The rediscovering of the Foundations for the reconstruction of the State of the Republic of Congo is an essential exercise which needs to be recognized. This attempt is the thesis of this essay, namely that DR Congo is in need of restructuring the foundation on which a firm base for meaningful governance of the nation is to be assured.
A step into History is essential here:
In their book, THE NEW AFRICAS: (A Guide to the Contemporary History of Emergent Africa and its Leaders), 50 correspondents who were agents of Reuter News Agency made the following comments on DRC:
(a) “Since independence, (June30, 1960) followed almost immediately by an Army mutiny, the Congo has been consistently in the world news columns.”
“Belgium pulled out of its former colonial empire in the heart of Africa leaving few people equipped to run the country. The Congolese inherited a tempest of mutiny, tribal warfare, succession, political assassination, civil war and anarchy.”
(b) “When Belgian rule ended after 75 years the Congo did not have the trained men necessary to run a country. There were only 247 Congolese students at Lovanuim University in LEOPODVILLE established in 1954. In a country with a population of over 14 million, there were less than 25,000 Africans with any kind of secondary training at all.” …..Congo for many years after independence, mothering the young country to maturity was shattered in the very first days of independence.”
From the above statements, one sees immediately that the foundation upon which a firm state could be constructed was non-existent. The human- (intellectual) with which a firm and solid state could be run was likewise quite weak, fragile and almost void. No doubt about it, there was and has been without success the continued struggle and genuine attempts by past and present political and national leaders to reconstruct a somewhat harmonious existence.
The Core Problem of DRCongo
The fundamental question is: Have the political leaders succeeded in their diverse attempts to put things right? If not, why? If yes, how far have they come up?
The recent Addis Ababa Accord should give some indications as to the status of current events and situations existing and operating in DR Congo. The core problem is that the real malaise is not yet clear to all those trying to DRC to come to terms with the violent situations which continue to harass the nation.
The position taken in this essay is that the State, the Church and all significant leadership institutions in DR Congo must now cooperate to reconstruct the weak structures inherited at the time of independence. The Nation of DRC is not as yet standing on structures capable to bear the burden of meeting the needs of a population now numbering of over 70 million inhabitants.
B. THE BIG PICTURE
The Role of the State and the Political Elite
I am writing to challenge all the significant institutions who are attempting to deal with the problems facing The Democratic Republic of Congo to be bold and confront the political elite in DRC to wake up to their immediate responsibility as managers of the affairs of a nation which is too large. This requires a true understanding of the Big Picture.
What is the Big Picture? It is the core-problem of Governing a Huge Country.
This is practical politics- The organizing of policies and structures needed to administer political issue.
This issue seems to have escaped the attention of the Congolese leadership; it is a frozen one, and a stinking one. The only one person who seems to have lightly touched on this apparent problem was the US Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Susan Rice when in Ethiopia, she said: “DR Congo must seize on the UN---brokered accord signed by 11 African countries to uphold its commitment to an extension of state authority in the east, to security sector reform, and to improved governance.”
Yes, the ability to extend state authority in the East and not only in the East but to many parts of that huge territory of DR. Congo and thus improve governance, is the one major practical problem. And, to get this commitment which the DRC has been requested by Ambassador Rice to uphold is precisely what the political class, now ruling in Kinshasa, is not yet in a position to honor. It is not because they do not want to do so. Rather, the problem of extending authority in governing such a huge territory from Kinshasa, an outpost, is not viable; and it is in fact overwhelming for a nation founded on a weak foundation and structures of government, that has encountered formidable internal wrangles. A recent joint report in the East African (Sept.21-22, 2013,p.6), States:
“The authority of the national government in Kinshasa does not extend to all of eastern Congo, which is largely run by a rogues’ gallery of rebel groups,…”
The reality of the situation on the ground in DR Congo is that to govern such a huge country, the political class must accept the fact that some form of devolution/ federalism must be established. And, there are three possible forms of federal systems to be considered: Nigeria has one, the second is Cameroon and the newest one is Kenya. There may be others, but whatever be the form, the fact remains that DR Congo cannot continue to exist with its present form of governance structure. It is not viable; it creates resentment and it does not allow for the real meaning of freedom for millions of people. Because of the failure of the political leadership in DR Congo to provide meaningful administrative direction through state authorities, internal and outside groups take advantage and cause mayhem in areas where meaningful state authority is weakest. One needs to recognize that the problem in DR Congo is beyond solution by President Joseph Kabila alone. It is a major problem inherited from the past and the present situations. There are several points to the problem.
The first is the huge size of the country measuring 2, 345, 409 km- with principal cities scattered all over distant places.
Second is the huge population of diverse ethnic groups; each group is able to demand unnecessary attention. Positively, each group could make meaningful contribution if given the authority commensurate with its potential.
C. External Assistance Needed
The Eleven Nations group which signed the recent Addis Ababa Accord must be held responsible to ensure that a National Convention is held, as soon as possible. Such a Convention could assist the participants in determining the Country’s (Future)- VISION. Kabila’s Government must be TASKED to organize such a CONVENTION as a matter of urgency.
I challenge and plead with the 11 nations which signed the Addis Abba Accord to practically assist the Authorities in DRC, and the political class and the national elites to get down to work toward restructuring the governance system. Anything short of that would mean precious waste of international expenditure in human and financial terms. I once participated in a similar Addis Ababa Accord,(1972: The Addis Ababa Agreement but the implementation became very elusive when there was no one to oversee its implementation.
D. Pre-Colonial Existence
Church, state and other significant local leadership institutions
The institution of the Church in DR Congo had been in existence long before the modern State of the Nation of the DR, Congo was established in 1960. In fact, Congo Kinshasa, was known as Belgian Congo long before the 1885 Scramble for Africa by Europeans divided the Continent In fact, Congo (Kinshasa) was the personal property of the King of Belgium and any one or group of persons intending to do anything in that country had to have the permission of the King of Belgium. In essence, the people (Human Beings) and all other natural resources of the country personally belonged to the King of Belgium.
