Today is election day in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I would like to share with you this article by Antoine Roger Lokongo which I found quite interesting and deep, about the third presidential elections in the DRC after 51 years of independence, with a brief history of DRC since independence. I have included some snippets from the article which I liked. You can read the full article on Panafrican Vision; it is entitled: D.R. Congo Democracy at crossroads – One election, two sources of legitimacy.
‘Countries do not have permanent friends or allies, they have only permanent interests’
… when Joseph Kabila turned to the Western powers for assistance after the 2006 elections, they said they had other priorities. Perhaps this was a wake-up call for Joseph Kabila. This is how, in an interview given to Gettleman of the New York Times, Joseph Kabila himself explained why he turned to the Chinese for help after being disappointed with the West’s empty promises:
‘We said we had five priorities: infrastructure; health; education; water and electricity; and housing. Now, how do we deal with these priorities? We need money, a lot of money. Not a 100 million U.S. dollars from the World Bank or 300 from the IMF [International Monetary Fund]. No, a lot of money, and especially that we’re still servicing a debt of close to 12 billion dollars, and it’s 50 to 60 million U.S. dollars per month, which is huge. You give me 50 million dollars each month for the social sector and we move forward. Anyway, that’s another chapter. But we said: so, we have these priorities, and we talked to everybody. Americans, do you have the money? No! Not for now! The European Union, do you have three or four billion for these priorities? No! We have our own priorities. Then we said: ‘why not talk to other people, the Chinese?’ So we said, [Chinese] do you have the money? And they [the Chinese] said, well, we can discuss. So we discussed’.
This interview suggests that Joseph Kabila turned to the Chinese only after seeking help from Western powers. That is exactly the dilemma Patrice Lumumba faced. Increasingly desperate, Patrice Lumumba went on an international trip to enlist Western support (including to Washington, London, Brussels…) to have Belgian troops who had orchestrated the secession of Katanga to leave immediately. He did not get the support he expected and turned to the Russians for help. He was immediately accused of being a communist and eventually assassinated.
Congolese leaders turn to other partners other than the ‘traditional Western partners’ because they are in need; and a friend in need is a friend indeed! They do not mean necessarily to play of the West against the East and so on. When Joseph Kabila turned to the West, the DRC was almost on the verge of bankruptcy. …
The question we want to deal with now therefore is: ‘What happened after Joseph Kabila turned to the Chinese in his country’s hours of needs?’ Continue reading “28 Nov. 2011: Presidential Elections in DRC”