Today, while chatting with a driver in Goma, I thought once more about the real tragedy Congolese people have been facing since… ever: lack of competent, inspiring and transparent leadership.
This does not only impact on the present of 70 million men, women and children, it also strips them of most viable hopes for a better future. At a community level, who builds a nation without hope? At an individual level, how does one even try to excel in its specialty if the only hope to make a good use of it is to find a way to leave the country and sell it abroad?
At top level, Kinshasa grew a bad habit of taking all important decisions by a handful of individuals discussing behind closed doors. These decisions are usually implemented before, at best, partial communication is made on them. Most times there is absolutely no communication until questions are asked.
The current Parliament is criticized for not being representative of the population because of the frauds highlighted by national and international observers during the last elections. I unfortunately have to comment: so what? In a country where the National Assembly is hardly ever consulted, how does it really matter?
In 2009, Joseph Kabila and his close collaborators including Katumba Mwanke decided behind closed doors that the not-so-old RDF invader would come back in DRC to hunt the FDLR in North Kivu in joint operations with the FARDC. The President of the National Assembly at the time, Vital Kamerhe, learnt this only after coming back from a foreign professional visit, when the RDF were already in DRC. He subsequently resigned from his position in protest of this lack of transparency.
While I personally welcomed these joints operations as a sign of needed renewed collaboration between the two countries, I can only be amazed at how one of the officially top 5 representatives of the Congolese State was left out of the discussions.
It seems it all happened again with the presence of the 300 RDF Special Forces in Rutshuru. Quite frankly, everyone on the ground knew they were there; after all they are not transparent to move around unseen for months/years! This was probably, as usual, the result of conversations behind very closed doors between M. Mwanke, Kabila, and top Rwandan leadership. I would really not be surprised if M. Lambert Mende was truly unaware of their presence in Rutshuru, and therefore made the huge recent communication blunder. The recent interview James Kabarebe had with Colette Breackman seems to confirm this. It really is time that Kinshasa loses this habit of making shady deals behind closed doors then stumbling on their consequences. It should seriously start considering some inclusivity in the debates, at least from the top official structures such as the National Assembly.
At individual level, things are not better. Men and women study law for 5 to 7 years, developing real skills and knowledge. Their success in the defended case however often depends on who knows who, or on who bribes the judges better. Doctors study even longer to develop precious skills. They however regularly lose patients because they don’t have adequate material to treat them, or even worst, because of a power cut during a surgery and lack of fuel for the generator (true lived story). All this for a meager salary of 500 to 800 USD per months, all incentives included, for the luckiest ones working in Congolese medical structures and not in NGOs or in the UN. I am truly amazed at the will and motivation the Congolese university youth keeps to remain one of the best educated in the Region – Congolese doctors, lawyers and teachers are found everywhere including in Rwanda- in such a local context.
Coming back to the current crisis, to who should the Congolese population turn? To its authorities, incapable of insuring even the most basic services such as security, health and water in the areas they live, and who shine with contradiction since April? To the MONUSCO, incapable of bringing significant change after years and billions invested? To the M23, a rebel group that is taxing the population and movements in the areas it controls, that kills and kidnaps local leaders and their families, that represents at best only a fraction of the population? To Rwanda, which in history has proven to have quite self-oriented views and interest towards the DRC? To the international community, that has a long history of failing the whole world, and particularly the Great Lakes?
I’m afraid this question will remain without answer. Which reminds me of a joke a friend from Kinshasa told me in 2006.
Stalin, Roosevelt and Mobutu are in Hell. They all have been there for a long time, and want to have some news from home. They ask the Devil if they can make a phone call. The later answers “sure, but I’ll charge you”.
Stalin calls Russia for 2 minutes and hangs up. The Devil charges him 200,000 dollars (yes, they use USD in Hell).
Roosevelt calls USA for 1 minute. The Devil charges him 250,000 USD.
Mobutu calls Kinshasa for 2 hours. The Devil charges him 15 USD. Roosevelt and Stalin start complaining about the used rates, and the Devil answers with a grin: “yes, but your calls were long distance. Mobutu made a local one”.
Not knowing where else to turn, I’ll do like most of my fellow Congolese and say: “make God save DRC, and fast!”