DR Congo Ambassador: ‘We don’t need the West, we Africans can do it’

Standard

December 17, 2011

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila between his wife and mother at campaign rally.

DRC’s second poll won by incumbent President Joseph Kabila has produced a disputed outcome with opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi also declaring himself the winner. Deputy News Editor Lovemore Chikova (LC) spoke to DRC ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mwanapanga Mwana Nanga (MN) about this and other issues.

LC: What is the situation in the DRC following the announcement of the election results amid fears that the country could slide back into civil war?

MN: The situation is pretty much calm right now. What has happened is that the opposition leaders wanted to bring the people onto the streets, but the people see that these people who are calling them are not credible. Let’s take Tshisekedi (Etienne). Do you know who Tshisekedi is? Tshisekedi started his political career in the secession over southern Kasai, you know the diamond country, when they wanted to secede?

He wanted to be part of that government in the early 60s. He played a big role in the betrayal and arrest of the late Congo leader Patrice Lumumba. He has always been on the opposite side of the progressive African forces and has no credibility.

LC: Opposition candidate Mr Tshisekedi has rejected the election results and declared himself the winner. Why would you say he is not right?

MN: Remember, this election was the most transparent ever in DRC in the sense that after the vote, the results had to be tabulated right there at the polling station. They had to be counted there and after counting they had to take the results and display them at the polling station and were signed by witnesses of all the candidates.

If you declare yourself the winner in one day you say you won by 75 percent and the next day you say you won 54 percent, so which is the result. They say all these results are based on the tabulation and copies that they have, so they have no case. They have brought the case to the Supreme Court, but I am sure that they will not win that case.

LC: Whom do you think is backing Mr Tshisekedi and for what purpose?

MN: I will not accuse any outside power of backing Tshisekedi.

There is no one specifically backing him. His supporters are just a group of disgruntled people, the looters who want chaos. They include some Congolese.

There are some companies that were created by ex-Rhodies and relocated to Canada and Australia. They were looting our resources and they were kicked out. These are some of the guys behind Tshisekedi because they know if he comes to power they return to continue looting with impunity.

LC: What is your reaction to accusations that President Kabila inflated ballots in his home country and other areas?

MN: President Kabila does not need to inflate ballots in his home area. In fact, Tshisekedi helped us. He went to the President’s home province and said the President is a Rwandese and he needs to go back to Rwanda.

If you are a candidate and someone goes to your village and say this guy is from Malawi so you should not vote for him, what will be the reaction of the people? They flock to the polls to show that the person is their homeboy and they know him more than you do.

LC: President Kabila scored 48,97 percent of the vote and Mr Tshisekedi got 32,33 percent. What does that tell you about democracy in the DRC?

MN: It shows that democracy is alive in the DRC. But every time we have a general election, it is very difficult for one party to win heavily because we have 400 ethnic groups, more than 400 political parties and the electorate is very split, I would say, and to win is not easy.

That is why we say in the constitution that the one who comes first becomes the winner to avoid a second round. It shows that in the DRC, to win you need a coalition. Mr Tshisekedi failed to bring other opposition leaders around him.

LC: Any possibility of a coalition government with Mr Tshisekedi?

MN: There will be no coalition. Instead, if Mr Tshisekedi follows the rules of the game in the constitution of the DRC he will become leader of the opposition. It was supposed to be Jean-Pierre Bemba, but he is now at The Hague, so in the outgoing legislature there was no leader of the opposition. That head of the opposition is supposed to be paid a salary by the government as a deputy Prime Minister. Mr Tshisekedi is still eligible for the post of leader as long as he does not commit any crime.

LC: It was a massive general election with 32 million registered voters, 18 500 parliamentary candidates competing for 500 seats and 11 presidential candidates. How did you manage?

MN: It was very difficult because some ballots had like more than 50 pages because there were too many candidates. In a country the size of Western Europe you can see that it was not an easy exercise. If you talk to the monitors and observers they will tell that it was very tough. On top of everything, it was during the rainy season. I was myself a candidate and more than once my car was stuck on the muddy roads. I stood in the central Bakongo province.

LC: You said you were a candidate. Will you remain an ambassador if you win the parliamentary seat?

MN: The results will come on January 13, then in March we have the senators and the election for provincial MPs. Provincial MPs select the senators and the governors because each province has its own parliament. In our system when you are elected, you have two deputies. If I decide not to go to Parliament one of my deputies will take the seat and then I can choose to remain an ambassador.

LC: What did you learn from your country’s second democratic election in 51 years and the first to be organised by the government?

MN: First of all, we learnt that as Africans we can really do our own thing instead of relying every time on these Western countries who give you little help and yet they want to impose the conditions. We organised it ourselves. About 85 percent of the resources came from ourselves and for the 15 percent that we got from outside, part of it came from South Africa and Angola and Western countries intervened in a very little way.

If anything, it shows that as African countries we are maturing and we can do things on our own. We also learnt that where there is a will you can do everything you want. We managed to do it in a very short time in such a huge country. Everybody thought this election would bring trouble to the country, but it didn’t because people now know that our destiny is in our hands.

LC: What was the role of foreign observers in the election?

MN: I will say there were two types of foreign observers, the African observers and the Western observers. The African observers had a lot of confidence in the DRC situation and they praised all that we did. But the Western observers were looking for trouble. If you saw the latest statement by the Cater Centre you will see that they were not there for the elections. They said you can’t hold the elections, you will have to postpone. The electoral commission said look this is our country, we know our country. But unfortunately for them, at the end of the day we did it and it was successful. Those who are honest say that the election was done by the book.

LC: DRC is ranked last on the UN global survey on human development. Is this a fair assessment?

MN: We know that the DRC has a lot of challenges, but we do not think that it is correct to say it’s the least in terms of development. Are you trying to tell me that DRC is worse than Somalia? There has been tremendous progress, but these rankings are there on statistics that were done maybe five years ago which are based during the time when everything was collapsing.

LC: How far has your country recovered from years of civil war?

MN: We are rebuilding our roads, we are rebuilding our rails and the President said we should order new boats. You see, we have a major highway in the form of the Congo River with 1 700 kilometres of navigable water. All the boats used on the river were destroyed. We have asked the Chinese to build 3 000km of roads, 3 000km of rail, three universities and schools. We have also cancelled about 90 percent of debts which were left by Mobutu.

LC: DRC reportedly has untapped mineral resources estimated at US$24 trillion. What are you doing to exploit such vast resources?

MN: We have so much that we don’t even know the value. So, the Government has signed a contract with the South Koreans to do an investigation to estimate what is it that we have. We have also signed a contract with an Australian company to develop the first phase of the Inga Dam because in any industrialisation you will need power. We are lucky to have Inga which has the biggest hydro potential in the world.

LC: What are President Kabila’s priorities if he is eventually confirmed the winner by the Supreme Court?

MN: The priority is to continue the rebuilding of infrastructure, the democratisation of the country as we call it. we to build infrastructure, but people do not eat infrastructure and look at the social side, you know the salaries, and make sure that people have something in their pockets to feed their families.

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