My part-time unpaid work is observing, thinking about and reflecting deeply, objectively and soberly on things I see and read about in life.
Last week, I read news that got me intrigued. The stories I read were about a visit by a Very Important Person (VIP) to Uganda from our giant neighbour to the west, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The VIP is named Felix Tshilombo Tshisekedi and was on a three-day state visit to talk trade with his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni. He came with a big delegation, and much of the talking was done at Speke Resort Munyonyo, where all significant things business usually happen.
On paper, the DRC is a fabulously rich country. American journalist Jeffrey Gettleman, who works for The New York Times and has previously covered the DRC extensively, reporting on anything from rebel armies to rape victims, says it is estimated to possess $24 trillion of mineral resources. That is 10 times more than the GDP of all African countries combined.
Many African countries have had more than a fair share of bad politics, but they have not been as unlucky as the DRC, which appears to be in a league of its own. And it has been a pitiable victim for decades, its people reduced to being their own leaders because the leadership (read: the government) in Kinshasa, the capital, has never been able to effectively govern the entire country, which— with 2.34 million sq km (905,354 sq miles)—is nine times the size Uganda (93,072 sq miles).
Mr Tshisekedi’s visit to Uganda, the second since he assumed power, piqued my interest because of the way he came to power. The presidential election attracted many candidates, as nearly all African elections do, including Emanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister whom former president Joseph Kabila wanted to be his successor.
But Mr Shadary did not win the election and Mr Tshisekedi did not either. Foreign Policy, a US news magazine covering international affairs, said many in the DRC believe Mr Tshisekedi cut a corrupt deal with Mr Kabila to gain power, which should have gone to Martin Fayulu, the man widely believed to have won the election.
The really sad thing is that nearly everyone who matters—think SADC, the African Union and the European Union—knows Mr Tshisekedi did not win the election but became president anyway.
“Independent groups in Congo had detected widespread fraud in the vote, so US officials agreed to condemn the process as rigged and vowed to hold those involved responsible,” Foreign Policy wrote.
“But the statement that came out of the US State Department on January 23 caught some of the policymakers who worked on the region by surprise. Instead of condemning the election as ‘deeply flawed and troubling,’ following the language of the original draft, the United States endorsed the results—with minor caveats—and offered praise for the election.”
That, sadly and regrettably, is how politics works. In politics, you can lie and get away with lies. You can pretend and pretend that you are not pretending. Unacceptable conduct in our day-to-day dealings with people is absolutely acceptable in politics.
In the employment world, for example, you would have a hard time keeping your job if your employers—even if they are the most dreadful liars imaginable—got to know that you lied about your academic qualifications or where you have been previously employed.
Background checks about candidates are conducted; recruiters and hiring managers will speak to your former supervisors to know the kind of employee you are, and whether everything you are saying is true. Lies are a deal-breaker.
Yet politicians get away with murder. When they contest elections, they are seeking jobs from voters. They should be held to the same standards as ordinary employees. There are no compelling reasons why lies, deception, duplicity and sophistry have to be accepted in politics, but they seem to be an integral part of politics.
The Congolese can’t trust a man who accepts election results he knows belong to someone else, but they do not have many options. What can stop Tshisekedi from looting his country, something Mr Kabila, a former taxi driver who ruled the country for 18 years, has been accused of?