Archive for Governance

Democratic Republic of Congo: Long Term Solution

This previous post looked into the issue of warlords and war criminals in the DRC and Uganda. However, private security contractors and the UN can’t be seen as the long term solution, and other more systemic changes are necessary in order to stabilize the country.

First, a strong and well disciplined army is essential if the DRC is to remain a unified nation, and it is no secret that the DRC army is not only unable to defend its people, but some units have even turned to raping and looting.

Even though the British and possibly other western nations are beginning to train the DRC army, it is unlikely that training a few officers alone will be enough to transform the institution and turn it into a disciplined and professional army. More drastic measures are necessary to completely transform this failed institution.

Control of the DRC army needs to be taken away from the government for a period of ten years and handed over to the UN, where officers from western nations would then take the responsibility of transforming it into a professional institution. The goal has to be that by the end of the ten year period, the DRC will have an army not only capable of defending the country from internal and external enemies, but also one that understands its role in a democratic society: it is under civilian control and must respect the constitution.

Second, the DRC needs a government headed by a unifying figure who is universally admired and respected. Unfortunately most such figures are athletes or musicians, and there is no guarantee that they are competent enough to run such a large, diverse and complex country. If there is such a Congolese figure who could meet the challenge it is the NBA superstar Dikembe Mutombo.

Mutombo is an impressive man who is well know for his humanitarian work:

A well-known humanitarian, Mutombo started the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve living conditions in his native Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997. His efforts earned him the NBA’s humanitarian award in 2001. For his feats, The Sporting News named him as one of the “Good Guys in Sports” in 1999 and 2000,[8] and in 1999, he was elected as one of 20 winners of the President’s Service Awards, the nation’s highest honor for volunteer service.[8] In 2004, he also participated in the Basketball Without Borders NBA program, where NBA stars like Shawn Bradley, Malik Rose and DeSagana Diop toured Africa to spread the word about basketball and to improve the infrastructure.[8] He also paid for uniforms and expenses for the Zaire women’s basketball team during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.[8] Mutumbo is a spokesman for the international relief agency, CARE (relief) and is the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations Development Program.[9]

In honor of his humanitarianism, Mutombo was invited to President George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address and was referred to as a “son of the Congo” by the President in his speech,[10] Mutombo later said, “My heart was full of joy. I didn’t know the President was going to say such great remarks.”[11]

On paper, Mutombo has a lot of the qualities needed to successfully run the country, and may be the only individual who can unify the people of the DRC. At the very least, he would be an enormous improvement over the people who are currently running the country.

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Split the ANC?

A lot has been written about the feuding within the ANC and the talk of forming a new party by some supporters of former President Thabo Mbeki. However, most of the articles I have read focused on former minister’s views as to why a new party may be needed, and left me (and I am sure many readers outside of South Africa) wondering if there was any grassroots support for it. This article in the Guardian, however, suggests that there may very well be support for it, at least in some regions of the country.

My concern is that the new party may not have a broad, multi-ethnic support, and could end up splitting the ANC across ethnic lines. The danger then is that violence could breakout between the supporters of the ANC headed by Zuma and the new party. What makes this fear real is the threat by the ANC’s youth leader “to kill for Mr. Zuma.”

I am not going to weigh in as to whether the ANC should split, since there are good arguments as to the pros and cons: A pro is that it is good for democracy and accountability to have two strong parties. The downside of splitting the ANC is that it could lead to gridlock at a time when South Africa needs real reform.

It may be inevitable that the ANC is destined for a split, but the ANC leadership must put the interests of the country before their personal ambitions, because the dangers of a split are real and could destroy South Africa. Zuma, as the leader of the party, has the power and responsibility to prevent the ANC from breaking up by addressing the legitimate grievances of those contemplating leaving the party.

The first, and main issue Mr. Zuma needs to address is the lack of respect shown by his supporters for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. I would even suggest that, for the sake of his party and the country, Mr. Zuma should step aside until his corruption trial takes its course. Second, he needs to fire anyone in the ANC who advocates violence, and should start with the ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. Otherwise we maybe witnessing the beginning of a dangerous period in South Africa, and Mr. Zuma may go down in history as the person most responsible for the aftermath.

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Friend of Kenya grieves

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that those of us who are of east African origin, wherever we may currently reside, looked up to Kenya as a shinning beacon in a troubled and turbulent region.

That is why I was very excited to hear the results of the early returns which showed many of the incumbent MPs, especially those who were accused of wrong doing, had lost their seats. It gave me hope that maybe the rest of the countries in the region, and even Africa as a whole, would follow the example set by Kenyan voters; that is, voters will hold elected officials accountable for their actions. Unfortunately all that was undone by cowardly election officials and by selfish, power hungry politicians.

As far as I am concerned, both the president and Mr. Odinga have forfeited their right to become president: The president for declaring victory too soon and being sworn in even though there was plenty of evidence that showed there were irregularities with the reporting of the results. Another reason why the president has forfeited his right to the presidency, and why he needs to resign, is the killings of demonstrators by security forces who apparently were given shoot to kill orders. The orders may not have come directly from him (either the interior minster or the police commissioner may have given the actual order), but ultimately the buck stops with the president.

And Mr. Odinga does not deserver to become the next president of Kenya for failing to demand an end to the senseless killings on Kenyans by his followers. Even though it looks like Mr. Odinga was cheated of the presidency, and he initially called for calm, he should have demanded that his followers refrain from killing Kikuyus for several reasons, one of the reasons being Kikuyus or other ethnic groups were not responsible for the vote rigging. In my opinion this glaring failure disqualifies him from becoming the next president of Kenya. His failure to demand an immediate end to violence demonstrates he lacks the required moral authority and leadership skills he is going to need if he is to lead a country that is going to need to heal the deep wounds it suffered during this crisis.

The main blame for this crisis rests squarely at the shoulders of President Kibaki though. Instead of recognizing that Kenya is the beacon of hope for the region, and that it needs to lead by example, he chose to follow examples set by Ethiopia’s and Nigeria’s recent, largely discredited elections. He saw that the leaders of these countries were able to getaway with blatant disputed elections and thought if they could getaway with it, he should too.

The opposition should have responded by peaceful demonstration, the way Ukrainians did when their election was stolen from them. There is no reason why Africans can’t express their grievance without resorting to violence. We are no more predisposed to violence than our brothers and sisters in other continents are, despite what some people may believe. We have to stop following political leaders who are only interested in their narrow political agenda, and are willing to do and say anything to achieve it.

My biggest fear now is that Kenya will be permanently scarred by this, and will never be the same again. I hope and believe this isn’t going to be the case though. I believe kenyans can and will overcome this tragedy and come out the stronger for it by vowing never to kill another kenyan for political reasons.

In my view, one way to recover from this crisis is to start by forming a national unity government until presidential elections are re-run. This national unity government should be lead by somebody respected by most, if not all, Kenyans. I am not Kenyan, so have no right to suggest a name, but if I had to pick one then it would have to be Nobel peace prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai.

The second step in this process would be to hold a truth and reconciliation like hearings to grieve and forgive. The final step in this recovery process would involve the erection of a monument to remember the lives lost in this senseless violence, so Kenyans will never forget what happened and will never let it happen again.

We Africans have to understand that African lives are just as precious as the lives of those from other continents. We can’t resort to killing our neighbors every time we disagree with them, be it for social, economic or political reasons. After all, no politician is worth a single life, let alone hundreds or thousands of lives.

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