So what is, indeed, the pre-electoral situation in my beloved Congo? Well, first of all, as the Salon's very own Exiledsoul wrote, it is not a very healthy environment for journalists:
Historic and Democratic Elections:Part of the reason why I asked ExiledSoul to join The Salon, was because of the fact that she had the ability she has to bring a bit of wit to this whole thing. As she says in that post, I did accuse her of being too cynical. And to some degree I still think she is; I have just come to respect that healthy level of cynicism, as the situation has evolved in my country.
- Constant threats against journalists.
- The murder of Franck Ngyke & Hélène Mpaka (the trial starts[fr] tomorrow) and now Bapuwa Mwamba (more in French here). All in the space of 8 months.
- The authorities expel RFI journalist[fr] Ghislaine Dupont to prevent [fr] her from covering the elections. Eh they knew what they were doing, since RFI is widely listened…
- Opposition candidates and political parties voiced their concerns on transparency and fairness. And who gathers everyone and tries to appease the situation? The one and only Omar Bongo. oh the irony!
If you read my previous posts, I have generally been very hopeful for the entire peace and electoral process, despite acknowledging the shortcomings along the way. In fact, I felt a particular warmth when I saw the first electoral billboards in Kinshasa (on the net, of course. I am outside Congo). I am still looking forward to the elections, but I now take my hope with a big grain of salt, for a couple reasons. First of course, as stated above, the treatment of journalists does not reflect the environment of a society going towards democracy. Neither does the treatment of opposition candidates [fr], whether on the streets, or in the media.
Aside from this, I was disheartened by the emergence of the concept of "congolity", the radical nationalist concept aimed at making some people more Congolese than others, therefore more deserving of rights and privileges. This is the type of attitude that led to the catastrophe in West Africa's eldorado, namely Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), with the concept of "Ivoirity"; it is also the kind of attitudes that I fight against in the Western world where I live, and I was acutely disappointed that it arose in my country. It is exactly the type of underhanded, populist and contentless electoral arguments I was hoping not to see.
Then there is what I can only call the mining scandal, that has been going on almost behind closed doors in the country. Many of the country's mineral resources (copper, cobalt, diamond. gold, etc) sites have been indiscriminately sold-off to foreign private companies, with little or no opportunity for public scrutiny, and under an extremely questionnable mining code. It is almost as if those now in power were trying to sell-off the mines to their Western corporate supporters before an elected Parliament could change the code - in case, of course, they lose the elections.
And this all brings me to a more general issue of mine: 40 years of nepotism mentality. The election will hopefully be a source of change and renewal for this mighty nation, but the larger problem will be to modify the engrained negative practices that have flourished for so long throughout the country. Corruption, "Madesu ya bana", cult of personality, corrupted interpretations of customs and traditions, dangerously blind faith in religion from the poor and powerless, and many other things that have allowed the continued enslavement of the Congolese people, between the 1870s to about... 2006, will be tough things to eliminate/adjust. Which leads me to ask: Are the elections really all that they are cracked-out to be? Not only will it not solve the problems of the country, it will simply hand them over to a new team, which - with the questionnable manoeuvers we have recently seen in the country - will most likely consist of some combination of the same general group of people who is now in charge. Where is the long-awaited change going to come from? I wonder...
And assuming the elections are somewhat free and transparent, and there is some change, the new institutions will have the daunting tasks of:
- Building/Rebuilding a now quasi-inexistent body of infrastructures, to bring the Congo to be at the very least at par with its African neighbours (particularly in terms of transportation, production, healthcare, technology, education)
- Getting the general population - and most of themselves - to accept the rule of texts and laws at face value, and consider them binding
- Giving the wider Congolese population an accurate idea of the outside World
- Recreating a viable - and free - public education system
- Repair the damage brought to the fabric of the Congolese identity, and deal with our scheming neighbours
- Reconcile the very few haves, with the super-numerous have-nots
- Do away with Ethnicistic, Tribalistic, and xenophoic attitudes
- Reestablish true sovereignty over the territory, the people, the resources, and temper significantly the domineering impetus of our Western friends
- Recreate a sense of African identity, and Global citizenry among the general population
- And overall recreate in times of peace and freedom, a nation that was often held together by strength and oppression
Now that there are numerous irregularities in the elections in Congo, and the International Community seems hellbent on organizing them, regardless of the situation on the ground - who can blame them: they have been shelling-out a lot of money, and seeing his record, they stand to gain a lot more if Kabila is elected - I cannot help but wonder if any of the above-stated vital needs will even be remotely addressed. I am still wondering...
D-19. Oyo ekoya, eya (Alea Jacta est)!