Wednesday, September 05, 2007

DR Congo: Optimism and Fear

Yesterday, I commented on Cedric's blog, then proceeded to write my rant as a post - in French - on this blog, where I have been derelict in my blogging for about a year now. I wrote because I am both optimistic and terrified, when I consider what lies ahead for Congo, and that simply unsettles me, and I feel a brewing storm of gigantic proportions.

I am optimistic because there seems to be a sense of "normalization" across the country - people are fighting over salaries more than ethnicity, teachers' unions are staging strikes and stopping school from starting, leaders are still making bogus deals and taking bribes... normalization! I am also perversely optimistic because it seems to be - now more than ever - in the interest of those that can make or break our economy (Mining giants) to help stabilize the situation, and effect social change. These companies want to appear like they are growing a conscience, and that's better than nothing. Moreover, there is even an Investment Fair - the first ever - scheduled for the end of this month. So there is some small room and opportunity for greatness here.

Nevertheless, I am EXTREMELY worried because that general - and potentially false - sense of "normalization" seems to be covering-up a storm of horrible proportions. There is still a mutual lack of understanding between the East and the West, in terms of their respective history, their respective sensibilities, their respective influence on power, their mutual interest and their position in our conflicts with our neighbors. Tribalism still runs amok in all the Congolese list-serves, People are paid the lowest salaries on the continent, despair and disillusion is rising fast, and the government seems - I emphasize seems - to stagnate in a haze of confusion, mystery, and lack of coordination. And as far as the neighbors are concerned (Rwanda, UGanda, Angola), they never truly abandoned their ambitions in the Congo; they were simply coerced - among others, by the US - into putting them on hold, pending negotiations for the reestablishment of the Great Lakes Community, in which they would have more power and influence than they ever had before. That does not sit well with most Congolese people, and the combination of both external threats and internal frustrations could prove quite explosive and deadly. Moreover, with the heavy involvement of Western companies in shady mining deals, and to avoid a Niger-Delta-type situation, Western governments and their militaries may be reluctantly dragged into this much further than they are comfortable, and that would be WWIII.

As I said in French, I really hope I am wrong, and this is just me over-analyzing, because I plan to live in the Congo, and I am working on helping to make the situation there better. At least most people are now in agreement around the idea of defending the unity of the Congo, and whatever is remaining of the economy is stable, so there are positive steps and changes. But I am definitely worried...


BRE said...

First, it's great to see you back at The Salon after such a long absence.

Re: your work in setting up the CongoStar Group foundation I think that it is a great idea and I am sure that it will be successful under your careful management. You know how to get in touch with me when you are ready to talk about CongoStar and the way forward. Remember to keep the women and girls of the DR Congo included in and at the center of everything you do at CongoStar.

The international trade fair taking place in Kinshasa this month looks very promising but it is only a small step in the right direction. Let's hope there will be many more such trade and business fairs in cities all across the country in the future. The fair organizers need to do some work on their website as some functions are not loading properly in my browser and there is a general lack of detailed information about exhibitors and investment opportunities.

Don't worry too much about "Western mining companies" ripping off the DRC like they could do so easily in the good old days. Pay close attention to the new Eastern (PR China) state-run companies and your African neighbors (Zambia, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda) who are trucking away precious minerals and timber by the truckload (100's) every day. By the time these guys finish with the DR Congo you won't have to worry about new wars over natural resources 'cause there won't be any resources left to fight over. Did you see the recent PBS Fontline World special on China's calling card in the DRC (Congo: On the Trail of an AK-47)?

The link to Cedric's blog isn't working so you may want to check that problem (not that I can understand French now any better than I could last year...:-).

In the meantime be well and welcome back to the Sphere.

BRE said...

Dear Ali (the Malau),

Hoping that all is well with you and your new projects down in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Louis Ableman, the documentary filmmaker and author of the (retired) blog Telegraphe Congolais, has finally finished the film about rape victims and fistula patients in Goma AND the film has aired on PBS P.O.V. in the States AND was featured on CNN Inside Africa today (Nov 4th, 2007). Here is the message I left at Lou's old blog and you can contact him at the Goma Film Project website as well:

BRE wrote to Louis...

Dear Louis, I just saw the CNN Inside Africa program today (Nov 4, 2007) that featured a trailer from your documentary film "Lumo" and the interview with you and Nelson Walker. I then went over to the PBS P.O.V. website to checkout all the information that they have on the film, the filmmakers, and the crisis with violent rape and fistula patients in the eastern DRC.

I can't tell you how surprised and excited I was to learn that the Goma Film Project crew had finally found a major distributor (PBS P.O.V.) and channel to show your wonderful work highlighting the story of women and girls who have suffered from mass rape as a weapon of war in eastern Congo.

It took CNN (including CNN Inside Africa) more than a year to wakeup to the fact that the documentary Lumo even existed (see my original comment to this post). As usual, the blogosphere is way ahead of the traditional commercial media on breaking news stories and important news features that really count.

Congratulations on getting Lumo aired at PBS and I hope that you are still monitoring comments from your abandoned blog, Telegraphe Congolais. I'm gonna notify Ali the Malau right away at his blog.
End Comment____

Here is the URL to the PBS P.O.V. website feature on the documentary film "Lumo":

TheMalau said...

BRE, Thank you for the info. I saw Lumo on TV, and it was quite touching. I am quite proud of our friend Louis, and his team.

guard runner said...

ciao dall'italia.I like your blog.

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