State interests have to be well considered beyond individuals and particular groups’ interests. When state’s interests are mixed up and overwhelmingly dominated by those of some privileged and greedy people; there comes disagreement in terms of qualifying such states. On the other hand, expectations over how states can defend or promote their mutual interests may slightly be captured if an observer/analyst bases his views on similarities in terms of culture, borders or languages features. In some cases, States’ interests keep changing and have to do probably with what leaders think might be applauded by a large size of its followers. The right way of keeping opportunists as well as greediness within confinement is relying on the rule of law.
One of the expectations from DR Congolese is that Congo-Brazza won’t behave as did neighboring countries from East as the latter seems sharing much in common with the ex-Zaire. Besides bordering with DRC, Congo-Brazza shares Lingala and Kikongo languages with the former as well as nearest city capitals in the world, namely Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Moreover, the two countries are members of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), members of different regional and international forums and organizations; features that can be viewed as advantageous. Though these features are roughly shared with eastern bordering states, the recent developments between the two countries might nevertheless shadow expectations from different people who hoped that Brazza can constitute a safe haven including myself.
However, hearing from the narratives of Congolese familiar with the region bordering with Congo-Brazzaville, it seems that they have been considering these two states as mostly friends based on the fact of sharing mostly Lingala, a language spoken in Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Some of them do simply call Brazavillois as “Badenko”; that is, friends in Lingala. It looks that no one ever expected to see a “brother” state unfriendly expelling its neighboring population for undisclosed reasons. Such behaviors close to expelling neighboring population, supporting insurgencies … may be tolerated from other countries than Congo-Brazza as it has been stated, surprisingly, by even some politicians and Social Medias run by Congolese.
Despite such wrong perceptions over a country sharing Lingala with DRC, the supremacy of Lingala over other national languages might have played a great role in constructing such attitudes. In DRC, Lingala has been occupying a special room pushing all of us to underscore its learning. It is being radically viewed as tool of exclusion, domination and alienation to the extent that politicians from other regions try to emerge, they are dubbed as foreigners especially by Bangala speakers. Some Congolese, whose national language is different from Lingala, have found themselves in an obligation of sounding more Congolese through Lingala speaking. Therefore, the article intends to remind Zaireans that there is no reason to believe in language connections and hoping that this would divert neighboring states’ interests for the benefit of us. In addition, it recalls for an equal consideration of national languages as they constitute our diversity. It is also an opportunity to remind readers that Congolese culture cannot be reduced into only one national language.
Statistical figures show that DRC has more than 450 tribes; de facto, the country has roughly the same number of languages-dialects regrouped into 4 national languages. It can be approximately estimated that these four national languages count for Kiswahili (39%), Lingala (25%), Kikongo (19%) and Tshiluba (18%). An estimation of these statistics considers Kinshasa as Lingala speaking; while Province Orientale as Kiswahili speaking. Though Kiswahili speakers may be found in Kinshasa and Lingala speakers in Province Orientale, there might be slight changes even if the estimation considers some communities in Province Orientale as Lingala speakers or the diversity of people living in Kinshasa as they come from different provinces.
Speaking different languages has to be seen as an advantage. Nonetheless, one national language wouldn’t constitute a benchmark to ascertain or doubting someone’s affiliation to a state. The blogger has recently supported the learning of Lingala as he expected that it may open up opportunities to move wide until Brazzaville. I might have argued some friends to improve their Lingala speaking for expanding their horizons as well as establishing precaution measures when being endangered (a consequence of Mob justice characterizing the DRC judicial system). The socio-political context in DRC has proved that Lingala speaking can slightly lower the possibility of being stoned or unfairly harassed. If interested to know why and how I learnt Lingala? (see the two last paragraph of this link)
Despite the influence of Lingala, opportunities on the other side of the Kinshasa border are being constrained by the recent expulsions and the establishment of Visa requirements to cross the two borders. It seems that the regular movement between the two nearest capital cities won’t be normal as it requires having a passport and applying for a visa. The cost of the visa is roughly $80 for a short period of less than 15 days, single entry. While multiple entry visa costs $120 for a period of 3 months. An express visa requires $170 and $240 respectively for a short period, single and long term stay. The same measures will be applicable for Congo-Brazza citizens wishing to travel to Congo-Kinshasa. A squeezing question is how an ordinary citizen, whose annual income ranges below $340, will be able to afford such costs.
These restraining measures as well as expulsions might not fall within ordinary population’s interests. Though harming the weaker, and ordinary citizens from both countries, unfortunately it looks unlike to get them reversed. The same visa issues are also happening on DRC other borders, especially between Rwanda and Burundi. On these borders, visa waives are being abolished while its benefits are likely to fall into the same privileged greedy hands. The blogger feels that there is no reason again to improve the Lingala speaking as opportunities around it are being contained. Additionally, Lingala needs to occupy the same position as do other national languages even though it’s mostly spoken in Kinshasa and it would be advisable that the diversities characterizing Congolese society got its consideration. Furthermore, the article reminds readers, specifically Congolese from Zaire to claim and work for their wellbeing beyond distractions of sharing languages, culture, frontiers with those whom may be considered as friends and brothers. The fact is that state’s interests won’t work within this framework individual or community friendship ties. However, keeping good neighborhood seems to be the best option but it can’t work blindly.
Ntanyoma R. Delphin
Twitter account @delphino12