Joseph Kabila was sworn in today as President of the DRC following disputed elections last month. The main opposition has vowed to not recognize him as the legitimate president and are planning street protests. Some analysts believe that there will be blood in the streets of Kinshasa and other major urban centers.
If you think for a moment about the size and diversity of the DRC it becomes clear how hard it will be for the incorrigibly inept enormously challenged Joseph Kabila to be the one to drag the DRC out of its 50 year tailspin.
The truth be told, Mr. Kabila would not do any better running a village mboga kiosk. He is not an autocrat in the mold of Kagame, Zenawi, Museveni or even Sankara. He is closer to Samuel Doe, Bokasa and Valentine Strasser, ineffectual at best and outright disastrous at worst.
As we navigated a roundabout at the edge of town he turned to me and asked, “Have you been following the news?” I hadn’t heard anything since the day before. “About Ivory Coast? Gbagbo held his own inauguration today! Mais ca, c’est vraiment trop!”
Bozize’s son then launched into a diatribe about the failings of African executives. He and his friend, in the back seat, agreed that Ouattara would have been the better choice. “Ouattara is open. He’s for the West. Gbagbo is too much of a nationalist. You see what I’m trying to say?” Then he shifted fully into lecture mode: “We Africans, we have a problem. We like power too much. There are people who, once they grab power, stay there for thirty years! Est-ce que c’est normal? Non! Do you think you could see such a thing in America, or in Europe? No way! The problem here is the nepotism and the corruption.”
…… the conversation had turned to President Biya in neighboring Cameroon, now in power for more than thirty years. “C’est pas normal,” the president’s son clucked, shaking his head.
Emperor Bokassa (of the Central African Republic/”Empire”) ranks high among Africa’s worst dictators. For his coronation as emperor of the Central African Empire he spent half the national budget (with the assistance of the French, of course).
This afternoon I once more encountered his colossal error which remains immortalized at the UN Plaza in San Francisco.
The Central African Republic is a country the size of Texas with a population of 4.8 million and GDP that is “significantly smaller than that of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.” Since independence from France, a string of autocrats (including the infamous Emperor Bokassa), have held power in Bangui without much care for the hinterlands. The current president, Francois Bozize, seized power in a 2003 coup. In response to domestic and international pressure, well orchestrated elections were held last Sunday.
Mr. Bozize’s “Work nothing but Work” (KNK) party is expected to win. In 2008 he signed a peace agreement with several rebel movements spread throughout the country that were opposed to his rule. Elections were part of the deal.
But of what use are elections in places like Central African Republic?
“William Easterly recently argued that “good governance” rhetoric notwithstanding, aid to dictators has remained steady since 1972. The rich countries no long have strategic interests at stake, but the “Gerund Defense” enables donors to keep the money flowing: with only a few exceptions, no matter how corrupt or autocratic a regime, it could be said to be “developing” or “democratizing” and hence on a progressive course necessitating assistance. But the dictators hold “farcical ‘elections'” and nothing changes. If we take Easterly’s warning seriously and start to question the progressivist aid ideology, what should we do about those places where elections occur, and aren’t exactly farcical, but meaningful democracy – in which citizens’ grievances and claims are taken seriously and responded to by their political leaders – remains elusive? The Central African Republic (CAR), whose citizens voted in first-round presidential and legislative elections Sunday, is one such place. In the end, the case of places like CAR might prove more insidious, because it calls into question the definitional link between elections and democracy.”
Francois Bozize is trying hard to rehabilitate the image of Central Africa Republic’s former dictator Emperor Bokassa. This is not the same as Chileans trying to rehabilitate Pinochet. It is a lot closer to Cambodians trying to rehabilitate Pol Pot. This latest development tells you a lot about what kind of president the Central Africans have in Francois Bozize.