Southern African News Features                                           
Keynote address by H.E President Joseph Kabange Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Dag Hammarskjold Commemorative Seminar at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe on Tuesday, 3 November 2009.

MR CHANCELLOR, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Africa University, Bishop David Yumba, Mr. Vice Chancellor, Professor Fanuel Tagwira, your Excellencies, Ambassadors and representatives of International Organisations, distinguished Professors and members of the academic community, ladies and gentlemen, dear students.

I wish to thank Africa University for inviting me to deliver this keynote address on "the State of the Congolese nation following the Peace Negotiations".

I am also thankful for the high interest this academic institution is demonstrating towards my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that epitomises both the tribulations of and the hopes of our continent a country whose history is a sounding and rallying call against despair, no matter the odds.

Indeed, the theme of your 2009 Dag Hammarskjold Commemorative Seminar is "The DRC - The Road to conflict Transformation and National Reconstruction".

In order to appreciate where we stand today, allow me to briefly take you through the political history of the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last forty-nine years. Congo attained its independence on June 30, 1960, winning a courageous political struggle waged under the leadership of some of her best sons and daughters, the eminent, and most promising among them being our beloved National Hero, the late Patrice Emery Lumumba.

His commitment to the genuine political and economic liberation of Africa in general, and the Congo in particular, was a source of inspiration for freedom fighters worldwide, but a cause for concern among the forces of darkness.

He was perceived by the latter as a major threat to their rule. He had to die if they were to continue enjoying their dominant status, and the ensuing privileges. Patrice Emery Lumumba was thus brutally assassinated on January, 16, 1961, crushing nascent Congo self-determination drive.

The people of Congo, led by some nationalists like Pierre Mulele, Antoine Gizenga, and Laurent Desire Kabila, decided not to give in, and organised the liberation struggle to salvage the country.

Unfortunately, this took place at the peak of the cold war, and their efforts got strangled in the East-West rivalries. They could not succeed at the outset.

It is in this context that a military coup was orchestrated in 1965 by General Joseph Desire Mobutu, replacing all elected officials with a clique of generals and colonels, and leading to 32 years of autocratic rule and mismanagement. As the saying goes, however long the night is, the sun will always rise.

In 1997, the tireless efforts of the Congolese people and nationalists finally got rewarded. Mobutu was defeated by Laurent Desire Kabila; an end brought to the predatory regime he personified, and what was meant to be a new era of freedom and democracy opened for the people of Congo. But, this was without counting the enemies of peace and stability in the Great Lakes region.

As if history was repeating itself, no time was given to the new revolutionary regime to organise, and put people back to work.

Just a year later, the Democratic Republic of Congo was dragged into a long and protracted war of aggression by her eastern neighbours.

This war lasted no less than five years, and claimed directly or indirectly, millions of innocent Congolese lives.

It will be recalled as the costliest war in human loss after the Second World War, and for having almost succeeded in redrawing Congo’s border lines.

Not a man to ever give in on questions of the country’s sovereignty, and territorial integrity, Laurent Desire Kabila organised popular resistance, and rallied friendly countries around the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He eventually managed to save the country.

He however, could not save his life, and was assassinated on January, 17, 2001 by the same evil forces that were behind the assassination of Patrice Emery Lumumba.

During these dark days, the Democratic Republic of Congo received heroic support from the governments and people of the SADC region, especially those of Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, with the latter playing the leading role.

I wish to seize this opportunity and, once again, pay tribute to these sister countries. As a nation, we will never forget the blood shed by their gallant sons and daughters to help us preserve our independence, territorial integrity, and national sovereignty.

Irreplaceable as it were, the might of the Congolese soldiers and the SADC allies cannot solely account for the rebirth of the DRC as a State and a nation.

Political dialogue, entailing compromise and give and take had to be brought to bear in order to defuse misunderstandings, build confidence, mend the social fabric, and induce reconciliation.

When in 2001, I ascended to the Presidency, the country was divided in as many self-administered parts as there were warring factions, de facto transforming the Democratic Republic of Congo in as many autonomous territories.

Although recognised worldwide as the Head of State, and in effective control of nine provinces out of eleven, including the capital, this situation was intolerable to me as a nationalist and the Congolese people at large.

