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

Friday, April 5, 2013

Guest blog: Time for a Change in U.S. Congo policy

The following is a guest blog by Anthony Gambino, the former USAID director in the Congo, and Steve Weisman, the former staff director for the US House of Representative's Subcommittee on Africa.

The last weeks have seen a burst of Congo news: a strange, small attack by Mai-Mai in central Lubumbashi; the surrender and transfer to the International Criminal Court of indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda; and Mary Robinson appointed as U.N. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes. These disparate events hint at some deeper truths about the Congo: its continuing instability; the hope for progress as Bosco, a major spoiler, leaves the scene; and the need for smarter international engagement to deal with the continuing challenges.

On this last point, it is time for the Obama administration to revise its failed Congo policy.
The heart of the failure is, oddly enough, that the Obama Administration during the President’s first term did not follow its own policy directives on democracy promotion. Despite considerable financial leverage (the U.S. alone provided $700 million for the DRC in 2012), the U.S and other donors have squandered chances to address the Government’s low political legitimacy and the predatory nature of the Congolese state.

Four Years of Missed Opportunities

The U.S. failed to provide crucial support for democratic elections and institutions.

After working hard, particularly diplomatically, to ensure the success of the 2006 national elections, the U.S. and the international community did not follow through. They did not lean on the Government when it removed dissenters from parliamentary positions and engaged in rampant legislative bribery. Then they drastically reduced their financial support for and political engagement with the 2011 elections. For example, in early 2011, the U.S. Government was silent when President Kabila, using bribery, rammed a constitutional change through parliament that eliminated a likely – and greatly feared by Kabila’s camp – run-off between President Joseph Kabila and the main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi. The U.S. did not weigh in diplomatically against the pro-Government biases of the Election Commission or the Government’s packing of the Supreme Court with loyalists. It did not even press its own initiative for an independent review of the election results, once the Congolese Government objected. The U.S. has remained virtually silent in the face of the Government’s continual postponement of constitutionally mandated provincial and local elections.

The U.S. failed to hold the DRC accountable for its unwillingness to implement “good governance” in civil and military affairs.

The U.S. has not put pressure on the Government to implement constitutional provisions providing for government decentralization. Nor has it condemned the growth of parallel decision-making networks in the President’s Office that obviate constitutional and legal requirements. The U.S. has not pressed the Government to adopt and implement a real plan and budget for security sector reforms.

The environment of corruption has seriously undermined some U.S.-backed programs to improve governance. An October 2012 International Crisis Group report on the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy in the eastern Congo criticizes “a lack of consultation, especially with the beneficiary populations, a prevalence of material construction over governance reform.” The U.N. recently reformulated this program to emphasize “democratic dialogue” between local civil society and provincial administrators, but its success will ultimately depend both on the Congolese Government and on donor willingness to insist on performance and results. U.S. and other international military training efforts have been hampered by weak Government logistical support and the Generals’ habits of levying “taxes” on their soldiers’ low wages.

The U.S. failed to work vigorously to curb violence in the volatile North and South Kivu Provinces of eastern Congo.

Two decades of serious provincial violence, stemming partly from local struggles over land and power, has been exacerbated by Rwanda’s military support for Congolese Tutsi-led groups.

The U.S. response has been extremely weak. It has not vigorously pressed MONUSCO to carry out its mandate to protect civilians. It successfully deleted an explicit reference to Rwanda in a U.N. Security Council Resolution concerning the current M-23 crisis. Only recently has the U.S. cautioned Rwanda’s leader, suspending a small military training program, and supported a U.N. Special Envoy and regional intervention force. 

An Alternative Policy

U.S. policies have focused on individuals and foundered on over-optimistic expectations concerning the “political will” of DRC President Joseph Kabila and his government. We recommend the following new priorities:

1. Promote greater democratization – in the broadest sense of the word – as the central thread of American policy
  • Press for the holding of long-delayed provincial elections in 2014, to be followed by local elections.
  • Publicly support reforms necessary to make the “Independent National Election Commission” truly independent, including a revamping of its leadership.
  • Begin steps for a parallel vote tabulation for the 2016 national elections.
  • Hold regular U.S. Embassy meetings with major opposition parties and civil society leaders to listen to their views.
  • Speak out publicly when the Congolese Government violates human rights.
  • Expand continuing in-country technical assistance in support of the democratic structuring of political parties and improved legislative effectiveness.
2. Promote improved civilian governance with the recognition that, pending increased democratization, any initiatives will encounter an unfavorable environment and require intense international supervision and financial support.

3. Promote improved military governance with the recognition that the unfavorable environment requires coordinated international supervision and financial support.

The root of the problem of “lack of political will” is the Government’s vested interest in its corrupt, patrimonial system of rule. A government more open to forces from below would be under greater pressure to utilize its democratic institutions and meet the demand for effective public services.
  • Press the DRC to implement legislation on decentralization.
  • Work with the IMF and World Bank to hold the Government to standards for budget transparency and levels of government expenditure for key sectors.
  • Support the restructured U.N. stabilization strategy for eastern Congo.
  • Build on the existing USAID program of aid to local civil society groups that have had some success in increasing provincial transparency and influencing budgets, and expand it to the national level. 
  • Press the Government to increase transparency in the mining sector based on U.S. laws and Congolese membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
  • Publicly call out the Government on major issues of corruption and look for opportunities to support anti-corruption initiatives.
  • Ensure that genuine community consultation informs all U.S.-assisted governance programs.
  • Press the Government to adopt a concrete plan and budget for security sector reform as emphasized by the U.S. and Congo NGO 2012 report, “Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform.”
  • Consider, in the context of other international efforts, U.S. training assistance to select army units, particularly in the East, but only when a comprehensive Army reform program initiative is underway, using U.S. regular military as trainers to mentor and monitor human rights and other performance. 

