Bernard Katompa, president of the Génération Déterminée Movement in the DR Congo, an opposition party, presents his case as to why his country needs change.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has quietly been undergoing one of the subtlest yet most key transformations in African history. A forthcoming African Union Summit will no doubt shed greater light on our trajectory and that of the Great Lakes region as a whole to discuss whether we collectively forge ahead in 2016 and ascend to our rightful position as the economic “elephant of Africa” or perpetuate “more of the same” in the DR Congo.
Change needs to come through real democratic process, but there are those that would look to delay critical elections in November through the manipulation of our constitution and by tricks of polity; continuing to allow corruption and bureaucratic intimidation to fester and deter our “would-be” inevitable development.
Our nation abundantly hosts over 80m hectares of arable land, and almost all existing mineral resources including base and precious metals together with rare resources, such as columbite-tantalite (coltan) – a vital raw material for the production of modern electronics. In addition, with our huge potential in hydropower, prospects for international integration and economic development have never been higher.
However, trepidation continues to blight our prospects. One of the biggest partners of the DR Congo, the UK, has justifiably questioned the Kabila administration’s expenditures, and the apparent misappropriation and misuse of electoral funds on a call for a “national dialogue” – a questionable concept at best – before any elections to the executive branch take place.
The UK’s ambassador to DR Congo, Graham Zebedee, wrote a letter to a leading Congolese newspaper in 2014, noting that for the last year for which there are figures, “the government spent almost as much on parliament as it did on the country’s entire health sector”. To say we cannot support credible elections is preposterous.
President Kabila has expressed no interest in stepping down; instead, he has attempted to put forth such mechanisms as the national dialogue to delay elections and at the same time allow him to remain in power long beyond the prescribed deadline.
Kabila and his allies are currently using the same strategies as those used by Mobutu Sese Seko, which allowed him to retain power for some 32 years.
Propaganda songs in favour of Kabila and rallies are now being organised by inducing citizens who have been living in miserable poverty for years.
Statements from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis on the national dialogue have been misused in the media, quoted out of context to imply that the constitution can be amended to serve the interests of the incumbent and his cohorts.
As pressure mounts on Kabila and the ruling party to abide by the constitutional term limit and host the 2016 national elections, Kabila may turn to a “Plan B”, looking to his long-term allies, such as Moïse Katumbi of Katanga Province,
as a frontman in a bid to retain power.
Kabila’s erstwhile right-hand man and confidant Katumbi has carefully manoeuvred himself today to become a “member of the opposition”, 11 months prior to the scheduled elections. It should be noted that without credible alternatives, similar birds in different feathers will make little difference to the status quo.
I’ve spent my life in the Congo, grew up and studied here, and I know what it’s like to be disillusioned by fraudulent promises.
We know that we can serve as the proponent of a reformation that will reshape the DR Congo for years to come.
To President Kabila and ahead of the AU Summit, on behalf of the Génération Déterminée Movement, I say this: The stigma of electoral manipulation has long burdened Africa and this continent’s prosperity.
For the Congo and the Congolese, President Kabila should end his tenure with dignity and serve our nation’s history as we forge ahead to a brighter tomorrow. NA
Bernard Katompa is the president of the Génération Déterminée Movement in the DR Congo.