Friday, December 04, 2020

The Deal: Kabila and Tshisekedi, A Coalition in Peril

The deal between former President Joseph Kabila and his coalition, Front commun pour le Congo (FCC) and current President Felix Tshisekedi and his Coalition, Cap pour le changement (CACH), has come to a predictable head. The country is in gridlock due to the internecine battles of the two coalition partners. The political blocks of the two prominent figures on Congo's political scene have repeatedly bumped heads. Since the formation of their coalition, they have been at logger jam, a product of the fraud-riddled 2018 elections.

Many analysts and observers of Congolese politics maintain that the results of Congo's 2018 elections were fixed and arranged by then-president Joseph Kabila so that the most pliable opposition figure, Felix Tshisekedi, could assume the presidency. The French newspaper Le Monde  put it best when it states that Tshisekedi became president through a secret accord with Kabila and a manipulated electoral process. While Tshisekedi would hold the presidency, Kabila and his FCC coalition would control the overwhelming majority of governorships and provincial assemblies, the Parliament’s upper and lower chambers, and ultimately, the Prime Minister’s post. Kabila and his coalition maintain control over the parliament, Prime Minister, key ministries (Finance, Defense, Justice), and parts of the security apparatus.

The Crisis
The factors that brought the crisis to a head revolve around the control of two critical institutions that are fundamental to determining the outcome of the 2023 elections. Both Tshisekedi and Kabila's camp are vying to dominate the so-called National Independent Electoral Commission (Ceni in French) and the Constitutional Court. The two blocks have clashed over a new president appointment to the Ceni and Tshisekedi's installation of three new judges on the Constitutional court. Whichever party or coalition controls these two institutions can determine the elections’ outcome, irrespective of how the Congolese people vote. The 2018 elections are a case in point; the electoral commission announced the winners, and The Constitutional court validated the announced winners even though the CENI published no final breakdown of the election results as required by law.

Tshisekedi's Sacred Union
Kabila and Tshisekedi have met several times over the past two years, presumably to iron out disagreements. Tshisekedi has even cited Kabila as a source of consultation and vowed not to dig into the past to go on a witch hunt against him, and the illicit network he has installed over the past two decades – reportedly one of the conditions of the deal between him and Kabila. However, the latest impasse between the two prominent political figures is different. In a nationwide televised message on the 23rd of October, Tshisekedi issued a call to form a new parliamentary majority, under the emblem of establishing a "sacred union." Tshisekedi launched a nationwide consultation of social and political forces on the 2nd of November to carve out a new majority, which is a direct challenge for all intents and purposes to Kabila and his FCC coalition. According to Kabila, Tshisekedi's undertaking also represents a betrayal of their deal. The mobilization of social and political forces under a “sacred union” that Tshisekedi has called for actually happened already in 2018 when the Congolese masses mobilized to force Joseph Kabila to relinquish power by organizing elections. During those elections, the masses again demonstrated their unity by making it impossible for Kabila to name his anointed successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as the winner. In fact, the people’s aim and purpose was to oust Kabila and his network. It was Tshisekedi who threw Kabila a lifeline by entering into a deal with him that left the bulk of his network and power intact.

The formation of a new majority will be a daunting task, especially considering that Tshisekedi's coalition only controls 47 of the 500 parliamentary seats. Kabila's coalition holds 341 seats. The opposition coalition,  Lamuka, has 112 seats. At least 251 seats are needed to form a new majority. Therefore, Tshisekedi will have to persuade or "buy off"  Kabila's FCC coalition members to join him and the current opposition to create a new parliamentary majority.

Kabila's Response
Kabila has responded swiftly by summoning his coalition members to his farm in Kinshasa, ostensibly to ensure that none of them leaves his camp to join Tshisekedi in his efforts to create a new parliamentary majority. He prohibited members of the FCC from participating in the consultations without his authorization. The FCC governors, however, have been allowed to participate.  During the meeting with his coalition partners, Kabila lambasted Tshisekedi for going back on the deal. Tshisekedi's camp has spent the past two years, denying that such an agreement ever existed. Kabila threatened to make the deal public at the appropriate time.  Kabila shared with his coalition members that the agreement between him and Tshisekedi was “confidential and signed in front of three heads of state.”