4. Promote conflict resolution in the Kivus, including the withdrawal of Rwandan assistance to military factions
  • Work with the Government and representative local actors towards a fair process to dispose of land issues.
  • Support local conflict resolution programs.
  • Use diplomatic pressure, international aid leverage and economic sanctions to end Rwandan assistance to militarized factions. 

Finally, to make sure these policies are effective, the U.S. must measure progress towards each of the above objectives with meaningful quantitative and qualitative “benchmarks” for “significant progress”; and be prepared to adjust U.S. programs accordingly. Outside of humanitarian assistance, and support for democratic institution building, all other U.S. aid should be conditioned on performance.

It is time for the Obama Administration to abandon its failed policy towards the DRC and lead the international community in a more effective approach to that key country’s challenges.


Unknown said...


By and large, this is an excellent article especially as it regards the necessity of democratisation in Congo and Africa. In Congo, democracy is the most strategic development instrument and the surest rampart against war mongers and coup fanatics. NO MORE AFRICA/CONGO-THE-JUNGLE WHERE A47 IS THE LAW and “African Strong men” seek/get their legitimacy from outside backers rather than their people.

Even though nowadays the motives of “int’l activits” should always be discerned. See how the celebrity activist George Clooney first burst into the scene “innocently” as the “self-elected representative of Darfur”, but NOW that the “South Sudan Initiative” (scission of OIL rich Darfur from Sudan) is achieved, Clooney or no one else talk about Darfur anymore. The people of Darfur are forgotten and languish in eternal IDPs in Sudan. See how this big-fat-spoilt-brat Howard Buffet, who started “innocently” as “concerned about people in Congo”, ultimately showed his true colours to fight Congolese people and stand as close Kagame apologist with T. Blair when their negro-mercenary got challenged for his crimes in Congo. Look, this is not Sudan, this is CONGO [ the land of Queen Kimpanvita, King Msiri, Prophet Kimbangu and the greatest African that has ever lived PE Lumumba (dixit Brother Malcom X not me)]. No amount of money can change Congolese proud history and bright destiny. We are glad that, unlike anyone who knows Congo from books TV or Internet, President Obama knows Africa (Congo) “personally” (check his auto-bios).

That said in my view, here is how America can “practically and lastingly” entrench “democracy” in Congo beyond JK or anyone else. Three levers:

(A). Let the USgov extend a repayable loan (not aid) to DRC to link by road Moanda (West)-Kasumbalesa (South-East), kasumabalesa-Faradje (North-East), Faradje-Zongo (North-West), Zongo-Kinshasa. Cost : +- $5bil. Duration: 3 years.

(B). Let the USgov join DRC, South Africa and China in a $10bil Grand Inga joint-venture to produce enough electricity not just for Congo but the all of Africa and beyond. Duration: 2 years.

(C). Let the USgov extend a repayable loan (not aid) to DRC to revamp the education infrastructure (primary, secondary and tertiary) as Congolese superstructure is there. Cost: +-$3bil. Duration: 5 years.

(D). To ensure accountability and avoid bureaucracy, DRCgov should not touch a cent of this money and the IMF, WB, UNDP and the USAID should not be involved. Let American and Congolese private companies be employed for this.

My point is there cannot be a true democracy in the current objective realities of DRC, and its not just JK. There cannot be democracy “nowhere else” without a sizable and politically-conscious middle class who are not beholden to the ruling elite. The Congolese masses live in “silos” as hostages of local politicians/tribal leaders, they don’t elect objectively (informed choice) nor do they even know what their “rights as citizens” are. In other words, FIRST improve the “deficient infrastructure” in DRC and the rest is bound to fall into place naturally. You see, China might be “inadvertently” entrenching democracy in Africa or Congo more than anyone else!


David Aronson said...

Odd, isn't it, that Clinton's administration radicalized an entire generation of US Africa observers, while Obama's is leaving the next deeply disaffected? I say this as a lifelong Democrat.

I agree entirely with Tony's diagnosis. I'm not sure about the course of action. We may be supplying $700 million to the DRC, but how much leverage does that really give us? Which programs would we threaten to cut? The anti-malaria programs or the mobile court anti-GBV programs? And why would a corrupt patrimonial leadership care if we threatened either?

Two alternatives might be, on the one hand, a more forceful diplomatic response and smart sanctions that, for example, freeze western held bank accounts. (You can sell your minerals to the Chinese, but you still need citibank to park your illicit earnings.) And on the other, much greater support--by an order of magnitude, say--to Congolese NGOs and CSOs. We should be giving them the money, training and technical support to hold their own government's feet to the fire. Institutionalize a whole Gene Sharp/Berea/SNCC from the ground up program.

I think we also have to keep the mapping report in mind, and continue vigorously to insist on the creation of a mixed chamber. Otherwise, the cycle of impunity will just roll on, for another generation.

blaise said...

The clinton's bunch is still there,lurking in the shadow and doing his bidding. The GoDrc seems not to realize that they have 2 former proven leaders (clinton and blair) with extensive network of influence.That's one problem.
The other one is to put pressure on the Godrc in term of reforms and governance,two pillars for a long lasting peace. Threatening bank accounts and belonging freeze like it's done for Syria and Iran, should get their attention.

