Some thoughts and facts about the ongoing crisis in the DRC (Part 3)

9 Feb

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Trouble in other parts of the country …..

About the scramble for power in Kinshasa….

Repression and human rights abuses are on the rise in Kinshasa, Mbuji Mayi , the Kivus and in Katanga.  After John Numbi left the power scene in Kinshasa other generals and politicians started to scramble  to take over the chair of those who fell in disgrace with Kabila.  The prospects of seeing more moderate people take over from Numbi & co are very slim.  Kabila nominated Charles Bisengimana as the new chief of the Congolese police. Bisengimana is a Rwandophone from the Kivus and analysts and insiders consider him very weak.  But the appearance at his side as deputy police chief of general Raüs Chalwe is more worrisome. Raüs got this job to control Bisengimana. And he is a die hard Muluba who has been already been used in the past to neutralize opponents of Kabila. He’s known to be very smart and the word is out that he’s also having a Belgian passport (his kids are studying in Belgium). So in case of trouble he can always flee to Europe. According to my sources he always uses his collaborators to do the dirty work so that he can always stay out of the picture. Raüs would also be the next in line to lead the Congolese police if the latter will be removed.  He’s already surrounding himself with radical and pit bullish  collaborators – the Congolese call them ‘chiens méchants – that can execute his orders without too much fuss.

Another remarkable figure that showed up in the inner circle of Kabila is Kalev Mutond, the boss of the infamous ANR (‘Agence National de Renseignements’).  The ANR is a loosely structured intelligence factory that runs its activities trough bribes, with very badly paid and corrupt agents. Some of its agents used to work the SNIP, the ‘Service Speciale de l’Intelligence Presidentielle’ of president Mobutu. Others were randomly recruited during the last couple of years. But they all have one thing in common: none of them received a proper training. The ANR has the power to arrest people randomly, as it pleases them. They can be ‘hired’ by anyone who wants to solve a problem between neighbors, lovers or a business problem. In most cases the one who has the most of cash in his pocket will win the dispute. The ANR is a living nightmare for expats living in the DRC because they are extra targeted by the ANR for the simple reason that they often have more money. Kalev’s reputation in the DRC is also very bad.  Under his command several dozens of Tutsi’s were flown into Kinshasa from Goma and they all disappeared in the dungeons of the ANR in Gombe.  Analysts agree that Congo might be better of with people like Numbi…..

It is a fact that people disappear easily in the DRC. Any reason is good enough to put someone behind bars.  Opponents such as Vital Kamhere, one of Kabila’s challengers for the presidential elections,  saw themselves contained to Kinshasa and were forbidden to leave the country until further notice. John Numbi might have become too embarrassing for the Kabila clan because of the evidence that came out that he had a big hand in the murder of the human rights activist Floribert Chebeya.  But nowadays people disappear in a much easier way than a year ago.  According to some of our sources who were present at top brass security meetings in Kinshasa the police and the ANR received orders to crack down immediately on any form of protests.  Press freedom is inexistent in the DRC: journalists are receiving lousy salaries and most of the subjects they have to work on have been pre-financed by the people they’ll have to film or they’ll have to talk about.  Most of the newspapers, radio- and tv-stations belong to high ranking officials who use them for their own publicity and glory.  Opposition papers are often harassed by the authorities and journalist who are daring to tell or to write the truth often end up in jail. Other just disappear.   The only press organ that is more or less independent is ‘Radio Okapi’, the radio station of the UN. But this radio stations excels often in portraying the situation less worse than it is.  The UN clearly wants to avoid to upset the authorities who are often the source if not the instigators of most of the ongoing problems.  So as a result most of the Congolese are very badly informed about the things that are happening around them.  The ‘radio trottoir’ has become the major source of information for most of them and this has also very bad consequences: gossip often leads to misunderstanding and a tool to manipulate the locals.  A couple of weeks the rumor was spread in the streets of Goma that the Rwandan president Kagame was killed in an ambush in Rwanda. Hundreds of people took to the streets and starting dancing and sheering.  But Kagame wasn’t killed and he was never ambushed.  Sources told us that this rumor originated in circles of local governor Julien Paluku……

The Kasai, …..

