Monday, March 14, 2005

DR Congo: On the debates on the new Constitution...

I have wanted to address the issue of our pending new constitution - in DR Congo that is - but I have also hesitated a lot, because I want to stay constructive, while at the same time expressing myself when something appears lunatic. It is hard to do both, and for most Congolese people, I will sound very Westernized no matter what I say, because of where I live. But I am going to try now, anyway

Since the end of February, when the real writing of the constitution started, and the debates in constitutional commision of the Senate actually started doing its job, there has been a combination of hopes and dooms coming out of the People's Palace (Parliament Building). The senators have been doing some good, recently, adopting 100+ articles thus far, on the 220 total, and they have heeded the ultimatum given by the International community. What has been disconcerting, however, is the levels at which personal politics started getting in the way of them putting good and reasoned rules on this fundamental paper.

Senators have been largely stuck on the issue of... the age of th President! In a country in need of rebirth, where 50%+ of the population is between 18 and 35 years old, the patriarchs are trying to maintain a grip on the reins of the country, by citing African customs that link wisdom to old age. Though I will gladly conceded that am 18 year old person is not suited to run a nation, the political landscape today does not make a case - in my opinion - for wisdom with age. Much of the patriarchs are veteran politicians, who have contributed in the demise of this country; if young blood can bring in some sense, it should not be repressed. And it is rather petty to try to fix the age based on the current President, who is 34 (short of the 40 years of age requirement the patriarchs demand), and on an attempt at eliminating him. In fact, much of the core debates have been on petty subjects.

But when it comes to important notions and concepts that we need to develop ourselves, the Senate almost drops the ball. Women in the Senate had to fight for their rights to be explicitly recognized in the constitution, and the senators also voted to keep the death penalty (Article 15). Instead of creating a progressive and expansive document, the venerable senators seem to have opted for a restrictive document, with a rigidity that we will pay in the future, should it be passed as is by the Lower House of Parliament. Our senators should take a cue from South Africa, and see that you do not solve problems in a country recovering from dire strife, by giving them a litany of things they can't do, but by drafting rules and regulations that offer ALL people an opportunity to do things, to evolve and expand - intellectually, spiritually, economically, to explore their potential. With this in mind, much of the debates on Presidential regime, or semi-presidential regime, or citizenship are only relevant when they work in the interest of guaranteeing people's freedoms and well-being. The rest is just politicking that we cannot afford at this time, and I wish they realized that.

In any case, a newspaper from Kinshasa, Le Potentiel (in french), is keeping up with the debates in the Senate, and these senators' sense of entitlement sometimes appals me, but it is their job. I just wish they would start seeing beyond the present, and realize that what they are doing now, as old as many of them are, they will pobably never see it all through.


carine said...

Well it's interesting to see how they're elaborating that constitution. I also found it annoying that they concentrated on a few petty things. However I think the president's age is more relevant than we think.

My fear is that Kabila's camp is trying to change the constitution in order to make him president. You know I have an aversion for that man so obviously I'm sceptical. However changing that point of the constitution will make way for a younger generation of politicians which I think is necessary. Can you imagine the actual political scene hasn't changed for at least 20 years! It has always been the same people up there, or at least the same circles. There is a huge gap and it's quite disturbing. We need younger people with innovating ideas. Otherwise what's going to happen when they all leave? I am not sure a 30 year old can do the job (Although one doesn't need to be old to be mature - that's another debate) but changing the law will bring a positive message.

Although I would like to see a younger generation up there I am not sure about their ability to handle things (in the government or elsewhere). Especially the non-diaspora ones (not all though). Remember the early 90s crisis with universities and all that? The effect is very clear today. The system is so corrupted you can't tell who is really qualitfied or not. Those who are can't do their jobs properly. Last year so many people told me they were having a hard time recruiting young people because they are not properly educated/trained. They're all obsessed with "maximiser les profits" [maximize profits] but don't know how to do that on the job.

We've got two gaps here. And they haven't started to adress the issue ...

um the blog project is a nice idea, we shall talk about ;)

TheMalau said...

Black River Eagle, I was trying to remove my comment, in response to yours, which I wrote a bit in haste, and a bit in frustration, and it was not fair to you, and I appologize for that. I do have some issues with the American attitude towards foreign languages, but I should not have lashed out at you about it.

That said, as I was trying to remove my comment, I accidentally removed yours too. I am sorry.

Carine, if you want, I can invite you to join as a contributor to N&T (this blog)... as soon as I find out how to create categories.

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