In many parts of Africa, when one’s visitor is about to leave, the host is obliged to ask them to stay a bit longer (even if you really do want them to leave and its getting rather late). This is because you don’t want the guest to think that you didn’t enjoy having them around. I’m pretty sure that this holds true in the Congo as well.
But I can bet my bottom dollar that when the 75 heads of state and country representatives of the Francophonie (or the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie as its officially known) left Kishasha, Kabila didn’t even go through the motions. He was ecstatic to see them jump on their Air France jets and leave his capital behind.
This is because some of the leaders, instead of treating him with the respect befitting the president of the host country, expressed to him exactly what they felt about his administration.
French President Francois Hollande described the political and human rights situation in DR Congo as “totally unacceptable in terms of human rights, democracy and the recognition of the opposition”. The French president, further thumbing his nose to his hosts, held a meeting with Etienne Tshisekedi, the opposition leader who many believe won the last elections, which were marred by charges of fraud.
What surprised me the most was that he didn’t say that the situation was unacceptable because of Rwanda, M23 or the ICGLR. He put the blame and responsibility firmly on Kabila’s doorstep.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, went even further.
After meeting members of the opposition, he said that they welcomed Canada’s views about the “complete unacceptability of failures in the electoral process and the abuse of human rights that are taking place in this country.”
The Congolese government wasn’t the only ones in his sights. He took a swipe at MONUSCO, something he did just two years ago. Back then, Harper refused to augment Canada’s presence and support for the United Nations mission in Congo, saying he didn’t think it would be “terribly effective.” At a brief news conference on Sunday, he said that this “was borne out by events.”
Of course the Congolese were taken aback. DR Congo, in the words of Kabila, “is proud of the democracy exercised in this country. The DRC is not at all worried about the level of democracy, freedom and the human rights situation”. Obviously he’s not left his presidential palace in a while.
What I believe that we’re seeing is an international realignment vis-à-vis the issues besieging the Great Lakes Region.
For the longest time possible, whenever leaders and journalists talked about Congo, they made it seem like the Rwanda’s so-called involvement in Eastern Congo was the cause of each and every malaise that Congolese citizens suffered. This was, and still is, the furthest thing from the truth.
Rwanda isn’t the reason there was electoral fraud. It isn’t the reason that the administration is unable to deliver the most rudimentary services to the Congolese population. It isn’t the reason that there aren’t any roads of note crisscrossing the country.
Even the most biased Rwanda-hater has to admit that Kigali has taken the security of its citizens seriously. It has taken their aspirations seriously. It has done its best to involve as many people in the political process as possible. And in the process transformed itself from a regional basket case to an international player of note.
Kinshasa has turned playing the ‘victim’ into an art form. And it has worked for them. Thankfully, the international community is starting to wake up and realize that the issue of governance is at the heart of the Congolese issue. Honestly though, who would’ve thought that this monumental change would occur during this summit? Not me.