Since June 2015, I have been a member of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) of the DRC. I had the privilege of having been appointed by the civil society organisations working in the civic and electoral education for a non-renewable six-year term Our main challenge, as a member of CENI, is to organise fair and transparent elections at local, provincial and national levels. In particular, I am in charge of following up the youth, persons living with disabilities and indigenous populations.
Why did I decide to speak to you today?
Definitely because the organisers kindly accepted to give the floor to an African who is both available and most likely to reach Barcelona, the venue of the plenary meeting of the MIIC-Pax Romana. But, and most importantly, as indicated Kevin in his one of his preparatory speeches to the Pax Romana world conferences in November 2014 aimed at facilitating sharing amongst members or groups living around the world and to show, as a global movement, what benefits can be drawn from dialogue amongst various cultures and, as a secular movement, that we can do this leveraging the human experiences of our members.
The starting point for this Pax Romana virtual global conference was the second chapter of the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium which highlights the crisis in community engagement. In his approach for an evangelising action, Pope Francis briefly described the context in which we should live and act. Analysing this description, it seems to us that certain African nuances did not transpire in it. In 2014, when we talked about the crisis in community engagement in DRC and in Africa, we felt it was important to describe the context in which we live and in which we are expected to act in DRC and in Africa. It is therefore with great joy that I will describe to you the political context of the Democratic Republic of Congo, hoping that it will contribute to inspiring future actions of Pax Romana and the Church.
Geographic and political and historical situation of the DRC
The DRC is a country located in central Africa, with a size of 2.345.409 km2, divided into 26 provinces. It is home to 80 million people the majority of whom are Christian. The country has a 10,000 km long border which it shares with 9 neighbouring countries, namely: Congo -Brazzaville, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. French is the official language of the country, but we also have 4 national languages: Kikongo, Lingala, Swahili and Tshiluba. The DRC also has more than 450 languages spoken in the country. The DRC is covered by the Congo River and Nile River basins (respectively the 2nd and 3rd largest hydro-graphic basins in the world only after Amazon River)
Having gained independence on 30 June 1960 from a Belgian colonisation, the DRC was permeated by the assassination of its head of government, Patrice Emery Lumumba, only 7 months after the country became independent. For more than 32 years, after the military coup that unseated president Joseph KASA VUBU in 1965, the DRC was ruled by a military dictatorship led by Joseph Désiré MOBUTU which had the hallmark of a criminal organisation at the helm of the state and which relied on five pillars, namely: 1) the army; 2)the intelligence services; 3) the mafia networks of local and international trade; 4) the administration; and 5) the single party i.e. People’s Movement for Revolution (MPR) until 1990. The main leaders of these pillars were chiefly from the Mobutu clan (family members or close allies, friends, and staunch supporters, etc.)
Taking note of the country’s failure, a National Sovereign Conference was organised in order to reboot the democratisation process. The forum was a failure, having left a thinly veiled opinion that the Congolese people cannot sit together and find solutions to their own problems. The volatile situation that prevailed in the Great Lakes region after the Rwanda genocide and the procrastinations of the Congolese political leaders led to a war in the DRC from 1996 to 2002, culminating in Laurent Désiré Kabila seizing power in 1997 with the backing of external forces. We also want to highlight the war of border-less armies, the wars waged by foreigners on the Congolese territory and the wars for the looting of natural resources. The assassination of Laurent Désiré Kabila in 2001 and his replacement by his son Joseph Kabila as head of the state coincided with the pacification phase that the latter boosted. The Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement signed in August 1999 triggered several negotiations around the globe and the signing of the Global and All-inclusive agreement in December 2002. The Global Agreement enshrined a power-sharing dispensation for a three-year transition period involving the various armed groups that had been pitted against each other for 6 years. Eventually, a constitution was adopted by referendum in December 2005 and was promulgated by President Joseph Kabila on 18 February 2006. And this constitution provides that the president cannot serve more than two consecutive terms of office.
The presidential election and the election of national members of parliament, provincial members of parliament, senators and provincial governors were organised in 2006. Violence was reported before, during and after the holding of direct polls. Unfortunately, till this very day, municipal, urban and local elections have not been used. Managing the transition of presidential power has now become the main political concern. According to the constitution, President Joseph Kabila can no longer run for another term of office. This is an opportunity for the country to experience for the first time a peaceful transition of power between an outgoing and an incoming president.
