ID :
Mon, 11/17/2008 - 11:11
Auther :


By Balkish Awang and Nurulhuda Che Das

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 (Bernama) -- Suffering from decades of war, the
mineral-rich Congo has become one of the poorest, most war-torn places on earth

A former colony of Belgium, the third biggest African country has been
unstable for the past five decades.

Patrice Lumumba became the first prime minister of the independent Republic
of Congo when the Movement National Congolais, headed by him, won the first
general election in 1960.

However, Lumumba, who was regarded as a pro-communist, was toppled and
murdered in a military coup supported by the Belgian colonial army.

Malaya (now Malaysia) had just gained independence, three years earlier. To
help restore peace and order after a civil war, Malaya took part in a
peace-keeping mission to Congo, under the auspices of the United

In an interview with Bernama, three veteran Malaysian soldiers who had
served under the Malayan Special Force in Congo, recounted their tasks during
the eight-month stint, beginning October 1960.

Sergeant Bakar Ismail, 75, said he was among 800 Malaysian soldiers who
left for Congo by ship, with a stopover in India.

The ship berthed at Matadi port on the Congo River where the solders stayed
for a week before sailing to Kasisi, Zambia and then travelled overland for
eight hours to Goma, Congo.

"I was fired up to serve in Congo. Malayan soldiers were tasked with
patrolling duties and guarding certain locations," he said.

Bakar said he had witnessed massacres and the Belgian soldiers denying
the Congolese from using paved roads and commuting on buses.

"I am sad that Congo is still embroiled in a civil war. It brings back sad
memories, especially when I look at the pictures of our tents and while we were
on patrol duties in Congo," he said, adding that he was paid RM500 for his
duty in the republic.

Another soldier, Sergeant Mustafa Jantan, 70, said the Malayan Special
Force was highly regarded by the United Nations, besides the Indonesian, Indian
and the Philippines armies.

"Although physically we were small, our friendliness and humility had won
over the hearts of local women who treated us like their sons," he said.

Mustafa, who is now driving a taxi, said his ability to speak the Lingala
language had saved the life of an officer.

"When we reached the Kindu camp, a soldier from the National Congolese
Army pointed a bayonet at my superior's throat after we alighted from a car.

"I pushed the bayonet aside and shouted at the soldier, 'Why do this, I
am a friend, not your enemy'.

"After that, I offered him and other ANC solders cigarettes. We shook
hands," said Mustafa, who is from Kampung Sungai Jernih, Lubuk China, Melaka.

Melaka is dubbed as Historical state, located in the southern region of the
Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca.

Sergeant Low Kong Ming, 69, has kept all news clippings and items on the
civil strife in Congo where he had served when he was 23.

"Congolese armed themselves with only bows and arrows against the rebels
used firearms.

"The children would ask for food and grab whatever leftovers as we were
about to throw them into the bins," said Low, who is currently supplying food to
the armed forces.

Five years after the Second Congo War came to an end, peace still remains

The International Rescue Committee said preventable diseases and starvation
aggravated by conflict have claimed 5.4 million lives since the beginning of the
Second Congo War in 1998.