U-Turn Unacceptable


The Democratic Republic of Congo is on a knife-edge following a turbulent month of presidential elections. The country may now be teetering on the brink of another civil conflict after presidential hopeful Jean Pierre Bemba lost the second round of the presidential elections to incumbent Joseph Kabila. Bemba, a business tycoon who made his money under Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko, is hell bent on becoming president at all costs. After undertaking to respect the final results of the second round of the presidential elections, Bemba appears to be in no mood to keep his word. He is refusing to accept the results of the elections. He is claiming that the elections were fraudulent. The claim is contrary to the opinions of international and other observers who have okayed the elections while acknowledging some electoral problems. After a series of clashes between Bemba and Kabila supporters more than a fortnight ago, the country seemed headed for relative peace. But that may be changing. This week, the country’s Supreme Court was set on fire. There was also a fire-fight around the Supreme Court building following Bemba’s institution of a court challenge of the elections. The peace and the democracy project in the DRC are under a severe test from Bemba. He poses a grave danger to his country and regional peace unless he is halted. The people of the DRC have to hold their nerve during this critical time and not blink in the face of provocation from Bemba and ilk who want to usurp power in the same way his mentor Mobutu Sese Seko snatched it from the Congo’s first elected leader. Bemba, a protÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚©gÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© of Mobutu, wants history to repeat itself. The Congo, later Zaire and now DRC, has not known peace since independence in 1960. Its most revered son and first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was murdered in cold blood after being delivered to his death by his countrymen on behalf of imperial and colonial forces. The fall of Lumumba saw the rise of kleptocracy and Mobutu Sese Seko in the ensuing confusion. And that was the end of democracy and good governance and the beginning of a revolution to restore democracy. Mobutu and his henchmen, who included Bemba, pillaged the country and rendered it bankrupt despite its massive wealth. They created a personality cult around the strongman who ran the country as if it were his personal belonging. This intolerable situation and the oppression of the people gave rise to opposition from the people led by the likes of Laurent Kabila, Etinnie Thisekedi and others who decided to work towards the toppling of Mobutu and his regime. Mobutu’s tyranny finally crumbled in 1990 at which point a civil war broke out again. Countries in the region including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa invested a lot of their resources and manpower to crush the rebellion led by Bemba and others, who had the backing of Uganda and Rwanda, from over-running the transitional government in Kinshasa. They prevailed and South Africa took the lead in organising a round conference for Congolese parties to agree to a democratic process and elections that would usher in democracy for that embattled country. That has just been achieved. Hence, we should never accept this process to be reversed. We have come too far and invested so much in lives, time and money. We cannot let this opportunity slip away just because of one man.