By Casimir Malanda, 9 February 2001
Joseph Kabila faces terrible dangers and unforeseen opportunities
I`ve lived in Kinshasa the last six months of Kabila. The murder of the President was hanging in the air, so to speak. In view of the anarchy installed at the state, in view of the incompetence and carelessness reigning in the close circles around Mzee, it had to arrive sooner or later. Kabila was condemned by history to fall as a martyr, exactly like Lumumba.
The outcome of these two men is so alike that it becomes troublesome. Both men were standing almost alone in their struggle to awaken and mobilise the Congolese people. But the tragedy seemed inevitable since between these two heroes and the people there was an empty gap. And the population was due to assist passively at the slow condemnation to death of these two extraordinary men.
The masses have spoken.
The circumstances of their death being identical, one has to say that in 40 years, the Congolese people have gone through a formidable process of maturation.
The flood of these masses, so dense, on the streets of the capital, when the motorcade accompanying the body of the late President passed, is the most impressive scene it ever showed us. Were they 2 million, 3 million or more to demonstrate? And these millions cried out in pain for the loss of a loved one, whom they considered as their father. And they also shouted out their anger against the persons responsible for this murder.
How to describe the sentiment that came over us at the moment the motorcade left the airport for the Boulevard Lumumba, from Ndjili to Masina? At both sides of the Boulevard the masses were so dense that I had the feeling to pass through two vast stands of a stadium stretched out over several kilometres. Then, these human waves set off, singing, running and waving palm leafs. These waves moved in the direction of where the coffin had gone. Ten of thousands of young people from Ndjili, Kimbanseke and Masina sang: "Soda, soba, mundele akosi ye aboma Kabila." - "Stupid soldier, the whites have misled you to kill Kabila." What an extraordinary way to point the finger at the real responsible of the assassination of the President, namely the imperialist forces, in the mean while stigmatising the military and plotters in the immediate entourage of Kabila who prepared and carried out the crime.
That 24th of January, we`ve reviewed the two big actors that have dominated the political scene since May 17th 1997. The lifeless body of President Kabila, alone and on the opposite side the Congolese masses who progressively became conscious of their responsibility towards the destiny of the Nation.
And today we find ourselves again, like in the sixties, confronted with a big question concerning the near future. After the assassination of Lumumba, his ideas have been erased, denounced, denigrated and the masses have assisted passively at the treason, to rise again with all its power3 years later, during the insurrection directed by Mulele.
Is it possible that Kabila was betrayed by its successors, like Lumumba has been? Kabila gave these millions of Congolese a patriotic consciousness and a strong sentiment of dignity, how will they react to this betrayal?
Risks of capitulation and treason?
The inaugural speech-program of Joseph Kabila should give us an initial indication of what the future will bring us.
Yet, the interpretation of this speech is extremely delicate. Take this key-sentence : "Concerning the United States, there have been moments of mutual incomprehension with the former administration." One feels horrified by reading and re-reading this insulting sentence for the Congolese people. And one wants to shout out loud it`s treason.
The last Congolese in the poorest quarter of Kinshasa knows that this war is not the work of Rwanda and Uganda, but that behind them, the United States was and still is orchestrating all the aspects of the aggression.
Unscrupulously, these Americans have sacrificed the lives of more then 3 million Congolese. Men, women and children fell under the arms of the aggressors or as a result of the direct consequences of the war. We`ll lose our sense of dignity completely if we classify these martyrs in the column "moments of incomprehension". The Congolese know very well what`s at stake in this war. They know that American imperialism will always try to take hold of the immense wealth of Congo, as well as they know that the Americans will never accept the exploitation of our subsoil by a nationalist government in the interest of the people.
