Zaire: Info-Zaire #111 (excerpts), 02/12/'96

Zaire: Info-Zaire #111 (excerpts), 02/12/'96

Zaire: Info-Zaire #111 (excerpts) Date distributed (ymd): 960212

Info-Zaire, Number 111 (English) - January 19, 1996 (translated from a document produced by Entraide Missionnaire - EMi - Montreal)

The Latest From the World of Politics

Zaire awaits the formation of a new government following the December 6 announcement by Prime Minister Kengo that there would soon be a cabinet shuffle. Even though he listed his government's achievements; its actions against those who have destroyed the currency, the end of diplomatic isolation, and the renewal of certain aid programs, Kengo recognised that he has not been able to ward off social and economic decay. He stated, 'We can only succeed in setting things right with the support and participation of one and all.'

This is welcome news, for it should be pointed out that Kengo's government is ever more clearly sinking, in spite of backing from Western powers and the World Bank. Besides, as the Belgian Minister of External Affairs reminded Kengo a few days after his announcement, the Belgian government is still refusing to renew ties with the floundering government of Zaire, a government which, in addition, has never had the confidence of the Zairian population.

On December 8, the Minister of the Interior announced a lifting of the ban on the UFERI, party of the FPC President, Nguz Karl-I-Bond. Its members, who had held administrative positions for the most part in Shaba, will be permitted henceforth to return to their posts. Having taken control of Shaba and having organised the expulsion of the Kasai from the province, the party had been all but destroyed by infighting between Nguz supporters and followers of the former Governor, Kyungu wa Kumwanza. With elections looming, there is talk of reconciliation. But, will the population of Shaba accept putting power back in the hands of those it deems responsible for its present poverty and confusion?!

Beginning December 9, Mobutu spent a few days in Tripoli with Kadhafi. He apparently negotiated the importation and distribution of Libyan oil for the Zairian market. With Kadhafi's help, he would also like to set up a major petroleum company. However, these initiatives were taken by Mobutu alone, without the participation of his government. Of what value is an agreement signed by one lone man, even if he is the President of the country?! But perhaps these two heads of state, once enemies, now close friends in their diplomatic isolation, have something up their sleeve.

Since mid-December, college and university professors have been gradually returning to work in spite of opposition from some unions who had wanted classes to resume only subject to the draft agreement with the government being signed. The new scale provides a monthly salary of 3 million NZ ($195 US) for an average professor, and 600,000 NZ ($40 US) for an assistant. This is quite an improvement for individuals whose previous salary was less than $10 US a month. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether these salaries will be paid regularly. Probably not. Besides, the question of salaries for other levels of teachers still remains unresolved.

On December 26, the HCR-PT (High Council of the Republic-- Transitional Parliament) passed a law with respect to freedom of the press, 424 to 5, with 8 abstentions. This unanimity was surprising, given the uproar over Lambert Mende's fiercely criticised proposed amendment which would have obligated journalists to reveal their sources in the case of a court order. Similar wording was subsequently adopted: a journalist is not obligated to divulge his sources except where the law requires. This reworded amendment remains sufficiently vague. While protecting journalists and their sources in certain situations, it does not protect them from the so-called security services. Freedom of the press is therefore in jeopardy.

Late on the evening of December 31, the HCR-PT approved the State budget for 1996, totalling 11 billion NZ ($710 million US). The council members deemed it necessary to modify the Kengo government's budget of last November 3, by increasing receipts and expenditures and projecting a deficit of nearly $6 million US. Thus, the HCR-PT expects to obtain more than $212 million US from customs revenues, $186 million US from petroleum revenues, $51 million US from la Gecamines and $22 million US from la Miba. As for expenses, a large share is allotted to endowments, which includes; the presidential share ($47 million US), the share reserved for foreign debt ($31 million US) and monies put aside for the operation of the Commission nationale des elections ($73 million US). Optimistic council members based their projections on an inflation rate of 20%, even though inflation topped 461% in 1995. They saw fit to correct the exchange rate to 20,000 NZ to $1 US, while Kengo, for his part, had estimated the average rate of exchange to be 11,000 NZ. Unfortunately, by January 2, the exchange rate was already at 15,600 NZ, and by January 8, had reached 17,500 NZ.

Having tossed all these figures about, the council members undoubtedly felt that the coming year would begin in prosperity. This was not so for the thousands of civil servants who searched in vain to see if their months of back pay had been calculated into the budget, or whether their salary scales, already out of line with the actual cost of living, had been adjusted even slightly.

The Commission nationale des elections (CNE) was finally established as of January 1. Most of the 44 members (22 from lUSOR; 22 from the FPC) were sworn in before the HCR-PT, some changes having been made to the original list. Thus, there are now four representatives from Kengo's party as well as members from the Churches who find themselves on the committee; however, there is no representation from civil society. The CNE immediately began the tasks of organising itself internally, electing a board, and preparing a budget for 1996.

Dissatisfied with the make-up of the newly formed CNE, representatives from civil society met January 10 to establish a parallel National Electoral Commission charged with independently overseeing the preparation and handling of the elections. Among these groups are: the Conseil national des ONG de developpement (CNONGD); l'Association Zairoise des droits de l'homme (AZADHO); some unions; and the Comite national pour des elections maintenant (CONEMA), founded by Justice and Peace groups of the major Churches, among others.

About the Elections

In Kinshasa several weeks ago, in an Amos Group publication, Jose Mpundu and Thierry Mlandu published a sociopolitical essay entitled, elections au Zaire, chance ou danger pour la democratie?. At a time when elections have become an increasingly popular topic of discussion, it is interesting to explore the perspective of these two authors with a view to understanding the question as seen by the Amos Group.

