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DRC’s rising and setting stars

By Honoré Banda
Posted on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 13:08

A great deal rides on whether President Joseph Kabila opts to stay on or quit in 2016, making him one of the main people to watch in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the next three years.

His brother Zoe and sister Jaynet Kabila (1)‘s decisions and gambits will play a key role too.

Whether or not they can figure out how to protect and advance their business interests without their brother as president will be of critical importance in whatever decision he finally takes.

Former central bank governorJean- Claude Masangu (2) has been unemployed since his tenure at the bank ended in March.

The big question will be whether any of the jobs grand enough for him – prime minister and governor of Katanga spring to mind – become available.

Augustin Matata Ponyo and Moïse Katumbi Chapwe, the current incumbents, hope not, but Kabila may have other ideas.

Albert Yuma Mulimbi, president of the board at the state-owned mining company Gécamines, is another influential native of Katanga Province.

Rumours abound in Kinshasa that the country’s multibillion-dollar loan agreement with various Chinese state-owned companies has fallen apart.

Moïse Ekanga, who runs the Bureau de Coordination et de Suivi du Programme Sino-Congolais, which oversees the loans, denies it.

If Ekanga is right and the loan agreement keeps delivering Chinese infrastructure construction, his already considerable power can only grow. If not, the coming months could prove to be Ekanga’s downfall.

Congolese officials at least admit that there were problems in the Sicomines mines-for-infrastructure deal in 2011, when state-run Chinese banks demanded a large stake in mining projects or a great deal of collateral in exchange for the proposed $6bn in finance.

Roger Ndaywel Fay, Matata Ponyo’s smooth-talking special adviser, is a formidable young talent who could go far. But if Kabila axes his boss to satisfy political allies, that would be a massive setback for Ndaywel.

Albert Moleka, a spokesperson of the opposition Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS), is young, smart and perfectly positioned to take over the reins from octogenarian party president Etienne Tshisekedi.

That Moleka is from Equateur Province, not the Kasaïs, the heartland of the UDPS, could cause him problems.

The more immediate obstacle, however, is Tshisekedi’s stubbornness, which could see him clinging to the party’s leadership for as long as he possibly can.

Conflict minerals have been a big topic in the DRC over the past few years, and one of the men best poised to tackle the issue is Paul Mabolia Yenga, a senior adviser to mines minister Martin Kabwelulu and the national coordinator of Promines, a World Bank- and Department for International Development-funded project to reform the mining sector.

Mabolia is a man with a budget whose main challenge at the moment is to spend enough money fast enough and well enough to satisfy anxious donors.

In mid-June, United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon appointed Martin Kobler, a German national who was previously UN special envoy in Iraq, as his new special envoy to the DRC.

Kobler succeeds contrarian former United States ambassador to the DRC Roger Meece, who under-whelmed in the position and will be little missed. Kobler has a difficult time ahead of him.

The deployment of an African intervention force in eastern DRC has set the UN mission in the DRC up for a direct confrontation with the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23) rebel group, which is likely to be bloody and could cause more humanitarian problems in eastern DRC.

Kobler will have to work with Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz of Brazil, whom Ban appointed Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en République Démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO) force commander in May.

Dos Santos Cruz has already acquired a reputation among MONUSCO staffers for being way too aggressive, something he has in common with M23 commander Sultani Makenga.

Makenga is not the only rebel leader to be causing trouble for President Kabila. Ferdinand Tanda Imena leads the Bakata Katanga (Cut Off Katanga) group of Maï-Maï forces in Katanga Province.

TheMaï-Maï led a series of attacks on mining operations and local populations in an attempt to make the province more difficult to govern and to gather support for independence from Kinshasa.

Media reports say tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the province this year due to the fact that the UN mission is more focused on what is happening in the east.

Governor Katumbi, who is in the inner circle of high-ranking officials from Katanga, says the number is closer to 350,000.

Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa is the director of the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature and plays a major role in trying to protect the country’s national parks.

These include the legendary Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega parks, home to gorillas and also guerrillas – namely the M23 and Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda, whose actions have been to the gorillas’ grisly detriment.

In the cultural sphere, rumba veteran Koffi Olomide (3) holds sway, fending off ambitious and youthful rivals Fally Ipupa and Ferre Gola.

Olomide’s slow- paced, Latin-infused sounds have captured the country’s dance floors, though at some cost to Congolese music’s popularity on the rest of the continent.

He plans to release his 20th and last album, Le 13ème Apôtre, in 2014, and says he will concentrate on setting up his own label and working with new and rising stars.

In 2010, Djo Tunda Wa Munga directed Viva Riva!, a raunchy and fast-paced thriller that was the country’s best movie in years.

He is working on a new project that might emerge sometime next year.

ThroughLes Ateliers Action de Kinshasa, he is organising free master’s degree programmes for film students from July 2013 until July 2014. ●