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Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

Vegetable and fruit

Vegetable and fruit market at the outskirts of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo © Shutterstock 76 win anything. Now there is only a short win for a limited amount of people that quickly evaporates. If we can process the coltan in Congo, we can start rebuilding the country with roads and decent housing. We need to fix and renew the power system, install electricity and provide clean water in every village. We need not only revive construction but concentrate on agriculture as well. Congo is a very fertile land. We need to build partnerships in developing agriculture in our country. Not only will this solve the problem of starvation in our country, but we will even be able to export. We have the land and we have the products but now lack the means to sell them to the rest of the world. DEMOCRATIC DEBATE AND CULTURAL REVIVAL It is vital that future leadership is responsible leadership. That is what we want to accomplish after all those years of misfortune that we experienced after independence. It is time for the Congolese to invest in responsible leadership that will be able to show the right direction and ensure democracy. We do not want one single conviction ruling and imposing its ideas. We need a democratic debate. Without democratic debate we will never find out what the people’s needs are. Congo has more than 400 tribes, which means there are over 400 customs and different ways of living. Congo’s official language is French now, but each tribe has its dialect. Those dialects have been divided into 4 linguistic families so we can choose 4 additional national languages. You have to take all 400 tribes into consideration if you want to improve this country; a thing we already know by tradition because we have a culture of debate. Traditionally, we had the African ‘palabre’ or talk. Unfortunately, it has not evolved and was not modernized. It remained at the village level. Nowadays, with society broken into pieces, even these values are lost. There is a way to bring them back but for that we need a leader who accepts these traditions and who tackles these problems seriously. Once peace is restored, it is necessary to create a cultural revival. To obtain peace between the tribes and the cultural resourcing of people, we need to solve the problem of poverty and education. When we achieve that, people will be interested in getting to know each other and exchange culture. It is an effective way of bringing people together. Artists today are among the poorest and most deprived people, especially artists who make art objects like sculptors and painters. The cultural value of Congo deserves to be known all over the world. We can achieve this but it will have to be implemented at a later stage. Today some cultural

exchange already exists within our country. There are a lot of intercultural marriages which brings people together in some ways. Simply by intertribal weddings, things are evolving well. For example, my wife and I, we are not from the same tribe. She is from the east, from Bukavu, while I am from the Kasai. POVERTY Before we can proceed to cultural interchange, we have to fight poverty. Poverty is one of the main causes of the escape of our young people. They flee to countries like Libya where we see massacres being done. People leave their country for different reasons but the most important one is no hope to end poverty. It is human nature to go elsewhere seeking to survive. When something is not going well when in one place, we try to go somewhere else. At times we see tribal quarrels over poverty. There can be jealousy of those that are richer and that is what kills solidarity. It happens even in the countries where people are generally better off. You can live in a country with a democratic tradition for centuries and generations but as soon as there is a crisis the first instinct is to protect oneself. They will say ‘the migrant’ is the problem and that immigration has to stop. It is the human reflex to say ‘us first’, to withdraw into oneself. HEART OF AFRICA Once security is handled, tourism will thrive. We have a beautiful country, well worth visiting and it can bring lots of tourists. The success of this endeavour depends on one thing: installing the rule of law. We must restore a rule of law, an honest administration, secure the citizens, and reinstall the traditional values that are now totally upside down. Those must be restored so that Congo will again be the engine and the heart of Africa. Congo is sick today. Germany’s neighbours benefit from the magnitude and greatness of Germany, but our neighbours take advantage of Congo’s weakness. I have already mentioned the coltan that travels across the river. In Rwanda there is a refinery to treat coltan while they are not producers. The coltan comes from Congo and leaves the country without taxes. The same happens with the gold coming out of Ituri that goes to Uganda and the copper that goes to Zambia. Copper, cobalt, coltan and gold leave the country almost for free nowadays. If the Congo succeeds in changing all this, the country will win and everyone can benefit. It is the beginning of peace, for if everyone benefits there will be no reason for war or tribal warfare. Today everything is based on poverty or lack of prosperity. Still, there is opportunity to be seen in our bad luck. We have seen how some countries have advanced and how others have made mistakes. We have learned those lessons and can now move forward and avoid the mistakes others have made. Unfortunately, I wonder whether our neighbours really want the same thing as we do. I am convinced that if Congo prospers, everyone will benefit. We are trying to explain to our neighbours that they have an interest in Congo doing well, because then we can create a vast free trade area, much like the model of the Benelux or even the European Union. It can be done at the scale of Central Africa with all its countries and all countries will benefit from this force that will also revive Congo. Eventually, they will get the message because in most of these countries, there are problems as well. Most of the Central African countries are dictatorial in nature, with the exception of Zambia. Rwanda, Burundi and Brazzaville are in a similar situation as we are. A NEED FOR CHANGE The first step is a mindset towards change but implementing change also takes purchasing power. When people can live in peace, they can keep the peace. When you remove their means to live, people become corrupt and start to steal, forcing the government to impose security. There is a lot of work to be done but it is possible to achieve it in a short amount of time. First, the leadership itself has to be severe and demanding with itself and require the same from its subjects. Once this is implemented, it will work because people will quickly understand that seriousness has arrived. Unfortunately, we have seen this happen before in Congo. At first, Laurent Désiré Kabilla looked like he meant serious business. He came and enforced the law, a bit brutal, a little violent, but the people kept quiet. But then we started to see the corruption and came to see he is just like all the others, which is similar to what happened with Mobutu. People understood that, again, it was not a serious try. At this moment we have a power that is dictatorial, which suppresses every move towards change. When we have demonstrations, we are bullied and arrested each time. On 77