Friday, December 2, 2011

Kabila: Congo's Willie Stark

"Which is nonsense, for whatever we live is Life. That is something to remember when you meet the old classmate who says, "Well now, on our last expedition up the Congo" -Robert Penn Warren, All The King's Men
Joseph Kabila who came to power as an accidental Willie Stark has since sucked into his orbit a network of former Bemba supporting Mobutists and other well-educated Congolese: "all the king's men". Joseph Kabila as the Great Twitch, the inevitable, but accidental, outcome of history. The mood of "Nobody is responsable, everybody is an observer" sums up Kabila's history, his entourage and his campaign. Are we all mere observers of the Congolese elections that analyze the facts as they are?

Let's not kid ourselves, the outcome of the Congolese elections won't be decided just by counting the votes and proclaiming the results on december sixth. It will be decided just as much on perception and relations between the international community and Kabila's government. We could speculate about the US Governments investment in Kabila, the State Department's longstanding history of despising Tshisekedi, the impotent observer since the cold war, Kabila's Chinese friends, the lack of funds to properly support the election process and the desire by diplomats to not rock the boat.  David Aronson nails it: "if there's a plausible case to be made that Kabila has won a legitimate election, the international community will".

Tshisekedi's populist campaign has encountered fierce hostility in English speaking press and diplomatic circles: "Western governments may be reluctant to side with Mr. Tshisekedi, who is viewed as a loose cannon...". Tshisekedi is "definitely unpopular inside Western embassies" .  Ambassador Rice on Tshisekedi telling Roger Meece to leave: "That tells you more about Tshisekedi". Western observers have a hard time finding positive aspects to Congolese elections in general and Tshisekedi in particular. Supposedly this election fixes nothing and could lead to disaster.  "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on" seems to be the prevailing analysis of Tshisekedi's contribution to great lakes politics. To speak with drinkingwithbob: The media doesn't like him, the diplomats don't like him, the analysts don't like him: HE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!

The exception has been Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, traditionally considered the devil by many UDPS supporters in the diaspora, smoking figurative peace pipes with "the Sphinx of Limete".

Tshisekedi's participation, giving Joseph Kabila a run for his money, has turned this into a real election in which citizens, diplomats, analysts and politicians are converted from mere observers of a chain of uncontrollable events into vigilant actors (UDPS: Albert Moleka) with real responsabilities: "a journey away from an amoral perspective on human history toward a belief in the fundamental interconnectedness of all of history". How often do you see that in Africa? How often have we seen that in Congo? Will we ever see it again? As Roger Meece reminded us on Congo months back: all is not lost, the challenges are not too great to confront, we are not facing imminent failure.


Anonymous said...

Well written blog. However I disagree with your assessment thet Colette Braeckaman has "smoked the peace pipe" with Tshisekedi. She continues to belittle him in her blogs, being very dismissive of the opposition. That so called great lakes expert is just a mouth piece for special interest belgium groups

Vincent Harris said...

Thank you. I'm not sure what special interest she might represent. I do agree she probably did not "smoke a peace pipe" as I initially thought, but rather used her positive words as a run-up for her campaign against the opposition.