Monday, July 31, 2006

Development prospects after elections in the DRC

Last Sunday 30 July 2006 has been historic for Africa as the Demaocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held democratic elections after 46 years. Now that Congolese have cast their votes, let’s have a look at what comes next in terms of development.

Independent since June 1960 from Belgium colonialism and despite its vast and diverse mineral resources, the DRC has not done well in terms of development. Part of the reason is that former governments have only promoted elitist enrichment at the expense of impoverished vast majority of Congolese.

Though far from home, I have been following very closely how elections have been prepared and run, hence I share my views here about the prospect of development in the post electoral DRC.

I have a mixed feeling about my country: hope and fear. Hope comes from the fact that these elections constitute an opportunity for longlasting peace and an opportunity for paving the way for reconstruction. Fear comes from the fact that the country is in a total development mess and chaos that even an elected government might just get confused to prioritize its actions and fail to kick start reconstruction. I still do not know which way the country will take, but I wish the best.

Since the Argentinean referee blew the final whistle in Germany with the crowning of Italy as the soccer world champion, my eyes are off screen and that allows me to devote at least an hour analyzing some six (of whom a lady) candidates’ agendas and discourses in the presidential race.

Indeed, despite one's will to track all candidates, you easily get confused as 33 people are contending for the single presidential seat. Had I been a political researcher or analyst, embarking in such an exercise would be a passionate thing.

My personal analysis led me to three observations about predidential in the DRC:

  • either a good diagnosis of the situation by presidential contenders
  • or a campaign marred by a demagogic discourse; and lastly
  • More wish lists than coherent development agendas;

When critically watching and reading news covering the DRC presidential campaign, a well-informed listener learns that most candidates have tailored their discourses to what attendees want to hear (The Voice of America, Radio France International, RadioOkapi, Channelafrica, SABC, the Star, Business Day, Financial Times, etc ).

There is no doubt that most of them have an accurate reading of the illnesses the country has been suffering from for years. Though most of them have been associated to and account for the poor development results achieved in the country, no one dared to provide explanations for that. Lesson to learn: the 'business as usual' argument likely to persit.

Some contenders went far by finger pointing others for being worse than them. Using means at their disposal: food, t-shirts and even money; contenders drew crowds to attend their public addresses. To show how demagogic this has been, most attendees promised not to vote for people they received these things from. “ It is my right to accept whatever I was given since all these things are part of the national wealth these people looted…but my behavior does not give any of them the right to claim my vote”, argued one of them.

Despite the knowledge and awareness candidates displayed, the issue however, is when it comes to how they indent to surmount the very same issues they diagnosed. To treat the chaos the country is in, most candidates enumerated long and long lists of what their intentions for reconstruction are. I don't recall one practically getting to the 'how'.

Despite that and whatever the outcome of these elections and despite its loopholes, I strongly believe that the country would have made a giant step further. I do side along with those who still hope that these elections may give to an elected Congolese government an opportunity to consolidate peace and kick-start reconstruction and development.

The challenge however, would be how well does the next ruling class maneuvers some of the development challenges the country faces: pacifying the great lake region and reconciling national and neighbor countries interests, consolidating peace, revitalizing diplomatic representations, visible presence in international decision-making fora, improving public governance and annihilating corruption, updating, recycling and building a new bureaucracy, demarcating political careers from bureaucratic careers, insulating bureaucratic career from political and ethnical affiliation, paving a way for youth to enter an expert-based bureaucratic career path, ensuring state and governance continuity, designing coherent and sound development policies and programmes.


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