In fact, the country has embarked upon a 4-year political process which years are subjected to major challenges in order to deliver on the welfare of the populations
- The independence process started in 1960 with the country gaining its international sovereignty. Today, many key decisions on the DRC are made in the absence of the Congolese people. Decisions are more imposed that taken by the Congolese people. This process of independence is faced with political, economic and cultural extroversion, rampant corruption, looting of its natural resources and the poverty of the population, as well as state failure.
- The process of democratisation, initiated in early 1990 with a view to unseating Mobutu from power, the process was triggered alongside the promotion of the respect for human rights and the Rule of Law. The process was confronted to various issues such as the large number of political parties (about 523 political parties), the fragmentation of the political class and weak representativeness of these parties; the non-regular holding of elections; opportunistic political alliances; the non-acceptance of elections results; the exacerbation of tribal, ethnic and regional divides, armed violence and war.
- The peace process initiated in 1999 after the outbreak of the 1996 and 1998 wars aimed to restore peace and chiefly manage the armed conflicts mainly. The process has evolved painstakingly in the sense that the security sector reform is difficult to implement, the sentiment of abandonment from the population and weak state authority, disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion have not been finalised while various national and international stakeholders are quite inconsistent about the DRC.
- The decentralisation process which started in 1988 was re-initiated with the adoption of the constitution in 2006. This process carries the hope of the sharing of responsibilities, duties and powers between the central and the decentralised entities. The process still faces the inadequacy of the taxation system and the fear for the country’s balkanisation.
The main challenges facing the Congolese society are of three categories
- The “CAN” challenge or power challenge, linked to the design and exercise of power.
- The “HAVE” challenge, related to the management, production, distribution, sharing of the assets and in particular to our rapports with money.
- The “VALUE” challenge, related to cultural challenges intrinsic to our values system.
ü The power challenges.
a) The political power is conceived as a vehicle for selfish gain and personal advancement, excluding all notion of common good. This conception of the political power is causing many governance issues leading to major conflicts in Africa and in the DRC.
b) The political power is perceived as a means for dominance over others. As a result, all kinds of violence are allowed. The ethnic, tribal and regional cleavages are becoming noxious and dangerous for the political game by radicalising the stakeholders.
ü The HAVE challenge
c) Most of armed conflicts and wars in Africa today are caused by the race for material gains. Colonisation, neo-colonisation, and globalisation are all based on an immoderate materialistic drive. Africa is considered as the bread-basket which can feed everyone. Money is considered as an end but not a means. Therefore, corruption, poverty, and the unfair distribution of goods have become the main problems to be resolved.
d) Those that are after money can kill in all impunity, work with terrorists, armed groups in all silence. We are grateful to Pope Francis who has talked about the shameful silence around the massacres being committed against the populations in Beni, DRC. Following the example of Pope Francis, we must say in Africa and DRC no to the economy of exclusion, no against deification of money, no to money being a master and not a servant.
ü The VALUE challenge
e) The cultural and ideological extroversion constitute one of the main problems in this component. The scapegoat technique is used across all fields of endeavour. The blame is always apportioned to others
f) So which cultural system are we living in today? It is a system in which the strongest crush the weakest; the greatest ones side-line the smallest and the richest deprive the poorest.
g) What are the values being taught in a context where women, men, children are macheted to death without the most powerful media saying anything about it, without compassion being triggered? This result in a feeling of outrage, injustice and despondency.
How can our governance be improved? How can our leadership be transformed in DRC and in Africa? I have two priority actions to suggest.
1) One is to start with proper support to the youth
2) Two is to effectively manage local governance organisations.
Start with proper support to the youth
From my vantage point, the starting point for a better DRC and, indirectly, for a better Africa, should be to properly support the youth. The lack of reliable data makes it difficult to gauge the weight of this category of the population both in terms of quality and quantity. I stated during an exchange with young leaders in Kinshasa that democracy, which calls for the holding of elections, also means the principle of the ruling majority which governs and decides. However, in the DRC, an estimated 61% of voters are between the age of 18 and 35 years while less than 10% of elected office holders or managers of state institutions can hardly fall in that age bracket. Worse still, the large majority of social leaders and stakeholders in state institutions are despising, indifferent and unaccountable to that category of the population. These youth are left out by these leaders, rapidly attracted power, money and welfare which those in the West, America or even Asia seem to promise to these youth. There are currently two places where the youth can be reached by an effective community engagement, namely the academic/school environment and the church environment. The school and academic environment badly needs to be reformed with a view to introducing the young children and the youth to the kind of social life we want and preparing them to know and transform their living context. We need here to steer clear of the quasi-exclusive promotion of bureaucracy and the manipulative financial system in order to rapidly promote manual works, including the mastery of the use of arable tools that can transform the living environment for a sound economy. The promotion of social, extracurricular and curricular programmes to that end is crucial. We can a result step out of this urbanisation of life, thus, abandoning several areas any sustainable management with dramatic consequences for the youth. As it stands, the Church can develop initiatives for the reinsertion of older youth in closed environments, for a given period of time, to enable them to acquire a mentality which is appropriate to an effective service to the community.
