3 Cs: Corruption, COVID-19, Conflict… Only the Tip of the Iceberg in the D.R. Congo

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 15 Jun 2020

Raïs Neza Boneza – TRANSCEND Media Service

13 Jun 2020 – Two years ago, remembering the elections followed by concocted shadowy deals, the D.R. Congo celebrated a soundly first-time peaceful transfer of power in its 40 years of independence.

Immediately after being proclaimed the new head of state; President Felix Tshisekedi took a stylish Jules Vernes like “Around the World in Eighty Days” tour characterized by unaccounted spending spree as far as depleting the annually budget allocated to the president office. Hundred of advisers, delegates, family members escorted him wherever he visited while trying to buy or sell his legitimacy to the western governments living a trail of scandals and impropriety along the way.

To calm the discontent of the population back home who did not understand the cost spending of millions of dollars for unnecessary travels instead of addressing the pressing social needs of the people as promised in his election campaign; the official reason was to brings the billion dollars of investment needed to develop the country.

Almost a year and half later, his powerful chief of staff and political ally is accused of stealing more than $57 million, something months back the president dismissed the scandal by calling it a mere “retro-commission” issue therefore indirectly sanctioning corruption in his own backyard.

The 100 Days trial in brief

Following the systemic corruption scandals, and fund disappearances allocated to the 100 days emergency program initiated by President Felix Tshisekedi; the populations infuriated and sporadically took to the street in protest against continuous poverty, insecurity, and corruption going so far as to question his legitimacy.

On Wednesday 8 April, his powerful chief of staff Mr. Vital Kamerhe is incarcerated. According to witnesses and parties implicated, In January 2019, Felix Tshisekedi becomes president and Vital Kamerhe chief of staff. Mr. Samih Jammal, an obscure businessman of Lebanese origin contact Mr. Vital K  offers him two plots of lands to get access to a juicy market for prefabricated houses (for a social housing project).

Mr. Vital K choose Mr. Jammal for the 1,500 houses of the President Tshisekedi’s 100 days emergency program. Nor ministers or any of the staff of the president office are involved in the deal. Alone, he set the price to $ 57 million for the 1,500 houses. He draws up the disbursement plan in accelerated mode and insists to the Minister of Finance that the 1500 houses project is of high priority and that Mr. Jammal should be paid the entire invoice quickly.

It is only after having obtained the payment of the 57 million USD that Mr. Vital K will create a committee to follow up the 100 days emergency Program. The committee created includes some ministers and advisers of the president office who will be presented with a «fait accompli» deal instead of being part an open concerted management and decision-making process.

While the 1,500 houses project remains almost a taboo-like file, never dealt or discussed with the monitoring committee. Only two presidential experts who happened to be his brother Mr. Justin Kamerhe and his cousin Mr. Badara were charged by Mr.Vital K to secretly negotiate with Mr. Jammal. The other members of the monitoring committee were compartmentalized and maliciously excluded from the pre-fabricated houses project.

Once the 57 millions is paid to Mr. Jammal, instead of being transferred to the official bank account of the Emergency program at Ecobank as planned, a new Jammal bank account is opened at another Bank (Raw Bank) to house these funds.

These funds are immediately withdrawn and transferred to an unknown destination. In its license to import 1,500 prefabricated houses, Mr. Jammal indicated that this import cost only $ 12 million and he sent 7 million to the supplier to turkey. The remaining 50 million took an unknown destination. The bank was able to trace 5 million fraudulently sent to Lebanon.

As we are writing this report Mr. Jammal’s bank account is empty and one wonders with what he will continue the construction of the houses. For more than a year the whole 57 million Dollars have been paid Jammal has installed only 211 houses, without tiles, out of the 1500 requested and over-priced.

Meanwhile the life style of the powerful chief of staff and his entourage exploded and was exhibited on social media exposing the lavish lifestyle and spending with no decency to an impoverished people to see.

What follows for the rest of people?

