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, October 23, 2013

Kabila announces national reforms, a new government

Today President Joseph Kabila finally addressed the nation and a joint session of parliament in Kinshasa. It was his response to the conclusions of the concertations nationales, which had brought together the government, opposition, and civil society to debate the challenges facing the country. The concertations were a strange forum. Proposed by the opposition to deal with the legitimacy crisis following the flawed 2011 elections, then transformed to debate a wide array of challenges facing the country––except the 2011 elections––that would usually be addressed through traditional, constitutional means: parliament, or the court system.

Nonetheless, the concertations produced a substantial list of recommendations, and Kabila seized on several. Most importantly, he said that in the interest of national cohesion he would create a “government of national cohesion.” This probably differs from a government of national union in that the opposition and civil society members will be drafted in as unequal partners. But that is not surprising, as since the beginning it has appeared that the presidency wants to us the concertations as a means to further fragment (an already fragmented) opposition. We can therefore imagine that some MLC (close to Thomas Luhaka) and UFC (close to Kengo wa Dondo) members may join government. This is not a good thing, as it will undermine the opposition and also make the government––which had just begun to become a bit more structured under Prime Minister Matata Ponyo––less manageable.

Matata’s own fate was still in the balance as of this evening. Kabila had not made clear––nor did he mention in his speech––who would lead this new government, and a battle seems to be underway between the technocratic government of Matata and members of Kabila’s inner circle who have felt marginalized since Matata took over 18 months ago. Kabila’s choice seems to be between backing Matata, who is liked by some donors and is key for obtaining grants and credits in the international scene; and people like Aubin Minaku (president of the national assembly) and Evariste Boshab (head of Kabila’s largest political party) who have much more political clout in Kabila’s inner circle, and can help Kabila going into the delicate next 3 years, when he will have to figure out how to deal with his constitutional term limit. 

But there were other important decisions (maybe we should call them exhortations) in Kabila’s speech. He asked for his prosecutors to clamp down on corruption and abuse of power, especially within the army, and to prosecute those supporting armed groups, “regardless of their social status,” and he said he would name a personal representative in charge of sexual violence and child recruitment. He said he would repatriate the bodies of Mobutu Sese Seko and Moise Tshombe, two controversial leaders of the country, in the name of national unity, and that his government would now follow-up (and provide assistance?) to Congolese citizens detained by the International Criminal Court. Importantly, he said he would also create specialized chambers within the Congolese court system to try war crimes and crimes against humanity, for which human rights activists have been clamoring for years.

That was all on a positive note. But there was another decision that could undermine the current constitutional framework. Backing up suggestions by the president of the election commission, Kabila said that he wants a general census to be carried out before the next elections, and that he wants provincial parliamentarians to be elected indirectly. A general census will require means and time, which could delay the electoral calendar. And having provincial MPs elected indirectly by local councilors will mean that senators and governors will be elected through two layers of indirect elections, each of which are susceptible to corruption. Finally, he said he would like to reconsider the proportional system of legislative elections, whereby several candidates are elected in most voting districts. If the Congo adopts a first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system (as in the US) it will privilege the larger, more affluent parties, but will also reduce the current cacophony in the national assembly, where dozens of small parties turns legislating into cat-herding. 

No word, however, in all of this, on how Kabila will deal with the debate––hotter by the month––over his own term, which ends in 2016 and cannot, at least on paper, be renewed.


blaise said...

That was an unnecessary exercise that may create more problems than bringing up solutions. I was hopeful that at least there will be some interesting recommendations PM Matata could have used to sparkle more growth.
I believe that JK is short sighted if he push for those indirect elections. It doesn't make sense to talk abt decentralisation and in the same time shut ppl of electing their provincial representative, that's crazy! One need a participative system not a centralized one. Those are germs for future conflicts.
I don'
t know what new ideas those "heavy weights" will bring on the table. Their old thinking brought us to the actual situation.
Pres Kabila should have kept the gov the way it is and real get serious abt giving the #Fardc and #Police capacities to secure the territory. The army is the base on what national cohesion can be built. Make people proud and confident abt their army, they will rally around you in those dark days. Not a big government.

Anonymous said...