Anonymous said...

my quick random reactions/questions to this post:

- this is by far the most prescient line about the human catatrophe that is Congo: The root of the problem of “lack of political will” is the Government’s vested interest in its corrupt, patrimonial system of rule.

- for policy wonks, this is sure to please. for us activists, not so much
- Gambino is at pains here on describing just how we compel the Administration to pursue this course. Where does he see pressure coming from for a course correction? Some big change of heart on the part of the O crowd?
- while the subject is American policy in this age formulating it cannot be divorced from competitors to American power. Why would America pursue something like this when China, competitor #1, could care less about governance?

- broadly agree with Aronson on the need for better levers to compel better behavior out of Kinshasa. But who needs Citibank when a Chinese, South Korean, or Kenyan one will do just fine? Indeed, why would any corrupt official in Kinshasa want to invest in the West at all at this juncture? (note: A Kenyan realtor friend of mine says some 10% of buyers in its hot property market are from Kinshasa)

- empowering Congolese is key to transforming/adding more competitive forces to Congo’s corrupting political system. Well, OK, but what does that realistically look like? I’ve got problems w/ the Gene Sharp/build a Congolese SNCC primarily because its astro-turfy-y in the extreme and, as the color revolutions made clear, too unpredictable. Would some version of Muana Congo’s idea be a better way?

- Again, get this is for American policy makers/thinkers, but at what point do we take some of Kagame’s better views on Africa- ie, the need for Africans to solve its problems via its solutions-and implement here. Are not Africans part of the “international community”?

- Again, echoing Muana Congo, this is all sticks and no carrots. And we (Americans) face the Chinese as competitors so our leverage is already low among Kinshasa’s elites. What are some carrots we could dangle to change behavior in Kinshasa?

- Broadly feel this is all prescribing and no vision. What is the overarching vision here? The Obamabots are a vision/big change type of crowd it seems and selling them on the “Fix Congo: 100 Point Plan” is bound to fail with them I think.

- Similar to stuff above about how to compel US government to try different things but, again, what is the compelling thing? Is it time for an entire law that, for atleast 12 years, clearly lays out what policy towards the Congo should be and that compels every administration to adhere to it?

- as an American Congo activist, I’m increasingly questioning our entire “hit em’ up with a policy brief” approach Gambino and groups like Enough keep peddling. The Congo is not short of brilliant ideas to fix. But the problem, in DC, is really, again, a question of political will. Not a single elected official in DC faces the threat of being evicted from office for doing nothing on the Congo. Is it time for less of the brains and more the brass tacks approach of AIPAC and CANF? So, start building an activist and donor base in key districts and threaten these folks with primaries?


Dark Eldar said...

Many good points have been raised in this analysis. In addition, however, a re-think of the dynamics at work in the Great Lakes region is much needed. This might streamline the thinking that drives policy formulation in the US to take advantage of the synergies already on the ground.

The strongest influences on the DRCgo are the neighbouring countries (at least with regards to problems in the Kivus) - namely, Uganda & Rwanda. When problems in the Kivus escalate - the first people Kabila calls are Kagame & Museveni. An illustration of this was during the takeover of Goma by M23 in Nov 2012.

Contrary to conventional belief, Kagame does not control M23. And neither do the rebels consult Kigali before they launch any offensive. However, M23 know that they need allies or at the very minimum the support of Uganda and Rwanda to place their demands on the table, thus Kagame & Museveni have leverage and M23 cannot afford to ignore them.

Something that Kabila’s advisors in Kinshasa & indeed most international community actors have failed to discern is that Uganda and Rwanda are hostile to rebel activity in the east.
Uganda is wary that rebel activity in that area threatens their most important investments - oil prospecting and exploitation near Lake Albert. The last thing Kampala wants is an eastern Congolese region controlled by a rebel army.

Rwanda's for its part has critical investments near the border with DRC. High-end eco-tourism in the Virunga mountains, methane gas in Lake Kivu, Coltan mining in Kyangugu & the Timber Industry in Nyungwe. Not to mention the refugee problem. A volatile situation in the Kivus bears no fruits for Rwanda.

The game changers in this region are K & M - to apply more military pressure is going in the wrong direction - What better way is there than to engage these actor in the search for peace. Discerning & invoking the overriding common interests of Kinshasa, Kigali, & Kampala may be the quickest way to bring peace to the Kivus in the interim. Only then can we create a more stable peace permitting incremental progress toward democracatization, social justice, and good governance.

congo man said...

I think Mr Antony Gambino is stuck in the 1990. He wants the Obama administration to go back to the 1990s counterproductive fail U.S CONGO policy of the Cliton administration.I don't think the U.S CONGO policy should differ from its policy towards CONGO 's neighbors(ANGOLA ,CONGO BRAZZAVILLE,UGANDA,ZAMBIA...)The Congoles are tired of what they see as a double standard U.S attitudes in the Region .After the Chinese president making AFRICA his first foreign visit and a very successful BRICS summit in SOUTH AFRICA ,you will think that people will start to pay attention .can someone show me a single Congoles whose life has been transformed by this 700 millions high interest predatory loan that people are bragging about ?did Congo have somewhere else to turn for 700 millions or 6 billions better deal?this is not 1995 my friends.Yes the Obama administration not only Congo but African policy has been very disappointing but moving back to the disastrous BILL CLITON U.S Congo policy of the 1990s will not serve anyone's interest.I think muana Congo has said it all. Africa needs and will welcome investment from anyone but it's not going to be kept back or accept anymore colonial bullying.

