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Commémoration du 35ème anniversaire de la mort de Pierre Mulele

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with President Joseph Kabila

By IRIN - 30 march 2001

President 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 the country.
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.

QUESTION: 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 out?
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 stage.
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 and resources.
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.