Meanwhile the population is living in the covid-19 modus, where the rich have barricaded themselves while confining and restraining the right for the poor to live, and feed themselves. While the majority of the people are willing to follow the consigns of self-distancing and obligatory noise-masks wearing; but how would they be able to cope while they lack space, they can’t afford to buy noise-masks, soap or access to clean water?

What to do while one has to choose either going out at the risk to meet death by the virus or to stay home with the certainty to starve to death?

Ironically on the eve of the pandemic in Congo, many of the COVID-19 cases appeared from those well-off, those working at the governmental level, in the very hall of the president offices, the parliament, the VIPs, those doing murky transactions on the neck of the have-not of the very republic, those who can afford to travel overseas…misfortunately affecting in turn their extended families.

The world health organization is allocating millions of dollars to the government to combat the virus, as well as European governments but these well intended actions in disguised increase more risk of corruptions. Many do not believe the state account of the victims affected by the Coronavirus in after videos and documents surfaced of agents paying people to register their diceased as Coronavirus victims in return of a compensation fee and free burial. What to dismiss in a country where many cannot afford anymore to give a dignify farewell to their beloved one?

On the other hand, the Nobel peace laureate Dr Mukwege resigned from the presidency health commission response against the Coronavirus in South Kivu

Connecting the dots…

While around the world, we have witnessed the enthusiastic solidarity of nations such as Cuba sending hundred of doctors to help save people in several countries during this trial times. However, suspiciously at the expenses of the European Union on the 8th of June three planes took off from Brussels, for the Democratic Republic of the Congo landing in Kinshasa. On board, 370 passengers: politicians, diplomats and humanitarian workers, as well as equipments.

Among the passengers: Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Philippe Goffin, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defense, and Jean-Yves le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Already last month, three other planes had taken off from Lyon, France, also chartered by the European Union, but this time bound for the Central African Republic.

A double mission qualified as an “airlift” by the European Union, to support humanitarian work burdened by the coronavirus.”

What does it mean? Why are the local populations not informed? Were these high-level visitors invited?

Is not the same European Union who failed drastically to show solidarity among themselves; leaving Italy to suffer alone at the pillory of the unforgiven virus of death. Those same nations who do not cease to predict a future of doom and calamity for the African continent? What is behind this sudden sympathy?

The habit of showing up uninvited on African sceneries in complicity of local rulers playing vassal role tend to create suspicious apprehensions; that where the authorities have always failed to create a trust with their populations. Everything unclear for to the people sounds like corruption.

Here, COVID-19 is not just a health crisis; it’s a political and social crisis. That is why the government sometime erased from the daily reality of its own people should not have the monopoly in fighting this pandemic; it required the mobilization of the whole layer of the society from bottom up.

Meanwhile, the tom-tom of war is far from being silenced, in the Ituri region (North-east Congo) people are massacred every day in silence, in the Kivu region militias, and foreign armies roaming are spreading terror. About 1,300 civilians have been killed in conflicts in the region, while over half a million people have been displaced by violence alone for the last two months

People are living as refugees in their own country. The choice everyday is either to go or to stay; in both cases, you face death and neglect.  But in the very Democratic Republic of the Congo this is only the tip of the iceberg.

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Raïs Neza Boneza is the author of fiction as well as non-fiction, poetry books and articles. He was born in the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Former Zaïre). He is also an activist and peace practitioner. Raïs is convener of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment for Central and African Great Lakes and uses his work to promote artistic expressions as a means to deal with conflicts and maintaining mental wellbeing, spiritual growth and healing.  He has travelled extensively in Africa and around the world as a lecturer, educator and consultant for various NGOs and institutions. His work is premised on art, healing, solidarity, peace, conflict transformation and human dignity issues. Raïs work also as freelance journalist based in Trondheim, Norway. You can reach him at rais.boneza@gmail.com. http://www.raisnezaboneza.no


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Jun 2020.

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