The whole province of Kasaï is economically broken because the central government in Kinshasa is distributing the old MIBA concession amongst illegal diamond diggers and obscure Chinese trading companies. This already happened in the 80ties but at that time the Miba could still make a reasonable profit. According to the locals there can only be one reason for this: to break the backbone of the local population trough unemployment to break the influence of the UDPS.  The UDPS is another competitor of Kabila’s PPRD in the run for the presidency.  The UDPS of Etienne Tshisekedi is ‘Kasaïen’ par excellence and very influential in this province. The UDPS was one of the major contestants of former president Mobutu and has many scores to settle with the Balubakat in Kinshasa. When the former governor of Katanga, Kyungu, expelled most of the Kasaïen workers of the province and put them on trains to send them back to their province of origin hundreds of them died of hunger and diseases such as malaria. This happened in the 90ties but the population of cities like Mbuji Mayi have certainly not forgotten this.  Another reason why the situation in the Kasaï very bad for the moment  is the fact that most of the local diamond trade is being controlled by murky comptoir-owners. The anarchy in this business is thriving and nobody seems to know well where most of the diamonds that are traded in these places end up. But the whole set up is covered up by local and national officials. Those who want to dig too deep in the structure and the functioning of these comptoirs are  being tapped on their fingers by their bosses.  Nobody can react against the Chinese mine owners about the low salaries, the poor working – and safety conditions and those who dare to raise their voices face problems with the ANR.  The economical life in the province capital Mbuji Mayi has collapsed completely.

I don’t have a lot of information about the north of the country or the province of Bas-Congo because I haven’t been there recently.  So I might publish on these provinces and regions later on after I visited the area’s.

About the deep and completely forgotten interior….

It is very difficult to speak for all the Congolese for the simple reason that little is know about the faith of the population that is living in the deep and far off interior of the country.  It is a fact that the activities of most of the international NGO’s are concentrated in the troublesome provinces in the east of the country.  It is also a fact that only the people of the eastern provinces, Katanga and the area around Kinshasa are profiting from the economical development. Kabila’s so called ‘5 warfs (Cinq Chantiers) – project’ that plans to construct roads, bridges and the necessary infrastructure to develop the Congolese economy turns out to be another hoax.  Apart from the city of Kinshasa and a couple of thousands of kilometers of roads nothing has been done yet. In Katanga the situation is a bit better because local governor Moïse Katumbi and some other local foreign businessman are doing what they can to clean up the image of the province.  Only 3000 or 400 km’s of the 30.000 planned kilometers of road in the DRC have been macadamized so far. If it wouldn’t  be for private investors who still believe in a bright future for the country nothing would work here. The banking sector is in full development nowadays and for the first time in their lives government employees are being paid their salaries via bank accounts. Very few people have access to electricity – the electricity company SNEL is also haunted by the corruption bug and the famous dam of Inga is working on only one of the 24 turbines that could be installed. Most of the international donor money that was pumped into this plant disappeared in the pockets of several succeeding ministers and presidents. And this causes another big problem: deforestation ! People have to cook on charcoal and the wood to produce this is being cut all over the country.

But  millions of people live in the deep interior of the country and those people can only rely on themselves, far away from the ongoing wars in the Kivu’s, the mining activities in the south and the corruption and the political impasse in Kinshasa. But the sad thing for this people is that they have to walk sometimes more than 300 kilometers to find an aspirin and that their kids  are dying again from strange diseases such as Ebola, monkey pox and malaria.  These diseases could easily be cured and avoided with a bit of development money.  In the Congolese Heart of Darkness there are no schools, no roads, no telephones, no hospitals, no authorities, no army, no police, no UN and not a single big international NGO !  One might ask himself if the Congo that was visited by Joseph Conrad at the beginning of the 20st century was not more prosperous than it is now. Because at that time the tribal structures were still intact, there was more solidarity amongst the people and people might have had more freedom. It’s may be harsh to put it this way and I might be wrong about this but I often thought  about this when I was crossing the country with a kayak a couple of years ago.  For me this is also something the outside world should think about !  The local population deserves much better !  And they need our help !

                                                                                                                                                                 Marc Hoogsteyns

 

Nobody can claim to own the truth about the DRC.  The country is so huge and so vast that it is difficult to find out what’s going on in all the provinces. I had the chance to travel around quite a bit recently and to talk to many people.  I visited these areas several times in the last couple of years.  Out of respect for most of my contacts I did not mention their names in these writings. This might cause them big problems. I started up this blog because I felt frustrated about most of the articles and papers I was reading about the ongoing problems in the country. Not that I disagreed with all of them but I felt that some of the idea’s I was picking up during my travels through the country were not represented in these papers. The Congolese are a beautiful and nice people, full of humor and most of them are very proud to be Congolese. They deserve a much better future.  Today their future looks very grim.  My opinion is just my opinion and I might be in a better and safer position to write down some facts than most of my Congolese colleagues. So please forgive me if my opinion does not stroke with Yours and please forgive me when I misinterpreted some of the events or the ongoing facts. Nobody is perfect. But I really hope that this information can contribute to a better understanding of the country in the outside world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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