France, U.S. and Regional Players

The United States through  its Ambassador, Mike Hammer and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, have fully backed Tshisekedi's offensive tactics and seem to be well informed of Tshisekedi's moves. Before Tshisekedi delivered his speech to the nation, Ambassador Hammer tweeted that the president has a “big announcement” to make in his upcoming address. The US Ambassador also made it clear that he did not see a need to entertain Joseph Kabila. Meanwhile, France, for its part, does not want to see Kabila marginalized. France dispatched its top diplomat for Africa, Rémy Maréchaux, head of the French foreign ministry's Africa and Indian Ocean section, to meet separately with Tshisekedi and Kabila. The Kenyan vice president, Kalonzo Musyoka, also visited Kinshasa to discuss the political impasse with president Tshisekedi and Kabila.

The Consultations
During the consultations, Tshisekedi has engaged a broad cross-section of Congolese leadership: Opposition parties including major figures like Jean Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Denis Mukwege, former presidential candidates; faith leaders; civil society; youth movements; and many other Congolese leaders. Noticeably absent in his consultations are two key members of the Lamuka Coalition, former Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito, and former presidential candidate, Martin Fayulu, who many believe actually won the 2018 elections. Over the past two years, Fayulu has remained unremitting in his denouncement of Tshisekedi, and the deal he made with Kabila to appropriate the 2018 elections at the expense of the will of the Congolese people.

Kabila stepped up his response to Tshisekedi by launching an international diplomatic offensive. He sent letters to the countries that witnessed the signing of the accord (Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa). In addition, he reached out to neighboring Rwanda, the Southern African Development Community and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Gueterres. Tshisekedi, for his part, has visited both Congo-Brazzaville and Angola personally to discuss the crisis with Denis Sassou Nguesso and João Lourenço, respectively. The impression is, as the United States, they support Tshisekedi. Following his visit to Angola, the DRC and Angola’s Air Force conducted a joint military air exercise over Kinshasa, the DRC capital. The Kabila camp took it as an attempted show of strength and a possible threat, which implied  that Tshisekedi was prepared to use force, if necessary, to achieve his objectives. A close advisor to Kabila and his former ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, Kikaya Ben Karubi ridiculed the exercise on his Twitter account. In yet another apparent hard power move, On december 1st, Tshisekedi summoned the heads of the military and police who renewed their pledge of alligiance and fidelity to the president.

The inflammatory rhetoric from both Tshisekedi and Kabila camps warrants serious concerns. Kabila’s FCC has called on Tshisekedi to return to the table to iron matters out. They have repeatedly stated that the resolution to the current crisis can only occur within the agreement and coalition framework. Otherwise, Tshisekedi should opt for cohabitation instead of a coalition government or call for elections at all levels, including the presidency. In a cohabitation  scenario, the FCC would run the government independently without sharing ministries with Tshisekedi’s coalition (CACH).

Tshisekedi's pursuit of a new majority is a long shot and not likely to succeed. The leaders of his political party, The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), have called on him to dissolve the parliament and organize new elections, but that would be unconstitutional as there is not a crisis between the parliament and the government. Both of which are controlled by Kabila's FCC coalition. It is only if there is a crisis between the Parliament and the government that the president could step in and dissolve Parliament, not if there is a crisis between the President and Parliament.

Congolese politics is fluid and mostly unpredictable. One cannot rule out Tshisekedi returning to the table with Kabila and continuing with the coalition as contentious as it may be. Cohabitation is also an option but is not likely. Another scenario being floated is that Tshisekedi will return to the coalition with Kabila while demanding additional space for key figures from his recently completed consultations. Tshisekedi’s consultations concluded on the 25th of November. He is expected to give an address to the nation, outlining how he plans to move forward.

