UK-DRC’s Overdose Sanctions: Did Danae Dholakia Consult Graham Zebedee?


It has been for weeks that informed observers are contemplating DRC-“International Community” relations as likely heating due to clashes around the former electoral process. By the international community, the reader would understand the United Kingdom, France, European Union (Brussels) and the United States of America. Besides these countries, some international forums and organizations have voiced their worries on the DRC’s failure to organizing presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of 2016. They are all insisting to see DRC government doing everything on its hand for timely organizing presidential election as well as “respecting the constitution”.

The international community is joining the Congolese socio-political arena as some of the opposition political parties are concerned over the future of the electoral process in Congo. The DRC’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) as technically in charge of organizing elections seems expressing the impossibility of holding, specifically, presidential elections in November 2016. The CENI puts forward technical and financial issues as mostly challenging. It has once to enroll new adults while reviewing the existing electoral database; thus, requesting more time to work on these matters. In order to deal with these challenges, the Head of the State has called upon dialogue among key socio-political actors.

Meanwhile, as signs of failing to timely hold elections have mounted, the Constitutional Court has ordered the State continuity principle. The court has simply ruled that, in case elections won’t hold, the incumbent president will continue his presidency beyond the 2 constitutional mandates. The DRC’s opposition calls it “slipping” into the presidency office as it’s been suspecting the CENI’s challenges as “politically entertained” in the sense of having President Kabila ruling beyond his two constitutional mandates.

Even though the Constitutional Court decision would be a tall order due to possible gripes, it is seen as a step forward for supporters of the ruling party. On the other hand, it constitutes a reliable proof for the DRC’s opposition to brand their concerns and requesting the international community involvement. It’s in this regards that the United Kingdom has recently raised concerns over the Kinshasa’s stale stories around elections. The UK seems going further to consider targeted sanctions as the impediment of democratic process in DRC looks being accompanied by human rights abuses while restraining political freedom and space.

The blogger has consistently been wondering if DRC’s ordinary citizen needs solutions through holding only elections? I always wonder if sanctions are appropriately needed if election delays? Though the worry does not disregard the role of democratic elections, the blogger feels that the take and strong commitment of the “international community” around elections wouldn’t firstly be underscoring my interests. To some extent, the stance of the international community seems unlikely emphasizing on pragmatic challenges that we are facing as a Congolese society, especially ordinary people. In addition, some responses are approximately sounding as overdose when considering the lengthy it took to have these measures adopted.

To support the argument, the post compares Danae Dholakia perspectives over the electoral process and that of Graham Zebedee regarding the general socio-economic context in the DRC. It mostly aims at interpreting the viewpoint of the UK Ambassador in Kinshasa, Graham Zebedee expressed during the 2016 greeting message of the end of the year. While Danae Dholakia, the UK Special Envoy to the Africa Great Lakes Region, is advocating for targeted sanctions against some officials, the blogger tends to think that Graham Zebedee sees the crises in DRC through wide lenses as compared to the former. Is that right? Not yet sure as we are in the political field. However, the declarations of the two diplomats curiously sense how the consultation between them went on? Before these political stories, let’s once go to my village.

Our memories do always try to link what’s happening to what we’ve come across? During my young age, I came across a story of an overdose effect combined with a wrong treatment of the back pain. Most of these pains would have originated from the traditional and hard works to get our basic needs satisfied. Till today, every work in my village is undertaken by physical strengths. As people are working hard, they get tired or feeling sick. Access to health facilities is too challenging as does agricultural technology. We used to resort to different means, including ‘snake cream’ as a medicine.

There has been a substance closer to cholesterol (if I’m not mistaken) from a would-be “mamba” snake or “Isata” in my mother language. The substance was simply extracted from that dead snake. I guess no research has been done to confirm its usefulness and could be the consequences behind its use. The substance used to serve as cream for rubbing the body when something goes wrong. It was a natural cream that had to be warmed before getting used. It was during an exercise of “massage” that the substance played its role. Though being used in traditional context, the reader would consider that the substance coming from a snake would be containing venom. However, no one did think about that aspect and it was used regularly to the extent of being misused.

A neighbor has had some complication at his back. The only medicine at hand was the cream from the snake (amavuta y’isata). This time, instead of rubbing, the man suggested to get injected the substance. Even though it sounds as unbelievable for those unfamiliar with the context of my village, but the cream got warmed and then injected nearby the back pains. When trying to revive the story, I can imagine that injecting around the body’s party which was suffering sounded likely as intending to have a quick effect. Unfortunately, the final result was totally unintended. The story looks as interesting but too long. Thus, we rather need returning to UK-DRC relations.

