Dear President Obama:
As a proud American citizen and on behalf of a group of intellectuals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) established in North America and Western Europe, I seek your help in extending the Congolese people a chance to avoid further instability in the DRC, where there remains a high possibility of enormous cost of human life and of violent spillover to adjacent countries. The death toll of the previous cycle of violence has reached over six million, with ten African countries involved in the 1998–2003 war.
Although you have a special envoy in the DRC whose work I am not trying to undermine, I believe another perspective for addressing the problem of instability in the DRC can be helpful.
I would like, first, to express my deep sense of gratitude for the actions you have taken for the sake of the Congolese people before and during your presidency; second, to describe briefly our perception of the source of instability in the DRC; and third, to introduce a request for you to support our proposal for installing an Executive Body of Transition (French: “Corp Executif de Transition” [CET]) in the DRC as a transitional administration for building the legitimacy of the Congolese state.
WHAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR THE SAKE OF THE CONGO
President Obama, as you certainly know, at the end of July 1960, at the height of the crisis following the invasion of the Congo by Belgium only one week after its independence, Patrice Lumumba traveled to New York to appeal for US government and UN aid. Tom Mboya, the pan-African from Kenya, accompanied Lumumba and stayed at the Barclay Hotel, becoming his African advisor and preparing to meet the American president. People from the Congo basin, whose ancestors constituted close to 40 percent of the slaves in the Atlantic slave trade, have always believed that help would come from America because the United States is also a nation of African Americans. But President Eisenhower chose to take his vacation and avoid meeting Lumumba, thus helping Western powers recolonize the Congo. What happened to Lumumba, Tom Mboya, and the other true pan-Africanist politicians and their followers, among them your own father, is well documented.
As Lumumba wrote before his murder in 1961, “History will have its say.”
Now the Congolese people are proud that the son of one of Tom Mboya’s followers is able to help the Congo while holding the highest office on the planet.
As a matter of fact, you have already helped the
- In 2006, as a Senator of Illinois, you initiated a bill to promote relief, security, and democracy in the DRC, which was signed into law by your predecessor.
- Under your administration, the United States facilitated past peace accords in the Great Lakes region and has provided billions of dollars in bilateral and multilateral aid to the DRC over the past decade.
- Your administration has influenced the authorization of MONUSCO and a UN-sanctions regime that has used the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76) to restrict military aid for Rwanda because of its support for armed groups in the DRC and suspended additional security assistance for Rwanda under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-457), in connection with Rwanda’s support for the M23, which has been known to use child soldiers.
- Most important, under your administration, the Congolese witnessed a change in US government posture in the UN Security Council in its shifting away from the previous administration’s strategies of unconditional support to Rwanda and Uganda in their illegal invasions and exploitations of Congolese resources.
LACK OF LEGITIMACY
President Obama, it is our belief that since independence, the Government of Congo has been fundamentally dysfunctional, mainly because of enduring bad policies made by the colonial power, such as the lack of higher education development during the colonial Congo and lack of state legitimacy in the postcolonial, see how Mobutu came in power Congo.
As a matter of fact, after only a week of independence, the Congo was destabilized. The democratically elected government led by Patrice Lumumba was overthrown and replaced by peoples chosen because of considerations other than the search for reciprocal benefits between the Congo and those powers.
The postcolonial Congo regime led by Mobutu lasted four decades. Instead of making an effort to build state legitimacy, Mobutu worked hard to acquire the loyalty of several internal and external groups. This led to the culture of patronage, nepotism, and corruption that is presently entrenched in Congolese society and has created a dysfunctional nation-state. Similar efforts to acquire the loyalty of different groups at the detriment of building state legitimacy have continued under Kabila’s regime. The opposition to Kabila’s regime does not show any signs of On the contrary, some members of the opposition, after participating in looting, have used the resources in part to buy external and internal loyalties. For example…
It is our understanding that building the state’s legitimacy is key to building an effective nation-state in the DRC. To build a state’s legitimacy means also to have the solid institutions, a best administration and excellent leaders with a good ethics, who are highly concerned by instauration of democracy, work in general for the sake a Congolese people and not for their own interests.
REQUEST FOR HELP
We agree, following the spirit of Security Council Resolution 2277 (2016) and previous resolutions, with the rejection of the Congolese government’s request for decreasing the level of MONUSCO troops in the DRC while this Congolese government, which has the primary responsibility for ensuring the DRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, has not yet succeeded in protecting the civilian population through the “establishment of professional, accountable and sustainable security forces, the deployment of an accountable Congolese civil administration, in particular the police, judiciary, prison and territorial administration and the consolidation of rule of law and promotion and protection of human rights.”
We also agree that conducting a timely election is important for the democratization process. Nevertheless, we believe that precipitating elections to respect the time according to the Congolese Constitution will not make the elections “free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent and peaceful.” Because many problems to solve remain, as corruption, lack of security, a president without a solid training or education, and so one.
Statistics show that only two out of twenty postwar rebuilding nations under the multinational umbrella since 1989 have become democratic states (Namibia and Croatia). The reason is that in most postwar societies, there exists a “lack of capacities to implement and sustain the complex and costly political institutions required for democratic and accountable governance,” as a group of scholars explained in their book on democratization. The failure of the Congolese government to organize the election because of a lack of will and resources only echoes this
Thus, we believe that promoting political legitimacy in a nation rebuilding after war cannot be achieved simply by voting. State legitimacy can be achieved only by providing effectively for the basic needs of citizens, including security and essential public services. Although the organization of regular elections and respect for the constitution are needed to support a democratic culture, the fostering of which requires time, this should not have a priority over organizing an effective state.
We are seeking help from you to save the Congo from the scourge of instability by using your influence to encourage the international community to help the Congolese in building state legitimacy by taking the following actions:
- compelling the majority in power in the Congo and different oppositional factions, as well as civil society, to participate in dialogue on subjects including but not limited to organizing the election; and
- instituting a temporary technocratic administration (with people who have solid education and professional experience) under the UN mandate, the above-referenced Corp Executif de Transition (CET). The CET would govern the DRC for the period of transition for establishing state legitimacy and organizing the election. Within the CET a president (a head leader) will be elected and his government will also take place foe the same goal.
Please find attached the details of our proposal for the CET. We will make ourselves available to discuss our proposal with the White House or its representative for the sake of the DRC people.
For our Congolese Intellectuals Group
 C. Zurcher, Costly Democracy, p. 7