To say that President Kabila had some "incomprehension" towards imperialism, is a coarse insult at the address of this perceptive combatant. Rightly, Kabila had perfectly seen the ferocity and the violence of this superpower towards a people that wants his total liberation. It`s not a hazard that the first trip of Kabila abroad led him to China, that he went to Cuba and Libya and that he supported the Iraqi people who still have to cope with the embargo and the war. Congolese who have survived the aggressions against the Lumumbists in 1960, the military interventions against the Mulelists from 1964 to 1967 and finally the aggression against Kabilists which started the second of August 1998, know that the fight to get rid of the political and economic domination of imperialism will take many years. It`s a long and exacting task which will take several generations and the population hopes that Joseph Kabila will have the intelligence and the courage to continue the unfinished work of his father.
Is savage liberalism the saviour of the Congo?
The well informed Congolese intellectuals are asking themselves who wrote the sentence : "To revive the economy, I intend to liberalise the economic activities by liberalising the markets of goods and services, by promulgating a new mine code and a new investment code."3 months ago, I heard a foreigner put this question in front of an academic auditorium. "You support globalisation, but do you know how much the 55 million inhabitants of this huge Congo produce per year? The GDP (gross domestic product) of Congo is at the moment 5 billion dollars. Do you know the turnover of one big American company, lets say General Motors: 230 billion dollars!! One multinational produces 36 times more than the whole of Congo. Can Congo accept the free market the Americans want to impose with this war? Your weak production will be crushed like flees, for the imperialists it are just little pieces of which they`ll make firewood. Once they will have privatised Gecamines and Inga, what will be left of your economic independence? All present manifested loudly their accord. But the authors of Joseph Kabila`s first speech pretend to believe that this savage liberalism which the Western powers want to impose on us will revive the economy. We`ve seen this savage liberalism that would create jobs, at work at the time of Mobutu when the IMF dictated its conditions. And who is not aware that in recent years all the privatisation`s in Africa were followed by the lay off of 50 to 75% of the labour force.
Facing patriots, there are collaborators and traitors.
The speech at the 24th of January, concerning the national resistance war against the American, Rwandan and Ugandan aggression includes equally some strange accents. He speaks of " the nation torn by war" and of " the consolidation of the national communion facing a torn nation caused by 2 years of aggression".
Facing the aggression, the war of resistance is a unification factor for all the social strata who have a minimum of patriotic sense. Mzee Laurent-Desirà© Kabila never said that "the nation is torn". On the contrary, he confirmed that the Nation forges his unity through the common combat against the enemies. On the 17th of May 1999 Kabila declared : "We need a vigorous national upraise for the resistance of the entire people. That out rivers, our mountains who belong to us, become historical places of combat for the defence of the country. From now on, it is high time we take this war seriously, as a matter of life and death. It is high time we follow the heroic example of the population in Kivu who continues to oppose fiercely the invaders. The Congolese people on the whole should be inspired by the example of the citizens from Kivu, from now on promoted as interprets of the determination of our people to chase the Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian invaders. Today we declare a general mobilisation to crush the invaders and to eject them from our territory."
According Kabila, the Congolese population of the occupied territory and the population of the territory directed by the nationalist government aren`t "torn", they are "united in the same combat" for unity and independence.
In fact, who are these Congolese talking about a "torn Nation"? It are those who`s objective is to arrive at the government in the name of "reconciliation". It are those puppets of the aggression who call themselves "rebels" and the politicians of the former regime who are in cahoots with the rebels and the aggressors!
In addition, the text uses terms like "together without exclusion" and "we need all hands to help, everybody is needed, nobody will stand in the way", terms who lend themselves to confusion. If one isn`t careful, these terms might signify a fatal political slide. They could be interpreted as a rehabilitation of the traitors, the rehabilitation of those who put themselves deliberately in the hands of the Americans to join the battle against Kabila and the nationalists here in Kinshasa. A complimentary battle to the one of the rebels and the aggressors in the occupied territory.
Every Nation engaged in a resistance war to defend his national existence is obliged "to exclude" the traitors of the fatherland, the collaborators and the accomplices of the enemy. In occupied France, the resistance fought with the same energy collaborators and the German nazis.
