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D.R. of Congo: Congolese Diaspora Erupts Against Kabila

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, D.R. of Congo, Citizen Media, Elections, International Relations, Politics, Protest

Although the community of Congolese (DRC) nationals based abroad was not granted the right to vote [1] [fr] during the November 28, 2011, presidential and parliamentary elections, it has shown its commitment to being involved in the political debate.

Using various online channels, the Congolese diaspora have organised several initiatives to raise awareness amongst fellow citizens and members of the international community. Indeed, the diaspora have succeeded in making themselves heard.

On December 7, the ambassadors of France, the United Kingdom and Belgium in Kinshasa pressed [2] [fr] the long-time opposition leader and candidate in the presidential election Etienne Tshisekedi [3] to ask his partisans to stop violence in foreign capitals. Tshisekedi came in second in the polls according to the temporary results announced by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).

According to Nicolas-Patience Basabose [4], Director of Publication of Le Congo Hebdo [5] [fr] (Congo Weekly), who is based in South Africa, the diaspora is still strongly connected to their homeland [1] [fr]:

Les Congolais de l’étranger ont un rôle très politique à jouer car la plupart ne sont pas partis pour découvrir le monde en soit mais poussés par des conditions sociopolitiques pas très favorable. Les expats sont très connectés avec le pays surtout durant les 10 ans meurtrières de Kabila. Manifester et faire du bruit était sûrement la seule et unique chose que la diaspora pouvait faire pour faire peser leurs voix dans le processus électoral en court.

Congolese abroad have an important political role to play because most of them did not leave their country to discover the world, but were pushed outside the country by unfavorable social and political conditions. Expatriates have been very connected to their country, especially during the deadly [President] Kabila [6] decade. Demonstrating and making some noise was probably the only way for the diaspora to make their voices count in the current electoral process.

In France, the DR of Congo Embassy in Paris was scaled by anti-Kabila protesters who said they were taking back their territory, and asserted that Tshisekedi was the real winner of the election. The demonstrators adopted a strategy to divert the attention of French public security forces who guard the official building, and arrived hidden in a truck.

RPBIjou posted on YouTube the following images [7] on December 5:

Violent demonstrations took place near the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium (the country that is the former colonial power in the DR of Congo). On December 7, YouTube user The voice of Congo posted a video [8]of Congolese citizens demonstrating on December 5, in the streets of Brussels, while heading to the DR Congo embassy.

Belgian francophone news site Lesoir.be [9] [fr], reported that the protests turned violent and a few protesters were arrested after throwing stones at law enforcement officers and causing damage to shops and public infrastructure.

Other demonstrations were organised in London [10], (BBC report [11]) and in Italy [12].

The Congolese diaspora also have an important economic role to play in the future of the country. According to an academic study [13] [fr], funded by the European Commission and the Belgian Ministry of Development, the 40,300 legal Congolese residents in Belgium send approximatively USD $ 130,000,000,00 to their relatives back in the DR of Congo. It is therefore highly probable that in this country, whose GDP equals USD $ 11 billion, migrant remittances make up an important part of the national wealth.


Congolese Protest in London by new chap on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By demonstrating in foreign capitals, Congolese of the diaspora also want to denounce certain Western powers and their mineral companies. Here is a video posted on YouTube in which a member of the Congolese diaspora in Alberta, Canada accuses Canadian companies of operating illegally in Congo [15]:

We denounce, accuse and complain against these officials for their support and involvement in the Joseph Kabila government that the Congolese have rejected during the November 28, 2011 elections. They are criminals in Congo and they are also criminals in Canada and criminals according to international laws. (…) We have information from reliable sources about all the names of all the Canadian public figures whose companies are involved in the illicit exploitation of mines in Congo.

The day after this statement was made public, a demonstration took place in Ottawa, capital of Canada. According to PeterPW [16] who posted the video [17] on YouTube, “What started off as a peaceful protest…turned violent as protesters began hurling rocks and spraying graffiti on the Congolese embassy.”

Johannesburg also witnessed the march of hundreds of Congolese nationals. Among them was a naked man, who shouted “Kabila must go”, and asked President Zuma, who allegedly supports the outgoing president, to leave Congo. The voice of Congo posted this video [18]:

Other protests occured in Africa, particularly in Morocco [19].