The authors present three major arguments. The first argument stipulates that in the present climate, it would be dangerous to hold elections in Zaire. If Mobutu is elected, the country will see a return to dictatorship; if he is not, civil war will erupt. If the opposition loses, it will not accept the result of the polls, and will accuse Mobutu of having fixed the elections. In order to circumvent this foreseeable impasse, the public must be educated and have its awareness raised before anything can be done.

The second argument states that the Western Powers must not become involved in these elections, neither as observers nor as silent partners. Their involvement should be limited to helping Zairians recover assets plundered by officials of the regime and stockpiled in Western banks. These funds could then be used to finance election expenses.

The third argument consists of presenting a twelve step strategy for holding open and democratic elections under the auspices of Zaire's established Churches.

The proposal is coherent and appears well thought out. From that point of view, it should be seen as a major step in the psychological, technical and political processes leading the population into the upcoming elections, and as a starting point for discussion. However, it must be pointed out that the approach is somewhat limited. In fact, the authors tend to minimise the destructive potential of the present regime, and show their naivete in thinking that entrusting the handling of elections to the Churches and the communautes ecclesiales de base (CEB) would suffice in order to ensure that everything flows smoothly. This does not give enough weight to the influence of the Barons of the Regime and their past dealings with the hierarchy of these Churches.

Besides, the question of recovering plundered Zairian assets assumes that once identified, the thieves could be formally charged and convicted in an ordinary court of law. However, the only available judicial authorities are those adept in their dealings with the Western banks which continue to profit from these gains even today. Furthermore, these sorts of proceedings are generally drawn out and costly, and are received with little enthusiasm by financial institutions which are hardly interested in where the investments originated.

Having read the proposed strategies, it appears that their success is predicated on mobilising the population to replace the present administration with members of the CEB. This is undoubtedly a utopian project, but one which could ultimately prove fruitful. This could be just what Zaire sorely needs.

News from the World of Business

On January 13, the Belgian airline company Sabena issued a comment on an impending agreement with the Zairian government aimed at getting the situation at the bankrupt Air Zaire under control. Sabena, along with other partners including Swissair, are to invest $33 million US to acquire 49.5% of the company, which would then be known as New Air Zaire. In addition to running flights between Kinshasa and Europe, the new company would explore the possibility of breaking into the rapidly expanding domestic market, presently dominated by the wealthy of the regime. Sabena explained that this agreement is part of a larger plan by the Zairian government to transfer control of major national transport services to foreign interests. Last March under this plan, the Societe national des chemins de fer (SNCZ) became the Societe internationale zairoise du rail (SIZARAIL) operated under South African control

It is not only transportation which is passing quietly into the hands of foreign private enterprise. Last December 8, an agreement was signed between the Societe de developpement industriel et minier du Zaire (Sodimiza) and the Anglo-South African group, African Mining Corporation to study the profitability of exploiting mineral deposits at Musoshi, 120 kilometres from Lubumbashi. The aim is to increase copper production at Sodimiza from 2,400 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes a year. Earlier, in November, it was Kengo himself who announced the signing of another agreement between la Gecamines and l'Union miniere du Haut-Katanga, a subsidiary of la Societe generale de Belgique, targeted at the development of cobalt resources in discarded slag from installations at Kipushi in Shaba. The expected investment is on the order of $15 million US. This goes to show that the advice of international financial institutions like the World Bank, which have recommended that la Gecamines decrease expenditures to the utmost in order to increase profitability, is about to be followed, much to the delight of onlookers. Democracy and a just society do not seem necessary in the world of business.


Telling Plane Crashes

Two fatal plane crashes have made headlines around the world. On December 18, a Zairian plane crashed in Angola, killing 139 Angolans. It had been chartered by UNITA and had set down clandestinely in Angolan territory. On January 8, a cargo plane demolished Kinshasa's Simbazikita market, located at the end of the Ndolo airport runway, killing more than 350 people. It had not been able to take off, probably because it was overloaded. The African Air flight had not received authorised clearance; however, the owner of the company had borrowed authorisation papers from ScibeZaire, a company which belongs to Bemba Saolona, a close friend of Mobutu. This type of thing happens regularly at Ndolo airport, renowned for its clandestine comings and goings, where not much is made of air traffic regulations. Those responsible feel protected from on high. Mobutu attended the funeral at the Protestant Cathedral (du Centennaire) in Kinshasa, held for those who died January 10. The last time he had been there was in May of 1995, to receive an aid shipment for victims of the Ebola virus. Bemba Saolona also attended. Not surprisingly, someone was overheard to say, 'Those responsible for what has happened are inside the church. I hope they're sorry.'

Contributors to this issue: Fulgence Muteba, Roland Rivard, Aleli Mboka and Denis Tougas (translated into English by L. and J. Lazazzera - Toronto). English version distributed electronically by Inter-Church Coalition on Africa, 129 St. Clair Ave. W, Toronto, Ontario M4V 1N5 Canada, Phone: 416-927-2124, Fax: 416-927-7554, E-mail:

Info-Zaire is also available in French from Table de Concertation sur Les Droits Humains au Zaire, Entraide Missionnaire, 15 de Castelnau St. West, Montreal, Quebec H2R 2W3. Tel. (514) 270-6089; Fax (514) 270-6156 E-mail:

From Mon Feb 12 19:44 EST 1996 Message-Id: <> Date: Mon, 12 Feb 1996 19:32:14 -0500 Subject: Zaire: Info-Zaire #111 (excerpts)

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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