I would have come to Antigua to speak with you on this topic, because it concerns me greatly, but prior engagements have prevented me.
When I look at what is happening in Africa, I make the following observation: since the wind of democracy finally blew through the continent, after long dictatorships, elections were organized in several countries to elect leaders of the people. However, of the presidents elected democratically, some are killed before the end of their term of office, while others grant themselves life in office, and even manage to change the constitution, if necessary to keep power. Still others intimidate or terrorize their way into being the only candidate for their own succession. As for those who lose elections – instead of accepting the verdict of the ballot boxes, they take up arms to remain in power, or demand a power-sharing deal from those who won.
This violates the sovereignty of the people as – despite supposedly free and democratic elections – leaders impose themselves upon them by force. Furthermore, the opposition, which serves as an aspect of the checks and balances on power, does not play its role. Whether it is to pander to voters, or whether it is for fear of reprisals, they let themselves be led in the game of the majority. Those who resist become armed rebels. This explains the multiple armed conflicts that are tearing Africa apart.
The majority of African leaders are reproached for their mode of governance: human rights violations, corruption, tyranny, and enrichment without cause. Having taking power by force, they surround themselves – whether they like it or not – with a politico-military class to protect them. This occurs in exchange for enjoyment of the country’s wealth, at the expense of the basic sovereignty of the people.
In this country, conflicts between armed rebels and militants continue to make victims of the civilian populations. It is happening in northern Uganda with the LRA and in eastern Congo with the FDLR, CNDP and Mbororo. Freedom of expression is far from guaranteed, as illustrated by the high number of journalists and human rights activists that are assassinated. Even when there are protests, such as those of teachers who ask for their salary, they are quickly dispersed by riot police who, ironically, are themselves unpaid.
The country’s wealth is not shared fairly. The head of state and his entourage take the lion’s share and enormous amounts of wealth are transferred to their accounts in northern countries. In the meantime, the IMF and the World Bank continue to grant loans that, instead of lifting the people out of their extreme poverty, only strangle them further. Civil servants are not paid, or are underpaid (a head of department earns the equivalent of $50 in Congolese francs while 71.34% of the population lives on $.50 per day), and soldiers are underpaid or their salaries are misappropriated and so, to survive, they prey on and extort money from the poor.
The systematic pillage of the DRC’s riches since the onset of repeated wars (leading to thousands of dead and displaced) is at the expense of the population who lack basic infrastructure: health, education, roads, etc. The reports by United Nations experts on the pillage of resources in DRC can illustrate this phenomenon.
As for work, unemployment has increased to 90%. Thousands of young people are unemployed and desperate. This compels some to enlist in armed groups; others opt for immigration into northern countries, where they are not welcome. The drop in mineral prices on the world market jeopardizes the thousands of Congolese, who live thanks to exploitation of these minerals. The farmers – thanks to slavery – do not know how to sell their products.
In South Kivu, the population lives in paranoia because of Operation Kimya II. Thousands of people have been displaced while fleeing from insecurity. Impunity is sanctioned; criminals are rewarded.
In Africa, there is no visible difference between dictators and those who purport to be democrats. It is merely a theoretical difference. The gaps between ideological or political discourse and the aspirations of the population are enormous. Indeed we can say that, in Africa, democracy is merely the dictatorship of the political majority
This article has been translated from the French by Jennifer Blumberg.