The Peoples' Dire Material Conditions
While the politicians battle for positioning and advantages, the overwhelming majority of Congolese continue to live in abject poverty and deep misery. Seven out of ten Congolese live on less than $2 a day. Less than 2 out of every ten households have access to electricity. It is the third-largest population in the world without access to electricity. According to the World Food Program, conflict and instability combined with COVID-19 have driven 22 million Congolese or a quarter of the population on the verge of starvation. The east of the country continues to suffer widespread instability and lack of security. According to the Kivu Security Tracker, the first 20 months of the Tshisekedi presidency has witnessed 2,127 civilians killed, 1,450 abducted, 938 kidnapped, which is worse than the last 20 months of the Kabila presidency. According to the Human Rights division of the United Nation’s mission in the DRC, the Congolese Army and Police continue to be the main source of human right’s violations.

The Congo’s enormous challenges would already be daunting with legitimate leaders at the helm who reflect the people’s will  and act in their interest. However, when you have leadership that lacks legitimacy and is a product of a deal among elite politicians, it exponentially complicates the challenges. It makes it nearly impossible to address the basic needs of the people.

The current crop of leaders’ primary concern is their acquisition and maintenance of power by manipulating weak institutions such as the CENI and the Constitutional court. Unfortunately, delivering services to the people and improving their material conditions are not crucial factors in maintaining their power and privilege.

The social movements and resistance that forced Kabila to hold elections in the first place in 2018 must continue to educate, mobilize and organize the Congolese masses for fundamental and lasting change. The charge and appeal remain the same; the people must rid themselves of opportunistic politicians and produce a leadership that will serve the interests and needs of the sons and daughters of the Congo.

By Maurice Carney, Executive Director with contributions by Volunteer Coordinator Bibi Ndala and Intern Achint Das.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Appeals for Justice During Congo Week Awards Ceremony

FOTC Atlanta is honored to have the opportunity to recognize Dr. Denis Mukwege for his incredible contribution to Congo, Africa and the world at large.

It is vital that we understand that Dr. Mukwege's feats as a world renowned surgeon who has repaired tens of thousands of Congolese women who have suffered the most severe and egregious forms of rape, genital mutilation and terror would in and of itself be worthy of international recognition and acclaim.

However, Dr. Mukwege has not simply rested on his accomplishments and acclaim as a doctor who mends women - as the film about him with a similar title describes. He has not fudged around the edges and focused solely on the symptoms of the atrocities that have disfigured so many women in the Congo. Rather, Dr. Mukwege has struck directly at the source of the pain of these women and children who have been victims of a targeted and protracted war against the Congolese people. He has gone beyond his vocation as a surgeon to become a champion for truth, a champion for justice, a champion for peace, a champion for human dignity in the heart of the African continent.

Dr. Mukwege has not remained silent about the rampant impunity, the egregious lack of accountability or the profound absence of justice - NO - Dr Mukwege has broken his silence on these highly political and geo-political questions. He has become Congo's and Africa's champion for justice. He has done so with great risk of life and limb having already survived one assassination attempt where he lost his dear friend and employee Jeff. And currently facing more threats from neighboring countries that have been a major source of the crimes in the Congo.

Dr. Mukwege, you are being hailed from the home of a fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Trumpeter for Truth and Champion for Justice, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. The beneficiaries of Dr King's labor and sacrifice, the Black community of Atlanta, the African immigrant community of Atlanta, Black folks throughout the United State and people of goodwill, see you, we appreciate you and we have you back 100 percent.

We stand with you in your call for an International tribunal for the crimes committed in the Congo
We stand with you in your call for the full implementation of the UN Mapping Exercise Report
We stand with you in your call for justice for the people of the Congo
We stand with you in your call for peace in the Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa

Atlanta, America, please welcome DR Denis Mukwege, a global champion for peace, justice and human dignity.

Welcome delivered by Dr. Samuel Livingston

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Congo Basin and its Significance in The Fight Against Climate Change

Jean-Paul Kibambe, Ingrid Schulze, and Samuel Yagase discussed the impact and importance of the Congo Basin to the rest of the world, with host Lys Alcayna-Stevens presenting and leading the discussion. Each panelist has been involved in developing the Congo positively, such as bridging the divide between rural communities and intellectuals or working in or funding higher education and rainforest conservation. The Congo Basin stores more carbon than the Amazon and Asian rainforests combined and can affect the climate on other continents. This shows how significant the Congo Basin is. The discussion focused on topics of international funding, respecting the local agenda, and letting Congolese citizens be the leader of changing their communities.  

