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Potemkin Democracy On the Congo

The results of Congo’s recent elections are in: President Joseph Kabila’s party is getting billions of dollars in foreign aid from western governments who for reasons best known to the development wizards and human rights lobby required an electoral farce as the price of continued support.

Those are the numbers that mattered to Kabila, and those are the numbers he got.

As for the votes, despite widespread fraud, Kabila’s parliamentary majority shrank. Most observers think this confirms what they already knew — that President Kabila doesn’t have a lot of political support.  The demonstration of this has dinged his prestige, but he and his supporters are no doubt consoling themselves by rolling around in the billions of dollars of aid now resting briefly in Congo before making its traditional flight to numbered accounts in Swiss banks.  That money, plus the attentive ministrations of armed thugs, is likely to keep even the Congolese parliament, renowned as it is for the courage, professionalism and independence of its deputies, quiet as Kabila and company go on as before.

Pushing the country through those recent elections, however fraudulent and however meaningless, has won the Kabila regime billions of dollars in aid and development investment from international donors. To be specific:

donor financing amounts to $2.6 billion, almost half of Congo’s 2010 budget, and that doesn’t include the nearly $830 million the United Nations is requesting of donors for emergency humanitarian assistance and projects to prop up the failing—or non-existent—education and health care systems. Western governments, with the United States taking the lead, also pay nearly $1.4 billion annually for Congo’s  U.N. peacekeeping mission—the world’s largest.

Like his leopard skin hat-wearing predecessor, Mobutu Sese Seko, Joseph Kabila is well known for ruthlessly suppressing political dissent. Hundreds now languish in Congolese prisons on trumped-up political charges. Floribert Chebeya, the country’s most respected defender of human rights and investigator of government crimes, was found dead in June last year.

Real dollars for a pseudo-democratic electoral charade: that doesn’t seem like a great bargain unless you work full time in the development world, where arrangements like this are par for the course.

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  • Anthony

    WRM, are we intimating dollars for NGO opportunities corrosive and destructive governance no article of distinction?

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