Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Divided they fall?

It appears that President Kabila's constitutional revisions are already paying off. Yesterday, Etienne Tshisekedi announced that he would not consider backing another, joint opposition candidate against Kabila. "I didn't fight for twenty years [sic] to allow someone else to take my place."

Kamerhe then hits back in this interview.  He insisted on unifying the opposition against Kabila: "I am terrified of providential men. That's what killed the Congo. 'It's me or nobody.' Nobody is indispensable, nobody is better than another, we are all children of God, let's humble ourselves and God will elevate us."

So the opposition seems to be fracturing. Interestingly, Kamerhe - who is well situated to know the inner workings of other opposition parties - suggested that Jean-Pierre Bemba would also likely to be designated as the MLC candidate for the presidency. That would almost certainly happen while he's on trial in The Hague. Is it really the best thing to put yourself forward if there is a decent chance that you will spending the next few years in prison, unable to carry out any government duties?


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Anonymous said...

Where are the true democrats in the Congo? Why are these proud and brave people so cursed with men so selfish, so cruel, and so vision-less that seek to lead them?

Etienne, is a joke. His political instincts are so poor he literally thought a mere conference of the nation would require Mobuto, a dictator, to simply hand him power without a fight.

Then, angered at the lack of real choices in 2006, he decides to sit out the elections.

And now, faced with a divided opposition, he magically returns after 5 years of "sickness" right when elections are kicking into gear.

I am so tired of these selfish, cynical politicians in the Congo. I know some folks hate American interference, but we really must pressure Obama to severely tighten the screws on Kabila to change the dynamic in the Congo. We really must. We should just say "you get half your budget from the IMF and World Bank. And American tax money is the bulk of it. Therefore, here are the conditions to receiving that lube." Then, to make sure Kabila doesn't run to China, start slapping some tariffs on China if it even thinks about making up the difference. Trust me, Americans are very much in a "bash China" mood right now. Enough needs to stop all this conflict/rape stuff. Let's just force Obama's hand here.

Sorry to be the Ugly American here but outside of open revolt, it is only Americans that can change this 'pigs at the trough' behavior that infects the entire Congolese political class- even the so called "good guys". Complete and total and absolute American interference.

too many people have suffered for too long and its just clear the opposition are as clueless and corrupt as the actual leaders in the Congo.

andrea said...

dear anonymous, don't want to be exagerated but this situation in DRC is also (and mostly) fault of Americans.

On the other hand I agree with you that USA are probably still the most influencing country and the ones that cna change the situation (as they've done with Mzee Laurent). Americans are already interfering with Congo's hisotry, consider also who's ruling in rwanda.

The article apeared on Jeune Afrique, of which Jason reported some comments, is a clear explication of the country works.

Me and of course congolese also we are all tired of this political class. But as also Jason stated in a couple of post before, Congo couldn't be Egypt, and people has to come out by themselves.

@ Jason: only few weeks ago it seemed that opposition leaders were ready for running together. Then a few problems arrived in UDPS, causing a fracture in the party.
Now these two declarations.

Do you feel that things are going "naturally" or the "influencing machine" of AMP has began to move, like has been for the vote on the constituional change?

Anonymous said...

Several thoughts to ponder :

1.Tshisekedi is so far the strongest candidate out of those in the political opposition who have announced their interest. He is also a jurist at the base, a huge difference with Kabila who has absolutely no higher education to speak of.

2.Kamerhe is not taken seriously by any Congolese opposition (politicians or the regular man) because he is part & parcel of the Kabila regime , he played a major rule in consolidating it in 2006 and he spent the first years covering up every single crime in parliament, all under the guise of democracy but the result was always the same, systematic covering up no matter the gravity.

3.In 2006 the Congolese political opposition surprised everyone by unifying under the Union pour la Nation (and making Kabila's planned win difficult : remember Archbishop Etsou denouncing malu malu's electoral fraud at the last minute to push the results in Kabila's favor?). So be assured that same Congolese political opposition (which is less fractured today than in 2006 with over 30 candidates) can unify again.

The game is not over, it has only just begun...

Anonymous said...


A few things. I think it is easy to get despondent about the Congo given its many challenges. Having seen way too many dead bodies in my time in the East, way too many damaged women from rape, and so many other cruelties too nauseating to list here I certainly understand your sentiment.

But this post was a little intense and I, like you, am an American.

When our people elected Obama we, among other things, put to an end our grand (and entirely failed) project of remaking the world in our image. I believe that was the right decision and I highly doubt Americans have any more stomach for various "interventions" in the world- particularly given are still weak economy and the various conversations around "austerity".

Having said that, I share your "pigs at the trough" theory. Strongly. We must find a way to change the incentives for Congo's political class- in the opposition and outside of it- to stop feeding at it and corrupting themselves and imperiling the country in the process.