Click here to support flood relief in Isangi, DRC.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Connecting Our African + African-American Brothers & Sisters

The painful destruction of African families and tribes due to colonization is one that had irreparable effects on the Black community leading to generations of kids not having the privilege every other racial group did, knowing their history. Slavery was the colonizer’s history. Their shameful, bloody takeover of the land from the Native Americans was led by enslaving beautifully melanated Africans and forcing them to do slave labor. Even after years of attempts to liberate ourselves from the chains and whips, we still face brutality in a land forced onto us.

Acknowledging that African-Americans were stripped of knowing their real identity and ancestry, Africans can trace the country from where their families stayed from going generations back. We are all seen and treated the same but, we all have different stories and backgrounds. Learning to accept and embrace each other while respecting that some of our brothers & sisters were robbed of learning their true history is the key to building relationships and uniting for the strengthening of our communities to become one, as we always have and will be.

Azameet G
Communications Director
UC Merced

Thursday, October 01, 2020

AFRICOM: Deadly Deception

On October 1, 2007, the United States under the presidency of George W. Bush and the military leadership of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, launched the Africa Command (AFRICOM). The command was based in Stuttgart, Germany. In the same vein as the 1884/85 Berlin Conference, AFRICOM was a wholly external concoction to be imposed on Africans without their input or consent. In fact, when African leaders first heard of the establishment of an African command, they overwhelmingly rejected its intent to expand U.S. military presence on the African continent. Even during President Bush's trip to the continent in 2008, African leaders roundly rejected US military expansion on the continent. The only country that was amenable to the presence of AFRICOM on African soil was Liberia under the leadership of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Although Bush appointed Morgan State University graduate, Kip Ward, an African American four-star general to head up AFRICOM and continued to claim that the intent of AFRICOM was not to establish US military bases in Africa, he still faced stiff resistance. Kip Ward waxed eloquently about AFRICOM being established to support humanitarian assistance efforts in Africa, build wells and prevent conflict.

In order for otherwise reasonable and critical people to buy the deception of the US military having as its main aim, humanitarian assistance support and peace and stability in Africa, they have to already subscribe to certain preconceived notions about Africa and Africans. In essence, the US military has traded in the notion that Africa is a poor continent in need of charity. Although the opposite is true - that Africa is a rich continent, in fact the richest continent on the planet in natural resources that has been plundered for the past 500 years, starting with the trafficking in African bodies and today with the super exploitation of oil, copper, cobalt, coltan, diamonds, gold, bauxite, timber and myriad other natural riches. The charity propaganda combined with the command being led by a Black man and then to be championed by a Black president with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the resistance to AFRICOM became exceedingly difficult. The path was cleared under the Obama presidency to the point where the US military presence on the African continent expanded nearly 2,000 percent under his presidency. In addition, under the Obama administration with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Susan Rice as US Ambassador to the United Nations, AFRICOM led the bombing of Libya in cahoots with NATO to effect "regime change" in Libya by removing Muammar Gaddafi from power. Hillary Clinton infamously stated on her visit to Libya after the murder of Gaddafi "We came, we saw, he died"
Today, Libya and the surrounding countries in the Sahel, particularly Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali are a living hell due to the fall out from the Nato/AFRICOM bombing campaign and subsequent government overthrow in Libya.

Should one make an objective assessment of one of AFRICOM's signature claims at its inception - to bring stability and assist in advancing peace and stability in Africa - one would have to conclude that AFRICOM has been an abject failure. However, knowledgeable people know that AFRICOM's real aim was never peace nor stability but rather strategic interests. The United States uses its military throughout the globe to bring about full spectrum domination and Africa is no exception. A case in point is the United States' recent push to acquire permission from Kenya to conduct drone strikes in its territory. Should Somalia serve as an example or model where US drone strikes have killed civilians, Kenyans would be forewarned to categorically reject this request from the US.