Rich said...

Dark Eldar –

I note a contradiction in your point and I also do not buy into the idea that the regimes in Kampala and Kigali are somehow innocents for the instability facing east DRC.

Contradiction: You started by saying, “Contrary to conventional belief, Kagame does not control M23…” then you went on to say, “Kagame & Museveni have leverage and M23 cannot afford to ignore them…”

Unless we are happy to play with words but the situation in east DRC and the implication of some neighbouring regimes cannot be summarised in words like “not having control; having leverage or cannot afford to ignore them…”

What is important to understand here is the fact that there are countless reliable and compelling evidence of outside meddling feeding instability in east DRC. Playing with words to dodge this reality is no way to help understand let alone solve this problem.

Regimes in Kampala and Kigali are somehow seeking peace in the region to enhance their developments potentials and hence hostile to rebel groups is not as straight forward as you make it look. Yes, the regimes in Kampala or indeed Kigali are hostile to “some” rebel groups not all. By some I mean groups that are hostile to them and M23 is not one of them. If these regimes were hostile to all rebel groups without any distinction, they would have been working together with the DRC government the way they did against the LRA or indeed the FDLR for the past decade, to fight RCD, CNDP and M23.

To finish, the only time the Kivus have experienced some semblance of peace is when aid cut and the isolation of the kagame regime start to bite sending black market currency traders back in the streets of Kigali. However, the man always wait for the first opportunity the int’l looks away to by unfreezing aid cut and flirting with the regime, for this one to re-ignite unrest in the Kivus through its proxies ranked in cndp, or M23.

Yes, more isolation and aid cut for the regime in Kigali seems like THE solution for “a more stable peace permitting incremental progress toward democracatization, social justice, and good governance” both in Rwanda and the region.

Even through pressure and more aid cut, there is no wrong direction to go to when we know that without the int’l, I mean the US support, the regime in Kigali will be just as pedestrian as the many regimes we know.

Aid cut and regime isolation work. M23 would have still be in Goma if there was no aid cut plus loud and clear pressure (Obama’s phone call to kagame) to the regime in Kigali.


Kongo in NYC said...

@ Mel

I agree with many of your points here. Gambino’s prescriptions, while well-founded, do need to take into account what I will just term the “Chinese threat” and Kinshasa’s wily ability to play the great powers off each other.

And in terms of a more robust advocacy approach, I would caution against engaging as CANF and AIPAC do given both groups a little intense given their tactics and parochialism on policy.

I think a better approach is to deepen the “Congo constituency” among black Americans and evangelicals as was the case with South Africa and South Sudan and, via this deeper “base”, put pressure on the Administration and Congress.

@ Dark Eldar

As tends to happen on our threads, I believe you are running into the three distinct communities- or schools of thought- on Congo Siassa.

The “Rich/Muana Congo/Congo Man/Aronson” School tends to see most, if not all, problems in the Congo emanating from Kigali. Sure, they acknowledge problems/issues in Kinshasa but this is tangential to their main, and never-ending, central argument that Kigali is the bane of the Congo. Period.

The “Mel/Bruno/Bismarck” School tends to place central and almost exclusive blame on most, if not all, problems from the incapacity, corruption, self-absorption, decadence, stupidity, immaturity of Kinshasa. The central line of thinking here is if Kinshasa dedicated itself to building an effective and democratic state no power in the region would be able to foil it. In oherwards, Congo’s many ills are a result of a corrupt and patrimonial political system that it refuses to reform. Sure, they acknowledge Kigali’s interference that tends to exacerbates Congo’s problems but, for them, accountability begins and ends in Kinshasa. Period.

The “Moderate” School, epitomized by folks like you, Semi Wapi, and Blaise, takes a more measured approach. This train of thought acknowledges the BOTH/AND or that in equal measures Kinshasa needs a fix and Kigali needs to be restrained. It must be both/and- not either/or. Period.

In any event, appreciate your points but, on your last thread, I think its important to acknowledge the well-documented facts that Kampala and Kigali have enriched their elites from their adventures in Eastern Congo. Indeed, this is most acute for Kigali given this is one way Kagame maintains his power given his regime- since 2010- has shown some cracks.

@Muana Congo

I see no interest, whatsoever, from an American political class drunk on austerity extending loans to Congolese businesses to build Grand Inga or a national road network. Perhaps if Democrats take by the House but, short of that, its going to be all austerity all the time in America. I do agree with your notion that the key to long-term political reform in the Congo is a propertied, well off, literate middle class. Well, perhaps the thing to try are trade deals for agricultural products like soybeans, sugar, and cotton for JUST Congolese exports in these goods. This would be win win for all. It would develop a middle class of farmers, processors, distributors, etc that would put pressure on Kinshasa to abide by the deals terms. It would encourage Kinshasa’s corrupt elite to invest locally instead of in Brussels or Nairobi and encourage them to see that the rule of law- ie a trade pact with America- isn’t some threat they must constantly guard against. And should Congo join Argentina, Brazil, Australia and others in making these commodities it would lower prices for the Chinese who import most of this stuff- meaning they could support this effort, should it come to pass, by Americans to “fix” the Congo. And, since most of these commodities are better produced in Western Congo it will rejuvenate the economy in the Eastern Congo which means deeper trade with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi which will also rejuvenate their own economies and encourage peace since noone wants to rock the boat as people grow rich. Plus, I see starting down American farmer interests much easier than Tea Party types in Congress.

Kongo in NYC said...

I’d like to apologize for my many typos in my last post.

