To Her Excellency The Honorable Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN
Her Excellency The Honorable Nikki Haley
United States Ambassador to the United Nations – New York
Dear Madam Ambassador
I did follow the story of your trip to Africa and especially to the DRC. You traveled even to the remote area of Eastern Congo and shed tears with people suffering from the hardship of lacking State Capacity. In this country of 80 million people endowed with enormous land, water, and mineral resources, they have been living for decades in misery and a total lack of security. The aftermath of this trip is the publication of the schedule for election by the national electoral commission (CENI). It seems that your action did a great deal of diffusing a very explosive situation before tackling it, and you deserve to be congratulated.
As an American and immigrant from Congo, I am proud of you as a fellow American for helping the DRC, which is not only bordered by nine African countries at the heart of the African Continent but would be the tenth demographic power in the world by 2025. With its natural resources, the DRC will undoubtedly remain a USA partner for a long time, as the world’s stability and the wealth of the Congolese are promoted in a win-win exchange schemes as advocated by the new USA administration. Additionally, one must not forget the role played by the Congo in US strategic needs since 1941 and during the Cold War.
My open letter, written on behalf of the Congolese Intellectuals’ Collective of the Diaspora and in the DRC, is seeking from you more help because a total collapse of the RDC will have a very negative impact on the African continent in that international terrorism would take advantage of the resulting chaos and, furthermore, saving the DRC would help America strengthen its position of leadership in the world.
At this pivotal moment in DRC history, we believe that, for the building of a much more stable state, our country needs to: (1) encourage the emergence of leaders, (2) rejuvenate the political class (3) revitalize civil society, (4) prioritize institution-building over organization of elections, (5) install a technocratic government to clean up the macroeconomic and political environment, and strengthen the capacity of the state, to meet the basic needs of the population, especially in terms of security, before the organization of democratic elections. The above list is only a good starting point for the country’s political development but is neither exhaustive nor hierarchical.
THE FOLLOWING ARE OUR SUPPORTING IDEAS:
FIRST: ENCOURAGE THE EMERGENCE OF NEW LEADERS
In principle, a state’s level of stability depends primarily on its institutions rather than its leaders. However, this is not true for a weak country in its reconstruction phase. For the reconstruction phase (even when the institutions remain essential), we must consider the role that the leaders, the elites, and the coalitions play in the national reconstruction – including their roles in the establishment of all appropriate institutions that ensure social & political stability, reduce poverty, and increase economic growth.
Thus, the prerequisites for effective leadership are mainly twofold: to have a vision and to have the ability to influence.
On the issue of vision: Without arguing about the procedure that allowed the accession of Joseph Kabila to the Presidency; without contesting the validity of the two successive elections in 2006 and in 2011; and despite some success for the RDC in macroeconomic recovery under World Bank’s constraints, we are still faced with this truth – Joseph Kabila, without any apparent formal educational background, became the head of a country that badly needed a visionary for its reconstruction; but after 15 years under his leadership, the country is still navigating blindly.
On the issue of ability to persuade: at best, Joseph Kabila (known to be the most taciturn leader on Earth) has NO ability to persuade others – and his declared “fight” against corruption proved it. Indeed, instead of persuading his entourage to manage public affairs fairly and honestly, his Mobutist ‘followers’ instead led him into all the misdeeds, intrigues, and corruption which have been endemic in the DRC since the bad old days of Mobutu’s kleptocracy.
To give the DRC the opportunity to return to the ranks of other developing states, we need to encourage the emergence of leaders through education and meritocracy, allowing access to the highest offices only to educated and seasoned patriots.
SECOND: REJUVENATE THE POLITICAL CLASS
Under the principles of political pluralism in the management of power in the democracy, the political class should be divided into political forces holding power, on the one hand, and opposition, on the other hand, that is to say, all the movements and parties that oppose the political forces holding power. A vigorous and responsible opposition is necessary to the process of democratization. In the DRC, however, it is particularly challenging to distinguish between those in power and the real opposition; and this, for historical reasons related to colonization.
Most anthropologists who have analyzed Congolese society agree that the latter is highly fragmented due to the colonial past of Belgian colonization.
The fragmentation of the Congolese population has effects on the political mobilization as well as on the political development of the country. Indeed, in a society, as fragmented as that of the Congo, it is apparently challenging to promote ideals likely to mobilize the masses, to find leaders capable of imposing themselves on the whole territory, and to present oneself as the emanation of the same will or the same collective aspiration. “This situation, as long as it persists, will confer on the whole political edifice an extreme fragility which has already been largely manifested in the still short history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Paule Bouvier wrote in 1966.