I view the “local councillor” piece slightly differently. So, while I’m not clear on the specifics (and I’m guessing Kabila isn’t either), allowing local reps to elect provincial reps (who elect national ones)- coupled with the first past the post change- serves quite a few good governance goals:

1)it may spur the system to build more capacity at the local level given how important it will become. It makes no sense to create 26 or 75 provinces if the administrators of those provinces have never instituted a tax, collected that tax, come up with and transparently spent a budget, come up with policies, implemented them, evaluated them etc. But if folks learn how to run Kisangani and Bunia and Kalemie and Gbadolite FIRST they will gain the experience to run the province those cities are located in.

2)in addition to reducing the “cacophony”, as Jason put it, this change would also reduce the costs of holding elections in the Congo which, as we all witnessed, can become quite prohibitive to the point of being considered a “luxury” (Ponyo’s word).

3) a census would encourage decentralization because then it would be easier to figure out who should get what from national revenues. Right now, who gets what is too political which feeds, at best, distrust of the system and, at worst, rebellion.

4) it will make provincial government- and thus Senators in the National Assembly- much more attuned to local matters/issues. And the more that happens, the less the need to grab a mine, pay for some guns, find yourself some Tutsi’s or other aggrieved groups, and launch a rebel enterprise. :)

In short, I think these reforms actually WILL serve decentralization and, ultimately, the rule of law in the Congo.

I have questions, however, on other things:

- alot of these reforms contravene, or will atleast change, the current constitution. Is it still in effect?

- what is the thinking of UDPS at this point? I realize they said today they wouldn’t join the government so what will they do in this new environment?

- alot of this stuff seems directed at, for lack of a better word, Western paymasters. Well, doesn’t that mean Ponyo has a really strong position? Ultimately, I think whether he stays is really a question of whether or not Kabila wants to run again. If not, he doesn’t need Katangans anymore to win elections. If so, then, as much as I respect Ponyo, he’s a goner. :)

- concerning the “local councilors”, what would that be? I am only aware of municipal councils. Are their others? Would this be territories? Communes? Something else?


congo man said...

I completely agree with blais. Is Kabila trying to unify the County or just trying to please those corrupt so called heavy weights (cronies) who's old corrupt ways are being undermined by primier MATATA PONYO's clump on corruption ? All this looks like u necessary distration that may cause more instability than national cohesion. Ending the North Kivu problem shall be #1 priority for enyother government in this situation. Let's wait and see how this government will look like .but I don't see anything good coming out of this.

Kongo in NYC said...

@ Mel- As usual, I mostly agree with you. How goes the farming in Bas Congo?

@Blaise- I agree with your broader point about the utility of all of this w/ Big K but, on the election argument, could you clarify that a bit more? I think this new system is an attempt to wrestle with two important, but costly, goals in the DRC: decentralization and democracy. Sure, it would be great to elect everyone from village clerk to President but that’s really, really expensive, Blaise. And it would also be nice to have more “governments” at the hyper local level but this too is expensive. So, what’s the happy middle? People elect Reps to the City of Bukavu Council and the Town of Fizi Council, those councils elect Reps to the South Kivu Assembly, and that Assembly elects Senators to the National Assembly. As Mel suggest, in such a system that puts a ton of power at the local level which, one hopes, will also lead to more capacity at the local level which furthers the goals of decentralization. All of this reduces the need for round after round of elections which means more money for education, health, army and police, etc Sure, this isn’t ideal but its not horrible either and furthers other goals for our people. If this happens, however, there would need to be laws or regulations or something that required local councils to come to agreement/avoid deadlock since this reform is likely to lead to dramatic partisanship- and thus gridlock- at the very local level.

I guess I don’t understand your concern here, Blaise, so if you could clarify it that would be great.

@All- I wouldn’t put too much stock in the latest masquerade ball Kabila is staging for the West. If he was truly serious about “national cohesion” he would find a way to share *real* power with the *real* opposition- Tshisekedi and Kamerhe. While noone save this regime believes in these results UDPS and UNC, combined, “received” 48% of the votes in 2011- making them the *real* opposition- not MLC or UFC. And since the real opposition is not armed- like M23- the only leverage it has is the Framework which led to these “concertations”. I’ve longed believed that UDPS and UNC should press upon the powers that be that they should let Kabila change the Constitution but, in return, another change gives the Senate the power to have final authorization and veto power over budgets, resource contracts, and ministerial/executive appointments- thus checking the power of any future President.

