Ka­bila faces in­creas­ing dis­sent

Since 2015, ten­sion and dis­con­tent have risen in the for­mer prov­ince of Katanga in the DRC amid po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vres and a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion. The re­gion is a ma­jor stake for the pres­i­dent who is de­ter­mined to stay in power, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE for­mer Katanga prov­ince, split into four new prov­inces in 2015 – Haut-Katanga, Tan­ganyika, Haut-Lo­mami and Lual­aba – is plagued by dis­putes be­tween Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila and his for­mer al­lies such as Moïse Ka­tumbi, a busi­ness­man and ex-gov­er­nor of Katanga who is in ex­ile and Gabriel Kyungu Wa Kumwanza, pres­i­dent of a ma­jor fed­er­al­ist move­ment, Unafec (Union Na­tionale des Fédéral­istes du Congo).

Since the cri­sis group’s pub­li­ca­tion on the Katanga re­gion in 2016, this bat­tle for in­flu­ence has be­come more acute. Politi­cians’ past record in ma­nip­u­lat­ing vi­o­lent crowds or armed groups for their per­sonal in­ter­ests and an army that uses force against civil­ians, both in­crease the risk.

Na­tional and pro­vin­cial is­sues in­ter­twine. Dis­con­tent with seem­ingly end­less po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vring and eco­nomic de­cline is push­ing the prov­ince into the hands of the op­po­si­tion. But for Ka­bila, who hails from the re­gion, it re­mains a ma­jor stake in his bid to stay in power.

Af­ter im­pos­ing his choice of the prime min­is­ter in April, Ka­bila feels he has the up­per hand against a weak op­po­si­tion. But he needs sup­port and fi­nance and to prove that he is in full con­trol of the strate­gic ar­eas of the na­tional ter­ri­tory.

This is the main con­cern of his neigh­bours, other African heads of state and in­vestors in the min­ing sec­tor. It is there­fore vi­tal for him not to lose con­trol of the for­mer Katanga, es­pe­cially to Ka­tumbi, his ex-ally and now sworn op­po­nent.

The for­mer Katanga prov­ince is at the cen­tre of the DRC’s tu­mul­tuous his­tory. Af­ter a se­ces­sion­ist move­ment in 1960, at the dawn of in­de­pen­dence, it be­came a bat­tle­ground dur­ing the 1997 to 2003 civil war and then the po­lit­i­cal strong­hold of the Ka­bila dy­nasty.

Since his ac­ces­sion to power in 2001, Ka­bila, with the help of Ka­tumbi, worked hard to keep the re­gion un­der his in­flu­ence and pro­tect the ex­ten­sive eco­nomic in­ter­ests of his fam­ily and friends in the bank­ing, agri­cul­tural and min­ing sec­tors.

Un­der Ka­bila, the Katangese have held key po­si­tions in the govern­ment and pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion. But af­ter the 2011 elec­tions, Ka­bila’s al­lies re­acted against his plans to stay in power be­yond 2016, in vi­o­la­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion. The grow­ing ten­sion sur­faced at the start of 2015 when, in line with the con­sti­tu­tion, he sur­pris­ingly de­cided to cre­ate new prov­inces, split­ting Katanga into four parts.

Al­though this cre­ated new po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties for some, it was gen­er­ally viewed, es­pe­cially in its cap­i­tal Lubum­bashi, as an at­tempt to di­vide and weaken the prov­ince. The move was aimed at weak­en­ing the elites of Lubum­bashi in gen­eral and Ka­tumbi in par­tic­u­lar.

The re­ac­tion didn’t take long. In Septem­ber 2015 seven po­lit­i­cal par­ties, in­clud­ing a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Katangese, broke from the rul­ing Ma­jor­ity party and cre­ated the new op­po­si­tion Group of Seven (G7). Ka­tumbi then left the Ma­jor­ity and re­signed as gov­er­nor. The fol­low­ing May 14, he de­clared his can­di­dacy for pres­i­den­tial elec­tions and re­ceived un­con­di­tional sup­port from the G7. In June 2016, Ka­tumbi and the G7 joined the broader op­po­si­tion plat­form “Le Rassem­ble­ment”.

Threat­ened by a pop­u­lar bloc of op­po­si­tion par­ties with a de­gree of fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence thanks to Ka­tumbi, the rul­ing Ma­jor­ity at­tacked through the courts. In May 2016, law­suits were launched against Ka­tumbi, lead­ing to a three-year jail sen­tence on charges of spo­li­a­tion and push­ing him into ex­ile.

