Monday, February 13, 2012

Was Augustin Katumba Mwanke Great Lakes Grey Eminence?

Augustin Katumbwa Mwanke, chief bribing officer in Congo politics, died in the Bukavu crash while visiting a member of the old and powerfull Bisengimana clan. The impact of Augustin Katumba Mwanke's crash is being discussed on Afrikarabia, Jason Stearns and dizolele's blogs and no doubt by many others off and online through radio trottoire, the internet and in bars across Brussels. We will probably only find out in the future how he fits into the "African liberators", dead aid and war on terror narratives. We should however be carefull to turn this man into some fictional character that makes good headlines. I'm convinced "Grey Eminince" does not correctly characterizes the role Katumbwa Mwanke played in Congo's politics.

Comparing Mwanke to Richelieu as does Colette Braeckman doesn't seem helpfull to me either. His lavish lifestyle and personal pet projects don't make him a Grey Eminence reminscent of Aldous Huxley's famous book.  CENI President Pastor Mulunda's name would probably be more fitting for a superficial comparison to French cardinal Richelieu. Grey Eminince, the austere monk that did some of Richelieu's dirty work, as described by Huxley, has more characteristics of a Paul Kagame heading the military intelligence inside Uganda during the ninenties.  And that brings us to the Richelieu of our times: Yoweri Museveni, the guardian of Africa's liberation narrative.

As Kambale noted in his first reaction to the death of Augustin Katumba Mwanke, this briber-in-chief actually left a fortune. How ironic, like a Jacob he sold his birthright and soul for a bowl of soup. This gives me the impression he was mostly after money and no ideologue. Which brings us to his role as chief-negotiator for a chinese-congolese deal as described by Howard French in the article Next Empire in may 2010:
"In Congo it was commonly said that President Kabila had bet his presidency on relations with China; for an official to say anything critical could be career-ending, or worse." 
Dambisa Moyo is quoted in that article saying "China offers a way out of the mess the west has created", "western obsession with democracy has been harmfull" and "sustainable democracy is only possible after a strong middle class has emerged".
Allthough the press in Europe and the US reported Dambisa Moyo book "dead aid" as if it  was revolutionary, in reality her comments above make clear that her views are in fact a description of the status quo of both European and American consensus on aid, foreign policy and democratic development. Both US foreign policy and the aid specialist community see the development of civil society as a prerequisit for democracy.

In my opinion a strong middle class or civil society is not a guarantee for, nor a sure road to democracy. Politics is about narratives like the "liberation struggle against colonialism" the "aid miracle", the "war on terror", "struggle for civil rights", "Ich bin ein Berliner". Just developing civil society is not a story that can move people. And to think democracy can only deepen is just naive. The aid communities irritation and fascination with Nicholas Kristof proves my point that narratives do count.

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