After four decades of dictatorial regimes and a wartime period that resulted in the death of nearly 8 million, the situation has worsened.
A characteristic of an atomized society is that each player in the community would first calculate in terms of costs and benefits before joining the group. It would, therefore, be of less interest to engage in a collective movement whose benefit is not visible in the immediate future than in a crowd of juxtaposed individuals, detached from social ties, all of whom adopt extreme and illogical as well as irresponsible behaviors.
Two consequences follow from this characteristic. Firstly, individuals change political camps quickly according to their individual interests (which always weakens the opposition). Secondly, it is always challenging to find a consensus in such a society because each actor holds first to his interests rather than to the collective interests.
For the moment, in what remains of the Congolese opposition, i.e., actors who have had no place in the government, all agree that Kabila must be “Go,” but at the same time, they have an eye on Kabila to invite them to share power. The last two prime ministers of Kabila have come from the uncompromising opposition!
The lack of training, whose origins go back to colonization, also worsened the consequences of atomization. Most of the Congolese political actors, as in colonial time in 1953, as sociologist Pierre le Clement then noted, do not know anything about the functioning of a state. They chose to do politics not to defend the rights of citizens but to have the opportunity for their living and illicit enrichment. Thus, everyone would like to create a political party of which he is the head; everyone would like to become president.
In a country where high salaries are paid to the politicians in office – to the detriment of the majority of citizens who languish in unemployment and misery – it is not surprising that those who are not in office consider the holders of power as enemies, and that the power-holders do not see political opponents in front of them, the same way.
Measures such as the reduction of politicians’ salaries to an acceptable level in relation to the wages of civil servants (the ratio is 300 to 1: a legislator , a member of Kabila’s entourage or a minister receives an average of USD 15 000 per month while a public servant earns only USD 50 ), the fight against corruption, the development of the agricultural sector, strict rules against populist and hate speech, education as well as a good policy of job creation can demotivate the plethora of potential “politicians” and generate a political group made up of Congolese patriots motivated to serve the interests of a community of people and the nation. This is the political elite needed for the development of the DRC.
Generating a new political elite in the DRC is not an impossible task, but this requires in advance a state that begins to function!
THIRD: REVITALIZE CIVIL SOCIETY
It is sometimes said that in a state where the opposition is not organized, the Civil Society can play two critical roles: to denounce the poor performance of state agents and to contribute to social welfare by providing the organizational infrastructure and human and financial resources to meet the needs of citizens that public services cannot respond to.
However, can we not ask ourselves whether civil society could play a useful role in a context where the state is not merely underperforming but incapable of providing even the most basic services that citizens can reasonably expect?
Robert I. Rotberg, in his book When States Fail, Causes and Consequences, explains that in the context of the complete failure of the state, it is unlikely that civil society will entirely play the role of advocate because this task depends on the existence of what, by definition, has ceased to exist: a viable state to which civil society groups can address their grievances and hope for a solution.
Although civil society is in an atomized state, many recent studies in other countries, such as Jasmin Lorch’s Civil Society and Mirror Images of Weak States, show that national civil societies operating in contexts of state weakness reflect the deficits of their respective states. In weak and corrupt states, civil society actors are often part of existing networks of favoritism and corruption. In some countries, members of civil society have deliberately allowed themselves to be co-opted by successive ruling coalitions to gain access to lucrative positions. Some foreign-funded organizations and NGOs have engaged in various types of bribes from state regulators to influence administrative decisions and to escape the control of state authorities. Churches fall into this last category.
It is, therefore, necessary to revive civil society, but it cannot be done before the reconstruction of the state as supported by several authors including Michael Bratton (“Beyond the State: Civil Society and Associated Life in Africa,” World Politics, XLI (1989), 427–428;) which asserts that associative life “cannot flourish amid political disorder, anarchy, inadequate physical infrastructure, or intermittent essential services. Civic organizations depend on the state for the creation of certain basic conditions of existence.”
FOURTH: PRIORITIZE INSTITUTION-BUILDING OVER ORGANIZATION OF ELECTION
The doctrine “Election first” or “Democracy first” has already shown its limits, in the world as in the DRC. In our opinion, we should rather privilege “institution first” to increase the capacity of the State. Everything shows that the elections currently being prepared by the CENI will not be democratic and may lead to disputes that could lead to another generalized civil war.