As a result of DR Congo’s association with the Belgian State, the Catholic Church had the upper-hand in the evangelization of the nationals of Congo. By any statistical measure, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, as a denomination in DRC, is superior to any other institution besides the State. If the significant local leadership institutions (such as, CHURCH traditional local leaders, chiefs) were made to feel that they too have an equal role to play in managing the affairs of the Nation, their support would be offered. DR Congo has many examples to follow. One historical example is found here in Uganda.
The church’s involvement in the affairs of a nation is found in the correspondence that took place, in 1892, between Sir Gerald Portal (Her Majesty’s Consult- General Zanzibar) and the Anglican Bishop Alfred Tucker, then in Mombasa, concerning possible abandonment of British nationals as missionaries in Uganda and the natives(Ugandans) who had come under British Protection. Apparently, the British Government was “toying” with the idea of giving up its responsibility in Uganda when the commercial company, the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA), decided not to continue its operations in Uganda on December 31, 1892. The immediate issue then was what would be the fate of British citizens working as missionaries in this British administered territory? Bishop Tucker confronted the British Government with the reality of what might happen in the country if the British Government also deserted Ugandans when the Commercial Company took off. The Bishop bluntly put the question to the British Government who had granted the Royal Charter to the Company with the power to administer the country. The Bishop writes:
“I reminded Sir Gerald that I had no special love for German rule, but that I greatly preferred it to bloodshed and anarchy, and if the alternatives were ever before me, I would choose the former.”
Another example is South Africa. The churches there, symbolized in the person of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, confronted apartheid and assisted South Africa to settle peacefully in 1994.
There are times in which the church, namely, her local representatives, constitute formidable and significant groups, and are expected to care for the welfare of the people – the human beings and communities in which churches operate and do minister to their needs. To abandon the people to the devices of their political elites is a sheer tragedy of leadership on the part of the ecclesiastical elite.
In my experience as a former World Council of Churches Africa Secretary for Refugees and Development, there were occasions when in the 60’s and 70s, in contrast to Bishop Tucker’s approach, and Arch bishop’s Tutu and South African Council of Churches I found many Church leaders unwilling to comment on delicate national issues likely to bring disaster in their own countries.
The position taken by some of these prominent ecclesiastical leaders is that the type of governance structures of a nation is the responsibility solely those issues were for politicians to deal with. One possible example was the attempt by several independent (states) Governments to take over the control of all educational institutions, resulting in chaotic conditions we now find in many educational institutions on the continent.
Obviously, such major undertaking were just beyond the means (financially) and capacity (administrative) of the newly independent states. Yes, some denominations, (predominantly the Roman Catholic Church) objected, but not in the strongest possible terms, to force the governments to step back and think twice.) There were occasions where the newly independent states and their governments were speaking about freedom and the rule of law and democracy on the one hand while arresting and imprisoning dissidents on the other hand and the church was almost silent. Bishop Tucker could have kept quiet and consider objecting in “whispering humbleness”. Instead he spoke in plain and definite terms about what should be done.
E. The Ecclesia Leadership Urgently Needed
The ecclesiastical leadership in the nation must take on active part in pointing out to the political class and the managers of the affairs of the state, the need to open up the democratic space for all the citizens of DR Congo.
It is necessary that the CHURCH makes its voice heard throughout the nation. In this exercise, I propose the following, based on my short experience in life:
a) First, accept a devolution system. The problem of governance of such a huge nation must be tackled as the first priority; the adoption of a devolved system of government is possible in such a richly endowed, massive territory, which has the necessary resources to meet the requirements for the development and support of the growing population of DR.Congo.
b) Second, Adopt “a mini” voluntary/ compulsory “National Service” system for all young people. Such a request for young volunteers to enter the National service should not be organized and used by political leaders as a venue for gaining members into their political enclaves. The National Service should be organized in response to the need for technical institutes to absorb the ever growing numbers of unemployed young people. Rather than asking White Farmers running away from Zimbabwe to come and establish large Commercial farms, knowledgeable personnel in the National service could be engaged to teach and train scores of youth to become future commercial farmers.
The graduates of the National service, (depending on the trades they adopt as there career) could also be organized into farmers’ scheme to come together to form business corporations. Thus, while waiting for academic secondary and technical colleges to develop, a National service system could be tried. In a like manner, the other significant leaders in the country must also convene their own conventions in order to contribute toward the VISION for DR.Congo.
It is not only the politicians who must be held responsible for the welfare of the whole nation. There are others equally to be held accountable for the better or worse of the culture of a society. The question of Neutrality of the churches in the Affairs of the nation of DR Congo is over. Religious groups cannot be neutral in all matters affecting the welfare of the inhabitants of the nation. “The people listen to church men because they have access to the grass-roots. They are all over the place and every Sunday millions of Africans sit at their feet.” He goes on to emphasize: “The church people should be right in the thick of things and set to work.” (The mission on Trial, Addis Ababa 1980) p.146.
To sum up, the thesis elaborated in this essay is that the size of the nation (territory) of DR Congo is such that the Management of it (governance) requires the resources of all the institutions normally expected, but which are now not adequately available. The task ahead is far more demanding than can be handled centrally alone from Kinshasa outpost.
Of course, I am also aware of others who spoke out and were imprisoned, tortured and murdered such as JANANI LUWUM. He and others are almost forgotten today let alone celebrated and honored in a way that they deserve.
Canon Kodwo E. Ankrah
(Former Africa Secretary World Council of Church)
The Ankrah Foundation