More in general, every nation who wants to liberate itself from neo-colonialism, has not only to engage a fight against imperialism, but also has to fight against the class of bourgeois enriching themselves while serving foreign interests. Kabila has strongly insisted on this reality while speaking about the CPP. The Congolese people can`t delude itself in the neo-colonial politicians. They served imperialist interests from 1960 to 1997 and they again want to impose on Congo an anti-popular regime serving the interests of multinationals and the IMF. We must not be put asleep by their hypocritical speeches about "national unity" and "reconciliation".
If, by accident, they succeed their coup, we must be aware of the fact that they will not lead a "contra-revolution with pardon". What happened to Mzee Laurent-Desirà© Kabila must serve as a warning to all Congolese nationalists and patriots.
The people; between despair and the fierce will of independence.
The majority of the people applauded the speech at the 24th of January. In fact, despair takes root in the extreme poverty they are undergoing, which pushes these masses to support any kind of change "which will enable them to eat". And when Joseph Kabila confirms he will "realise profound changes in the national live", the starving population sees in these words the proof that the politics of Kabila were "too harsh" and that it will now change for the better.
In general, the population has the feeling that Kabila was too harsh and that his son is addressing him some criticism. The new President talks of " taking down political barriers in view of the national reconstruction" and " of the normalisation of bilateral relations" with the United States. And the population concludes : if Joseph Kabila will work with the opposition and with the United States, our social situation might get better. But the population`s support to the speech of Joseph Kabila is therefore very ambivalent : the people hopes to eat one`s fill soon while at the same time confirming with force to support the ideals of Kabila and his opposition to Mobutists and opponents to the Transition.
However, all the politicians of the former regime believe now that their hour has come and that the return to the National Conference - Higher Council of the Republic - Parliament of Transition will be consolidated soon.
If this hypothesis will prove to be correct, the Americans will, in fact, celebrate a complete triumph. They will have realised the objectives they set up before the victory of the AFDL and for which they triggered off the aggression war through Rwanda and Uganda.
In fact, since the beginning of the AFDL battle till the murder of Kabila, the Americans continued with steadfastness this objective : impose on Congo a neo-colonial government in which the Mobutists and the opponents to the Transition, both close to the US and France, take the upper hand and in which the nationalists and Kabilists are a minority that will be marginalised and finally excluded.
Some have interpreted the people`s support to the speech of Joseph Kabila as a capitulation to the imperialist powers. But these are just appearances. Because these people applauding the "overture" promised by Joseph Kabila, will assure you Kabila has woken up the people. They will assure you that the population understands now that all the Western Powers envy the wealth of the Congo, that Kabila gave them back their sense of independence and their dignity.
If the new regime turns his back to Kabilism, if it re-establishes the former regime`s neo-colonialism, if the old politicians of the MPR and other neo-colonial parties come back with force, the masses reaction will arrive without delay and will be very violent. Some friends congratulating themselves for the political overture, a week ago, are asking now, after having seen Joseph Kabila rushing off to the United States, "hasn`t the young man sold the country to the US and wasn`t he involved in the death of his father?" To judge the appearances, the people doesn`t want capitulation nor the return to neo-colonialism. Joseph Kabila has to know that he will not have a future in Congo if he doesn`t succeed in strengthening and organising this extraordinary mass movement that appeared at the funeral of the President and which, it`s an exceptional fact, transformed itself in a mass movement supporting the new President upon his return from France, the US and Belgium. He should take up responsibility for this fundamental fact while making the necessary overtures to lead the Americans to stop this Rwandan and Ugandan aggression war.
How Joseph Kabila became President.
I`ve mentioned above that the interpretation of Joseph Kabila`s speech is very delicate. Some, knowing the President, confirm that he has been well instructed by his father, that he was among the 422 military-political cadres that followed the first formation in Lemera at the end of 1996, that he is intelligent and that he knows how to listen.
