Thursday, March 09, 2006

Political drama, and drama queens

I was listening to the nth discussion, on Radio Okapi (that's a WMA link,) on the issues that our politicians have with each other, that I could not help but wonder how none of the local radios has not, as of yet, pointed out our politicians issues, period. As we have found out ever since the so hopeful, but so anti-climactic National Conference (CNS), our politicians are professional drama queens.

Latest example: The Bemba-Kamitatu-Luhaka-MLC crisis. Do you know who these people are? No? Well, let me explain. See the MLC (Congolese Liberation Movement) of His very wealthy businessman of an Excellency Jean Pierre Bemba (one of the 4 current Vice-President of the Congo... yes 4... and, yeah I know it's insane), was one of the two main Rwanda and Uganda-backed "rebel groups", that waged a war against the government of our very own Mzee Laurent Desire Kabila, who was then the head of state of the DRC, after having unseated a very bad man - I believe his name was Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa za Banga... Marshall Mobutu will do - with the help of... guess? RWANDA and UGANDA !!!! Following me? Yes? ok.

The MLC (Uganda-backed) and the other rebel group, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) fought (officially) up to 2002, in what is now known as the Second Congo War. And then there was a dialogue, and agreement, a constitution, and the leaders of MLC and RCD somehow became Vice-Presidents of the country, alongside some guy from the internal political opposition, Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma, who bribed his way to the job, and the unchangeable ultra-nationalist philosopher with a foot in his mouth, Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, from Kabila's party. Oh, and did I mention that this Joseph Kabila now, the Mzee's son. Yeah, see, during the war, the Mzee found a way to get himself killed, and replaced by his very young (29 at the time) Major-General of a son. So, this cotterie, along with close to 60 very opportunistic cabinet members (call them ministers, and deputy-ministers, and don't forget the "Excelency") from all warring parties, local opposition and civil society, and about 600 members of a bicameral parliament, was going to be our transitional government for 2 to 3 years, before we have a referendum (which happened in December) on a new constitution, and elections before June 2006. Pretty neat no? How do we pay all of them their minimum 1500 $ a month salaries on a post-war budget? Well, my friends, we borrow, and we get aid !!! Nonsense you say? Really? well that is not my point today.

The fact is, it seemed to work reasonably well - at least as well as it could considering the situation. Not that our politicians stopped stealing; I believe there must be a stadardized test before going into politics in the DRC, on stealthy embezzlement techniques (come to think of it, with this Abramoff guy, and that Cunningham guy, here in the US, maybe the test is everywhere). But I am digressing. So yes, it seemed to work - seemed being the operative word. The fact was that all parties were trying, and sometimes succeeding, to steal influential members from their counterparts. As a result of this, one of the most loyal members of the MLC, Antoine Ghonda, is now an Ambassador on President Kabila's staff... at the dismay, and the neverending bickering of the prima-dona Jean Pierre Bemba. Then there was the whole RCD issues, and their annoying habit to throw the towel and run for the fences every single time their every needs were not met. Their main issue: the rights of the Congolese people of Tutsi descent, the people that they started the war in the name of, and that make up much of the leadership of the RCD, including the head of the party, His very slick lawyer of an Excellency Vice President Azarias Ruberwa (one of the 4 cited above). One of their current grievances is the fact that the Parliament refused to recognize some circonscriptions/subdivisions they made-up in the territory they controlled, that would allow them to guarantee at least 2 seats for the Congolese-Tutsi in the future Parliament. Still following me? I know, I know, it's a pain. But please stay with me. The result of all this: a lot of noise, and a lot of drama, quite unnecessarily.

Which brings us to the latest crisis. So, I must say that with our prima-dona we cited above, Jean Pierre Bemba, came a whole bunch of young, fairly well - and Western - educated, sons, daughters and relatives of the Independance-era and Mobutu-era apparatchiks. They are young, supposedly promising, good-looking and well-spoken (in French and English that is), and they gave people some hope that there was going to be at least some new blood, and fresh ideas in the political arena. Among these were Antoine Ghonda - the new Kabila Ambassador I spoke about before, whose father is a local businessman, and a renouned Rotarian. Another one, was the very handsome, and very media-friendly Secretary General of the party, and later MLC MP, and Speaker of the National Assembly, Olivier Kamitatu, whose father Cleophas Kamitatu, is one of the country's founding fathers (and currently an MLC senator).

Now, in the MLC, there are no two leaders. These people raised by Mobutu's apparatchiks, inherted - at least Bemba did - their notion of leadership and political organization. Mobutu called it the "authentic Bantu" leadership style: one does not question the chief without consequences. Worse, one does not publicly express political ambitions that may threaten that of the chief. Olivier Kamitatu disregarded both, and started consulting around, to ensure his political future. As a result, the very powerful and upset prima-dona wanted to teach him a lesson, and had him radiated from the MLC... under the assumption that if he did not belong to his party anymore, Kamitatu would leave his position as Speaker. In fact, Bemba asked President Kabila to ask for a ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter. Our very weak Supreme Court were glad to agree with Bemba, disregarding some previous rulings they had made earlier, approving the National Assembly rules, which established that only the Assembly could approve or dismiss an MP (since none of them is elected anyway). So Mr Bemba feels he is in his legal prerogative to fire Mr Kamitatu, and the latter feels like the law already was clear before the ruling, and that the ruling was in fact illegal. As a result: a lot of noise, an institutional crisis, and even more drama!!

The other day, the MLC chairman, our beloved prima-dona, using the ruling as a basis, appointed the new MLC Secretary General, Thomas Luhaka, MP, as the MLC appointee for the Speaker position. Mr Luhaka took a few well-armed police officers, stormed the People's Palace (seat of parliament), and tried to take over the Speaker's office. But plot twist!!! The office is sealed, with no key in sight. Eventually Mr Luhaka had to leave the site in relative shame, with everybody condemning his guerilla techniques. As I said before, these people still have Mobutu-era, and Guerilla-style practices and tactics. Old habits die very, very hard. And yesterday, with all the MLC MPs boycotting, Speaker Olivier Kamitatu was able to have quorum to call the final session of this parliamentary season to order, with most of those present applauding him as the rightful Speaker. Now if we could just deal with the whole RCD bickering thing we talked about earlier...

Doesn't this all sound like episodes of soap opera to you? It does to me, hence my sarcasm throughout this post. Congolese politicians have mastered the art of playing political drama queens to the tee... and those of them that are in power also find creative ways to appropriate taxpayers' and donors' funds, for their own personnal benefits, to reward their efforts. The saddest thing? We - the Congolese - have no other choice but to deal with them, as they LITERALLY hold ALL the reins of power, and the alternative would just be another war... 4,000,000 dead Congolese is more than we can bear already. It is a grimm state of affairs. I am bitterly still wondering...

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