DRC: What’s Joseph Kabila’s Legacy Like After 18 Years In Power?

DRC: What’s Joseph Kabila’s Legacy Like After 18 Years In Power?

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By Andrew Irumba and TheSpy Correspondent

Kinshasa, Congo: The Democratic Republic of Congo is engulfed in strife and discontent about the results of the December 30th, presidential election.

Although Felix Tshisekedi was announced winner, many people and organizations, including the catholic church and the European Union have refused to acknowledge  Tshisekedi as the rightly elected president. His stiff competitor Martin Fayulu has since dragged him to court,  contesting his victory. Both men are fighting hard to replace Joseph Kabila, who has ruled DR Congo for almost 18 years. However, when Kabila leaves the presidency, he is going to leave DR Congo worse than he found, according to political analysts, because of his woeful legacy.

“Twice I voted for President Kabila. But you can see it was a big mistake. I regret voting for him,” said 59-year-old Mutala, a Congolese citizen. Kabila has ruled the vast, mineral-rich country for nearly 18 years. The 47-year-old is the country’s second-longest serving president who took power after the assassination of his father Laurent Desire Kabila by one of his bodyguards in 2001.

Kabila’s second and final term in the office ended two years ago, but he continued using a clause in the DRC’s constitution that allowed his government to remain as a caretaker.

Security Concern: Kabila was the number two man in a weak and poorly-trained army when he came to power. The DRC – sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country five times the size of France was trying to put down a rebellion that involved 25 armed groups and armies from at least eight African countries.

The bloody conflict, billed as “Africa’s World War” which started in 1998 and formally ended in 2003, left more than two million dead and millions of others displaced. In a peace agreement signed in South Africa, Kabila decided to share power with the main leaders of the armed opposition groups leading to most fighters putting down their weapons. Kabila’s supporters say he has improved the security situation in much of the country. “When President Kabila came to power, our country was divided into four. There was a huge number of armed groups. Today, there is conflict only in one territory,” Jean Pierre Kambila Kakwende, the deputy chief of staff, said. “Nobody can question Kabila’s work in terms of security. It will be seriously unfair. The country did not exist. Now, it does,” Kakwende said. But ongoing conflicts in parts of the country like North Kivu, Ituri and Kasai provinces have uprooted hundreds of thousands  and turned them into refugees.  According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, the conflict displaced 1.7 million people in 2018. An average of 5,500 people fled their homes every day in the country this year, according to a report released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The insecurity in Congo might spill over to other countries .

Economy, poverty, corruption: DR Congo is one of the poorest countries in Africa, yet  the richest in mineral deposits. At least 63 percent of the country’s more than 80 million people live on less than two dollars a day, according to the United Nations.  Rights groups and Kabila’s opponents accuse the president of squandering the wealth of the mineral-rich country.

According to a report by the Congo Research Group (CRG) at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, Kabila’s family either partially or wholly owns more than 80 companies and businesses in the DRC and abroad. The report claims Jaynet Kabila, the president’s sister and a member of parliament, owns a stake in Vodacom, the country’s largest mobile phone network.  Kabila’s brother Zoé, who is also a lawmaker, owns companies that have been contracted to work on some of the world’s most lucrative mineral deposits.

Last year, Global Witness, an anti-corruption charity, said “as little as six percent” of DR Congo’s annual mining exports reach the national budget. DR Congo is Africa’s biggest copper producer and is home to more than 60 percent of the world’s cobalt. The two minerals account for 80 percent of the country’s export revenue, according to the World Bank. Mining revenue of more than $1.3bn, double the government’s annual budget for the health and education ministry, went missing between 2013 and 2015 before it reached the country’s treasury, according to Global Witness.

Transparency International ranked the country 161 out of 180 in its 2017 corruption perceptions index. But Kinshasa denies the corruption claims, saying it is a ploy to force the country to hand over its sovereignty and wealth to foreign powers. “Congolese people are not stupid to not be able to understand what is going on. The fight in the Congo is between freedom and those who want to keep us in poverty so that we are not able to control our economy and wealth,” Kakwende said. Al Kitenge, a political strategist based in Kinshasa, said corruption is endemic but it is not only the government’s job to fight it.

“Less than five percent of the working force pays taxes. And many of those don’t pay the right amount. It is a crisis. Corruption can be fixed by the people, who need to be the guardian of their resources. Unfortunately, people have been passive on that front,” he said. The government also points to the growth the DRC’s economy has recorded since Kabila came to power.

Crisis with Education: Under Kabila’s rule, many young people find education to be a luxury they can’t afford with education not being free. At least 3.5 million children of primary school age did not go to any school, according to the USAID, which found that 44 percent of those who attend started late. DR Congo has a primary and secondary school enrollment rate of 54 percent and a literacy rate of 66.8 percent (those aged 15 and over who can read and write), according to the United Nations. To tackle the crisis,a result of both the years of conflict and under-funding in the education sector,the Congolese government extended more resources to the ministry. In 2012, the education ministry received 7.9 percent of the country’s budget for education. That jumped to 14.7 percent in 2015.

‘No Democracy’: Critics of Kabila accuse him of leading a repressive regime that silenced the dissenters. The government routinely blocks access to the internet during street protests. The DRC election was repeatedly delayed in the last two years, leading to deadly clashes between opposition supporters and the security forces. “Under Kabila, Congo has become the world capital of violence. He allegedly fixes elections to remain in power. He arrests and beats opponents. That is not democracy.” Martin Fayulu of the opposition coalition, Lamuka, told the press. Kabila’s supporters, however, disagree, pointing to the fact that he is after all stepping down after serving two terms in office. But Jonas Mutala says he has had enough of Kabila. “It is time for him and his people to go and leave us alone. Eighteen years are enough. We need to move on and give others a chance,” he said.

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