Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Congo in the news... big time

So many important things seem to be happening in the Congo - and as you know, I mean the one hopefully soon deserving its "democratic" qualifyer - these past few days, that I have to admit, I am not sure where things are really going from here.

First of all, there has been a - still ongoing - diplomatic parade of the transitional period's godparents; all the international community's leaders, hae come to Kinshasa in the past days, and there is still one - Nicolas Sarkozy, French Interior minister - to come. Successively, South African President Thabo Mbeki (whose country housed the negotiations that led to the establishment of the current leadership), Louis Michel (Belgian) and Javier Solana (EU's virtual "Foreign Minister") have come to energize a transitional process that they have dished out quite a lot of money to support... some may say they have come to press for results, and returns on their money, but not me... Nevertheless, they did come up, and whip up our politicians into shape, something they do not like much, thus bringing me to question whether the apparent energization of the process is not just for show.

Then there was the omnipresent - and them, for the most part, we are better with - United Nations. They have been even more prominent in the Congo News with the successive visits of under-secretary general JM Gueheno, and the big boss, Secretary General Kofi Annan (who finished in Congo a long tour of Africa). And both of them have brought their share of rattling and shaking in the process, as we have noted in previous posts. Mr Gueheno stayed 10 days in Congo, and gave a big boost of confidence to the MONUC troops, and the Congolese people. Mr Annan, who has met with President Kabila, Vice-presidents, and opposition leaders, as well as electoral officials, is taking a trip in the interior of Congo, to Kisangani. He has been making a very strong case for inclusive free and fair elections. He also spoke directly to the Congolese people through a press conference, broadcasted all over the country through Radio Okapi. And we have also been able to ascertain that the EU military mission to support the electoral process will definitely be coming, with French and German leadership. So this is all good stuff.

Then you have the latest ruling by EU civil aviation authority, banning 93 airlines from their airspace... 50+ among them from the Democratic Republic of the Congo! We never get a break do we? I mean don't get me wrong, many airplanes in Congo are flying cuffins, but this ruling could not come at a worst time for our image. Thankfully, the one major passenger company, Hewa Bora Airways, have been approved to continue their service to Europe. But overall, not good stuff.

What else? Oh yes, our very own President Joseph Kabila is getting ready to go to Goma. This was the strongest rebel capital during the war, and the only Eastern city that the President has yet to visit. Some things don't change however. The safety of the President in this part of the country seems to be very much a problem. This is very palpable by the fact that local military police was recently ordered out of Goma, their task to be undertaken by the "red berets", the Presidential Security Special Guard. As much as it is a good thing for the people's morale out there, this begs to be seen as a campaign stint. I would not be surprised if the announcement of his candidacy happens just before, during, or just after this trip. The future shall tell us.

Congo was also in the news because apparently, we have the "honor" to have the first warlord to be judged by the International Criminal Court, Thomas Lubanga. This strikes me personally as a two speed justice, because many of the people that are currently in the government orchestrated even worse massacres. I will not name names (I want to stay alive), but they know themselves. It reminds me of Israel and Palestine. When Israel is violent it is the self-defense of a state, no matter how intolerably cruel they are. But when the Palestinians defend themselves (and here I am not talking about terrorist attacks on civilians, which I abhore) and attack Israeli positions, they are condemned, crushed and deemed unlawful, because they do not have a state. The rule of the powerful... In the case of the ICC, however, there is actually a case against Lubanga, so it is somewhat okay. Overall, I guess it is a good example for future warlords, right? I wonder...

And finally, the famous elections, which are really in a virtual impasse, unless something is done to ease some tensions, and some very unrealistic deadlines. There are ~700 positions to provide at all levels, and the Electoral commission has received files for... 50 candidates!!! And the deadline is tomorrow!! Somethings will have to be adjusted, whether they like it or not. And they are going to have to make some accomodations for UDPS too. Their hardheadedness is proven, but we need everybody to participate in all fairness. Protests and disturbances are really the last things we need really.

Overall, the news picture is very complex in Congo. I hope you can make better sense of all this than I can. For my part, it is just making me very anxious, and cannot help but wonder if we are really - as I have been confident of so far - on the road towards positive change. And I am still wondering...

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