But the young man certainly wasn`t ready for this overwhelming political responsibility that befell him after the sudden death of his father. He has to redress and to reconstruct a gigantic country, partially occupied and broken, a country devastated by the aggression in which more than 3.000.000 of his sons and daughters perished in the event of the war. A task that would frighten the most brave.
Joseph was in Katanga when the news of the attack reached him. According to some rumours circulating, he was convinced that the crime was part of a successful coup d`à©tat and he was getting ready to flee the country to Zambia. Lwetcha got through to him by phone and told him to take a plane to Kinshasa immediately. Not knowing what happened in Kinshasa, Joseph feared to fall in a trap and he answered that according to Kapend`s address to the nation all flights were cancelled. Lwetcha phoned Kapend and ordered him to receive the plane that would bring Joseph Kabila to Kinshasa. Once arrived in Kinshasa, Joseph went to Lwetcha`s house where he spent the night.
The next day, Lwetcha went to the military headquarters where the generals proposed him to assume power. He has refused. Then there was a discussion between Kakudji, officially the number 2 of the regime, and Mwenze, who thought that he would be better placed because of his broad international experience. Lwetcha intervened and said that as you don`t agree, I think Joseph is the man we need in these dramatic circumstances. In no time everybody agreed on this proposal and Joseph was contacted at the house where he had spent the night. When he arrived Lwetcha told him : "you are going to replace your father". Joseph refused in first instance putting forward his political inexperience. Lwetcha answered: " You are a man, you have to assume this responsibility, you will learn. The only thing I ask you is to be extremely careful." That night it seems there was an attempt to kill Lwetcha. This is the most reliable version of the events we`ve heard so far.
In the city, the population demands explanations about the role played by all the key-figures surrounding Kabila at the time of the event. Nobody has forgotten that it was Eddy Kapend, a civilian who became Kabila`s aide-de-camp and was promoted colonel, who announced extraordinary measures two hours after the crime. It was evident that he almost expressed himself as the new President by confirming : "I command all staff officers at combined operations, lieutenant-general Lwetcha, the commander of the terrestrial force, general Joseph to stay calm."
A friend saw a version of the new government composed by Kapend just before the last reshuffle. Kapend had given himself the Ministry of Defence. The population also asks themselves why Kapend finished off the assassin who was wounded already.
In fact, by lacking official information on the plot of the murder, the population suspects everybody close to the President of being involved in the assassination in one way or another, be it direct, be it by incompetence, be it by carelessness.
A first miracle and some questions.
All the Congolese authorities and their allies congratulate themselves that stability, unity and calm remained thanks to the nomination of Joseph Kabila. "This is a real miracle", said people used to seeing self-declared pastors performing chain-miracles.
But many fear that Joseph Kabila is actually a prisoner of the same authorities close to Mzee Laurent-Desirà© Kabila and who caused his loss. And that it is them who want to force Joseph Kabila to take certain ill-considered decisions and put the Nation before accomplished facts. Nobody in Kinshasa can explain why this haste to send Joseph Kabila to France and the US at the time he hadn`t chosen his own collaborators yet and at the time that he hadn`t accustomed to the most pressing files. Is this an attempt to manipulate a man little experienced in politics? Anyway, the manoeuvre didn`t seem to be a success. Joseph Kabila has come out of this tour a lot stronger and he keeps all his cards to control the situation in the country.
In retrospect, could Joseph permit himself to give another speech at the 24th of January, a speech extremely reassuring for the West? To avoid general destabilisation, he probably had to proceed this way.
The population will judge the new President on his acts rather than on his speeches. The first important occasion will be the one of the nomination of his closest collaborators. If this choice is appropriate and if it corresponds to the aspiration of the masses, Joseph Kabila could stabilise his power. If he keeps the circle around Mzee or if he makes the return of the Mobutists possible, he will have little chance to succeed.