BY: MARIO GHIOLDI
On December 30th 2018 the Democratic Republic of Congo held a general election in order to determine a successor to President Kabila, who led the country for almost 20 years. Felix Tshisekedi, son of one of the relevant opponents of Kabila, won with 38% of vote defeating the other candidates.
Although many experts considered the electoral results as historic for the DRC, there are different controversies about the victory of Tshisekedi. Amid fraud claims, important international actors like France, Belgium and the Holy See have openly expressed doubts on the electoral results.
A relevant criticism comes from Mr. Christian Malanga, a Congolese businessman, former military officer and President of the United Congolese Party (UCP). Mr Malanga gave to Political Insights and Mario Ghioldi the opportunity to talk about the latest events developed in his country.
In 1998, Malanga moved to Salt Lake City, as a political refugee with asylum status. There, beyond founding the DRC non-profit Africa Helpline Society, in 2012 he founded the United Congolese Party (UCP) to serve as a platform for independent opposition candidates in the DRC
Mr. Malanga, why is the DRC considered so relevant?
Many reasons. The DRC has the potential to be the richest country in the world – its untapped mineral reserves are estimated to be worth over $24 trillion. The DRC is the world supplier of cobalt and coltan which are used in production of electronic vehicles, electronic devices, artificial intelligence technology, and renewable energy technology. Currently the world is not meeting the demand for these raw materials. Technology relies on the resources in the DRC region. The ability to have controlling influence in the region will dictate the future of civilization. The DRC is also a large supplier of uranium, which has huge implications and security concerns for the international community.
The DRC is one of the biggest African countries and covers a vast strategic position in that continent, DRC has the capacity to become the driving force of Africa’s economic development if its vast forests, water resources and trillions of dollars worth of mineral reserves are used prudently. Furthermore, the DRC is the “Heart of Africa” and, when properly developed, it will be the “heartbeat” that pumps economic (and corresponding political) lifeblood to all parts of the continent.
Let’s talk about the latest election, What do you think about the victory of Tshisekedi?
I do not consider the latest DRC vote as an election, I would define it a facade, which deceived the international community, and in particular western countries. The elections were a creation by Kabila to protect his power apparatus over the country and its wealth; this trickery was enabled and protected by Russia and China. Kabila controls all politics. FCC (Kabila‟s majority coalition) obtained an absolute majority, and Kabila‟s party PPRD maintains control over the National Assembly. Kabila lives in the Presidential Palace, flies the Presidential Plane. In country, he is President and Felix is just a guy working for him. Felix’s profession is Kabila’s international stooge for the purpose to confuse the international community. Felix’s entire life is controlled by Kabila: where he sleeps, his protection, his finances and his decisions.
What about the regional actors? As stated before, the Democratic Republic of Congo is an important state in the geopolitical balance of Africa. Which African countries could support the new President?
The politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo -are so complex and are developed in a regional context where relations among countries are tangled as well. Moreover, many African countries are economically and militarily linked with the new Eastern bloc. Zimbabwe is a clear example of that, thus their external politics reflect their relations with the Eastern superpowers. Kenya was the only country whose President attended Felix’s inauguration. African nations understand that Kabila is still running the show.
Considering the context that you describe, could we expect something different in the Democratic Republic of Congo foreign policy?
As I said before, there is not a real governmental change, the regimeis the same. Thus, the DRC’s future relations with the global powers will continue to gravitate to Russia and China. The Western sanctions (US/EU) against Kinshasa will remain, while Kabila’s government is negotiating to sell the oil reserves to Moscow and Beijing in order to bypass the Western influence. The policy will stay the same while strengthening the allegiance to Russia and China putting the DRC at odds with Western interests.
Let’s go back to our first question, the Democratic Republic of Congo is important for the uranium and cobalt deposits. Should we expect new relations between Kinshasa and the global powers on this issue?
First of all, we have to take in consideration how Africa is important for the world; our continent will be 1/3 of the world population by 2100 and has the majority of the natural resources for technology and military advancement. There is another important element to consider: during the last Cold War there were two superpowers; USSR and the US. However, in the last 30 years China has become another relevant actor, not just in soft power but also in the military sector. Today, Russia and China are coexisting in their foreign agendas in Africa. This relationship has been solidified in a partnership with BRICS and a vision to dismantle the Petrodollar and the Western influence in Africa. China dominates the mining of uranium and the other natural resources that are vital for all military technology.
China’s partnership with Kabila in artisanal mining has led to the creation of a decentralized monopoly of DRC mining. China has mastered artisanal mining and their agenda is to exploit their mining interests to enable their military capability interests. These interests are based on nuclear capacity to enable their financial agenda based on a trade war with the USA. Since Joseph Kabila came into power, China has continued to invest in the mining sector focused on artisanal mining. Today over 90% of mining companies in Katanga and the Lualaba provinces are Chinese owned and operated. As I stated before, there was no real shift between the old and the new presidency.
So in your opinion, China and Russia are not competitors in Africa, but they are on the same side facing the western countries, is that it?
Yes exactly, there is no competition between Moscow and Beijing, both are on the same side against the West. I can say that China has the money, Russia has the muscle. The first provides more economic aid, the second gives military support. Many African leaders are joining Moscow and Beijing with their assets against western values and the western interests. Angola, Central African Republic, Sudan and Zimbabwe are clear examples of that.
Ok, let’s talk briefly about the Democratic Republic of Congo’s internal issues, for example about the economy. Despite its potentiality, the economic data are not so positive. Why?
Well, among the problems of our country, one of the most relevant is the corruption in all levels of the country, both local and national. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and this is not conducive to good business and it is problematic for the development. The root of the problem is Kabila and his political circle who operate to steal as much money as they can from the country. They do not care about the demand for the resources nor the needs of the people. They raise royalties at the detriment of new investment all while taking the countries revenue as their personal wealth.
What do you expect in the future for your country? What is the real key for a change?
The Democratic Republic of Congo has plenty of young people eager to express their opinion. It is important to invest in their beliefs; providing opportunities for political leaders to get into politics freely without any restrictions. That is one of the most important elements that we have to consider for the future. With a new political class real reform can happen and development will follow.
Mario Ghioldi has an International Relations background through his studies at the University of Siena. In the last year, he worked with the Italian government’s Mission to the United Nations (3rd Committee) and in Nicaragua. He also joined the Salvadoran diplomatic team at the Rome agencies twice.
Please note that opinions expressed in this article are solely those of our contributors, not of Political Insights, which takes no institutional positions.