Some corrections:


And in terms of a more robust advocacy approach, I would caution against engaging as CANF and AIPAC do given both groups a little intense given their tactics and parochialism on policy.


And in terms of a more robust advocacy approach, I would caution against engaging as CANF and AIPAC do given both groups tend to be a little intense given their tactics and parochialism on policy.


Perhaps if Democrats take by the House but, short of that, its going to be all austerity all the time in America.


Perhaps if Democrats take back the House but, short of that, its going to be all austerity all the time in America.


Plus, I see starting down American farmer interests much easier than Tea Party types in Congress.


Plus, I see staring down American farmer interests much easier than Tea Party types in Congress.

Anand said...

First, let me commend Anthony's well articulated and poignant analysis. I agree almost completely with his breakdown of the failing of US policy in the DRC and with most of his prescriptions. I do feel that the greatest failing in the west, however, is the lack of a unified advocacy movement for the Congo. Congress hears various arguments from varied experts during hearings. There is no singular voice or message that comes across. Also, working within the system (hearings and the like) won't change U.S. policy. External pressure is required. Movements are the catalysts for any meaningful change. Congo advocacy in the west has produced a lot of great work and some solid initiatives, but it is fractured (and sometimes contentious). We CANNOT be willing to accept less for the Congolese people than we would accept for ourselves. I worry that the cyclical nature of the Congo's troubles has desensitized us to its immediate/emergency need. Time, as MLK states, is neutral. We have to actively shape it towards a positive end.

blaise said...

@Kongo in NYC,
the use of commodities market is quite a brilliant idea, something more rooted in reality than ratcheting more debt. Matter of fact, i remember reading a lot of initiative spearheaded by the World bank to create some kind of "all in one" development hubs,bringing people of different trades together to have finished products instead of raw production.
Although the kivu saga absorb all our sentimental energy, it's only 5% of the national territory. It should not be an excuse for us to stop progress.
I always wonder how we can apply basic technology to solve local problems. If the roman empire was able to build road that are still used today,what is in the way for our peasants to do the same?Sometimes it's the lack of knowledge that impend people in rural area to do so. I recall a story in kansangulu where the local had all the material but were looking for somebody to design a school for them.
My thinking is that we need more people with the know-how to spread the light out there.

Unknown said...

@Kongo in NYC

I do admire your solution-oriented mindset and not those “brown-nosers” seeking masters’ favours by denigrating Congolese people as incapable. They should come to Congo and see how ordinary Congolese people defy int’l statistics and find ways around adversity. A counsel from those who wish you ill is just pathetic!

My proposal that the US Congo policy incorporate infrastructure development as a leverage may just be rhetorical. Austerity yes, but reportedly USA still spends $700mil on MONUSCO. It would just be impossible to convince the USA that their cold-war foreign policy vehicles towards Africa (dictates, prescriptions and threats (Mel calls it politely the stick)) are anachronistic and ineffectual.

I take your point about trade deals. However that cannot be substitute for much required infrastructure development (communication, energy and education) in DRC. How would small rural farmers take their products to urban centres? How do you get finished products without energy? How do you even produce with no knowledge (education)?

There are 2 models of economic development at play in Africa.

(1)The IMF-WB-UNDP/BonoBobGeldof prescribed one that centers around “permanent foreign aid perfusion”. Here, Africa is viewed as an “eternel assiste” who shall forever be on a leash. Distributing malaria and measles kits replaces building hospitals and training local doctors. They come up with all sorts of gimmicks “just for Africa” like “all in one hub” and the like. Examplars are thus created to convince all Africans of this model with bogus high rankings by ranking agencies. Strangely these exemplars happen to be African nano-states like Rwanda-Mauritius-CapeVerde whose vaunted triple digit economic growth will never change Africa. Unlike Nigeria-Congo-SA-Kenya would.

(2)The second model is the “industrialization for Africa” one. Here, Africans are not different from anyone else. What has worked elsewhere in the world should work in Africa. What underpinned industrial revolution, America rise or today’s China’s? Infrastructure development.

Luckily, thanks to DRC vision, many African countries have discovered the secret with immediate tremendous results. Today the newly revamped Trans-Nigeria railroad link helps reconcile North-Muslim with South-Christian. Angola-Benguela and Trans-Mozambique railroads integrate former warring communities. What is the price of Zambia-Tanzania rail link? Priceless! It is no coincidence that all the projects mentioned above are financed by Chinese banks!

As for DRC, I know many especially in the USA want the world to think that the devil Joseph Kabila eats babies. But despite some of his ills (that I am first to criticise), Africa historians will one day acknowledge how a 30-something Congolese son of LDK found the miracle portion for Africa(Congo) development: “swap minerals for infrastructure”. Today from Nigeria, Congo-Braza, Angola, Ghana… everyone is doing the same. Why is late Katumba Mwanke (Chinese Minerals=Infrastructure deal) not given a Nobel Prize for economics yet? My eyes have seen how infrastructure is the catalyst for economic activity. Because of few new lights and roads, the property boom in Lubumbashi and especially Kinshasa is unmatched anywhere in Africa. From nowhere, individual Congolese entrepreneurs are suddenly building five star hotels (Cap Beatrice Hotel chain by Andre Kadima), modern shopping centres (the Congolese Sam Walton Peloustrore T. Ndombasi )… With 50 new
locomotives, SNCC is back!


Rich said...

Be interesting to see if our Jason Stearns will be able to crack Fally Ipupa's latest saying/idiom "Power Kosa Leka" which happens to be the title of his latest album.