We could not stand the idea of a divided Congo, let alone the perspective of even an inch of Congo being under foreign rule.

We chose to give peace and the unity of the country a chance through negotiations on the internal front, clearing the way for peace talks between Congolese in Sun City, South Africa.

Equally, we directly engaged the aggressor countries and the forces behind them on the diplomatic front.

As a result, foreign troops pulled out, and a Global Inclusive Agreement was signed in 2002 between the government representatives, all Congolese belligerent groups, civil society, and non-armed political groupings.

Thanks to an unprecedented power sharing formula a President, and four vice presidents, this Agreement helped put an end to the war, and extended state authority to the entire country.

It re-allowed the free movement of people and goods, and paved the way, four years later, for the first free and fair elections in the country’s history.

Not to tire, the dark forces took us to task again, trying our resolve in preserving the gains of the electoral process.

Late in 2008, fighting broke out again in North and South Kivu Provinces.

But, once more, dialogue, diplomatic engagement, and political settlement have been our preferred options.

And through them, unfailingly, peace is progressively being restored to these provinces.

It takes a bullet to start a war. But it takes time to effectively end it, and mend wounds.

Similarly, the seeds of dialogue and political engagement are usually slow to blossom, but growing them is by far more cost effective than carrying out military action which, in my opinion, should always be the very last option.

Dialogue and political engagement call for just as much, if not more sacrifices, but the dividends they produce are longer lasting than those of the latter.

Indeed, accepting to share power with adversaries, or granting amnesty to rebels is seldom an easy decision. It can be politically painful, and even dangerous.

It takes vision, wisdom, and above all courage.

Looking back, we do not regret having ridden that at times bumpy road.

It led us where we stand today. Strong and tall again, as it was meant to be.

Congo is back from the doom years of autocratic rule and institutional human rights abuses, back from decades of economic recession, social destitution, and moral depravation; back and in the fighting mood for its development, and the development of the region and the continent.

My vision for the future stems from the creed enshrined in our national anthem: "We shall build a country better than ever before"!

To achieve this objective, and resolve the contradiction of an exceptionally endowed country on one hand, and an extremely poor population on the other, we need to further consolidate peace, security, stability, and democracy.

We need to maintain national unity, cultivate patriotism, brotherhood and solidarity.

We need an efficient State, a vibrant private sector, and well-educated, physically fit and work dedicated human resources.

We need also, and are open to mutually beneficial partnerships with all countries across the globe.

We are prepared to creatively use our natural resources in order to mobilise the capital and technology we need for our development.

We intend to capitalise our endowment in rain fed forest and hydro generated energy to help Africa and the world meet the growing need for environmentally sound development strategies.

These are the challenges we face today, and the two-prong good governance five-pillar programme is our response.

We seek political, economic, and social good governance through institutional reforms in the security sector, i.e. the military, the police force, and the judicial system; in public service delivery, and in the business environment.

We are working tirelessly to develop infrastructures in all sectors, transport, telecommunications, energy, mining, agriculture, health and education.

Roads, schools and hospitals, water and electricity, housing and employment are the visible benchmarks by which we have decided to measure the success or failure of our strategy.

So far, so good!

We have embarked on the most ambitious reconstruction programme ever, aimed at building highways between major cities, and transforming old dirt roads into modern, tarmac ones.

On the institutional front, in order to consolidate the democratic gains, following the successful organisation of elections in 2006, we are determined to hold local elections before the next general elections.

This should empower the Congolese people and give them a say on the policies and the management of public affairs at the grass root level.

All in all, as we speak, the state of the Congolese nation is better than it was a few years back, and it is improving by the day.

Yet, the road to prosperity is still long, and the odds are many; climate change, global food crisis, world economic meltdown, the debt burden, etc.

Nevertheless, the confidence in our collective capacity to get there is proportionally strong.

We believe it can be done. We are convinced it will, and for us, failure is not an option.

May the experience of the Democratic Republic of Congo and her re-birth, thanks to resistance, dialogue, reconciliation, democratic rule, and hard work inspire all the countries of our region and beyond for a better future.

And may God bless each and every one of us.

I thank you.

Source: The Herald

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