presidential elections fast approaching, all Congolese have
their eyes fixated on Election Day. Who will be at the helm
of their beleaguered country? Out of the thirty three
candidates battling for the highest office in the nation who
will make a difference in their lives? These are questions
most Congolese have to wrestle with as they prepare for
Election Day. The mere fact that the Congo is holding free
elections in more than 40 years is commendable. After all
the country has had its share of tribulations since gaining
independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960. Here are some of
the most important events that have marked Congolese history
so far: The secession of the mineral rich province of
Katanga; years of civil unrest; ethnic strife; Mobutu’s kleptocratic rule of 32 years starting in 1965; the war with
Rwandan and Ugandan-led rebel groups and the Kabila years.
With that as a backdrop, it
is undeniable that every Congolese is eagerly awaiting the
outcome of the elections. In fact, they want to know how the
incoming government is going to affect their lives. Will it
improve their lot, or will it be status quo? If we were to
find an analogy to describe what is happening in the Congo,
we might say that for far too long change came in the form
of promising trees which bore no fruits. It is no longer
enough to demand an exercise in democracy. The Congolese
people want to see results and progress, incremental,
gradual, and measurable progress.
In electing their next
president the citizens of the DRC will be exercising a
right, which has for so long eluded them. Stories of
democratic successes in other African countries, though
scarce, bear no resonance with most of the Congolese people.
Elections in the west seem so routine and distant- even when
they are occasionally ornamented with pregnant chads- that
they appear unattainable to them. Well, the time has arrived
for their dream of a democratic society to become a
reality. The time has arrived for Congolese leaders to
honor their end of the bargain and to do right by the
people; a people whose patience has been tested time and
again, and frankly must be wearing thin.
No recount of the Congolese
plight would be fair without a mention of the fact that
there has been a lot of suffering in the country. Millions
of innocents have been killed or have died as a result of
the war, either directly or indirectly. There are still too
many gaping wounds in society that are in need of healing.
We should all hope that the next leader is a person who will
unite the people, a conciliator of a country whose traits of
commonality have been shattered, and have never been firmly
glued to begin with.
complexity of ethnic groups and the realities of ethnic
affiliations are still very much part of the Congolese
political fabric and that can present a challenge for any
government. National borders are disputed with Rwanda and
Uganda, whose initial justification to invade the Congo was
to bring the genocidaires to justice. Well, we now know that
that was not their intent. These facts are in the “UN report
on the D.R. Congo resource exploitation”.
war in the Congo is now officially over; however we will see
whether Rwanda and
Uganda can keep their greedy hands out of Congolese internal
affairs. In fairness to Rwanda and Uganda, there were other
countries named in
the same UN report. The nations that also profited from the
spoils of war in the D.R. Congo are Zimbabwe, Angola and
Namibia; though they did not start the war, nor did they
endeavor to undermine the Congolese state, as Rwanda and
Uganda so blatantly did.
have previously written on this issue and so have others;
therefore, I will not go on about Rwanda and
Uganda’s involvement in the D.R. Congo, even though their
actions are inextricably tied to the Congolese predicament.
However, the basis of this article is the election, its
outcome, and the day after. What will happen 100 days after
the elections? Two, three or five years from now, what will
be the assessment on issues such as the economy, healthcare,
the infrastructure, social services, territorial security,
border security, legal protection and human rights,
accountability, refugee status and health, reintegration of
rebel groups, the ubiquity of weapons, child soldiers,
women’s health and rights, HIV/AIDS and antiretroviral
drugs, malaria and tuberculosis treatment, education,
corruption, the overhaul of the banking system, employment,
agricultural development, mining codes, transparency, and
the rule of law, Tax laws, public works, antitrust laws,
social marketing and the change of mentalities, among many.
All indications point to
the untapped potential that is the D.R. Congo. There are so
many possibilities that we have not even begun to fathom.
However, in order to reach that potential, and make our
dream of a great Congo a reality, there are certain things
that the new government will have to tackle as it assumes
power. The public can only do so much. Civil society and its
sea of NGOs, the business community, and the citizenry have
limited though not negligible purview. The bulk of the work,
the foundation has to be laid by lawmakers, politicians and
the head of state. Change in the D.R. Congo will take hold
when old mentalities are discarded, and are replaced by new
ones, and that may be the biggest challenge yet.
The aforementioned issues
cover the gamut of societal problems that need to be
eventually dealt with, if the country is to pull itself from
the doldrums, and if the incoming government wants to be the
instrument of progress and not the status quo. The list is
hardly exhaustive, but its purpose is to get us all to think
about what lies ahead, and stir discussions and debate.
Governments have the wherewithal to mobilize resources that
will be needed to move forward; something private citizens
do not have. My hope is that the government will have the
fortitude and vision to undertake many of these issues
concomitantly. As a Congolese citizen, free of political
affiliation and patriot first, I offer my well wishes to the
winner. And if I may proffer another piece of advice to the
next leadership, it is to set aside any personal ambitions.
The incoming administration should put the country first and
personal interests last. Serve the people first and do not
allow yourself to fall under the whims of corporations. Put
God First, always, and only God first.