Sunday, December 11, 2011

The World Cannot Ignore the Plight of the Congolese People

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Not long ago, I wrote Joseph Kabila's political obituary. At the time, it seemed quite obvious that Kabila had reached an exit point. The country had become critical ill from the epidemics of corruption and poor governance.

This is a fact that was and is still attested by almost all international rankings. While the DRC is without doubt endowed with vast natural resources that should make it one of the richest countries on the globe, it leads the UNDP's Development Index from the bottom. Unless if assumed that people pride in rewarding meritocracy, there is no way that one could have conceived Kabila's victory.

My only concern was that Kabila , just like did Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast, would be unwilling to accept defeat. As it seems, dictators are not very keen students and history is on the verge of repeating itself. The National Election Council (CENI) has decided to ignore the wishes of the Congolese people, and has selected Kabila for another scornful term.

In a nutshell CENI has, contrary to all expectations, imposed Kabila through the back-door of history. This is, predictably, the curse of military dictators all over the world. They are so bend on imposing their will on history that they give little thought on the cost involved.

A few people have already been killed and there is real fear that the repression will escalate. If nothing is done quickly,  many hopes and dreams are about to be crushed. Before us lies a country that is wounded once again.

Reversing what is happening will require a concerted effort. This is something that I say with a lot of hesitation. It is not lost to me that we live in a world where Africans are continuously infantililized, and their contributions minimized. However, removing a rich, corrupt and murderous dictator requires collective action. Moreover, the world cannot abandon the Congolese people at such a critical stage. It would be a grave mistake for the West to ignore the people's voice.

Ideally, more sustained pressure from the international community should help avert crisis. However, this might not be easy.

Because of the immense wealth, Kabila is one of the dictators that can easily ignore warnings from the international community. If the West pushes so hard, he might threaten to move business deals to the East. However, regardless of how one views the situation, the international community has a responsibility to protect the Congolese people.

There are a few signs of hope here and there. Both the Carter Center and the International Crisis Group (ICG) have condemned the elections. ICG has gone to the extent of asking the international community to desist from endorsing Kabila's reelection. This is a very positive sign, and the hope for many is that more of these organizations will move in a similar projection.

Congo deserves the right to be part of the 21st century. Kabila must be forced to accept this reality. 

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