A Good Man in Africa:
Now we know why Laurent Désiré Kabila was killed and what they have made of Congo after his assassination
By Antoine Roger Lokongo, 12.04.2006
It is the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mineral wealth and the Middle East’s oil that keeps the world economy going, feeding if not keeping afloat all the stock exchanges in so-called rich countries.
Laurent Désiré Kabila understood that very well and was determined TO DEFEND CONGO’S INTERESTS FIRST AND FOREMOST. That is why he is a national hero in Congo. All of a sudden, Kabila’s country was subjected to a barbaric war of aggression by an anglo-americanan-rwandan-ugandan-burundian-south african coalition (oh yes, Rwandan-masterminded RCD "rebel movement" was launched from South Africa with South African arms) with the complicity of the so-called Congolese rebels and the former Tutsi refugees living in Congo.
Since 2.08.1998, 5 million Congolese have been butchered and Congo’s natural and mineral wealth systematically looted. They subsequently assassinated Laurent Désiré Kabila on 16.01.2001, nearly the same date they assassinated Patrice Lumumba (assassinated 17.01.2001), our hero and first leader after independence and the only democratically elected leader since Congo got independence on 30.06.1960.
Laurent Désiré Kabila is a hero in Congo. He made his people understand that in a so-called globalised economy, you have got to defend your own interests first, otherwise you get simply swallowed the way a big fish swallows a small fish. He rejected Bechtel's "Congo development plan", cooked up abroad and gave priority to a locally hewn "Congo development plan".
Kabila did not bite to Western governments and multinationals'appetite for 'a second scramble for Africa'. As soon as he settled in Kinshasa, Kabila started to articulate clearly the aspirations of his people and summoning them to take their own destiny into their own hands, politically and economically. This was perceived by his sponsors as a covert declaration of independence. Kabila's nationalist stance immediately clashed with their interests, as he eventually reviewed all the contracts he had signed with American and South African mineral companies when he was a rebel, demanded that they pay upfront for decades of future profits and subsequently nationalised all the mines. Earlier on he had enlisted the support of Zimbabwe to enlarge his circle of friends, should he fall out with the first ones, prompting President Thabo Mbeki to say: 'The more time goes, the more we will loose control of Kabila.'
The people of Congo enjoyed a short-lived time of respite during Kabila's first year in power. They could eat three times a day again as prices of essential commodities drastically dropped, roads and bridges were repaired, public transport restored, electricity extended to the suburbs of Kinshasa and people liberated from Mobutu's ill paid soldiers'ransoming (67 members of the new army who resumed with the practice were arrested and jailed). The new currency, the Congolese franc was launched and the inflation rate dropped from 8.828% in 1993 to 6% in 1997. A soldier was paid $100 at the end of the month and on time. Now a soldier in Congo is paid $20 a month and he will be lucky to be paid on time if at all. Embezzling were thrown to jail. Corruption was severely combated. All this was achieved in the absence of any help from the IMF and World Bank who conditioned their financial support to Congo normalising its relations with the institutions of Bretton Woods and pledging to pay all the debt the old regime contracted. Such was also the position of the 'Friends of Congo' (private investors) meeting in Brussels in December 1997.
The new government embarked on an ambitious three year programme of national reconstruction and during the third summit of Comesa (common market community of central and southern African countries) held in Kinshasa on 29 June 1998, Kabila clearly tabled out what role Congo would play within the common market and in Africa as a whole.
He explained that 'more than 40 years of African independence have offered to the world a sad spectacle of a continent looted and humiliated with the complicity of its own sons and daughters'. He expressed the wish 'to see Africa entering the 21st century totally independent of foreign interference' and declared that the battle for Congo's independence and sovereignty is fought in the interest of Africa as a whole.
'Our country,' he said, 'has a vocation of exporting peace, development and security to the rest of Africa. A weak Congo means a vulnerable Africa from its centre, an Africa without a heart.' The stakes were then raised! America, long suspected of having used Uganda and Rwanda as a front to get rid of an 'intransigent' Mobutu, branded Kabila a 'loose canon that had to be restrained. But as Colette Braeckman, an expert in Congolese affairs, who reports for the Belgian daily, Le Soir, wrote in her book, l'enjeu Congolais -l'Afrique Centrale après Mobutu, this 'sudden animosity against Kabila could only be explained by the fact that his nationalist stance collided with or frustrated their economic interests in Congo…Kabila opposed all forms of investments that did not represent the interests of the people of Congo.'
On the political front, the new government promised free and fair elections but did not liberalise political activities until an national assembly was set up, charged with the task of setting the rules of the game stipulated in a new constitution. On the day he was sworn-in as president, Kabila gave a precise calendar of the democratic process which would have culminated with general elections on April 1999. And the people gave him the benefit of the doubt. A front page headline on Focus on Africa magazine, produced from Bush House read: 'Kinshasans celebrate, but for how long?' As if they knew what was going to follow.
If so-called poor African countries unite and defend their interests first, rich countries will feel threatened because they will be scared that one day they might pull the plug and prosperity reversed. Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of Independent Ghana, who was later overthrown and subsequently died in Guinea and Patrice Lumumba (assassinated), as well as Laurent Désiré Kabila devoted their whole lives to African unity. They were all betrayed by fellow Africans, for those who depend on Africa’s wealth for energy and technology always use an African hand to kill our enlightened leaders.
