The DRC is 50 today

The Democratic Republic of Congo is 50 years old. The last 50 years (after they killed Lumumba) have been absolutely disastrous for this vast country in the middle of the Continent; Independence merely replaced the brutality, cruelty and pillage of King Leopold’s men (King Albert II attended the independence day “festivities”) with the brutality and kleptocracy of Mobutu. All I can say is that I hope the future holds a less punishing existence for the country’s 63 million plus.

Congratulations to Congolese people the world over for their enduring spirit. Kofi Olomide, the prolific Congolese soukous musician, sums it up in a quote from Samba: “This is hell’s system. The fire is raging but we don’t get burned.”

The other Continental disaster, Somalia, also turned 50 on Wednesday. No cause for celebration there either.

Kenyan MPs raise their salaries, again

Being a member of parliament in Kenya is one of the most lucrative jobs on the Continent. The men and women of the August house unanimously voted to raise their salaries to US $174, 400 a year – which puts them at par with what US congressmen make. Most of this money will not be taxed. Understandably, lots of Kenyans have cried thieves! Although having the biggest economy in the wider region, per capita GDP in Kenya stands at a dismal US $ 1,600. 50% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. 78% of them live in rural areas; the vast majority of whom survive on rain-fed subsistence agriculture. On average, a child born in Kenya can hope to live to be 58.2.

The only good that can come out of this is that it will incentivize MPs to take their constituents more seriously – losing one’s seat has suddenly become more costly – thereby granting parliament better institutional standing by lowering the MP turnover rates (The idea here is that once they feel secure enough in their seats they may start to take their legislative duties more seriously — I know, wishful thinking). The pay hike may also empower parliamentarians and make them less dependent on party bosses and their patronage networks.

That said, it is still grotesquely obscene that Kenyan MPs make 109 times what their masters – the Kenyan electorate – make on average in any given year. And don’t even get me started on whether these clowns honorable members are worth the 1.1 million shillings they hope to make every month.