2016 Presidential Elections: Any Reason for USA– DRC Relations Slipping into Bilateral Altercation?


 

It’s been approximately 3 years since US officials brought electoral process as well as its stability of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the center of their concern. The US government, through its representatives (Secretary of State, Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region,…), has openly disagreed on any third term for the DRC’s incumbent President. By openly disagreeing on any initiative or maneuvers that sound as keeping Joseph Kabila beyond 2016, few observers might be interpreting the US stance as a sign of implicitly supporting those opposing the third term too. Can the recent developments of socio-political context in Katanga be viewed in these lenses?

The mood started on 24 April during a demonstration organized by the G7 in Lubumbashi. The demonstration had Moise Katumbi as one the prominent organizers–speakers. The demonstration turned into buzzy to extent it went banned. At the same time, during that occasion or incident, few close bodyguards of Moise Katumbi were arrested. One of these arrested guys is an American citizen whose name is Darryl Lewis. The DRC government, through the spokesperson, Lambert Mende the minister of information, stated that there is yet a long list of seven American citizens undergoing an investigation into this case. As per the DRC’s government officials, most of these Americans are possibly former members of the US Marine Corps and would have come to DRC to serve as Katumbi’s close bodyguards. The US embassy in Kinshasa has recognized that Darryl Lewis is under house arrest though it disagrees with the DRC’s officials’ version regarding mercenary mission of these American citizens.

The US embassy in Kinshasa considers the arrest of Darryl Lewis as likely lacking grounds so long as he came in Katanga for consultancy purposes. The US Ambassador added that Darryl Lewis did not have any gun during the time of his arrest. Meanwhile, the DRC’s government has gone further to support its version by revealing some names of these other 7 mercenaries. The list contains names such as Nickloson Maurice Allan, Allan Green Coleman, David John Mercer, James Logan Jones, and Toon Juniro Leonard O’Neil. Therefore, it has to be understood that there would be other names under investigation to be revealed soon. Within a likely Ping-Pong truth game, it’s earlier to clearly ascertain whose version is right between US and DRC. Consequently, the purpose of the article isn’t about determining who’s right or false as it may take long to fix it; it rather intends to resonate to reader’s experiences with regards to the use of violence in order to gain or cling on power. Additionally, the article wishes to reminding the reader on how desperate, if no restrain made, would be the situation in Katanga particularly but also how the incident could affect US and DRC relations.

The development of the Katanga’s situation in particular as well as the general socio-political context in DRC is seemingly entering into a critical landmark towards the 2016 hypothetical presidential elections. Consequently, it must concern anyone interested in the DRC peace and stability. By flashing back, the reader reminds that Moise Katumbi is a former Governor of the powerful Katanga Province and Joseph Kabila’s ally. Since 2006, he might have been among reliable friends of the incumbent president Kabila. He is possibly a businessman, millionaire and owner of the Tout Puissant Mazembe football club. He defected from the presidential majority and the ruling party later this year following the spilt of G7.

The G7 is a group of 7 political parties who constituted the presidential majority since the 2011 presidential elections. The G7 with other 16 other political parties, member of the “Alternance pour la République” alliance or platform have been requesting Moise Katumbi to announce his presidential candidacy. Last week, Katumbi announced his candidacy to the presidential elections within this tense climate around his allegedly mercenaries. On the other hand, with regards to the dossier of these mercenary bodyguards, some sources have revealed that Moise has been summoned to legally clarify the matter. In a likely hurried up procedure with few flaws as reported by some experts, this Monday 09/05/2016, the presidential candidate went through a prosecution in Lubumbashi that will resume on Wednesday, this week as per Carine Katumbi. Can it be that Katumbi will be found innocent or guilty leading to his arrest? In any case, these two scenarios keep the tensions around electoral process in DRC. It has also to be noted that Katumbi might have requested a personal protection from the United Nations.