Bottomline: as long as Kabila is unwilling to either share *real* power w/ Tshisekedi/Karmerhe and/or agree to reining in the powers of the Presidency, we Congolese need to place our hopes on either a citizen’s and/or armed rebellion to replace this regime.

blaise said...

I'm all abt encouraging local leadership. But what is proposed here is to have delegates,elected or not(like majors) to designed provincial deputies. The same reason(saving money) is invoked. Given that the pres has now the power to dismiss the provincial governor(itself elected by provinces), I think it's a bad idea. BTW, those delegates are not electing members of parliament.
The way I see it is that the population elect some delegates(1), the president designed some(2) and the college elect the deputies(3). I don't see any saving here.
For the recensement, it's warranted but watch, it will become a political tool as well. It''s was projected for 2014, now it look like they want to rush it. Is it necessary to stir more unrests?
I believe that each entity should directly elect his representatives in order to participate to the Res Publica.
You are optimistic abt the system being motivated 2 do better.I have my doubt abt it. I will tend 2 see the status quo more or less prevailing more than motivation 2 change.
The constitution is still intact until the parliament decide to touch it as the pres suggested.
Abt the UDPS, forget abt them,short sighted like most politicians,no contingency plans I know of.
Abt those counsellors,that's the question, I like the way the MP in provinces were elected,they are independent so hard 2 buy them all off.

My thinking is that let ppl elect their representatives and take ownership of their development.
here is the transcript of the speech:

blaise said...

thx @congoman
I'm sceptical abt that gov. He tried that b4,having Nzanga for ex.

Unknown said...

Congoman, I can’t agree with you more. The priority #1 in Congo now is PEACE through the dismantling of Kagame’s M23 militia and affiliates.

(1)Mary Robinson should never set foot in Goma again, hypocrite! It is now confirmed that she has been planted by Kagame’s backers B Clinton and T Blair in this position. To her, doing Kagame’s bidding is more important than peace in the Kivus. I mean, this woman has such a “forked tongue”: she says one thing in Congo and totally its opposite in Rwanda. She wants FDLR to be eradicated militarily but not M23, what is the difference? Just like Rwanda rejected Mr. Hege, all Congolese and the civil society should protest against Kagame’s admirer Mary Robinson. She should be replaced by personalities with no “agendas”, far more prominent and unanimously respected Africans like Thabo Mbeki, Benjamin Mkapa or Joachim Chisano. At least, “they” can understand the inhuman suffering of our people in Rutshure and Nyiragongo.

(2)But after all, the ball is in DRCgov’s court. They should stop being bamboozled by the very backers of Kagame with sweet talks and endless warnings and condemnations of M23 crimes (blue-helmet killings and UN choppers shootings). Look, they can keep that political solution track open. But the solution to this tragedy is MILITARY. Congo has +- $2 bil in forex reserves, allocate $1 bil to better ammos for FARDC and more precise choppers to smoke M23 out of the trenches dug along Rwandan border. “Fight as you negotiate”!

It is funny how people think that all actions and words by African leaders (JK last speech) are only meant for the “West” audience. All the reforms that Africans have embarked on throughout the Continent are only designed to placate the “Western masters”. In other words, there can never be “Congolese/African agency”. Maybe its not funny, its tragic!

God bless the valiant FARDC


congo man said...

@muana congo
I was very skeptical about MARY ROBISON from day one. Like I said in my previous posts. I knew this lady was up to no good. Her being a former Ireland leader , I knew she was a tool of those 2 racists sworn enemies of the Congolese people (Bill Clinton and T Blair).like I said before .I am waiting to see what's going to happen on the military front in coming weeks or month. I said the same things about JOHNNY CARSON and his endless vague statements .now he is no longer hiding his position. Kinshasa needs to start listening to the people and prioritize the military option. Otherwise we are doomed.

Anonymous said...

I totally think the election system proposed is a recipe for corruption to maintain the status quo! i.e elect those who will most definitely maintain the status quo.

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