Some months ago, Jason posted an interview with Tony Gambino. Please go read it. Gambino suggested a "Governance Compact" and the need to focus on the IMF and World Bank. He didn't really elaborate, but I do feel pressuring Obama to institute one with the Congo would make good sense in addition to fully implementing the Obama Law with the Congo. It should be part of an overhaul of policy toward the Congo- Jason ofcourse is the leading expert on how in this regard- but such a compact could help end the "feeding".

Primarily, it needs to clearly state to Kabila and anyone who would replace him that in exchange for the "lube" there would be clear benchmarks his government would have to meet. Basic carrots and sticks. Fundamentally those benchmarks MUST be:

- freedom of the press
- freedom of association
- progress toward security sector reform
- progress toward infrastructure development
- civil service reform
- budget allocation
- fighting corruption

Kabila's government would need to meet goals under each benchmark and report them quarterly.

Should he fail to report in a timely manner a set of sanctions would be leveled upon his government with increasing severity with successive violations.

The idea would be to make being a clean politician a matter of personal survival, as opposed to what we have now.

Anonymous said...


Now, this would affect the elites. For everyone else, I strongly feel we need to support- with money- civil society. Particularly, encourage their ability to build organizations, identify and recruit leaders, identify issues and build campaigns to hold accountable elected representatives, and really get much better at the elements of running democratic, non governmental groups.

Democracy cannot thrive without citizen-run groups that pressure-relentlessly-the government and hold it accountable. Whatever groups we would support, however, need to be diverse and appealing to ALL STRATA of Congolese society. As you know, in our own country a path to becoming a leader in our society is our Parents/Teachers Associations and Neighborhood Associations. Indeed, when we bring people from new democracies here to "study" American democracy these two groups figure prominently. A group from East Timor just visited my own Neighborhood Association three months ago and a Bosnian team came 5 years ago.

Just imagine if there were democratically run "school associations" in every community in the Congo? There are some there now and they need our assistance.

By supporting civil society and the US tightening the screws on Kabila, we apply pressure at two points- above and below.

It would also change the incentives for the divided opposition in the Congo Much of the division, in my opinion, stems for a lack of trust each other borne by this "pigs at the trough" system. Therefore, changing this system will change behavior and, theoretically, change the perverse incentives of the opposition not to work together.

Finally, the Kigali question, while important, is tangential. Yes, Kigali has sway in this government. But the idea that Americans needs Kigali to "control" Congo is a really weak argument. During the wars, sure, it made sense. But the reality is that America has no real interests in either of these countries. We do more business and investment with Kenya than with the entire region combined. Thus, a shift in focus to the Congo isn't that big of a shift towards the region overall. It would just be a shift given we have no real interests in Central Africa. To be blunt, we just really need Sudan's, Nigeria's, and Angola's oil. Kagame and his nation's "efficiency" and "tidy cities" is a nice cover story but that's really it.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, one more thing.

I do believe, as part of any shift in policy in the Congo, that it would clearly mean being far more intense with Kigali. That would mean making it clear that they cannot keep using the FDLR as an excuse to destabilize the East. This would also mean stating very clearly to Kigali that there will be reprecussions if they continue to interfere in the Congo- basically, the kinds of things we say to Iran vis a vis Iraq. The Obama Adminstration has already chastised Kigali over the elections so this would just be more disciplining. Really, a personal call from Obama to Gates, Google and Starbucks CEO, and Blair would likely suffice and could be another deliverer of a "stay out" message Kigali receives.

Really doesn't need to be more than that.

- Mel

Richard Mwamba said...

All oppostion leaders are ready to back Tshisekedi except Vital Kamerhe. Anything Kabila enjoys today is a result of what V.K. had concocted. Is there any forwarned congolese who believes V.K. is an opposition leaders? Vital Kamehre is one those things Congo can't evolve! This is clearly a plot from the powerfull of the world who want Congo to continue in its misery, death and despair. There is a huge popular meeting planned by Etienne Tshisekedi and geniune opposition leaders in Kinshasa and this will send a clear signal of what congolese want at this moment President Obama must pay attention to this. If he wants peace in Africa, he will have to let congolese choose their own leaders. There is nothing wrong for american campanies to come to Congo to invest in a more stable and secure environment. We will need the american to help build our military forces, we will need the american investments. We can't continue in the path of the african "king makers" where learder must be imposed on people to serve lobbists interests? The plan to impose on congolese an other useless man called Vital Kamerhe is wrong. I would like this popular meeting in Kinshasa to take place in the open, because the stadium will be too small to contain all the militants of democracy, peace and freedom that are in support of Etienne Tshisekedi.

Anonymous said...

Please Jason, STOP TALKING ABOUT JP BEMBA, do your lobbing for Hyppolite Kanambe as usual.

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