If we mishandle DRC, we will import more refugees plus Ebola

Any critical observer of government actions in Zambia, like ourselves, would wonder why a political statement issued by State House on behalf of President Edgar Lungu, and on behalf of SADC countries, is being tactfully withdrawn. A day after President Lungu’s spokesperson Mr Amos Chanda signed and released a statement calling for a Government of National Unity in Congo DR, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Joe Malanji, issued another one in the name of the President, but with a different tone and focus.

In the initial statement, President Lungu (through Mr Chanda) was calling for a recount of votes as demanded by the Catholic Institution in Congo, in order to rule out any doubts among political players. In the next Statement, President Lungu (though Mr Malanji) U-turned on the call for a recount of votes, saying that decision should be left to the sovereignty of the Congolese people.

Why is there a conflicting language coming from the same mouth? Why is Minister Malanji clarifying a statement that no one in Zambia or SADC has branded as ambiguous? Like we stated in the editorial opinion of yesterday, Some top government leaders in Zambia have private interests in the politics of Congo DR. Who emerges leader of this country, matters more to them than it matters to the Congolese who will be led.

The people of Zambia must take very keen interest in the positions that our government leaders are taking on the developing crisis in Congo because if we are not careful, this country will not only import an excess of Congolese refugees, but it will also import Ebola and all the pandemics that the good people of Congo have been trying to contain.

The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is tense. Its people voted, but the outcome is being contested. Anything short of a reasonable conclusion has the potential to plunge the country into worse chaos than it is already experiencing. The ripple effects of that chaos will be a baby for the Zambian people to nurse. This otherwise rich country shares massive border area with Zambia. Therefore, if the Congo flourishes, Zambia flourishes too. But so far, we have suffered more than enjoyed the benefit of being neigbhours.

Congo gained its Independence ahead of Zambia but the amounts of refugees that pour into our country have stretched our limited resources. This is because of the world scramble for mineral-rich Congo, a country overflowing with resources which is sought after by powerful nations, warlords and individual businessmen like some of our government leaders.

Our point is that, if the Zambian leaders take individual positions in handling this Congo election showdown, we will be abetting a crisis that will not spare the poor ordinary Zambians. We know that our leaders have personal friendships with the contestants of the Congo election, or at least their sponsors, but our cry is that those private relations and interests should not cause Zambia to be drawn into the firing range.

We have a brief summery of what is happening in Congo, for the benefit of those who are struggling to make sense out of the new wave of political differences and bickering in that country. From this, we hope our fellow citizens can draw their on conclusions.

The scenario in the Congo is complex. Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been declared provisional winner beating another opposition leader Martin Fayulu and the ruling party candidate Emmanuel Shadary is placed third. Even though the ruling party candidate lost miserably, his coalition, which is sponsored by outgoing President Joseph Kabila, has reportedly swept parliamentary seats across the country and retains slightly over two thirds majority.

Fayulu – a joint opposition candidate – is believed to have won the election, as given by the independent observers like the Catholic Bishops who announced that their PVT showed a different winner other than the one announced by the Electoral Commission of Congo (CENI). It’s therefore not surprising to see Fayulu, take to the court to challenge his electoral defeat.

The respected church body is believed to have told diplomats that Fayulu was the clear winner of the election but has not publicly stated so. And Fayulu is now asking for a manual recount of the vote. This is the position that was initially supported by the Southern African Community (SADC) through President Edgar Lungu, the chair of the Troika organ on Politics and Security.

SADC has gone further to propose a Government of National Unity, so as to pacify the simmering tension. This is the position that we queried in our editorial comment in which we expressed shock at the speed of calling for a coalition government before the petitioners of the election are heard by the courts of law. Although President Lungu’s statement was laced with so many other questions, we raised no eyebrows over his call for a recount of votes. That is the most that SADC could ask for.

It was therefore surprising that while President Lungu was seeking what seemed to be a much more reasonable resolution towards a peaceful conclusion, as part of the settlement to the disputed election, his Minister of Foreign Affairs is stoking the fire in a highly inflammable country like Congo DR.

From all the media and observer reports issued so far, it can’t be denied that the election in the Congo was chaotic and its outcome stage-managed by Kabila. We are told that a recount of votes will see second-placed Fayulu carry the day, a situation that would put the outgoing president in danger.

We are further told that president-elect Tshisekedi, has realized by now that his hard to explain victory was sponsored by President Kabila, but his presidency would be useless without any significant number of members of parliament, and can easily be impeached. But this is the man Kabila would rather hand over power to – that way, he would retain control of the government, including Parliament where his brother Zoe and sister Janet, have surprisingly won.

Sadly, President Kabila, who has not yet handed over power, has curtailed internet access and the rest of the happenings in the Congo is now unknown to the outside world, which is what Malanji and his team should be highlighting.

Zambians must be asking questions; on whose side is President Lungu? What is his interest in the Congo election outcome? What results would he like to see at the end of the day and why? What about his minister Malanji? Who is he talking to in Congo? Who asked him to clarify the President’s statement that was not being challenged by the SADC member states? Why doesn’t he want to support the call for a recount of votes?

Please, for the sake of Zambia, let us be careful with the handling of Congo. We have enough problems and our own general elections to prepare for and perfect. It is only a peaceful Zambia that can lend a shoulder to the troubled Congo. Ndeo yabene siyovulilapo jakete.

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