the assent of those with whom they thought they were the most in solidarity. This end was that of among others, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Patrice Emery Lumumba, Ota Benga, Simon Kimbangu, Kimpa Vita, Zumbi de Palmares, Anastasia, Nehanda, Geronimo, Che Guevara. This solitude and distress is also the lot of the women, tortured and raped to death in the DRC, especially but not uniquely in the East of the country, of children initiated by violence to sow destruction about them.
I would like to thank those who have read this appeal to the end for their patient generosity. From those who may have felt irritated by my remarks for one reason or another, I would request indulgence and forgiveness.
In solidarity and for the return of humanity to the cradle of its birth,
Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana
Feira de Santana,