A change of pri­or­i­ties

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

IT WAS way back at the start of 2011 that a young and dash­ing Joseph Ka­bila took con­trol of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo. His fa­ther was Lau­rent Ka­bila, a rebel leader who ousted the gov­ern­ment of Mobutu Sese Seko with the help of Uganda and Rwanda.

Ka­bila se­nior pro­claimed him­self president and changed the name of the coun­try from Zaire to the DRC. He ruled un­til he was killed by one of his own body­guards.

Just over a week after his death, the young Ka­bila took over. With him came the hope of peace in a coun­try torn apart by con­flict.

But it was not to be. Ka­bila failed to win the hearts of his coun­try­men and to unite them.

Even to­day the DRC con­tin­ues to be rav­aged by fight­ing, es­pe­cially in the eastern part of the coun­try where rebels op­er­ate, al­legedly with the sup­port of Uganda and Rwanda.

Iron­i­cally, it was the same two coun­tries that pro­pelled Ka­bila se­nior to power.

The young Ka­bila held elec­tions a few years after he took of­fice. He was elected president in 2006 and was re-elected for a sec­ond term in 2011.

His sec­ond term in of­fice ex­pired on De­cem­ber 20 last year, but Ka­bila has cho­sen not to hold elec­tions un­til early next year. As a re­sult, he was heav­ily crit­i­cised by his coun­try­men and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

A few days ago, Ka­bila was in South Africa to meet with President Ja­cob Zuma for a bi-na­tional com­mis­sion be­tween our two coun­tries.

The two heads of state agreed to strengthen eco­nomic ties which, from a South African per­spec­tive, is good be­cause the DRC has an abun­dance of nat­u­ral re­sources.

Both leaders agreed that peace, se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity were im­por­tant for the re­gion, and Africa as a whole.

But if Ka­bila and Zuma are gen­uine about their com­mit­ment to grow­ing a peace­ful, sta­ble con­ti­nent, they should do more to put their coun­tries first.

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