Now, after Laurent Désiré Kabila’s assassination, war criminals have been hoisted to power. Central African Republic has just asked the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity allegedly committed by former President Ange-Felix Patasse and Congo Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba. Ruberwa's Rwandan-masterminded RCD buried women alive as well. The whole autochthon Congolese population is decimated for gold, diamond, timbers, coltan…in Ituri, in North Kivu and in South Kivu (just like the Indians were decimated for gold in the Americas by western settlers) to make way for Tutsi from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi; and later for Jewish settlers who will leave Palestine to free some land for Palestinians; as well as white farmers chased away fron southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa), as Colette Braeckman, journalist with the belgian daily, Le Soir revealed it in her book “Les Nouveaux Prédateurs” - a “New Generation of Predators” in Central Africa.
The IMF and the World Bank are back in full swing, funding “development projects”, yet you don’t see any development at all (we don’t see change, we only hear rhetoric!). 80% of Congo’s national budget is covered by the IMF and the World Bank and “other donors”. So it is money borrowed and Congo is yet again saddled with debts like it was during Mobutu’s time. At the same time, rich countries’multinationals are occupying every inch of Congo, systematically squeezing Congo’s wealth dry. One mineral company called Katanga Mining Ltd is quoted in the Canadian stock exchange.
Where is Congo’s wealth and money going? How many multinationals are they there and what are they? How much money worth of taxes are they paying and what sort of concessions and contracts have they been awarded, what is the percentage for Congo; and do the people of Congo know about it? In whose hands is Congo’s economy repose? In the hands of warlords, gun runners, Mafia, smugglers, or in the hands of a young generation of Congolese predators (the words are of Colette Braeckman)? These are vital questions that need to be answered. The Democratic Republic of Congo is so rich that it can do away with hand outs from outside. Yes! Kabila proved it during his 44 months as president, rebuilding his country without any penny from outside. But if you are rich nobody leaves you alone.
A BBC PROFILE OF JOSEPH KABILA
Democratic Republic of Congo's Kabila and his kingdom [so Congo is a kingdom?!)
The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman profiles Joseph Kabila, the man most likely to become the Democratic Republic of Congo's first democratically elected leader since independence in 1960, in a piece published in the Focus on Africa magazine.
It looked like a church service. Two huge portraits of the leader were hanging from the high ceiling and thousands of people were dancing and singing in devotion to a 34-year-old man who was nowhere to be seen.
At the end of the ceremony broadcast live on state television, the master of ceremony Abdoullaye Yerodia - a Marxist psycho-analyst turned vice-president - closed it with the words: "In the name of the father, the son and the PPRD."
Members of the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) had gathered to beg Joseph Kabila, DR Congo's transitional president, to stand as their candidate in elections due in June.
But Mr Kabila never showed up. Only his closest disciples, known as "the Kabila boys", were on the stage, rallying the crowd and hailing the merits of the absent man.
Since his appointment as president after the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila in January 2001, Joseph Kabila, the world's youngest head of state, has only given two news conferences in Kinshasa and has made very few speeches.
"Kabila is not shy, he is reserved. This is part of his Swahili cultural background," explains Kabila's personal secretary, Kikaya Bin Karubi.
Indeed, this reservation is in contrast to the usual Congolese effusiveness.
Campaigners want to present their leader as genuinely Congolese
Joseph Kabila was born in the mountains of Fizi, eastern DR Congo, the stronghold of his then-rebel father, but grew up in exile in Tanzania.
His schoolmates at the Zanaji secondary school in Dar es Salaam nicknamed him "War bus" because of his enjoyment of war films and martial arts.
Still, they were all surprised when they saw the first pictures of him and his father fighting a real war, which ended when they seized power in DR Congo (then Zaire) and overthrew President Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997.
"We didn't even know he was Congolese," recalls one of them, who did not want to be named.
The Kabila family lived in Dar es Salaam under the discreet protection of then-Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere - a man Joseph Kabila claims to be his "role model".
So as not to attract the attention of Mobutu's intelligence service, they pretended they were members of the Fipa people, a small ethnic group from south-west Tanzania.
This upbringing and the fact that Mr Kabila speaks French with an English accent and knows no Lingala (DR Congo's lingua franca) has fuelled his detractors' argument that he is in fact "a foreigner".
The Union for Democracy and Social Progress - the opposition party of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi - has spread the rumour that he is not Laurent Kabila's legitimate son, but is in fact of Rwandan origin - a strong accusation in a country that was invaded by the Rwandan army during a five-year war.
With elections coming up, "the Kabila boys" are trying hard to present their leader as genuinely Congolese.
During the February political rally, they introduced his mother, Sifa, and his brother and sister to the militants, while Vice-President Yerodia insisted that he witnessed Mr Kabila's birth in Fizi.
Mr Bin Karubi adds that if Mr Kabila is not well known to the Congolese, it is mainly because he spends all week working hard in the office and some of his weekends cropping and doing motocross on his farm, Kingakati, on the outskirts of the capital.
Indeed, in spite of the 2002 power-sharing agreement that includes four vice-presidents from rebel groups who fought during the war, and a cabinet of more than 50 ministers in his interim administration, President Kabila still runs a staff of 200, described by the opposition as a "parallel government".
His experience as a general in the Congolese army also helps him to keep direct control over a 7,000-strong army unit known as the Republican Guard, which allegedly includes a few Zimbabwean commanders.
DR Congo's war led to shady business deals, but Mr Kabila has not been directly implicated in any.
The same cannot be said of 'the Kabila boys'. One of them, Katumba Mwanke, a minister at the presidency, was forced to resign because of accusations in a 2002 United Nations report that he was profiteering from the war through deals made with Zimbabwean officials.
Yet, he remains close to the centre of power, acting as one of Mr Kabila's top advisers.
On his campaign posters, Mr Kabila says: "The Congolese know exactly where their interests are. There is a reason to hope."
The Congolese people will be hoping that Mr Kabila, the clear favourite to win the presidency, also knows where the genuine interests of DR Congo are, and that he will keep reminding his "boys" that they are in politics to serve the nation of 56 million.
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