Back to Graham speech, the reader reminds that it was on 30th December 2015 when the UK diplomat declared that in 2016, our efforts have to be oriented to the re-establishment of the DRC state foundations. In this clear message, the Ambassador expressed the wishes to see 2016 “soit une année de la refondation de l’Etat Congolais de manière à offrir au people un avenir prometteur”. By trying to make a shot in the dark, it is obvious that the Ambassador would have been talking something different from the poll. From the blogger’s point of view, it’s uncertain to expect that elections would predict a delighted future without considering the political program of the winner. The Ambassador’s message sounded as calling all DRC government’s partners to join their efforts together in order to work on governance challenges.

In the same speech, he added that “Malgré toutes les discussions autour des élections, l’année 2016 devrait être une année consacrée à un recentrage sur l’édification de l’Etat”. The statement confirms that only elections won’t miraculously bring solutions to our problems. We can simply deduct that there is a need of re-establishing foundations or redefine state edifice (system). As the UK government stands as a 2nd large development partner, the Ambassador disapproves the way public services are delivered in this country. He disagrees on the inexistence of public services into our daily life to the extent that these services are delivered by NGO, churches, foreign governments and the diaspora as well. In any case, the diplomat appraised local population’s efforts to deal with our own problems while the support from the state is likely modest. He underlined that no one around the world likes such situation of “begging”.

While appraising the current macroeconomic achievements, he went further by even advising on what steps to take in order to re-establish a new foundation of the state. Among other reforms, these steps require to tackling corruption, nepotism—despotism, rational allocation of the budget, redistribution of resources for fighting poverty and inequality… to have the state’s mission and responsibility accomplished. Though he hasn’t the burden to proving, it hurts to hear that in 2014 the budget allocated to the Presidency Office, Parliament and the Office of the Prime Minister equated that of the primary, secondary and technical education. Hence, there is a need to review the foundation of the state edifice. These intractable challenges have been there for a half century. Have we had individual sanctions that helped to take them to an end? Don’t we need sanctions targeting people embezzling our resources, those getting richer for being public officials? Are these not crimes?

Astonishingly, the UK government, through the Special Envoy to the Africa Great Lakes Region, seems again believing that re-establishing the state foundation comes from organizing elections. That’s, electing a new president would inevitably bring to the table all ingredients for the delighted future of the Congolese society. As the UK hangs largely on democracy and elections, Madame Danae Dholakia thinks that failing to organize elections in DRC has already started to cause anxieties, human rights abuses and political and speech freedom confinement as corollaries. Hence, the Special Envoy is advocating for targeted sanctions against key officials responsible of these abuses. Unless “beating around the bush”, the approach won’t seriously fit into the DRC context as compared to Graham’s advice of looking the crises through wide glasses of governance difficulties.

To Support DRC re-establishing new foundations as shared by the Ambassador Graham and I won’t rule elections out. Secondly, in as much as possible, human rights abuses have to be prevented because this country has been suffering from the lack of well-established judicial schemes. Thus, considering sanctions wouldn’t be excluded in case the developments around elections lead to protestations, confrontations, involvement of security forces and rights abuses. However, it’s likely that the UK is twisting the knife into the wound or overdosing while we might be dealing with a case of illness requiring another medicine. Is that approach closer to injecting the “mamba” cream from my village into the back of the patient by targeting the suffering organ? Instead of strongly clashing around elections, DRC’s future and concerns of ordinary citizens may lie in another approach.

The constructive approach needs to combine the push for organizing elections while keeping in mind that we are in special context. The context is yet sensible for it can easily be militarized with security forces unlikely capable to dealing with uncertainties. Hence, the medicine to be prescribed in the DRC context must think about its past, the progress made but also what is currently needed by ordinary citizen. The blogger considers that the treatment goes through re-establishing a mechanism that redistributes equitably our national resources as a priority. The mechanism of distribution —redistribution must be sustainable and falling into the interests of poor people than politicians. Otherwise, an overdose, a wrong treatment or expectations of a quick effect may lead to unintended consequences. May I tell the reader that the effect of snake’s cream story in my village has led the treated man to lose his strengths! It went further up to the level of creating other complications while the first ones did not get cured.

 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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