The current socio-political move in DRC looks as predicting a confrontation mood between those supporting a ‘glissement’ and those firmly demanding elections in November 2016. The G7 and Moise Katumbi specifically are among the latter group sticking on timely organizing elections. Additionally, it appears that Katanga Province (mainly Lubumbashi) and Kinshasa city would be the next hub of protestations, if no compromise reached. That is, whether Katumbi arrested or not, it changes slightly the move towards damn confrontations between those demanding inevitably elections in November and the security services, unless a compromise and inclusiveness is reached through the political dialogue. In the same vein of insisting to have elections held, there is a possibility of specifically having Katangese opponents moving fast as they were possibly playing the power behind the throne to firstly requesting the Katumbi’s candidacy. If all parties involved in this move won’t restrain to avoid human exposure, an informed observer wouldn’t rule human rights abuses and loses out. Would these innocent people be dying on the name of democracy?

Is it possible that Congolese society needs democracy for only holding elections or one of the way of establishing governance scheme that target its well-being? Do we really have again people invading streets, facing security services, dying all the way to have democracy or elections organized; while adding them up to millions of those who succumbed due to these recurring crises? Possibly, because defending rights needs sacrifices. However, don’t we have to consider the reasons and responsible actors of these messes before joining any rally? Can’t we find an invisible hand into these messes of those calling today to defend democratic principles? Haven’t we done enough to establish foundations of moving forward than backsliding again and again? The blogger’s take is that as DRC crises are likely intertwined with power concentration in Kinshasa’s hand, we need to oversee our challenges till we find the appropriate measures as well as solutions. We can’t be making a step forward and another backward while ordinary citizens are striving for getting their basic needs satisfied. Is your take different?

Beyond the internal consequences of the current crisis around Katumbi, the mercenary move won’t leave DRC-US relations unaffected. Bilateral relations are based on diplomatic principles barely recognized universally. However, it happens that diplomatic injunctions work behind the scene to get things run again. As the US play an important role around the world, their policy opposes any indictment of its citizen outside of their country. The fact of arresting and investigating on US citizens can affect the unbalanced relations of these two countries. In case the DRC’s government sticks on trying these allegedly mercenaries, it would directly deteriorate relations between these two States. Nonetheless, States’ relations are succinctly based on countries’ interests to the extent that someone would affirm that the incident may get solved as soon as possible. Though the US has a position regarding the presidential term limits in DRC, it unlikely ascertains that they will inevitably be supporting the opposition. However, US stance will certainly leverage on the DRC’s internal developments and adaptations.

It’s in this regards that the blogger thinks that the US can positively support the DRC’s government to get rid of these socio-political challenges. On one hand, before any formal support, the US as a key partner in development has to make sure that politicians aren’t struggling, for their own interests, to access the concentrated power in hands of Kinshasa. If so, the solution wouldn’t be holding only elections, it’s rather diluting the power to the benefit of local entities. I would suggest again and again to any bilateral and international partner of the DRC government to ensure that the potential wealth of the country benefits, at large, to its citizens than politicians or government officials. It involves reviewing what would be the appropriate administrative and political system that fits well the country’s management. In particular, the US has an experience in adopting a political system that can conciliate the largeness and culture diversities.

Instead of quarreling and colluding over elections and mercenaries, the US needs rather to support the DRC by working onto establishing confidence among different political actors. There is a concern of using an overdose forces to contain protestations if the situation worsens. In this case, the US and its partner, the DRC government would be advised to work together for the sake of preventing human losses and right abuses. There is no need to have DRC falling again into violence while it was into a recovery process. The most important step to take in order to support the DRC would be convincing all political actors to restrain and consider the interest of ordinary citizens than theirs. With regards to the delegation of US high ranking officials visiting the DRC, the blogger thinks that its primary mission would be of de-escalating tensions among actors; while reinforcing its support on a future DRC stable underscoring the Congolese society well-being.

Ntanyoma R. Delphin

Secrétaire Exécutif & Coordonnateur

Appui au Développement Intégré &

à la Gouvernance

Compte Twitter @delphino12

Blog: www.edrcrdf.wordpress.com

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