I wouldn’t be able to explain how I get there and the exact time the trial of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) leaders over corruption was taking place. It was likely that this was a dreaming mood. However, I followed the opening session of the Corruption court that took roughly 4 and half hours under hot sunny shinning. The opening session was attended by a crowd of Congolese and it took place nearby the Patrice Emery Lumumba’s native village, as told by one of the friend whom we were together. It was seemingly in Katako-kombe territory, Sankuru District, Kasai provinces. I was able to capturing some interesting features of the introductory session that was supposed to take few minutes. Surprisingly, the crowding attendees who walked all along from provinces to Katakokombe; contestation over who will preside the court, the lack of transport infrastructures; interruptions of discussion as some were falling dehydrated and fatigue problems were among the factors that made the session taking long as expected.
Patrice Emery Lumumba was among key participants with all former DRC’s presidents even the current one, I was told as the crowd was large to see everyone. Former presidents all came to the session by walking except two of them, despite seemingly the young one and the other one who had a hat made from the leopard skin. These two ones came with their own flights by helicopters. Almost all attendees expected that Lumumba will preside over the court and charge Congolese leaders over corruption and embezzlements. By surprise, I saw the man whose hat made into leopard skin with a stick in his hand taking the seat as the president of the court. The man was then brand named “le Leopard”. The crowd shouted by saying NO, NO… we want Lumumba, Lumumba. Immediately, the session gets opened within the shouting!
We agreed that all former presidents and all Prime ministers participating will address the crowd and then participants will select the court’s president. As “le Leopard” has had already taken the seat, he introduces first his address by recapitulating DRC’s history. He pointed out his edge as compared to others by reminding participants his 32 years experiences on corruption and embezzlement, in which he himself got involved. He afterward mentioned that his removal was largely related to what the court is intended for; though things had unlikely changed. Furiously, he expressed his anger to prosecute those who waged wars to ousting him while promising the change as another factor that would sustain his appropriate decisions within the court. He stressed that he will easily detect and capture maneuvers, from anyone concerned, to hide channels through which corruption and embezzlement flow. He strongly disapproved the killing of millions of Congolese while survivors haven’t yet tasted much promised change to the extent he thought his regime was likely good to that his predecessors. He reminded the crowd that DRC needs to establish mechanisms, laws that tackle sustainably corruption and embezzlements before prosecuting people. He emphasized again and again about his experiences over the matter and promised to apologize on what had happened during his reign as his prosecution round will come. He sincerely promised, during his trial over corruption, to accept the alternating role of the court’s presidency.
As his address was gaining momentum, “le Leopard” exposed the key channels in which corruption goes through. He started by pointing a finger to public officials appointment into sectors that mostly bring revenues to the country. He mentioned mining sector, forest resources management and key public sector offices and enterprises. He further emphasized on contracts within these sectors, especially mining, as bidding is accompanied by “pot-de–vin” before getting them signed. He then pointed the fact of lacking clear mechanisms of collecting taxes that leaves room to resources flowing into individual pockets. He slightly mentioned public officials who are not held accountable before the public or citizens. Consequently, some of the public projects funds flow in large into dishonest hands who never feel frightened by prosecution. Some of these public and development projects are oriented based on individual decision-makers’ interests. “Le Leopard” promised to elaborate more on these channels through which bribes are carried out to the extent that he revealed that they are as many as individual corrupted. Time did not allow the session to cover all of them.
We, the crowd, remained calm and somewhat uncomfortable to discuss corruption issues. It seemed we explicitly or implicitly pleaded guilty regarding the corruption proliferation. The predecessors of “le Leopard” were probably also feeling guilty of their incapacity to fully realize their promises. It sounded to me that we have implicitly agreed that le Leopard is mostly experienced to lead the court. Slowly, people reviving from the fatigue, interested in capturing how worse is corruption; its consequences over Congolese socio-economic wellbeing; how corruption undermines country’s development and making some leaders getting rich while others being crashed by hunger…, they started to ask questions, clarifications, expressing their views over future perspectives.
We did no longer remind that we wanted Lumumba to preside the court as participants realized that we need to rely on experiences of those who were involved into corruption and want to get it over. As it was taking long and my fellows had to go back by using the same means of transport “walking”, the session ended by seemingly confirming that “le Leopard” will continue his address during next session. As we run short of time, we did not even check the minutes taken during the session and I got skeptical that the minutes will fall under corruption channels as to find it next time will be had. Nevertheless, participants recommended that there is a need of having next sessions discussing measures to be taken for those found guilty on corruption and embezzlements before prosecuting them. It was an important recommendation that would free participants from partiality. Moreover, participants suggested that these sessions need to be organized at provincial levels to avoid long trips as we have to use our own feet. By organizing these sessions at provincial levels will allow many people to attend and learn on how corruption and embezzlements have devastated DRC.
As I am writing, I cannot confirm that next sessions will be organized as whispering and rumors told me that many participants felt concerned over the issue and they were seemingly feeling involved individually. It would be a big step toward tackling corruption if another session will be organized. We closed the session having Lumumba only appearing strong and having a good mood, he explicitly appeared as someone who never got involved into these masquerades.
NTANYOMA R. Delphin
Twitter Account @delphino12