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?’
In the same interview given to Gettleman (2009:2), President Joseph Kabila himself confessed that he did not understand the resistance he has encountered from Western powers about the Chinese deal. Global financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the Paris Club of Lenders put pressure on the DRC government to ditch the Socomin deal with China – a Beijing-based, joint-venture between the DRC’s Gécamines and a group of Chinese state-owned enterprises – as a condition to get its debt forgiven. Some Western donors said they supported the deal ‘in principle’ because it would give the DRC access to capital on a scale it could not receive from anywhere else. But, led by the Paris Club of creditors and the IMF, they raised objections to specific provisions.
In fact, when Joseph Kabila turned to the Chinese, Karel de Gucht, then Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs was so angry that he told President Joseph Kabila: ‘You are not going to give King Leopold II’s Congo to the Chintox!’ (Chintox is a derogative term for Chinese in Belgium). This revelation was made by Colette Braeckman, journalist of the Belgian daily ‘Le Soir’ and expert on the Great Lakes Region of Africa’s affairs, during a conference on the ‘50 years after its independence: Congo’s Renaissance’ […]
Joseph Kabila recently outlined some his achievements during his 10 year-long tenure of office, including the organization of the first democratic elections in 46 years, the construction of new infrastructures, the restoration of peace and the reunification of the country. He even told the Congolese parliament to revise budget because the members of parliament allocated themselves more money than civil servants, the army and the police, he ordered the suspension of illegal mining activities in Eastern Congo’s conflict areas but Rwanda and the London Stock Exchange felt the pinch. What happened? On 27 February 2011 Kabila’s residence in Kinshasa was attacked as a result by hundreds of assailants and gunmen ‘from outside the country’, 19 of whom were killed and eight loyalist soldiers were also killed. It was a failed coup attempt according to the official sources.
[…] In order to redress the current balance of power which is not tilting to their favour, African countries must establish the rules of the game and their foreign partners follow; they must come to develop their own technologies thanks to a ‘Win-Win-South-South Cooperation’ or WWSSC (because Western powers will never share their technologies with Africa for fear of losing control), in order to transform their own natural and mineral resources on the spot – including the manufacturing of arms to defend their political and economic sovereignty – and create not only jobs for their people but also markets on national, regional, continental and international levels. They can no longer afford to remain forever consumers of finished goods manufactured by others with Africa’s own resources cheaply looted through Western controlled mechanisms, including the IMF, the World Bank, the UN, Western NGOs or Western-controlled Catholic and Protestant churches…
The day the politics of ‘divide and rule’ used by Western powers will no longer work in Africa will mark the beginning of Africa’s renaissance. In the meantime, the DRC, above all, must not unravel – because if the DRC unravels, the whole continent will; making the words of the Martinico-French-Algerian revolutionary thinker Frantz Fanon ring true. Fanon, as we know, once described Africa’s shape as that of a revolver with the Democratic Republic of Congo serving as the trigger.
The reality is that Western powers have a hidden agenda: To make of the DRC a ‘Western protectorate in Africa’ while the Congolese themselves want to make of the DRC ‘the China of Africa’. Who will have their way? The Congolese people of course but only if they are united; united in the framework of a united Africa.