DRC | The Solutions: Paging Congo
“We need a peaceful, transparent and credible election”
Obstetrician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate
“We need peace to return to Congo. I often tell the story of a woman that I met in Fizi. One day I asked her what I could do for her. She said that she did not need help, that she could farm, fish and work hard to earn a living. That peace was the only thing that she needed.
How can you speak of development when, in some provinces, a woman who goes to the market or goes to fetch water can get raped? When civilians are being killed in Beni and Bukavu? Let’s start by recognising that there is a problem in this country.
I have always pushed for a transition in which President Joseph Kabila plays no part. His second term ran out in December 2016. For two years, our leaders have defied the people. What do you think will happen after 23 December this year? That the DRC will awake with a new president and acclaim him? After opposition leaders have been excluded for unconvincing reasons?
We need to be inclusive. We need a peaceful, transparent and credible election where the results are universally accepted.
To continue with the unending conflicts and armed groups that grow like mushrooms, it is chaos. My only dream is peace. I want to look after women who are having a baby, not try to put back together women who have been destroyed.”
“Make mining work for the people”
Jean Pierre Okenda
DRC country manager, Natural Resource Governance Institute
“1. Bring back long-term planning
The DRC needs to recognise that transforming its underground riches into real societal progress takes many years. The recent reforms in the sector reveal a lack of long-term vision: why bother doing governance reforms on one hand, while allowing officials to take stakes in mining companies on the other?
2. Create value at home
The DRC needs to use incentives to create local processing of minerals. The economic structure of the industry remains that of the colonial era. The 2015 EITI report [shows] the contribution of the sector to exports was 97.5%, but it only contributed 20% to GDP. The DRC needs to flip that dynamic to harness mining to genuine structural transformation.
3. Inject good governance at every step
Too often resource riches are squandered by implementation failure. How do we make officials accountable? How do we link this oversight to civil society? The stakes are huge: since 2015 we are the leading producers of base betals in Africa. But between 2010 and 2012, the country lost nearly $1bn in transactions implicating state company Gécamines.
4. Attract serious investors
To add value to the immense mining resources of the DRC requires capital we don’t have. In our uncertain political context, bringing in capital can be perilous. That bumps up the premium investors place on the returns they expect and attracts buccaneers. Only when we deliver profound political reform and create a trusted legal framework will be able to attract a better class of investor.
5. Beef up resource mapping
To get those serious investors into the sector, we need to get reliable and comprehensive geological data. Not only does that help us attract capital, but sunlight is also the best disinfectant.”
“We have already agreed on a common candidate”
In the opposition, we have already agreed on a common candidate, and we’re going to tell you about it soon. If we announce this common candidate now, Kabila will bring fake charges against him. So I think what is important for us is unity.
Kabila wants to create problems between the ethnic groups, those in Katanga and in the east. The Garde Presidentielle are not guards for Kabila, they are going to be guards for the next president. Today, those guards are suffering: they can’t even pay for house rent or school the fees for their children […] the same with any job in government today. Can you imagine a policeman who’s getting €60 ($68) a month? What can he do with that? Kabila is not entitled to sign any more contracts because his mandate finished two years ago. These projects must be signed by the new government. I think there are a lot of contracts which are going to be reviewed by the new government.
If Kabila had developed Congo and created jobs, we would not have our people in Angola. The budgets in Angola are far bigger than Congo because our economy has been mismanaged. So our people are migrating to countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. If there are no free and fair elections, I can tell you that 20 million Congolese will leave the country. The international community should think about that.
These voting machines are illegal and the Congolese will not accept them. If the candidate for Kabila is going to win with normal ballot paper, we are going to congratulate him. But we down accept the use of those machines to come and impose election results in Congo.
“We need to grow a new and different leadership”
National coordinator, Filimbi
“We are calling for a transitional period, where you will have non-political actors who will have a very clear action plan, stabilise the country and organise a fair election. During that period, we will need to grow a new and different leadership.
We have hidden depths. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo does not have the problem of ethnic strife. We have 400 different ethnic groups, but we don’t really have a high level of strife between those ethnicities.
This is what is quite special in Congo. When the war started in 1996 with Laurent-Désiré Kabila, they tried to use the ethnicity of the Tutsis living in eastern Congo to justify this war. But the strategy did not work. And very quickly they had to change the strategy and pivot towards the idea of the need for democracy and getting rid of a dictator. It is one of the only good points we can give to Mobutu Sese Seko: he did at least try to start building a nation. Since then, nobody has come back with any strategy [leading to] ethnic balkanisation. This is not the debate in Congo. The question in Congo is about the resources, and our internal debate is about resources. It is because we have all those resources that it is difficult for us to live in comfort, peace and freedom. The origin is not the colonial-era boundaries for us: the many wars and violence we have had since the 1960s are directly linked to our natural resources.
All leaders since Mobutu have been put in power by outside powers seeking those resources. Instead, we need to be using all these outside powers to our advantage – making them compete to offer us the best deal.
We as Congolese need to define what we want, but that will only happen if we have proper leaders. As of today, we are not seeing this kind of leadership.
Right now, both those in power and the opposition have the same way of doing things. Many of them run together. Many of them were warlords. They have the same bad values. It is the key problem for Congo.
Just look at this election. The electoral rolls are not transparent. Ten million voters do not have biometric identification. Kabila has banned important opposition members like Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba, and he has organised the election with an unknown voting technology. It is the worst election we have seen since 2006. We as Congolese need first to clarify what we want to do, to unify our forces and come up with an action plan. And after that, we will need to impose it. We don’t need to ask for agreement because outsiders will never agree on that.
Take the region. If I was Angola, I would not be happy to see a strong Congo, as it was with Mobutu. So it won’t interest Angola. Clearly, it would not interest Rwanda because you are talking about power in Africa, a strategic influence in Central Africa.
The Chinese are only interested in taking advantage of natural resources. We try to talk to Western leaders but understand that it is clearly not their priority and not in their strategy. Even [these leaders], they don’t really want a strong Congo.
But I am confident that in my generation we will have the leaders we need. One of things we would like to do as a movement is push for a new kind of political leadership based on fundamental values. I’m sure that if this leadership emerges, then Congo would take advantage of its resources.”
This article first appeared in the November 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine