So it is 30 June 2014, 54 years after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) became independent. The traditional speech (French audio here) was delivered by Kabila on the eve of day. Here is my quick take on points Kabila tried to drive home.
DRC armed forces: over-praised and oblivious to UN’s vital support to defeat M23
Kabila showered all the praises and recognition on the country’s armed forces by dedicating the day to what he termed “an army rising in power”. Hardly did he mention the fact that the demise of the defunct M23 was partly (centrally?) attributable to the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) International Brigade. He stated that DRC’s entire territory is now fully controlled by the Congolese army. But this still remains questionable as it is an open secret DRC’s army is yet to undergo a full reform process coupled with effective DDR and DDRRR. But it is understandable Kabila is giving all the credit to the national army, more so as he promised the military solution to the M23, if the diplomatic solution failed. In actual fact, the shift of recent dynamics in the Great Lakes region is increasingly entrenching peace through a combination of regional and international efforts.
Government of national unity heralded since 23 October 2013: Kabila is not in a hurry
It was expected Kabila would hint at the imminence or at least give an indication as to when the government of the much-awaited national unity will be formed. After all, this new cabinet was announced on 23 October 2013, following the national consultations. However, the only allusion to this was when Kabila mentioned the need to implement all the recommendations from these consultations. Without any haste. It is unlikely the country will have a new cabinet any time soon. In fact, the conditions that dictated a reshuffle have so changed in the time between the announcement and now that the very purpose of that government is defeated. A now stable eastern DRC and M23 out of the picture, makes it irrelevant for the regime to bring some parts of the opposition to the helm of the country. On the other hand, donors and the international community seem to like the current, reform-minded, government better. So obviously, there does not really seem to be any haste in removing Prime Minister Matata.
Elections: foreign interference vs. national sovereignty
In a thinly-veiled reference to the full electoral calendar being more and more demanded by both the opposition and the international community, Kabila said the Congolese people should not give in to any blackmail. He stressed that the onus was exclusively on the electoral commission to present us all with roadmap for the elections. We can therefore speculate that DRC sovereignty will continue to be invoked whenever the international community makes rightful demands that do not “please” the regime.
Expulsion of DRC nationals from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville: a belated presidential reaction?
Kabila lamented the massive expulsions of Congolese nationals from Congo-Brazzaville, after remaining silent throughout the degrading ordeal both to the DRC and to those expelled. He took the opportunity to encourage all Congolese living abroad under harsh conditions to come back home. It is unlikely his clarion call will be heeded, as most of those in the Diaspora left the country inter alia in dissidence to the current regime and/or for unresolved economic issues. Why is Kabila speaking out on this situation only now; months after the expulsions have happened is a mystery. But better late than never.
So, all in all, the political future still retains much of its recent grey areas. No government in any foreseeable horizon. Unlikely the full electoral calendar will be charted. And the euphoria of M23 defeat might/will derail any efforts to reform the army, leaving the country unprepared the next M23-esque adventure.