I do this because "Kosa" which means "lie" can also be associated to one of the quotes Jason has on the top of this blog.

The question is open to all.

Here is a clip from the album:


sema wapi said...

muana congo: "Congolese entrepreneurs are suddenly building five star hotels (Cap Beatrice Hotel chain by Andre Kadima), modern shopping centres (the Congolese Sam Walton Peloustrore T. Ndombasi )", it is really nice, that congolese entrepreneurs have built another luxury hotel and shopping center in the nobel-quarter of Kin for the rich "Crème de la Crème" of Kinshasa and ètrangers. But, (you can certainly read French) this is also the problem of R.D.Congo:

Unknown said...

@Sema Wapi

Sorry dear, I am not some junky propagandist for anyone here. I will concede if you have a point. But I don’t get your point about the problems of food security and general poverty in DRC and the developing world. These are real problems that cannot be denied and Congolese people have to tackle? Where is your point?

Please read my statement carefully and you will find that, in face of a distraction, I am giving concrete examples of how “in a major country like DRC there is no substitute for infrastructure development”. Contradict me on that! It is not just luxury hotels and shopping centres, contrary to int’l anti-Congo propaganda, Congolese entrepreneurs are “on fire” in agriculture, education, health facilities everywhere the “peace and infrastructure allow”. I can give you tens of links and videos if you insist?

My point was ”industrialization is salvation for Africa not foreign aid”. And it requires consequent infrastructure. One may hate JK as I do on some of his policies and decisions, but on his linking infrastructure and economic development, and coming up with minerals-vs- infrastructure model, he has been an African genius. Read the literature on the topic, you will find that since the in/famous WB-Congo-China-deal controversy, even the IMF-WB-UNDP have changed their stance on this. Maybe that is why some have never forgiven him as he has inspired many African countries to follow suit. Prove me wrong!

By the way, what is the single major strategy suggested by President Obama to curb unemployment in America? It is not some little mickey-mouse gimmick but rightly so “major projects” to revamp America’s aging infrastructure. Even if it means more “deficit”. Woops, excuse the pan!

Take care!


sema wapi said...

muana congo, "but on his linking infrastructure and economic development, and coming up with minerals-vs- infrastructure model, he has been an African genius" -
so please, give an example of a successful project!

Unknown said...

@Sema Wapi

If you are asking about the Chinese thing, I hope that you recall all the shenanigans that led to its review. The Sicomines JV has specific incremental phases on “build as you mine” basis. Though, conservative estimates project that it will reach its full capacity by 2015-2016, signs of things to come throughout DRC are there to see with the few stretches of roads that I have just mentioned (30juin, cinquantenaire…) ,and the ensuing relative economic revival. By then, it will be DRC’s duty (China doesn’t impose what to build) to plan infrastructure projects and knowledge transfer that will help it become a true emerging country like BRICS.

Please, appreciate that I am talking about the principle of “minerals-vs-infrastructure”. I don’t care whether it is China, the USA , France or Japan. All I want is for my country to develop and bring prosperity to our people… Because raising funds to build much-needed infrastructure in the int’l capital markets for African countries (especially Congo) is fraught with rejection and humiliation, let’s use what we have: our minerals and oil to build the future! Remember, JK took this proposal first to DRC’s traditional partners, but they were turned away. Just like the liberal/non-communist PE Lumumba sought help first from his friends in the West before the SovietUnion, when he was declined.

All these other African countries that have followed DRC’s lead cannot be wrong!


blaise said...

I've been told long ago,when I was still a kid that those who are at ease using insults as method of argument just show their lack of character.
In the same spirit,Demba Dizolele once said that in the internet, even the coward grow balls,(libanga na molili,ouch!)
In another note, there is no doubt in my mind that Congolese are ingenious people. One good facet of the article 15 is the resilience of the small people,those who invented the pousse-pousse, machine ya fufu,tchukudu,those kids who still make transistors from rubbish,toys cars,films projectors,etc
All thise are good but it will be great if it was widespread and systematic, that the need to reinvent the wheel is not there. I believe we lacking that clic which will take us from a two wheeler to a carriage and make transportation of good,for example, less hard.That clic which will take this small transistor maker to an electronic innovator. That what is more meaningful for me.
I pick up some anecdote from recent travellers:
- From Goma to kinshasa, a traveller marvelling about the road in kinshasa,a kinois answering 2 him:"tokolia nzela te"(we don't eat roads) or the tale of wrong priorities.
- Some kinoisery : A chinese had a kid with a congolese lady.Six month later,the baby died. After an inquiry,the debonaire nurse said sarcastically:"oyo ya ba chinois ewumelaka te"(chinese things don't last) or the tale of chinese's construction according to kinois.
- From paris, a lady visiting her mother living in their family home,in Sendwe avenue: 2008,electricity and water all day,roads not good. 2010,great roads but no electricity or water!What happened?While building new roads,constructors didn't care about destroying electrical cables or water pipelines. Beside,roads are higher than houses.Consequence?People have to build steps 2 access their houses.When it rain, all the water deposit in ppl houses.Collateral damages.
Do we count development by the number of buildings 1 city has compare 2 the rest of the country?Kinshasa is not the whole Congo.
Thing for thoughts,nothing personal, let's dream with our eyes wide open.

blaise said...

hey man,looks like Fally is amazing big bucks!!!!Check this out

congo man said...

