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D.R. of Congo: tough questions abound

Prompted by a new peace agreement in eastern Congo, Afriqueen returns to Congo Voices to ask,

After the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the UN Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Why not have a similar Court (in the Congo) that would prosecute all the people involved in the conflict: rebels, rebel leaders, individuals involved in illegal mining etc? The people of Congo can never be compensated for the exploitation of their land, nor all the suffering they have endured. What they need immediately are peace and justice.

The peace agreement in D R Congo received markedly less press coverage than the ongoing crisis in Kenya. In a long article at Eye on Africa, Pascal Kambale draws some interesting comparisons between the role of the West in both countries [Fr]:

Alors que les preuves de corruption du gouvernement Kibaki s’accumulaient et que la petite coterie autour de lui amassait en trois ans plus de richesses illégales que ne l’avait fait celle autour de Moi en 24 ans de pouvoir de ce dernier, l’occident a failli à exercer sur Kibaki le même type des pressions que sur le régime précédent… Ayant survécu aux nombreux scandales de corruption qui ont émaillé son mandat, en partie grâce à la bienveillante indifférence des occidentaux, le président Kibaki doit s’être dit qu’il pouvait aussi impunément manipuler les élections…

[En RDC], à l’organisation International Crisis Group (ICG) qui recommandait au CIAT de faire pression sur le gouvernement de transition pour le pousser à mettre fin aux pratiques de corruption, des diplomates à Kinshasa répondaient que la stabilité des fragiles institutions de transition était une préoccupation plus importante et qu’il fallait surtout éviter de « secouer le bateau » avant les élections de peur de retomber dans la guerre. Une année après les élections, le bateau qu’on voulait éviter de secouer donne l’impression de chavirer dans tous les sens, son pilote incapable de lire les boutons de commande.

While the evidence of Kibaki’s government’s corruption accumulated and the little coterie around him amassed more illegal wealth in three years than Moi’s managed in 24, the West failed to put the same pressure on Kibaki as his predecessor… Having survived numerous corruption scandals, thanks partly to the benign indifference of Westerners, President Kibaki must have told himself that hi could manipulate the elections with the same impunity…

[In DRC], to the International Crisis Group, which recommended that the international community put pressure on the transitional government to end corruption, Kinshasa’s diplomats answered that the stability of fragile transition institutions was the priority, so at all costs ‘don’t rock the boat’ for fear of returning to war. A year after the elections, it looks like that boat looks is keeling over, its pilot unable to read the control panel.

Cedric Kalonji, who we interviewed in November, now has an English version of his blog, thanks to a volunteer translator (NB there is sometimes a delay before the English version appears – look forward to the translation of the latest post, on traffic police). Below a picture of a crumpled bus, he says [Fr En]

Il n’y a même pas à se poser des questions sur les causes de ces accidents tellement elles sont évidentes. Le bus de ce matin bien qu’étant très vieux transportait près de quarante personnes, alors qu’il a une capacité de vingt places. Il faut aussi mentionner le fait qu’au Congo le permis de conduire ne se passe pas mais se vend. Facile donc de retrouver quelqu’un ne sachant pas très bien conduire au volant d’un bus transportant plusieurs personnes.

Je n’ai personnellement jamais passé de test pour obtenir mon permis et en plus, je n’ai pas eu besoin de me déplacer pour aller le chercher. J’ai juste donné de l’argent à un ami qui est allé l’acheter pour moi.

No need to ask why these accidents happen, the reasons are so obvious. This morning, this very antique bus had nearly forty people onboard, while it has a seating capacity of twenty persons only. I must also mention the fact that in Congo, you don’t take a test in order to obtain your driving license, you buy it. It is therefore not uncommon to find someone with very limited driving skills at the wheel of a bus transporting several people.

I personally never took a test to get my driving license and I didn’t even need to go and get one. I just gave some money to a friend who went out and bought it for me.

Du Cabiau à Kinshasa [Fr] posts a dramatic picture of a jack-knifed truck. He says last week there were 20 deaths on the 250km road between Kinshasa and the river port of Matadi. Referring to a new IRC mortality study, which says that Congo’s mortality rate is nearly 60% higher than the sub-Saharan average, he comments,

Derrière ces chiffres que l'on avale chaque matin, autant de drames et de familles déchirées. Il faut parfois prendre une route pour le réaliser…

Behind the statistics that we swallow every morning, there are so many dramas and torn-up families. Sometimes you have to go down a road to realise it…

(There’s something of a pattern emerging here? It's like Theme Time Radio Hour.)

Other recent highlights from the world of Congolese blogs:

Elie catches some poachers and teaches them a lesson they’re unlikely to forget: ‘We confiscated their nets (used for catfish and tilapia), we burnt their boats and spoke with the poachers to increase their awareness regarding the environment and the park after they paid the fine.’

Brian describes fuel shortages in Kisangani:

They are selling 10 litres (about four gallons) at a time, except to their corrupt connections where the gas is being stockpiled for profiteering later on in the crisis… We only have a couple of gas stations and much of the gas in town is sold by resellers. They keep gasoline in barrels or (mostly) small bottles on shelves at the roadside. They’re fairly notorious for stretching their merchandise with other liquids to increase profits. A crisis like this is a boon for some of them who are well connected and can get supply to sell at double or more their cost. The crisis of course also encourages even more secret blends that will make your motor cough, wheeze and seize.

Harper may be responsible for a spike in teenage volunteering interest as, bedridden with malaria in Goma, she gets to meet Ben Affleck. But eager volunteers should take note that last week’s meeting was with Mayi Mayi militia and a group of young soldiers with a “glazed look of submission and rebellion” who “asked for money, my bracelets, a telephone, my hand in marriage, etc.”

Finally, Kaysha unveils a new Sushiraw t-shirt featuring assassinated Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and, CongoGirl promises to post a new photo every Friday, starting with a picture from Kinshasa’s marché des voleurs of some Kuba cloth from eastern Kasai.

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