Congolese Vote, but who decides?

Published on Pambazuka News, by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, March 22, 2012.

Given the importance of DRC as a land of considerable natural wealth, the major powers prefer leaders with no national constituency who are easy to manipulate like Joseph Kabila to those like Etienne Tshisekedi who are unapologetically nationalist … //

… The DRC is a country in which approximately six million people have been killed as a result of the Congo wars of 1996-97 and 1998-2003, together with their economic and social consequences in the affected areas. Other parts of the country have also known episodes of state-sponsored terrorism, notably the brutal repression of the politico-religious group Bundu-dia-Kongo (BDK) in Lower Congo, ethnic cleansing of peoples from Kasaï in the Katanga province, and retaliatory killings for anti-state and communal violence in Equateur. 

A comprehensive record of the most important of the crimes committed between 1993 and 2003 has been compiled in the mapping report published on October 1, 2010 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. State responsibility for some of the criminal acts is well established, and this includes the wanton killing of BDK adherents, and the assassinations of journalists such as Bapuwa Mwamba in 2006 and of human rights activists such as Floribert Chebeya in 2010.

The International Criminal Court is doing nothing about all of these crimes against humanity. And yet, the ICC prosecutors were brought to Kinshasa to intimidate Tshisekedi and other opposition leaders that they would be held responsible for election-related violence. Since 26 November 2011, the police and the security forces have, in Kinshasa and elsewhere, continued to pick up young people, whose destination and fate are unknown. On 16 February 2012, when the Catholic Church asked its faithful to march in commemoration of the 1992 March of Christians and in protest against electoral fraud, the police and the militia of Kabila’s party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), went into churches even before the march was to start to beat up on worshippers, and their weapons included tear gas and clubs. Why aren’t President Kabila and his security forces being held responsible for election-related violence by the ICC?

While they have closed their eyes to state-sponsored violence and to violations of the electoral law by Kabila and the CENI, or issued mild statements in condemning these crimes, Western governments and international actors have not been so kind to Tshisekedi. Every statement he makes is closely scrutinized and condemned if it is found to be politically incorrect. For example, he is condemned for castigating the violation of law by Kabila and his government, and held responsible for inflammatory statements likely to provoke violence. On the other hand, the people responsible for real violence against citizens, including death, are never condemned publicly and they move about freely. In addition to President Kabila, people in this category have included Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwanza, the architect of ethnic cleansing in Katanga beginning in 1992, and John Numbi, the Inspector General of Police, who has been suspended but never charged for the murder of Chebeya. General Ntanganda, the CNDP commander wanted by the ICC, is being protected by Kabila as a high-ranking officer in the army, while Jean-Pierre Bemba is being prosecuted at the ICC for crimes allegedly committed by his troops and in his absence in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.

By recognizing Kabila as DRC president after fraudulent electoral results, Western powers and the international community are showing that their strategic interests are more important than their avowed commitment to democracy and justice. Recently, the international community did recognize Alassane Ouattara as president of Côte d’Ivoire in spite of the decision of that country’s Constitutional Court in favor of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo. Following a UN Security Council resolution calling for the protection of Libyan civilians against the regime of the late Muammar Qaddafi, major Western powers led by NATO recognized the Libyan rebels as legitimate representatives of the Libyan people and their aspirations for change. Refusal to recognize Tshisekedi as the winner of the presidential election and the legitimate representative of the deepest aspirations of the Congolese people for democracy and social progress amounts to both hypocrisy and double standards, particularly for those states claiming to stand for democracy and human rights. It will at least let us know who our true friends and enemies are in the world today.

In remaining in office based on fraudulent electoral results, Kabila has usurped power in the DRC. He is therefore in violation of both our country’s constitution and the African Union’s Resolution against unconstitutional change of government. In accordance with Article 64 of the DRC constitution, which recognizes the right and the duty of Congolese citizens to resist the usurpation or seizure of power by unconstitutional means, peaceful manifestations of resistance will continue at home and in the diaspora against the illegal Kabila regime. To prevent further violence and unnecessary loss of life due to the current impasse, Kabila must be pressured to accept an honorable exit similar to the way that Fredrick De Klerk did in post-apartheid South Africa, by becoming President of the Senate, which is the second highest office in the country. He must accept the verdict of the ballot box and the people’s choice of Tshisekedi as the person who must preside over the process of change and reconstruction in the Congo. A power sharing formula similar to those in Kenya or Zimbabwe is simply not workable, given the history of the last twenty years since the National Conference. Sharing cabinet posts, state enterprises, and ambassadorships among the different political groupings is not necessarily a way of solving the most important issue facing our country today, namely, the restructuring of the state to strengthen its capacity for order and security, revenue mobilization internally, service delivery, and economic development.
(full long text and End Notes 1 to 5).

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