Chinese companies are not just building roads and rail ways in Africa.the Canadian rail ways that Connect Western Canada to the East(British Columbia to Quebec )was built by Chinese,California has just contracted a Chinese Company to build their first high speed trains,the Canada 1 highway from Vancouver BC to Calgary Albert has been been expanded by Chineses . The Governor of California gave that contract to the Chinese for the same reason African are turning to them(cost and expertise ).here in the United States the infrastructure is also in need of repair in many Cities but for political reasons It's impossible to contract the Chinese.but in Australia and many European Countries ,they are giving Chinese Companies many infrastructure Contracts for the same reason that California did. PALAIS DU PEUPLE and STADE KAMANYOLA are just one example of good work by Chinese builders. Last month I spent my vacation in VANCOUVER CANADA .their skyline is now looking more and more like HONG KONG. I was in South KIVU where BANRO and other western predators are plundering billions of dollars and there's nothing to show for it.people in that part of the Country are asking for/ WHEN ARE THE CHINESE COMMING HERE? those who wants to take Africa back to the stone age and keep us on our knees gagging ,are the ones who are fighting hard to get China out of Africa.but the time for winner takes all is over.

congo man said...

I meant begging

Unknown said...

Congolese say: “Bazo lakisa yo sanza, yo ozo tala mosapi”. That is, I point you to the moon, you are staring at my finger. In other words, if people can’t distinguish between argumentation (catalytic role of infrastructure in economy) and illustration (as demonstrated by economic revival and entrepreneurship, if only, in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa), what more can one do? Clinging to examples without debating my argument is funny. Case closed!

To the DRC government:

For long you have been used by the int’l Congo-bashers (incompetence, baby-eating…) as a “diabolical alibi” not to stop the Congolese Holocaust in the Kivus. Yes you have made mistakes, you have stolen and so one. But now is redemption time. Never, ever listen to afro-pessimists/Congo-haters who want us to fail so they can be proved right. Carry on with reforms, do only what is right for the Congolese!

From economic viewpoint, the Matata Ponyo government is on the right track of reforms. With grace and elegance, Congolese people have already endured the most severe austerity policies in the world as dictated by our IMF-WB partners for debt relief. There may be more sacrifices still with reforms (ease of doing business, agriculture, VAT, bancarisation, reform of parastatal companies, decentralization…). Just carry on, jobs and prosperity are bound to result from these reforms.

Anecdotes time: While in Kinshasa, a cousin told me that the current biggest re-builders of Kinshasa are Katanguese and especially Kivutians who have escaped the looting of their riches by Rwandan militias (M23). Kinshasa’s economic revival thanks to relative peace/infrastructure development will be replicated everywhere in Congo. Somebody had to start somewhere. All we want is peace in the Kivus so we can rebuild all our cities there and everywhere else.

“Impossible is not Congolese”, to paraphrase “les corbeaux de Lubumbashi”!


blaise said...

I didn't insinuate that chinese are poor builders instead I was illustrating that according to people on the ground the job is poorly executed.
I may have to remind you that those are private contractors not China. Since the GoDrc doesn't enforce it's own urbanism laws,the contractors are taking short cuts.That was my point.
Do you know why some roads just last 6 months before repair? Do you know why there is so many dead after each rain? Do you know why the only way Safricas can work is via projects financed by the world bank and other international institutions?
If you can answer some of those questions maybe you will understand why people are not at ease with the execution(not the contract) of those projects.
The same chinese are doing quality work in Brazzaville,you may ask why.
Do you know why they cut of both ways of boulevard du 30 juin around quartier 1 N'djili?
Did you heard about the ghost city in Angola?

blaise said...

here a idea of what is in stake

Rich said...

Blaise -

Fally's big bucks I'm not really sure how they measure these things. The guys has only produced 3 albums so far. I know he's done a few tours and arenas but will that be enough to place him high up there with the likes of Youssou Ndour or Salif Keita, I don't know.

The other problem is that our guys are poorly advised. They prefer doing deals in the ghetto and keeping things informal rather than striving to gain a place in the formal.

I personally would have expected to see people like Lokwa Kanza, Awilo, Werrason etc to be ahead of him in terms of big bucks. Musically, it is debatable as every artist has its time on the stage. Artistically and for the musical content (lyrics, sound, arrangements etc.) I am sure Fally is still miles away from the big names we know back home.

Look we can have a blog for Congolese music and have a proper punch up. Not like Wenge BCBG Vs Wenge Maison Mere style. LOL

I just noted a typo in your last post. That should be Blvd Lumumba and not Blvd du 30 Juin when you are referring to Quartier 1 N'djili.


congo man said...

Yes some contractors will be taking short cuts if we are not vigilant.that happens everywhere .but we have to start somewhere .
I agree with you.I like his videos but musically I think he stil have a long way to go. I think FERRE is going to be our next FRANCO.he just needs to improve his live performance . Financially I don't think FALLY is anywhere close to LOKUA KANZA,BAABA MAL,SALIF KEITA....he can't even come close to KOFFI or JB. But I thank FALLY and FERRE for moving away from the Ghetto culture that People like WEMBA,KOFFI ,JB and WERA brought to our music.

@ muana Congo
I can't agree with you more brother.the train has left the station and no one is going to stop it.SOUTH AFRICA,NIGERIA,DRC and KENYA are going to lead African renaissance.those who are trying to take us back to the stone age ,will not succeed .times have Changed and there's no going back .they can keep on bring their malaria kits and mosquito nets ,but that won't stop us from building modern hospitals like the new HOPITAL du CINQUANTENAIRE etc .

congo man said...

