The Beginning of the DRCongo Third Republic

1. “Democratic elections” have taken place, the first ones in about 37 years or so. As a UN diplomat said: ‘not the best ones’. Outsiders claimed them to be fair and free, with only minor cases of fraud. But many Congolese felt that they were manipulated and fraudulent. More precisely: would-be Congolese demos was manipulated to the extent of getting it to accept a somewhat imposed conception of democracy. Less than 1% of the electorate in the referendum on the Constitution had read the text before going to vote for or against it. Cases of fraud brought to the Supreme Court of Justice have been said to be unfairly resolved. The case concerning the presidential election was said to have been dealt with as a farce. The winners claimed it to be just and the losers to be unjust. On moral grounds — due to the fear of the possibility for many Congolese being massacred by the winning side — people supporting the case for J-P Bemba’s victory, refrained from going to the streets to protest. This, had it happened, would have alerted the outside world to what actually transpired.

2. The expected political break from the dictatorial past has yet to be experienced: the new civil institutions are not yet hegemonic nor do they have real control over the repressive ones; the autonomy of the state has not yet been felt. Among the first acts of the elected Head of State (inauguration with a military parade in lieu of a people’s one, resolving the case concerning J-P Bemba’s protection guard, the massacre of citizens protesting against corruption in the elections in Bas-Congo, etc.) were more of a recourse to a politics of use of a heavy stick rather than a carrot. They made it look like the Mobutuist Presidency was continuing to serve as the model rather than the dawning of a truly democratic presidency. Although leaders were advocating the necessity for the eradication of corruption (to please the partners?), the Bas-Congo massacre re-instated, instead the use of corruption in elections.

3. Kengo wa Dondo was elected as President of the Senate, defeating the presidential camp’s (AMP) candidate, She Okitundu. This was “unexpected” and was difficult to swallow by that camp. Kengo wa Dondo claims to be independent. His victory stopped the country from sliding towards a Party-State regime, where the presidential camp would have controlled the three powers: legislative, executive and judiciary. The victory thus created a new equilibrium, at least in the Parliament. It is ironic that it is one of the key cornerstones of Mobutuist dictatorship that gives a certain hope of legislative autonomy. One of the Senate President’s first acts was to rule out, as illegal, the request by the pro-AMP Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) to withdraw Senator J-P. Bemba’s parliamentarian immunity. This stopped, in a sense, the dangerous slide towards a politics of vengeance.

4. The formal crisis of legitimacy has received a formal solution. Congolese people at large still do not have confidence in the leaders or institutions and a real crisis of legitimacy remains. People are still treated as children and not as adults worth talking to. Silence is given a mysterious political value. As said the Minister Mayobo: “governing is not speaking; it is doing things.” But things done remain to be seen. For a long time, after it had been put in place, the government went silent, supposedly engaging in an exercise of self-empowerment and preparation for decisions such as the National Budget. Interesting early decisions, such as the requested material audit to retrieve resources stolen by departing members of the Transitional Government and the creation of a commission to review mining contracts, have not produced any results presented to the public. On crucial issues, such as the Bas-Congo massacre, no substantive statement of policy was made by government. Later on, a few months after it took place, the government claimed to have sent the matter to the judiciary. This in a country, where sending a case to the judiciary has tended to be equated with shelving it altogether.

5. The National Assembly (NA), has resorted to holding discussions in camera — thereby pleasing the Executive — of issues claimed to be oversensitive, forgetting thus their obligation before the people who elected them. Issues such as the Bas-Congo massacre, the Angolan military occupation of Kahemba and the violation of the Constitution’s law on nationality by 150 people or so in government institutions who have a double nationality were all tabled in camera. The AMP majority in the NA and the latter’s monolithic composition of its leadership by AMP members, facilitate that way of functioning.

6. On a number of issues, it is clear that constitutional dispositions and other laws are being ignored. The law bars any commissioned military officer from being part of the government or other political institutions. Yet General Kalume is the Minister of Internal Affairs. The SCJ seemed to have failed to uphold the legal limit, required by the electoral law, to officially proclaim the results of the elections. Under the pretext of the absence of the decentralization law, the Executive has threatened to ignore the constitutional right of locally retaining 40% of the revenue by the decentralized provinces. So far, 60 % of the Central Government budget, it is said, comes from the Bas-Congo province. Yet no proportionate representation of the province in the Central government has been accepted. This is one of the reasons for the abusive use of force in handling protests in Bas-Congo. The former head of the worst police house of torture and arbitrary imprisonment, KinMaziere (Mr Rous) has been nominated to be a Police Head in Bas-Congo.

7. The political will to build a professional armed force that would defend the territorial integrity of the country, protect all citizens and property and resist allegiance to particular groups of people or regions, has been lacking. The President’s recent nomination of members the officer corps shows that we have not moved away from Mobutu’s practice. 85% of the nominees are from the Eastern part of the country, with the predominance of Katangese. By 1985, during Mobutu’s time, 85 % of the officer corps came from Equateur, his region. (It is also said that around ½ of the members of the present government are from the Eastern part of the country). Despite that proportion, the insecurity in the East remains still rampant. The double dealing, by the Executive, with cases such as that of General Nkundabatware or the long lasting failure to drive out the 1994 Rwandese genocidaires still operating in the country to ‘liberate Rwanda”, leads to all kinds of speculation — including the embarrassing question: whom does the Executive serve?

8. The usual prescriptions for ‘Development’, by the Bretton Woods Institutions, to the country are still taken as Moses and the Prophets. Development here means the incremental reduction (or eradication?) of poverty, in a country where the majority of people hardly have one meal a day and where people are dying of hunger, malnutrition and diseases already eradicated elsewhere — even in the past in our own country. None explains when this poverty arose in a country said to potentially be, perhaps the richest in the world. The farce of what is called the Ministry of Planning cannot even address such a question, let alone produce a true plan of development. Most economic contracts are primarily signed for the corruptive fee to the signer rather than for the Congolese people’s profit.

9. The political opposition has been given a law to organize itself! The so-called politics of shadow government à l’anglaise have been adopted. The boss of the opposition will have the rank of a Minister. In a sense, it is tragic. But, how else do you occupy and entertain an idle Congolese elite that sees politics as the only way to materially survive? Becoming a bum while waiting for the next elections may be an impossible task and the Government may have at its back so many protesters to deal with. The success of this democracy of the rich would be to avoid, for good, the recourse to armed rebellions. The message of the opposition has always been: the incumbent regime is doing a poor job, people should wait until the opposition gets to power for everything to be okay! The Executive badly wants that law to use it as a reminder for the opposition to make only “constructive criticism”. Neither Government nor opposition seem to have much compassion for the miserable people.

10. The elites who took over the machinery of the state, and who did not know how independence was fought for (1921-1960), how many lives were lost in the Flemish jails, in the bush — resisting people fleeing persecution — in the deportation (some were sent into the deep forest to die); those elites could neither know that they had to make a greater effort to make the independence become real, nor did they even appreciate the suffering of leaders such as Simon Kimbangu dying in jail after 30 years of political imprisonment. There is no official trace of recognition, by government, of that profile of courage until today. Do the present self-proclaimed pioneers of the dawning democracy understand that they need to make a greater effort to make it real? Do they understand that without putting the masses of people, their aspirations, their creativity and resilience; their dreams of a better society — in short, their miserable lives — at the centre of politics, democracy too will fade away like the independence did?

This is my first Maboke, others to come, Wamba Mpungu Tulendo Dezo and the ancestors willing.

Kinshasa, July 5th, 2007

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini