A Miracle

December 2006

George Bakaly Sembe

« In the name of the national interest and in order to preserve peace and prevent a return to chaos and violence, I undertake, in the eyes of God, the nation and history, the responsibility to lead, with your consent, a strong and republican opposition »
Jean Pierre Bemba

Those familiar with my articles for Friends of the Congo know how much antipathy I feel for the government and the political actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but events this past few weeks mean that hopefully I will be eating humble pie for the next five years. In the last article I wrote, I predicted that the elections will end in chaos and more warfare as the signs were that neither candidate would accept defeat, and in this case it seemed as if Bemba and his supporters had opted for military confrontation, tension was high in Kinshasa and Bemba kept saying “I will accept the results if the elections are free and fair” the fact that he accused the body responsible for organizing the elections, the Commission Electorale Indepandente (Independent Electoral Commission-CEI) of bias towards Kabila made me and many other observers feel the worst. On November 28th Bemba surprised everyone and declared that though he still felt that he had been cheated he would, for the sake of the nation, lead a republican and peaceful political opposition. More than a victory for Kabila or a defeat for Bemba this was a victory for Congo, true Kabila is not the best President but after what Bemba has done we have to accept that he is not the Devil incarnate and give him a chance, maybe he to can surprise us. This is a victory for the DRC because if this peace holds and Bemba sticks to his promise we will have turn a bloody page of our history, the era where political violence and war were accepted means of acquiring power will be over.

True these elections were not the fairest, there were foreign troops on our soil, insecurity in the East and assassination attempts on one of the candidates but considering where we come from the outcome, if it holds, will be nothing short of a miracle. But I want to thank Mr. Bemba for his leadership, in an unpublished article I wrote that the political class of Congo was without talent, without leadership. However, despite his many flows, Bemba has shown great leadership make no mistakes about it his acceptance of Kabila’s victory comes at a great political, economic and potentially safety cost for him. Political because many of the sponsors of “congolite ” who had supported Bemba against the “foreigner” Kabila are now calling for his head, an important part of his political alliance pressed him to go to war against Kabila knowing that in Kinshasa, where Bemba is extremely popular, they would prevail or at least make the situation so untenable for Kabila that some kind of compromise would have to be found, now they are saying that Bemba was either bought by Kabila or scared off by “Westerners” who want to exploit Congo furthermore Bemba by losing his position in the government Bemba loses an assets necessary to provide services to his patronage network. Economic because of the many perks that he loses by giving up his cabinet post, and safety because as the event of August proved he might be targeted by Kabila. In Gettysburg: A Meditation on War and Values American historian Kent Graham defines duty as follow: “ because duty is always a requirement of the future, often without reward for the doer, and often entailling sacrifice. The sacrifice is made for those to come.” Clearly Bemba made a sacrifice and, surprisingly, showed himself to be a man of duty. Of course he is not the messiah all of a sudden but the point is he was never the Devil either, some have suggested that Bemba only did that because of threats from the West or he took a bribe this does not matter the for the fact is he is doing that and giving Congolese and incredible opportunity to become a true democracy.

So does this means that the struggle is over, I think not but what we are faced with is no longer war but some straightforward civic, social and political rights issues. We now have a constitutional framework which gives legal avenues to fight for those rights. Of course the government will resist calls for better wage, better education, better working conditions for miners, they will resist calls for more transparency in the management of the country’s natural resources, throughout history rights have not been given they have been taken, be it for the African American community in America, women, miners every exploited group has had to fight for their rights today thanks to the new political order ushered in by the much maligned international community there is a legal framework on which to act, it will require sacrifices but nothing in this world is free. There are still enormous problems, for example the management of the enormous mineral wealth of Katanga, estimated to have the capacity to produce $ 300 billion in the next 25 years, which Clive Newall the CEO of Canadian firm First Quantum has called “..the holly grail of the copper industry. ” there has been criticism of contracts awarded by Kabila to foreign companies during the transition he has promised to review those since but already Belgium’s Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht has warned that “the contracts should not be touched otherwise we risk endangering the whole industry ” it is up to the Congolese and when I say Congolese I mean all Congolese regardless of race, ethnicity or language, I mean anyone that feels Congolese and wants to contribute to the development of the country to make sure Kabila holds his promise and we need to continue to inform people around the world about abuses taking place in the Congo, we need to name the companies and the people that are enslaving Congolese, and Congolese should be at the forefront of that effort.

The responsibility to build a just society in the Congo does not lie in Brussels, Paris or Washington, it lies within every Congolese, and it is our duty. Without an informed citizenry there is no true democracy, so Congolese in the Diaspora and back home must act together to further the education of our countrymen, we must stop complaining all the time, we have to stand up and be counted. We need teachers, we need doctors, we need engineers, civil right activist that is what it will take we can not count on the government to solve all our problems, and we ask every friends of the Congo to help us in this Endeavour.

1. The idea of a pure Congolese race.
2. Global Witness : “Digging in Corruption : Fraud, abuse and exploitation in Katanga’s copper and cobalt mines”, July 2006.
3. Rene Lefort : “La Dangereuse Victoire de Kabila”, Le Nouvelle Observateur, 30-11-2006.