with President Joseph Kabila
IRIN - 30 march 2001
Joseph Kabila was sworn in on 26 January this year after the assassination
of his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, on 16 January. Since taking
office he has promised cooperation with the UN Mission in the
DRC (MONUC) and free movement of humanitarian agencies, and given
approval for Sir Ketumile Masire to move ahead with organising
the inter-Congolese dialogue on a new political dispensation for
These signs of goodwill on the part of the new president, coupled
with continuing military disengagement, has brought about what
the head of MONUC, Kamel Morjane, on Tuesday called "the
most serious chance for peace". President Kabila spoke to
IRIN in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, last week about the issues
he faces, the security concerns of neighbouring countries and
the prospects for peace in the Congo.
President Kabila, your first official state visit took in the
USA and Europe. You have obviously prioritised bringing the DRC
out of the isolation in which it has been locked in these last
years. To change its image and restore foreign aid, are these
the principal problems you're tackling as leader?
ANSWER: Foreign Aid? No. The number one problem of Congo today
is to bring peace to the nation. Everyone is working towards this
here in the area of the Great Lakes. The objective of my trip
was to explain to the international community the stakes involved
in the current conflict, the war and aggression of which the Congolese
people are victims. It is in this light that I made my trips.
Q: In accordance with the Lusaka agreement, the belligerents in
DRC have begun from 15 March to withdraw their troops 15 km from
the front lines. Are you satisfied that this process is working
A: I believe that things are progressing well on all fronts on
which we have information, yes. There are positive developments,
and I'm under the impression that it will continue, because it
seems that everyone is now seeking peace. I cannot, however, say
that I am satisfied 100 percent because the country is still under
occupation: the Ugandan, Rwandan and Burundian forces, who are
still present, shouldn't be there any more. But it's the beginning
of the end, so I'm optimistic.
Q: Your enemies say that your allies, the Zimbabwean, Angolan
and Namibian troops who are supporting you, have made no clear
moves to withdraw. When will they be leaving the DRC?
A: The Zimbabweans, Angolans and Namibians were brought into the
country on request following the invasion of our country. When
this invasion comes to an end, when the enemy's military forces
withdraw, the Zimbabweans, Namibians and the rest will return
to their countries.
Q: The authorities in Kigali and Bujumbura say that they entered
your country as a security measure, to protect their borders and
also to protect themselves from the Interhamwe responsible for
the 1994 genocide, and Burundian Hutu rebel groups. What security
guarantees can you offer your neighbours that these groups will
not be tolerated on DRC territory?
A: Congo did not create these security problems, in Rwanda and
Burundi. The security problems that exist in those countries are
the internal problems of those respective countries. The international
community has a vital role to play - that of reassuring both the
Rwandans and the people of Burundi. They must make them understand
that it is not by occupying the Congo that they'll be able to
resolve their own problems. Solutions to their problems must be
found in their own countries. Even if we could try to cooperate
with the invaders as a way of finding a solution, the Interhamwe
problem isn't a Congolese one.
Q: You have generated enormous expectation by promising to revive
the inter-Congolese dialogue. Opposition parties are concerned
that no concrete measures have yet been taken in this regard.
They want you to abolish the decree outlawing the activities of
political parties. Why hasn't anything been done so far?
A: In every country, there are laws. No one is above the law.
Political parties here, as well as in Europe, must be controlled
- if you permit me to use the word control. We are in the process
of studying in which context these political parties could resume
their activities. We have about 150 political parties. I do not
think that one should get into irrelevant discussions at this
Q: What time-frame do you envisage for the inter-Congolese dialogue?
Have you an idea of dates?
A: It's Ketumile Masire [former Botswana President and inter-Congolese
dialogue facilitator] who has the cards in his hands. He is taking
his time, of course, to consult everyone so that we can go as
fast as possible towards this dialogue. But his calendar or agenda,
I do not know it. We are awaiting the conclusions of the facilitator.
Q: After you came to power, you made a commitment to liberalise
the Congolese diamond market. Where do you now stand on this issue?
A: The government is working hard on this subject of the liberalisation
of the country's diamond market. There is a company called IDI
Diamonds with which the government is currently negotiating. [The
DRC government of the late President Laurent-Desire Kabila appointed
Israel-based IDI Diamonds as the sole purchaser of all its uncut
diamonds in July 2000, in a deal estimated to be worth US $600
- $700 million annually.]
We're trying to reach an agreement with them on how to free up
the market, on which they have a monopoly. That will take us at
least two to four weeks, then hopefully we'll have the result.
It is in the interest of the country. We must fight against contraband
and smuggling, and attract the investment that we need - but especially
so because the riches of Congo should be there for the Congolese
people and not only for one or two people, or one or two companies.
Q: In your short time as president you have given clear signs
that you want change in your country. You also seem not to endorse
the "cult of the leader". It was reported that you were
unhappy with a recent demonstration in Kinshasa in support of
your policies. What message are you sending to your people?
A: I cannot say that I was displeased with that demonstration,
but the Congolese people must judge me on what I do, not on what
I say or the speeches that I will make. The Congolese have had
far too many speeches these last 40 years. What is more important
is what are we going to do and build. At the moment the social
conditions here are catastrophic. The humanitarian situation is
also catastrophic. It's these issues that require our attention
Q: Your leadership style is extremely different from that of your
father. How would you judge his term in office?
A: I do not believe that it is very different. It is not for me
to judge the governance of my father.
Q: What's the status of the investigation into his assassination?
A: The investigation continues. We will have the report within
a week or so, and we will then share it with the Congolese people.
Q: Is there a leader or form of governance that you admire or
you identify yourself with?
A: As for leaders, it would be Patrice Lumumba and my late father,
Laurent-Desire Kabila, of Congo. But what is there in Africa?
Total misery. No, there's not really any model.
Q: General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who seized power in Nigeria [in
June 199], made a fairly dignified withdrawal from power so as
to allow the democratic process to flourish. What are your plans?
A: The Congolese people will decide my fate, not I. I would like
to see Congo united. I would like to have it invaded no more.
For the moment, that is my objective. We have lost nearly two
million Congolese in this war. One cannot accept such things any
more. The international community must insist on the withdrawal
of all these foreign military forces.
Q: You were thrust into the international limelight after your
father's assassination. How would you define yourself - as a politician,
a soldier or a democrat?
A: As a Congolese citizen.