The Congolese State is unable to exercise the essential political functions of management, control and conciliation and the removal of tensions throughout the national territory. The institutions that should typically perform these tasks are disorganized, but continue to be supported to the detriment of the Congolese people, who are suffering from poverty.
The primary function of any state is to provide security as a public good—to prevent cross-border invasions and infiltrations and any loss of territory; eliminate internal threats or attacks on the national order and social structure; avert crime and related dangers for national human security; and allow citizens to resolve their differences with the state and their fellow citizens without resorting to weapons or other forms of physical coercion.
The calling of elections will not solve this critical problem in the DRC. We do not think that Joseph Kabila should be pressured to pursue an action that is “suitable, but not feasible” such as his calling, in a one-year time frame, a democratic election, against his own will, that he was not able to arrange in five years.
As Jack A. Goldstone stated in his book on the subject, “If an election is imposed on a highly illegitimate regime, most groups will consider the election itself likely to be rigged. An election that is not considered free and fair will not confer legitimacy and indeed may trigger destabilizing protests. In addition, if various opposition groups regard each other with mistrust, elections may simply launch a new situation of instability with factionalized groups creating a deadlocked, ineffective government or resorting to violence to reverse undesired electoral results.”
FIFTH: INSTALL A TECHNOCRATIC GOVERNMENT OF TRANSITION
Two decades after the Lusaka Agreement (1999) that reaffirmed:
- the provisions of Article 3 of the OAU Charter which, inter alia, guarantee all Member States the right to their sovereignty and territorial integrity;
- further Resolution AHG/16/1 adopted by the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 1964 in Cairo, Egypt, on territorial integrity and the inviolability of national boundaries as inherited at independence;
- that all ethnic groups and nationalities whose people and territory constituted what became Congo (now DRC) at independence must enjoy equal rights and protection under the law as citizens;
The DRC is not yet able to control its territory, and it does not have the loyalty of the people, even though there have been two elections won by President Joseph Kabila, and there is no active secessionist movement in the DRC.
Thus, we believe that pending the organization of a real democratic vote in the DRC, we need a transitional regime that is technocratic and apolitical in order to optimize the performance of the functioning of the State, capturing people loyalty and controlling all the territory. The main role of this transition will be to strengthen both the institutions and the capacity of the state, to stabilize the whole country and enable it to operate on a solid foundation for a promising future for the DRC.
The project for installing the Executive Body of Transition started at the end of 2015. The CET project is not politically oriented, but is a platform bringing together Congolese professionals and intellectuals who have decided to opt for the synergy of their efforts to save the DRC, by suspending their affiliations to parties and/or tendencies because they know that no political party can survive the death of the Congolese state. Our representatives in Kinshasa have contacts with CENCO as well as with other Congolese personalities. We, therefore, welcome all Congolese experts interested in the reconstruction of the Congolese State to join us. We are for the unity in diversity.
Best practices require that a project must be evaluated first before trying to implement it. Thus. according to the US standard of project evaluation, the CET’s project will perform well by comparison to the one about organizing a quick plebiscite as planned by the CENI. In fact, our strategy is more suitable and appropriate because it addresses the main issue of solving the state capacity deficit and not the current power-sharing scheme. If managed correctly the CET project will rely mainly on Congolese human and financial resources while the one about the election-now requires a billion of dollars mostly from external donors. How many time will foreign donors have to finance elections for the DRC Congo, a sovereign Nation? That is not sustainable. The issue is also about solving the legitimacy of the state.
The CET platform is all about the dialogue and the stability of the country. We condemn any violence or speech leading towards violence and public disorder that may lead to the militarization of the state power and a military junta.
We have already discussed the project with some members of US Congress who found it highly more suitable, feasible, and acceptable compared to other models being currently considered.
LET ME END THIS MESSAGE BY THE FOLLOWING NOTES:
We believe, Madam Ambassador, that your trip to the DRC had a positive impact of lowering the tensions in the short-term and forcing the publication of the Elections Schedule, but we also believe that organizing a plebiscite will not set a durable solution for the DR Congo instability.
We deeply appreciate your willingness to help stabilize the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is home to 80 million people. Close to 8 million people perished in the DRC over the last two decades because of internal and external instability and the deficit of the state capacity that the technocratic executive body (CET) will manage as well as organize a credible, fair, and free democratic election.
If you should require further information, we would be happy to provide it. Please do not hesitate to contact us at …………………………… or call at ………………………………………….
Pierre Vile-Linda SULA