Sorry for my topo.I meant they can keep on bringing us their malaria kits and mosquito nets.

blaise said...

@ rich
U totally right, Lumumba, I mixed up here,lol. I was also surprised abt Fally ranking,maybe they will elaborate later on

blaise said...

Heart and mind people!!!!!!

Kongo in NYC said...

Thanks for the response, Muana.

To be clear, I recognize and entirely agree of the role infrastructure will play- and has historically played- for the homeland and the development of a broad middle class in the Congo.

However, as this thread is about American foreign policy vis a vis our Congo, I just don’t see Washington further indebting Americans to fund Grand Inga or a national road system- as awesome as this would be in stoking the Congolese economy, the growth of the middle class, etc. Save the Marshall Plan, there really isn’t a model where something like that could work. The only thing I could see is directing various agencies, like the Overseas Development Corporation, to take equity and debt positions in the Congolese companies that would develop this infrastructure- which would require an Act of Congress.

Yet therein lies the problem: Can you name one private Congolese contractor, that is bonded, and has atleast 3 years worth of audited books, that could do the work? Or more importantly, that has a track record of paying back loans or bonds (or both)? Unfortunately, I can’t and trust me I’ve searched long and hard.

Now, given the atmosphere in DC these days, any shift in how $$ budgeted for any of this would likely mean reducing other forms of aid- the money to Monusco, other humanitarian aid, etc- to balance things out.

I’m not sure folks who care about the Congo in Congress would be willing to make that trade.

And while others may snicker at providing bed nets and such, that’s real easy to do from the comfort of your modern, air-conditioned, electrified dwelling that allows you to both come to this blog and avoid the pests of nature.

The overwhelming majority of our mostly peasant people do not have these luxuries and I am very grateful for the generosity of the American taxpayer that provides these and other forms of humanitarian aid to them.

In any event, I think a better and more effective policy that has some, as Mel put it, “carrots” instead of all the sticks I think many of us are getting from Gambino’s prescriptions, would be trade deals- something Democrats and Republicans like. A trade deal has a compelling force to it, is actually more catalytic (imagine our intrepid Congolese pressing their mostly absent provincial and national officials with “look, how in the hell are we supposed to get shit to market with these roads? What’s the plan here, Mr Official?”) and is less fraught with political danger- mostly on the American end.

In otherwards, I would simply rather Washington policy create domestic pressure from an aspirant Congolese business class that can both push Kinshasa to get serious about putting together a real infrastructure plan (as opposed to the haphazard we have now w/ the so-called “5 Chantiers”) which, one hopes, will ALSO have the effect of engendering the political will to get equally serious about some long overdue state reforms.

blaise said...

I second that! This approach is more rooted to realities on the ground hence achievable .Great thinking

Unknown said...

Kongo in NYC, thank you a million. Trust me if Congo’s problems were approached the way you do, we will be out of this quagmire quicker than many think. You debate issues (argument) and always propose your “own” solution rather than forever describing the problem. Right now, the time of diagnostics is over, Congolese need therapy. No more studies, reports or even shocking dramatization. The question is: how do get out of here?

Now you raise many interesting issues, some we agree some we don’t.

One. You read my mind, I am advocating for a “JohnKerry Plan for Congo” just as the Marschal Plan was about rebuilding battered European economies, and not just keeping Europeans alive . You say you don’t see that happening, but why, if people claim to love Congolese/Africans so much? Why in Europe and not Congo/Africa? Many would see the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) or the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation
) as a good start by the US to deviate from ancient ways. But a close scrutiny of these initiatives reveals their superficiality and ineffectiveness.

Second. You say: “Can you name one private Congolese contractor, that is bonded, and has at least 3 years worth of audited book”. Well you are right and not so right at the same time on this. Yes, generally Congolese like African business environment is still a cash society. It is about trading rather than investing. It is still dominated by traders (commercants) and not investors (hommes d’affaire). The culture of investment banking or micro-lending are still in their infancy. My and some friends’ pet preoccupation is a thriving Congolese security exchange.

But I am pleasantly shocked myself how things are changing. With diverse experiences around the world, many Congolese are slowly changing the business landscape there. You want one, I can give you two or even more examples of professional/bankable companies like the first truly African miner Mwana Africa (London/Toronto listed) by US-educated Kalaa Mpinga Kasenda. Or the panafrican investment firm Mega Circle by Claude Ibalanky where one of the African billionaires Patrice Motsepe has invested and who brought franchises like South African Nando’s to DRC.

Look, I fully agree with you that the DRCgov governance (5 chantiers) is full of haphazardness and amateurism. I am just half/happy that though they have stolen, they are also thinking of building roads, power plants and universities.

Lastly. I would never blame the US because they look at Africa/Congo from their perspective and not from mine (as African/Congolese). Yes, I am viscerally against foreign aid mostly for the same reasons as Dambisa Moyo (Dead Aid) is. It does not mean that I oppose direct humanitarian assistance to people in need in IDPs camps in the Kivus. I would be silly. But I see that as managing rather than solving the problem. We need to provide permanent solutions, that is “end the war and let people be empowered so they don’t’ nee your aid”. What does the USA think?


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blaise said...

I think Congo need all super patriots in Congo,not abroad.Young somali left the comfort of their pennsylvania houses to go fight for Al Shabab because they believe the cause. We should expect the same from those who proclaim to know and love Congo more than anyone else. People are dying in Congo, presumably by the hand of rwandan monsters.The fight is in Congo not in Congosiasia.
Here what happened in kasa vubu
Another opinion of the 5 chantiers

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