Tuesday, August 15, 2006

DRC: You have got to love it

I was roaming the net, as I often do, to look for some information on Congo, and the whole motherland of Africa. Aside from the apparent increase in kidnappings in Nigeria, and the drama over the hand-over of Bakassi by the Nigerians, to Cameroon, there were no major things... by that I mean nothing that was not already well documented on the net. And then I found this bit, on Independent Online (RSA):
IOL: 'Sorcerers of Kinshasa hold fate of Congo':

"Not so with Alphonse. By the second last day of campaigning towards the end of July, eight candidates had already made use of his services.

It was the standard rooster-shake option: They would have to bring an unfortunate fowl, which the old man would throttle and whip around by the neck.

If the rooster died, the candidate would lose. But he would have chicken for supper.

If the rooster lived, it would be set free. Nobody would want to eat it.

No, he could not give the names of the candidates, because the commune had forbidden him to do so. Should he ever transgress this rule, he would not only lose his clientele, he would also lose the protection of the police.

Which is a huge resource in this lawless city.

His clients paid a standard 1 000 francs for advice, and then in kind for any interference with nature's laws. "
I recommend to read the whole article. Aside from a rather careless - and somewhat offensive - use of the term voodoo (which is a RELIGION), and a faint scent of a superiority attitude, the article describes quite accurately the... mystical realm within the collective psychie of the average Congolese people. I found the piece interesting because it is an aspect that is rarely shown outside of Congo, although it needs to be, in order to fully grasp how people think about their poor circumstances.

Another interesting article comes from The Connecticut Post. Here an article tells the story of a former Congolese colonel, who fled the country and sought asylum in the United States, after having been asked - as he says - to kill his wife, a lady of both Tutsi and Hutu Rwandan descent. I am not questionning the sincerity of the colonel, and his story is indeed one that I have heard before. That said, I am questioning - obviously - his objectivity, considering he is pretty closely involved, on a personal level, in the matters that led to the Second Congo War. It is however true that many Rwandans were killed in Kinshasa, at the beginning of the Second Congo War. In fact, my own sister (well for you Westerners, half-sister, same father), whose mother is Tutsi, got caught in roundups 3 times, and owes her life to the fact that my father is an officer in the military. So I feel the colonel's pain, but I also can see how he would take party against Kabila I, and not point out that the Second Congo War was the result of an aggression of the Congolese territory by Rwanda and Uganda. Oh well...

Finally, there is this article from the EUObserver, that states that soldiers of the EUFOR, the EU's mission in Congo, have resorted to printing a weekly newspaper, in order to inform a very skeptical Congolese population, about their mission, and the sense of their presence in the country. I mean who can blame the Congolese people? The last three times that EU/Belgian soldiers were in the region, on a so-called "peace mission", there was a tragedy each time:
- The post-independence turmoil in 1960, resulting in the secession of Katanga (and other provinces), and the assassination of Lumumba
- The French intervention in the beginning nineties, which coincided with the massive riots of 1991 and 1993, resulting in a total interruption of any form of direct foreign assistance and aid, for a period of ~8 years.
- The French intervention in Rwanda, during the genocide, which is still a controversial topic, today!

Additionally, when one places EUFOR within a highly volatile context, where recent shady allocations of mining contracts to obscure Western companies have led the population to believe that "The West" already had a favourite candidate in the elections... it is not a stretch to think that, just maybe, this force is there to ensure that the results - presumed, in this logic, to have been predetermined by Western powers - are respected. Is that the case? Maybe not. But the fact that EU commissioner Louis Michel seems to have gone out of his way to promote, if not Kabila himself, at the very least his achievements, definitely does no help to dissipate the theory... You decide.

In the mean time, I was watching a report on EUFOR, on TV5, and I got to see my father's hometown of Kananga!!! Check it out! You can get Election preliminary results here (updated daily). And last, but not the least, this article on the efforts of Congolese-American NBA star Dikembe Mutombo, to build a new, state of the art hospital in Kinshasa. All hail the Dikembe!!



Jonathan Edelstein said...

Hi Ali,

It's only partly on topic, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on a few things:

1. Now that it's looking like a runoff, which way do you expect the losing candidates to jump - do you think most of them will form a dump-Kabila alliance or will they split their endorsements? In particular, which way will Ruzerwa and Kashala go, and what will be their price?

2. Do you expect that Ruzerwa will dispute second place with Bemba?

3. In the legislative election, will PPRD run as strongly in the east as Kabila himself, or will the eastern provinces be divided between parties run by local bosses? Will PPRD have a clear plurality? What will be the balance between the political opposition and the not-so-former militias?

4. What's the likelihood of another grand coalition, and what will be the consequences if it fails?

5. In the provincial elections, do you expect any regionalist and/or separatist partes to run well, and if so, is there a potential of another Katanga crisis?

6. What will Tshisekedi do now - wait until next time or try to delegitimize the incoming government?

7. What are the chances for it all to last until the next election?

TheMalau said...

Hi Jonathan, it's been a while. It's always a pleasure to have the Head Heeb around these parts. I will try to answer your questions, to the best of my knowledge.

1. I believe that there are so many scenarii possible, but most likely, if they want a political future:
- Kashala will not give voting instructions, or he will support Bemba
- Ruberwa will support Bemba, to reassert his "Congolity", which is a problem for him, seeing that he is Tutsi. Now, if he supports Kabila, that would be a liability for Kabila.

2. Ruberwa cannot dream to dispute second place. The "Congolity" movement in the country had already made that impossible, before the elctions, by bashing everybody with the notion that any Congolese-Tutsi person, is a Rwandan agent, intent on gaining territory from Congo, for Rwanda.

3. I will tell you, honestly, I don't know, because in Congo, and especially for legislative elections, much of people's political choices are based on affinities with an individual, whether ideoogical, or (mostly) tribal, and that is a bigger determinant than party affiliations.

4. I would say about 50/50, but the people would be really disappointed if there was another, "politicking-based" coalition, with no central purpose, nor cohesion. And if there is one, and it fails (which is likely), the consequence will be either new elections, or war... I am rooting for the former.

5. There is always a random potential for a Katanga secession crisis, with people like Kyungu wa Kumwanza, who is a very xenophobic Katangan leader, with a lot of infkuence. There are also semi-separatist/federalist groups in Bas-Congo (Bundu Dia Kongo) and Kasai (FRONT DE LIBERATION DU GRAND KASAÏ). But if Kabila is elected, at the national level, that is unlikely, as he is seen by many there as their champion. His biggest big-city meeting was in Lubumbashi, and both he and his father have focused a lot of resources to social programs there. In face his dad had moved Parliament there (financially disastrous, but quite a shrewd political move). As I have said before, Kabila is in sad, strange ways, the least of all evils.

6. So far Tshisekedi is disowning any government issued from these processes. However, in the likely event that people approve the elections, he will most likely have to wait, while giving his unoffical support to TSK (Anyone but Kabila) activists.

7. If the legislative results are given a chance to come out before all hell breaks loose, I think Congo should be able to have constitutional legitimate institutions - however unstable - til the next elections. We may have more than one prime minister during this period, though, and a lot of "vagabondage politique".

On a personal note, I would very much appreciate a spot for The Salon in your Africa blogroll at head Heeb (hint, hint)... ;)

Jonathan Edelstein said...

I've put the link in; my only excuse for not linking you before is that I could have sworn I did so a long time ago.

Thanks for the response; I'm a bit jammed up now so I'll answer at greater length later.

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