Effectively manage local governance organisations.
In a country like the DRC, the concerns facing the population on a daily basis fail to be addressed properly due to weak local governance structures. Failure to organise elections at local level in the DRC has induced an absence of elected local office-holders which, in turn, led to lack of demand for accountability form the citizens regarding their environment. State authority is hence affected with all the resulting consequences including a sentiment of abandonment that the populations have. Citizen participation in the management of the common good would be critical for a successful local governance in the sense that it should, on the one hand, allow the identification of needs and decision-making in a consensual manner, especially for local priorities. On the other hand, citizens could agree on the contribution that each should make to meet the needs identified and set the distribution of these assets in an equitable manner. To that effect, it will be important to equip the populations to enable them to democratically manage local governance entities. In my opinion, we should absolutely correlate power devolution with satisfaction of populations needs. The onus will then be to develop mechanisms that are appropriate to this devolution in order to respect democratic principles and human rights. Under such conditions, priority for governance in the DRC should be translate in our ability to systematically evaluate, on a regular basis and in short term, the satisfaction of the populations’ needs. We need to rapidly move away from the statistics which delude or excite us, without actually leading to a rapid improvement of the living conditions of the populations.
What should be the action of MIIC-RDC in this context?
The main objective of MIIC-RDC is to empower the Catholic Church intellectuals and professionals in the DRC regarding the life in the Church and in the Nation. This objective hinges around three themes:
The first theme consists in planning for the activities at various ecclesiastic levels (Provincial and diocesan) in agreement with the Catholic Church hierarchy, in order to disseminate the epistles and exhortations from the Church, but also in order to train on the social doctrine of the Church.
The second theme aims at developing an active and responsible citizenship through awareness-raising and sensitisation workshops on a regular basis with emphasis on Politics, Economy, Human Rights, Democracy, Family, Peace, Justice, Education, Culture, etc. but also through monitoring and evaluation of Catholic intellectuals and professionals across various fields of endeavours in the society. It is important that Catholic intellectuals and professionals should share their ideas and adopt actions that are transformative to their living environment.
The third them aims to revitalise MIIC-RDC/Pax Romana entities, in particular the Dioceses and Specialised Secretariats representation, in order to further mobilise members of Pax Romana across the country and not let the MIIC-RDC/Pax Romana National Executive Committee alone to manage the organisation. Specialised Secretariats have been created in such a way as to enable MIIC-RDC/Pax Romana to intervene not only in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres, but also in such a way as to find effective fashions
In conclusion, allow me to quote a comment that was made during the preparation of this plenary assembly.
The globalisation of indifference translates today’s world challenges as perceived by Pope Francis in the Evangelli Gaudium apostolic exhortation which describes the permanent feelings of fear, worry, despair, precariousness, disrespect, injustice, marginalisation, inaction, revolt and even of non-satisfaction that inhabit the men and women of our day. True it is this globalisation assumes various forms depending on contexts and regions around the world and in different manners.
The globalisation of indifference is an identify issue in that it is entrenched in exclusion. The first exclusion that can be observed in our lives in that of God. Our interests no longer seem to match with God’s or our fellow men’s. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). It therefore seemed important to us to promote the culture of Love, Faith and Hope. The aim here is to promote an alternative to this individualism, egotism, selfishness and narcissism which characterise the vast majority of men and women of our time, a large part of the community, and a large part of the State.
The answer for us consists in the empowerment of the Catholic intellectuals and professionals in the DRC regarding the life in the Church and life in the Nation. We need to break this anonymity which fosters inaction in the political, economic, social and cultural realms and brings a number of Christians to hide or hide the plagues that are seething in our society and which may ineluctably lead to this dehumanisation against which Pope Francis warns us.
 Rigobert MINANI s.j, 1990-2007, 17 ans de transitions politiques et perspectives démocratiques en RDC, Cepas/Rodhecic 2008