The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) current political discussions focus on constitution revision and the probable third presidential term of Joseph Kabila, the incumbent president. The discourse has gained much attention calling for meetings, protestation… inside the country as well as formal and informal meetings involving partners around the world. It is in this regards that alongside the USA-Africa summit held this week in Washington, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) invited Congolese politicians to again discuss the same topic. The meeting was attended by both Presidential Majority (PM) and the opposition.
On one side, key presenters were Lambert Mende for the PM and Vital Kamerhe on a behalf of the opposition. Lambert Mende is a DRC communication Minister as well as the government spokesperson; while Vital Kamerhe is the chairman of Union pour Nation Congolaise (UNC). The discussion was quite balanced due to different factors such outstanding of moderators and speakers on both sides but also the attitude required when publicly debating in front of the NED, an American organization familiar with these types of debates. On the other hand, the opposition facing Mende, a stronger ‘convincing discussant’, was represented by a former ally of Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et le Développement (PPRD), the DRC ruling party. He seemingly detains every single details of what had happened few years ago within the current regime.
It was impressive watching Vital Kamerhe outlining and describing every single manoeuvers and promises that remained unachieved as if they’ve been dreaming when promising. Kamerhe’s message pinpointed key aspects proving that the current regime had seemingly failed to meet people’s expectations. It looked as if he was giving lessons to his interlocutor as they evolved and worked together to establish some of the regime’s roots. Additionally, the forum organized by the NED was an opportunity for every side to convince not only his Congolese counterpart, but mainly the organizers of the meeting. The reason behind the previous statement is that they ever managed to meet in Congo; while it constitutes the ground of their political game. Furthermore, the forum debating democracy and electoral processes in DRC appeared as part of the USA-Africa summit, expressing another factor of its momentum.
However, the article disagrees on few aspects with the opposition orator along his political struggle to lead the opposition and why not possibly the state in the future. During the Washington forum on DRC, while standing on a behalf of the opposition, Vital Kamerhe fell short when defending the constitution revision in 2006. At this point, it seemed as curtailing potential criticisms on his individual role in establishing the current regime. Nonetheless, it has to be clear that, in this forum, he was no longer standing as Kamerhe but as the opposition leader. There was no reason to defend any involvement of an opposition member individually for some decisions made previously. Politics is dynamic as well as its positions and stances. By having played any role when expecting leading the state in the right direction wouldn’t constitute a crime so long as someone would have quit at any point when s/he realized the wrong direction.
Kamerhe’s defense over 2006 constitutional revision pointed on “reconciliation interests” as a reason for having supported the changes made allowing the president Kabila to run for presidency. Based on the information at my hand, the 2006 constitutional revision targeted changes concerned the age of potential candidate running for the presidency. While the age would have left Kabila’s out of the 2006 presidential competition, the parliament, through lobbying of key PPRD’s figures such the former General Secretary, initiated a revision of some constitution articles extending the range to get Kabila’s age within it. As per Vital Kamerhe, the revision was ‘fabricated’ in the name of reconciliation of the Congolese society, few years after 2002 Sun City Agreement. A simple answer to the following question would express if this was really the motivation. In 2006, had reconciliation only one way street that wouldn’t have been achieved if Joseph Kabila wasn’t a president? Up to the reader to understand the motivation that led to these changes and how they might have affected others decisions aiming at revising the constitution afterward.
Surprisingly, if the opposition representative during the Washington forum still believes that 2006 constitution revision was a right decision, it justifies anyone finding the necessity of the Kabila’s 3d term. The justification of 2006 revision from an opposition leader roughly sounds as endorsing what the presidential majority is implicitly working on. The article and blogger specifically prefers to see apologies than defending―criticizing some decisions made earlier on. The result of that defense from the opposition may be a bridge from supporters of the third term to find grounds. Consequently, observers of the political mood in DRC might have come across supporters raising development, ‘5 chantiers’, security, and peace-stability as reasons requiring another term for the current president. Therefore, it might be advisable for anyone among the opposition leaders who have served during different regimes to accept a lack of appreciation, if any, or what went wrong; hence apologizing.
In the same vein, the blogger keeps strongly disagreeing with politicians regularly repeating “Leadership” as a way out from DRC’s messes. Though recognizing that leadership can contribute to soften these bunches of shortfalls that the country faces, the blogger considers that a good political leadership needs to present an appropriate political program fitting the Congolese socio-cultural context. I hope this wouldn’t be interpreted as gossiping against anyone from the opposition; it’s rather my interest towards the new generation of politicians, whom confidence needs to be built. My expectations towards these new generation politicians tend to convince me that they have to manage ‘populistic’ feelings and rather elaborate a “clear and long term political perspectives”, through their political vision. This requires to hardly ‘de-concentrate’ power in Kinshasa’s hand to the provinces and local entities.
Put it simply that the blogger thinks that alternate powerful head of the state wouldn’t succeed easily as it keeps creating a confrontation mood while ordinary people are suffering. That is, federalism is the appropriate political and administrative system that can enhance country’s cohesion within its diversities, easing services delivery while holding leaders accountable based on their achievements/program than loud speeches. It is time for the opposition to lead by convincing on what they plan to do to correct what went wrong since 60s than pointing simply out promises that the ruling party did not realize. The reader interested in my reading of the UNC political programs as one of the leading new generation opposition party can check this link.
Ntanyoma R. Delphin
Twitter account @delphino12