Riot policemen fire tear gas to disperse Catholic priest and demonstrators during a protest against President Joseph Kabila, organized by the Catholic church in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 21, 2018. (Photo Credit: Reuters/Kenny Katombe)
Time is running out for the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo as a united front of the Catholic Church and members of the main opposition party plan a massive march to demand President Joseph Kabila’s resignation.
“All activists are urged to respond,” read a statement from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. A Party congress scheduled for Feb. 26-27 has been postponed to support the Feb. 25 action, they said.
Kabila’s regime, riddled with corruption, repression and incompetence, faces mounting protests since he refused to leave office after his term expired in December 2016.
While European countries chide the unpopular leader for the humanitarian crisis worsening daily in that country, and the U.S. demands to know the outcome of an investigation into two murdered U.S. aid workers, the United Nations this month outlined a situation so desperate that 13.1 million people are practically speaking on death’s door and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian coordinator Kim Bolduc, speaking in Kinshasa, did not sugarcoat the bad news. “The past year has been one of the most difficult for millions of civilians, with the unrelenting cycle of violence, diseases, malnutrition and loss of livelihoods taking a toll on families.
“Today’s appeal reflects the magnitude, severity and unpredictability of a crisis that has gone on for far too long,” she said.
But while money is to be made, it is unlikely that President Kabila will step down voluntarily. This month, the state mining company announced the renegotiation of all contracts with foreign mining companies to squeeze out a greater share of profits from copper and cobalt. A new mining code will raise royalties and taxes paid by miners to the government. “We can no longer afford to feed global industry with our minerals for as little as we see today,” said Albert Yuma Mulimbi, chairman of the state company, cynically.
But theft of this mineral income at the highest levels starves ordinary Congolese of the bare minimum needed to live. The US-based Carter Center said in a report in November that the state mining company Gécamines failed to internally register $750 million in income between 2011 and 2014, and that much of this was now untraceable.
Elisabeth Caisens, director of the Belgium-based Resource Matters that monitors the DRC mining industry, underscored the dilemma: “A contract review a decade ago and partnership audit in 2012 generated hundreds of millions [of dollars] for Gécamines but few tangible results for the Congolese people”.