When looking at the Congo today, I am definitely enclined to let out an enormous sigh of relief today... and then to take it back in the following half second. Like many analysts of the political situation in the DRC, I was increasingly apprehensive of Vice-President Jean Pierre Bemba's potential military reaction to a rejection of his electoral challenge in the Supreme Court, on Monday. Jean Pierre Bemba has proved us wrong, and it is all to his honor. VP Bemba released a statement today, which essentially amounted to a concession. In good Congolese tradition, he doesn't actually acknowledge President Kabila's victory - that would be too easy, too humiliating, and actually contradictory (how can he now acknowlege the victory of someone whom he still accused of committing fraud the a few days earlier); instead Bemba announced his entrance into a "strong and republican opposition", which has exactly the same effect. The joys of politics one might say... Hence the sigh of relief. But then in the East, the drums of war are sounding again, and that is not encouraging... Hence the stop mid-breath.
A sign of Hope
The new regime has no more excuses - political side, at least - no to do the work they have been ELECTED to do. President-elect Kabila has a commending majority in Parliament - with his allies, and therefore does have the political capital (I cannot believe I, of all people, am borrowing a line from G.W. Bush!), to implement his professed overhauling of the country's administration, infrastructure and economy. Kabila will now hold the reins of power, unemcumbered by the restrictions of the "pentarchy" instituted by the coubtry's transitional constitution (1 President, 4 Vice-Presidents, better known as "1+4"), which means that he will now be doubly responsible for any shortcomings of the government. There are no longer convenient scapegoats to blame the country's stagnation on. Kabila now has the task to prove to the Congolese people that he deserves the trust they have - at least partly - put in him.
That's a new concept for many Congolese politicians, including the President: responsibility. Our politicians have by and large yet to prove that they are able to accept, respect and bow to the will of the people, when they find themselves in hot waters. The elections are just one step in the democratization of this country. As I have said in an earlier post, it is going to take a while before we deserve that "D" in DRC. But - without undue naivete - I believe that it is a challenge that we are very much on the way to take on. We must now teach/remind the Congolese people to be a responsible citizenry, that is willing and ready to monitor our leadership; Especially now that we do have (at least nominally) a decentralised government of proximity. We need to nip corruption at its roots, and not give politicians any space, any occasion to partake in any subversive activity. It will take lots of time, determination and effort...
In the mean time, in the Parliament, the debates over the Rules and Pricedures in parliament have been both encouraging and appaling. Encouraging for the politicians have proven that they can debate with the best of them, anywhere on this earth. Appaling because they have already shown the lack of willingness from the parliamentary majority, to extend courtesy to the minority. It reminds me of the Republican party before November 2nd in the United States... but WORSE! They have even refused proportional participation of all parties in parliamentary commissions. And debates have also included such backward and mysoginistic debates as the right for women to wear pants on the floor of parliament. The road to democracy and human rights is still very long, but at least we have started the path.
There is A LOT to do in the DRC. A LOT. Althrough this blog you will see the numerous things that do not work in Congo. And in a later blog, I will detail what I see as being the priorities for the country. In the mean time, in good African trdition, I will defer to my elder Mvemba, at Eye on Africa, for a description of the more immediate steps that need to be taken. Chief among them is the integration, reeducation, and if necessary, the purge of the Armed Forces and the police. Lunatics like dissident General Laurent Nkunda cannot be allowed to hold the country hostage.
In the mean time, this is my message to my fellow Congolese people: Congo 3.0 is still in "beta release". It is time for us all to contribute to the amelioration of the release, so we can finally iron out all the bugs, and have a country we can all be even more proud of.
Congo kino liwa!
Note: The debates of the lower house (National Assembly) of Parliament in the DRC, are chronicled on its website, in french.