Today, Thursday, October 1, 2020 on the International Day of Action on AFRICOM:  Shut Down AFRICOM we encourage you to join the Black Alliance for Peace by going to their site, download the materials, disseminate the press release that came out today and encourage your networks to take action to SHUT Down AFRICOM.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Pan-African Response to COVID-19: A Review

Pan-African Response to COVID-19: A Review
Achint Das, Intern, FOTC

Friends of the Congo-Atlanta organized a forum on the Pan-African Response to COVID-19, and the call was moderated by Carl Kananda, who is part of the Friends of the Congo Atlanta network. It covered a diverse array of topics, all related to the global epidemic disrupting society today. All the speakers, including Mr. Martin Azaboy Bunziga of the Telema Youth Movement, Mr. Diallo Kenyatta of the African World Order, Mr. Kambale Musavuli of the Center for Research on the Congo, Dr. Patricia Rodney of the Walter Rodney Foundation and Partners in Health, Education and Development (PHEAD), and Mr. Bernard Warner of the A & B Association of Persons with Disabilities, brought very important insights into the conversation that widened the audience's perspective on the outbreak response effort on the African continent and throughout the African world.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that similar to most issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the issue boils down to key core elements: malnutrition, misrepresentation, and oppression. If the people of the Congo are hungry, how can they focus on proper prevention techniques to keep them safe in the outbreak? Mr. Musavali's experience in supporting efforts to distribute soap and information speaks volumes about this issue. He was able to share how Congolese youth organized efforts to distribute over 20,000 soap bottles to the people of Kinshasa and educate them about best practices for avoiding the Coronavirus. The youth were met with this response: "we thank you for the soap and information, but before that, we need food." Adding to this is the issue of running water and stable homes, which unfortunately not every citizen has access to. Thus, the response effort does not start with social distancing and vaccination. Instead, it must be adapted to the community itself, a point brought up by many of the experts. If the Congo has the potential to feed the expected increase in the world's population of 2 billion by 2050, why are its people starving? Infrastructure has to be improved at the local level, and basic amenities must be established, closely monitored, and maintained before any other measure. Moreover, control of food production must not be in the hands of the elite, rich, and large international organizations.

We see this consistent issue of how people in the Congo are not the ones in control, even though they are the ones who have the right to be represented and accounted for. It is the typical "power lies in the hands of the few" to the extreme. In political, administrative, and governmental institutions, the common citizens are not the priority - money and influence are. This mindset leads to corruption and exploitation, even of healthcare and humanitarian efforts - the 70-page review by UN forces and aid groups that exposed corruption within the Ebola response, sexual exploitation of women and girls, and manipulation of delivery and procurement of supplies, is a prime example of this (link to this report.

Thus, the overwhelming call from the forum really highlighted how an effective health response and a permanent solution works from the ground up - attend to the basic needs of the people, push for institutional reform, and then call for Pan-African unity. That way, we can expect to see success like the nations in the Caribbean and Mauritius have experienced during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you are interested in viewing the archive of the forum, please click here.

We encourage you to support the efforts of the valiant Congolese youth in combating the Coronavirus by making a contribution to their GoFundMe Campaign.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Solidarity With African Americans

We, members of the popular mass movement, TELEMA, striving not only for the unity of Africa but also for its solidarity; reflecting on pan-Africanism as articulated by Thomas Sankara, gathered within our organization to reaffirm our solidarity with our African-American brothers and sisters.  Their oppression has been exposed yet again by the brutal and inhumane killing of George Floyd after the police officer of Minneapolis Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes while he was handcuffed and laid face down on the road.

Faced with this act of murder, the popular mass movement, TELEMA demands:
1. The African Union to follow closely the legal processes against Derek Chauvin;
2. African heads of state to challenge and confront the United States, especially at the level of the United Nations, about its human rights abuses of African-Americans;
3. Our brothers and sisters in the 54 African countries to demand of their political leaders to summon the American ambassadors in each country to account for the abuses that are occurring against African Americans;
4. Pan-African movements and organizations to stand together and be vigilant against the injustices that affect the sons and daughters of our dear African continent who were separated from us by the European slave trade.

Long live African American solidarity
Long live African American freedom
Long live African American unity
Long live the pan-Africanism of the people.

Done in Kinshasa, May 31, 2020