Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kabila and Bemba Still Have not met to Squash Their Beef

Diplomats continue to put pressure on Kabila and Bemba to meet to sign the accord that was agreed upon this past Tuesday. The two men refuse to meet. It appears that the only way the situation is going to be resolved is if both men are disarmed of their security forces. Kabila has anywhere from 10,000 - 16,000 security forces backed by Angola and Jean Pierre Bemba 2,000 - 5,000 backed by Uganda. Neither of these two elements have been integrated into the national army as was called for by the mandate of the inter-Congolese dialogue of 2002 in Sun City, South Africa.

We must be honest, both men did not get where they are through political acumen. They are at the precipice of leading the Congo by virtue of force and killing of fellow Congolese. The brute force they demonstrated got them the presidency in the case of Kabila and the vice-presidency in the case of Bemba. The international community gave precedence and respect to the men with guns. Van Clauswitz says "War is the continuation of politics by other means," in the Congo politics is the continuation of war by the same means, i.e. brute force and intimidation through weapons.

It is the most bitter of ironies for the Congolese people who went to the ballot box to stop the violence and bring about stability. Unfortunately, the peace and stability that the Congolese people voted for has yet to arrive. As Friends of the Congo has stated on several occasions, the electoral process was not designed to produce peace, consensus or stability. The Congolese people sorely desire peace and demonstrated as much during the referendum on a new constitution in December of 2005 (They voted overwhelmingly for the ratification of the constitution, even though they had not read it. They did this because they felt it would bring about change in leadership, peace and stability).

The blame for the current crisis lays squarely in the lap of Jean Pierre Bemba and Joseph Kabila who are holding the Congolese people hostage. However, the international community is also reaping some of the fruit it has sown. During the organizing of the elections, the International Committee to Assist the Transition (CIAT) gave little credence to the need for dialogue and a buy in to the process by all parties. Many people feel the elections were rushed and the necessary foundation was not set for a legitimate ballot that would be respected by all parties involved. In fact, the CIAT and the Independent electoral Commission (CEI), set-up an electoral process that side-lined the non-violent pro-democratic forces and favored the violent forces. From the $50,000 non-refundable deposit to the 30-day campaign period, almost everything favored those with guns and money.

Well after it was far too late, the international community organized the group of the wise, although made up of respected men with good intentions, it was laughable at best. The group of the wise should have been organized well in advance of the elections in concert with Congolese political leaders, not something parachuted in to give legitimacy to what was widely expected to be a Kabila crowning. Of course this group is bound to be looked upon with scorn and not respected by anyone.

The second round of voting is expected to occur but under what conditions and will it simply be a prelude to more war? The window of opportunity for dialogue and national consensus has passed, the Congolese people who have suffered for so long have spoken but in the end they may wind up losing once again.


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