The cred­i­bil­ity of this judg­ment was un­der­mined by the ex­ile of the pre­sid­ing judge of the court who claimed to have been threat­ened. Many of his al­lies were sen­tenced to prison fol­low­ing other tri­als.

The last tar­get of the Ma­jor­ity is Gabriel Kyungu, an in­flu­en­tial politi­cian in the G7. Since Jan­uary 2015, it has tried to push the youth move­ment of Kyungu’s Unafec into a vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion with the po­lice. Al­though this strat­egy to in­crim­i­nate him has not led to any out­right vi­o­lence, there is still ten­sion. While the Ma­jor­ity’s ma­noeu­vres dis­rupt and desta­bilise, they also give de­fec­tors a cer­tain de­gree of po­lit­i­cal cred­i­bil­ity.

The split­ting of Katanga paved the way for the se­lec­tion of new gov­er­nors by pro­vin­cial as­sem­blies from March 2016. The Ma­jor­ity fought hard to keep a grip over se­lec­tions. But in-fight­ing has been fierce and spilt over into com­mu­nity relations.

Ten­sions be­tween indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and im­mi­grants from the Kasias date back to the 1990s. The new gov­er­nor of Haut Katanga (the new prov­ince that in­cludes the old pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Lubum­bashi), Jean-Claude Kazembe, strongly sup­ported by the ma­jor­ity, opted for di­vide and rule. He pushed aside the Luba, Rund and Kasaï com­mu­ni­ties who had worked with Ka­tumbi.

This dan­ger­ous strat­egy back­fired as Kazembe was re­moved from of­fice in April 2017, by a unan­i­mous vote in the pro­vin­cial assem­bly, amid al­le­ga­tions of poor man­age­ment. Al­though this de­ci­sion was later over-turned by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, his fu­ture in the prov­ince looks un­cer­tain. On April 22, the assem­bly chose ex-pro­vin­cial econ­omy min­is­ter Célestin Pande Kapopo as in­terim gov­er­nor.

Con­trary to his pre­de­ces­sor, Pande re­duced ten­sions with the Kasaï com­mu­nity. This im­plies that the Ma­jor­ity, which con­trols the Pro­vin­cial Assem­bly, is aware that com­mu­nity vi­o­lence can erode its sup­port in favour of Ka­tumbi.

De­spite his pro­longed ex­ile Ka­tumbi still has many ad­van­tages. Hav­ing gov­erned the whole of Katanga, many view him as an em­bod­i­ment of the unity of the re­gion. More­over, he can hence­forth be re­garded as a vic­tim of the govern­ment, fol­low­ing his le­gal bat­tles. Fi­nally, his con­sid­er­able per­sonal re­sources gives him a foothold in pro­vin­cial and na­tional pol­i­tics.

The cop­per and cobalt pro­duced in the prov­inces of Haut-Katanga and Lual­aba ac­count for about 71% of Con­golese ex­ports, and greatly con­trib­ute to the state’s bud­get. Be­tween 2007 and 2015, Chi­nese de­mand and in­vest­ment led to a great in­crease in in­dus­trial and ar­ti­sanal pro­duc­tion. But in 2015, the sud­den drop in the com­mod­ity prices saw many sites shut down and cop­per ex­ports drop from 1.03 mil­lion tons in 2014 to just un­der a mil­lion in 2015.

The slight re­sump­tion in 2016 (close to 1.02 mil­lion tons) was largely due to the launch­ing of pro­duc­tion by SI­COMINES, a joint Sino-Con­golese ven­ture cre­ated in 2009, which trades Chi­nese in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture for cop­per pro­duced by the com­pany. This pro­duc­tion is there­fore not new rev­enue for the Con­golese state. The an­nual pro­duc­tion of cobalt wit­nessed a 7.7% drop be­tween 2015 and 2016.

In the two western prov­inces of for­mer Katanga – Haut-Katanga and Lual­aba – ur­banised and de­pen­dent on im­ports and ex­ports, the cri­sis in the min­ing sec­tor has led to a higher in­crease in the cost of liv­ing than else­where. Be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber 2016, the sta­ple corn flour in­creased from $10 (R129.98) to $30 and even $40 for a 25kg bag. Its pro­duc­tion in South­ern Africa, source of around 75% of Katanga’s to­tal con­sump­tion, has greatly dropped due to drought and at­tacks by army­worms.

