The Bastards We Know

They seemed to say it forever during the Mobutu years, how “we” couldn’t get behind, or really even offer any encouragement to any number of individuals (or processes) that reared themselves up as alternatives to the rule of the Guide.
The Guide, you see, was safe and predictable, and everything and everyone else seemed like such a risk.
Even the Guide’s time eventually ran out, but did this get us to change our approach?
Not really, we just substituted a few names while sticking to the same formula.
An armed takeover of Zaire (the once and future Congo) was better than all other known alternatives such as, namely, any idea of democratic transition, some of the groundwork for which had already been laid.
Congo is too chaotic and the Congolese far too boisterous and querulous. Better to accept the “solution” of our friends, their orderly and reliable neighbors, Rwanda and Uganda. They’ll put the country to rights.
Have we already forgotten how well that went?
Today, we see all manner of ahistorical pseudo analysis as ready to accept a sort of corrupt insider’s conventional wisdom as the babbling heads who make the political horserace odds on our Sunday news shows back home.
The authors privilege the antipathies toward Congo’s main opposition leader, which are mouthed with neither courage nor accountability behind the veil of anonymity by Western embassies.
“We can’t really get behind Etienne Tshisekedi because ‘we’ dont like him very much.” The whys are never much explained. One notable recent piece called Tshisekedi angry, without bothering to explore what he might be angry about. Furthermore, after casting its aspersions, it broke the normal rules of our journalism by not bothering to include a quote from someone in the camp just criticized.
I know better than many first hand how frustrating it can be to deal with Congo’s politicians, none less so than Tshisekedi himself, but what is the real argument here?
Is there an argument that Joseph Kabila has delivered anything worth clinging so desperately to during his years of power? Does he offer a greater prospect for development or for rule of law? We’re speaking of a man who has mustered soldiers in the capital to enforce a favorable outcome, after having proven incapable for years of mustering soldiers for national security and territorial integrity.
One would like to hear it.
Is there an argument that the chancelleries of the West should have veto power here because they are comfortable, as always, with a bastard they know? Let’s hear it.
Is it that pushing for the closest thing possible to a genuinely democratic outcome in Congo isn’t worth the trouble, or wasn’t really the point from the start?
The ambivalence, not so much toward Tshisekedi, but toward the process itself is certainly glaring.
There are no easy outcomes in Congo, which has been diddled with as long and as tragically as any place in Africa. But a good starting point might be to insist on the respect of the ballot, of accounting for votes locally, circumscription by circumscription, by being good to “our” word that democracy in such places is important, and by embracing the true outcome, wherever the chips may fall.
Certainly nothing else “we” have tried has worked very well.

The indispensable (on Twitter) @jasonkstearns is the closest foreign observer of today’s #DRC. The post linked here gives insufficient weight, though, to basic questions about integrity of process, w/o which back of envelope calculations are pretty meaningless:

One thought on “The Bastards We Know”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *