Broken Dreams

September, 2006

Broken Dreams
George Bakaly Sembe

Independence day 2006 was meant to be the beginning of the end for Congo’s long journey in the valley of the shadow of death. This 30th of June 2006, the electoral campaign, the first in more than 45 years, that would end in the advent of a truly democratic Congo got underway. Two months later what we Congolese hoped was the end of 46 years of misery has turned into more anger, more mistrust, more division. I could not take part in these elections, I live in London and expatriates were not given the opportunity to cast ballots, my younger brother a former expat himself, from Texas, had similar hopes than me. Brought up in the West we hoped that our country would join the “Free World”, we hoped that the degrees gotten from Western Universities could be put to use to rebuild our beloved country but most importantly we prayed that our countrymen could finally enjoy the rule of law and be in a position to express their full potential. The international community, we felt, had determined to help. Hence, despite the “wolf” cry from Etienne Tshisekedi, the historical figure of Congo’s fight for democracy, we trusted that the UN, the EU, and other organizations such as the Carter Foundation could not conspire to spoil our date with destiny, surely people who had built honest reputations and whose standing in world affairs depended as much on their credibility and fairness that anything else would not, could not ruin it to ensure that Joseph Kabila would be the 5th president of Congo or could they?

In a discussion with my brother I feel all the anger against Kabila and the “international community”, “we’ve been cheated” he tells me, I disagree and point out to him that in Iraq, where George Bush and Tony Blair have basically wagered their legacy, the Iranian backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) was allowed to win, Hamas won in Palestine, all across the Middle East fundamentalism has profited from President Bush’s democratic overture, yet he and Blair have steadfastly continued to defend their “values”, my brother thinks I’m naive but I want to believe that this, the spread of democracy, is one of those rare occasion where ideology meets “realpolitik” surely the “Free World” wants a free and stable Congo, this is essential for peace and growth in the region. So I opine that the elections were fair, and that I am surprised at how a smart guy such as my brother, who graduated suma cumlade, can believe in the paranoid rhetoric that has gripped the country, “we must” I say “accept the verdict of the polls.”

Yet something he said makes me uneasy, the turnout in the war ravaged eastern part of the country is simply a statistical anomaly in some district it is as high as 99% which would mean that in a region labelled “the killing fields of our generation” by UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland1, a lawless region where hundreds of thousands if not millions have been displaced people were able to vote at a rate unreachable in the most advanced democracies in the World. For example, in Fizi territory, turnout for the presidential elections was 99.30%. Just to recap, there were 285 polling stations, a total of 124,233 registered voters and 123,369 were able to cast their ballots, a mere 864 where unable to vote. This even though some voters live a four day walk from the closest polling stations, all in all Kabila got 101,761, or 81%, of the votes, clearly this is more than a miracle!2

In the East Kabila has somehow managed to gather close to 75% of casted ballots. Some claim that the man is popular in the East because he is from there and people credit him with putting an end to the war. That is an insult to our intelligence, first because the war in the east is an interethnic war and the international community, which through the Comité International d’Accompagnement de la Transition (International Committee for the Advancement of the Transition-CIAT) has validated and thereby certified the results, would have us believe that most if not all the different groups, in their hundreds, fighting in the East see Kabila, who himself is part of the conflict, as the messiah. Pay Pay, Ruberwa3, and Lunda Bululu who all hail from the East have gotten token results in the region. In the districts where 99% of enrolled voters where able to cast their ballots no one has been displaced, which would run contrary to reports, no one has died, no one was unable to go to the polls, since registrations occurred more than a year ago, no one has lost his voter’s registration card.

I have no proof that systematic fraud took place but I find it odd that no one in the “international community” has questioned the high turnout in the East when just days before the elections they wondered how people would be able to vote in the East where there are no roads, no public transport and different militias control large chunks of the country, and the words of Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, who said that “Kabila represented an only hope for the Congo”4 can not but worsen my fears. Once again Congo stands on the verge of the abyss, Jean Pierre Bemba, the rebel leader who could face the International Criminal Court on charges ranging from crimes against humanity to cannibalism, has become the symbol of the opposition to Kabila, by hastening the elections and giving the impression that it supported Kabila the international community has wrecked the hope of 60 million Congolese, our dreams have been reduced to a choice between a rock and a hard place.