When in power, Ka­tumbi en­cour­aged min­ing and brew­ing com­pa­nies to in­vest in lo­cal agri­cul­ture; his “green cop­per” ini­tia­tive. He also tried to sta­bilise prices by im­port­ing when nec­es­sary. His de­par­ture co­in­cided with two cri­sis: that of the min­ing sec­tor with a spillover ef­fect on em­ploy­ment, and the maize cri­sis. This has in­creased frus­tra­tion among the pop­u­la­tion. Sub­se­quent pro­vin­cial govern­ments have nei­ther had the nec­es­sary re­gional con­nec­tions nor the ad­e­quate strat­egy to deal with the prob­lem.

In March this year, gov­er­nors Kazembe and Muyej of Haut-Katanga and Lual­aba, re­spec­tively, suc­ceeded in im­port­ing maize from South Africa to sell at be­tween $14 and $18 for a 25kg bag, still more than be­fore the cri­sis.

Ka­tumbi quickly an­nounced that he would im­port 100 000 tons of maize to sell be­low the gov­er­nors’ prices. Part of the pop­u­la­tion re­fused to buy the gov­er­nors’ maize, pre­fer­ring to wait for Ka­tumbi’s, and some even burnt huge car­gos im­ported by the two gov­er­nors. With mem­o­ries of bet­ter times un­der Ka­tumbi, the econ­omy re­mains a key po­lit­i­cal is­sue.

The in­se­cu­rity that pre­vails in the Kasaï re­gion could well spread to the al­ready frag­ile Katanga. In Haut-Katanga in­se­cu­rity is ris­ing in towns such as Likasi and Lubum­bashi. In Oc­to­ber 2016, lo­cals were dis­mayed at the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, with the bless­ing of Kin­shasa, of the con­victed war­lord Gédéon Kyungu. In­hab­i­tants of Haut-Katanga whom Cri­sis Group met in Fe­bru­ary 2017, feared that Kyungu could be used by the au­thor­i­ties to re­mo­bilise his mili­tia if se­cu­rity de­te­ri­o­rated.

Re­ports have re­vealed that mem­bers of Kyungu’s mili­tia group are in the Kasaï re­gion sup­port­ing the govern­ment, lead­ing the EU to sanc­tion him in May 2017.

In the prov­ince of Ta­ganyika, the con­flict be­tween the Batwa (pygmy) and Baluba (Bantu) com­mu­ni­ties in­ten­si­fied in 2016. The govern­ment-or­gan­ised talks led to the sign­ing of a non-ag­gres­sion pact in Fe­bru­ary, but im­ple­men­ta­tion will be tricky and the risk of es­ca­la­tion re­mains.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions say there are close to 600 000 in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons re­sult­ing from at­tacks and com­mu­nity-re­lated con­flicts in the for­mer Katanga, mainly in the prov­inces of Tan­ganyika and Haut-Katanga. In ad­di­tion, there was a re­cent wave of more than 20 000 dis­placed per­sons from Kasaï to Lual­aba.

This sit­u­a­tion shows how frag­ile sta­bil­ity is in the for­mer Katanga prov­ince. To a de­gree this serves the in­ter­ests of Ka­bila’s regime, de­ter­mined to throw ob­sta­cles in the path to elec­tions and hence stay in power. But at the same time, the regime is strug­gling to limit the fall­out of its own in-fight­ing in such a strate­gic zone.

Since late last year, ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the op­po­si­tion and the Ma­jor­ity have come to a stand­still, leav­ing Ka­bila seem­ingly in con­trol in the cen­tre.

But de­spite his de­ter­mi­na­tion, his po­lit­i­cal skills and his con­trol of the state re­sources, he is un­able to gain pop­u­lar­ity and le­git­i­macy around the coun­try. In Katanga, pop­u­lar dis­sat­is­fac­tion is led by well-known fig­ures in a pow­er­ful and co­her­ent op­po­si­tion. The con­fronta­tion, al­ready be­ing fought out in the courts, is ex­pected to be very tough.

He tight­ened his grip through di­vide and rule in a pow­er­ful re­gion

The In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group is a transna­tional NPO founded in 1995 that car­ries out field re­search on vi­o­lent con­flict and ad­vances poli­cies to pre­vent, mit­i­gate or re­solve con­flict

PROTEST­ING: Con­golese op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers chant slo­gans dur­ing a march in the DRC’s cap­i­tal, Kin­shasa, to press Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila to step down.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.