July 25, 2021

“The bill on Congolity will divide the Congolese”

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The People's Palace, bringing together the National Assembly and the Senate, in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, in September 2013.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a bill seeks to prohibit access to the supreme magistracy and other sovereign functions to anyone born to a non-Congolese parent. The text initiated by Noël Tshiani, presidential candidate in 2018, was tabled at the office of the National Assembly on July 8 by the deputy Nsingi Pululu.

The law on “congolity” worries part of civil society, some deputies, but also the head of the United Nations Mission in the DRC (Monusco), Bintou Keïta, who recently warned the Security Council of the ‘UN “Potentially dangerous consequences” of a debate on nationality.

Read also In the DRC, a controversial bill on the nationality of presidential candidates

Critics of the Tshiani law fear that it will be used to eliminate certain candidates such as Moïse Katumbi from the political game and that the country, already weakened by conflicts, will fall into a xenophobic drift, as was the case in Côte d ‘ Ivory where the concept of “ivoirité” had contributed to tip the country into a civil war between 2002 and 2011.

Decryption with Jean-Claude Mputu, Congolese political scientist attached to the Africa-Caribbean political support unit (Capac) and spokesperson for the anti-corruption collective The Congo is not for sale, hostile to the law.

Why do you believe that the Tshiani bill violates the Congolese Constitution?

Jean-Claude Mputu This bill will create a division between the Congolese who will be born to a Congolese father and mother and the others. It is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Indeed, this one, in its letter and its spirit, insists on the equality between all the Congolese and prohibits any form of discrimination between them.

Mr. Tshiani sows discord and tries to revive the demons of our country’s past. Will all these Congolese who were born to a foreign parent still feel Congolese tomorrow if this law is passed?

Noël Tshiani justifies this law by the need to “safeguard national sovereignty” …

Since independence sixty years ago, those who have ruled the DRC – from Kasavubu, the country’s first president, to Mobutu or Laurent-Désiré Kabila – have all been born to Congolese fathers and mothers. But did they protect the sovereignty of the country? The current state of the DRC proves that it is not. It is therefore a false debate. Being born to Congolese parents is no guarantee of patriotism. This law is based on populist arguments.

Noël Tshiani declared: “We have been the victims of several infiltrations at the top of the state for twenty years. ” What is he talking about ?

It is clearly targeting Rwanda. This country played an active role in the two Congo wars (1996-1997 and 1998-2002), supporting rebels and armed groups in eastern DRC. A Rwandan, James Kabarebe, had even been appointed chief of staff within the regime of Laurent-Désiré Kabila which had brought down Mobutu. Kabarebe then became Minister of Defense of Rwanda, from 2010 to 2018. These two wars during which massacres, rapes and looting of resources were perpetrated traumatized the Congolese.

Read also “If you cut off heads in the name of Allah, you will be rewarded”: in the DRC, in ADF hell

The other consequence is that the Rwandophone Congolese populations have since been suspected of being disloyal to the DRC. Faced with a government that fails to bring peace and prevent killings, the fear of a history repeating itself is still remembered. Noël Tshiani plays on this fear by insinuating that his law will protect the Congolese. It is unacceptable to use the suffering of the Congolese for political ends!

In addition to wanting to exclude populations assimilated as Rwandans, this bill also makes it possible to eliminate certain candidates for the presidential election of 2023. I am thinking of Moïse Katumbi, former governor of the rich province of Katanga, already prevented from running for office. presidential election of 2018 and who was born to a Congolese mother and a Greek Jewish father.

Read also DRC: President Félix Tshisekedi now in a position of strength

Let us not forget that the President of the Republic is elected by 80 million Congolese. So let’s give them the freedom to choose the person they want rather than eliminating opponents in advance.

In a report published in March, the UN warned of an increase in hate speech targeting certain communities. The UN envoy to the DRC, Bintou Keïta, expressed concern again on July 7 before the Security Council. Does the Tshiani law proposal fit into this climate?

Absolutely, this text is the expression of it. Today, in the DRC, hate speech tends to be expressed openly. Politicians no longer hide to say aloud what was previously said quietly. This hatred targets those who speak Swahili, the Luba, people from the east …

Noel Tshiani comes dangerously to “dress” this latent hatred with a law. Let us be careful, we risk losing the strength of the Congo, which saved it from balkanization: its national unity.

Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya, however, refuted the term “congolité”. How do you interpret the position of the Congolese authorities?

I am surprised that, rather than calling for not using the term “congolity”, the government spokesperson did not condemn this unjust bill. He was content to send back to back supporters and opponents! Moreover, when President Félix Tshisekedi affirms for any answer that he does not feel concerned by this law, this raises questions because it will continue to fracture the society he claims to want to pacify.

Moïse Katumbi, who participates in the current ruling coalition, threatens to leave it. Other deputies have also castigated the bill. Does she have a chance to be voted?

Yes, because the Tshiani law has eminently political foundations. The majority in power has ample means to pass it. Part of the population can also support it. The average Congolese say to himself: ” This law will protect us from Rwandans. They can never be president. “

Let us not forget that during his entire reign, former President Joseph Kabila (2001-2019) was accused of not being Congolese, but Rwandan. That he would therefore not have been a patriot, which would explain his poor governance. Added to this are the words of Rwandan President Paul Kagame who recently denied the existence of crimes committed by Rwandans against Congolese in the east after the 1994 genocide.

This period of history left deep traces that populists instrumentalize with this law. Today, the DRC needs each of its children to begin a process of reconstruction and reconciliation with our history and our values.