On December 30, 2018, 46 million citizens cast their votes in a historic election in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There hasn’t been a peaceful transition of power in this country since the end of Belgian rule in 1960. If this election produces a result that’s widely viewed as credible, it will cement a new era of representative government in Africa.
The deferral of representative government in the DRC has a long history. After the Berlin Conference (1884-85), Belgium acquired the Congo as a colonial territory and, from Léopold II to King Baudoin I, Belgian administrators oversaw one of the most brutal regimes on the continent. In 1960, Patrice Lumumba became the first prime minister, sharing power with Joseph Kasa-Vubu as president. A confluence of internal and external factors unleashed a crisis that led to Lumumba’s assassination in 1961 and Mobutu Sese Seko’s rise to power in 1965. With the support of Western nations, Mobutu presided over the looting of his country’s natural wealth as one of the most tenacious gatekeeping dictators of the 20th century. He clung to power for more than 30 years.
In 1997, Laurent-Désiré Kabila took over as president in the midst of conflict that spilled over from the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Assassinated by his bodyguard in 2001, Kabila was succeeded by his son Joseph who has been in office ever since. Violent protests followed rigged elections in 2006 and 2011.
The quiet work of pro-democracy activism has been ongoing in the Congo since 2012 and the process of cultivating a demanding citizenry is visibly yielding results. A recent example was when 21 civic organisations mobilised, vowing to use non-violent protest to defend the outcome of the election.
There can be little doubt that a paradigm shift of historic importance is underway.
Widespread irregularities have been documented in the recent election despite the presence of 40,000 observers. Nonetheless, preliminary reports by the powerful Catholic church with direct knowledge of the process, claim that one presidential candidate has clearly won. Diplomatic sources identify the winner as Martin Fayulu.
Once results started to come in on December 31, confirming Fayulu’s overwhelming victory, the government shut down the Internet, Radio France Internationale’s FM broadcasting signal, and cell phone service across the country. Many believe Kabila’s attempt to fix the election in favour of his handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, didn’t work. They interpret the information blackout as stalling and censorship, rather than a means of avoiding false news as alleged.
As the world waits amid growing international pressure for the national electoral commission to make official the results, it’s already possible to see that significant change has come to the Congo.
Massive voter turnout under very difficult circumstances is compelling evidence of the people’s commitment to a democratic transition, even though the process was far from perfect.
Wave of progressive political change
Recent civic engagement in the DRC has emerged as part of a pan-African trend. In 2012, students in Goma founded La LUCHA, shorthand for “struggle for change.” La LUCHA is a non-partisan citizen movement with as many as 3,000 activists who engage in non-violent campaigns to raise awareness of human rights and cultivate a demanding citizenry.
Another citizen’s movement is Filimbi, which means “blow of the whistle” in Swahili.
In 2011, rappers and journalists in Senegal founded Y’en a marre (“We are fed up”). They protested against unreliable electricity and corruption, registered young voters and ousted Abdoulaye Wade. In 2013, hip-hop artist, Smockey Bambara, and reggae artist, Sams’K le Jah, joined forces in Burkina Faso to create Balai Citoyen (“Citizen’s Broom”). They led an uprising that evicted Blaise Compaoré after 27 years and then swept the streets as a symbolic gesture of civic engagement inspired by Thomas Sankara.
In 2015 and 2016, massive mobilisation in the DRC, supported by activists from Senegal and Burkina Faso, put pressure on Kabila, who ultimately decided not to cling to power. A coalition in the DRC formed the “2016 Citizen’s Front,” including Filimbi, la LUCHA, Katumbi, Fayulu calling for Kabila to respect the Constitution.
In 2016, la LUCHA shared Amnesty International’s Ambassadors of Conscience Award with Angelique Kidjio, Y’en a marre and Balai Citoyen.
Breaking a cycle of violence
Fayulu is an anti-corruption reform candidate. He ran on a platform promising to restore dignity, to invest in education and to enforce the rule of law. Educated in France and the US, he was an executive at Exxon Mobile before being elected to Parliament in 2006.
Fayulu has said he’ll create jobs in agriculture, tourism and develop local expertise to add value to the Congo’s natural resources. He was backed by an opposition coalition and supported by two powerful figures: Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former warlord, and Moïse Katumbi, a wealthy businessman from Katanga.
If Fayulu becomes president, the cycles of violence that brought dictators to power will have finally come to an end. There’s no disputing that Kabila’s regime did use violence to intimidate citizens during the election process. But it doesn’t appear to have completely undermined the process.
To be sure, some observers will dismiss the election as late, flawed and a chaotic mess. Doubtless more remains to be done to guarantee the integrity of future elections. And whoever wins will have much to do to recover from decades of corrosive violence and autocratic rule.
Yet it’s also possible to look at this election as evidence of the people’s commitment to democracy, even when the process is messy. The fact is that this election – and its promise for the future – adds to a wave of progressive political change across Africa led by students, musicians, journalists and activist citizens.
The World Bank Group president, Jim Yong Kim, on Monday announced he would be stepping down from his position effective February 1.
Mr Kim’s announcement is coming more than three years ahead of the end of his tenure in 2022.
“It has been a great honour to serve as President of this remarkable institution, full of passionate individuals dedicated to the mission of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime,” Kim said his statement on Monday.
In his place, the World Bank Group CEO, Kristalina Georgieva, will assume the role of interim president effective February 1. Mr Kim said the work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world.
He said problems like climate change, pandemics, famine and refugees continue to grow in both their scale and complexity.
“Serving as President and helping position the institution squarely in the middle of all these challenges has been a great privilege,” Kim said.
As World Bank President since July 2012, the outgoing World Bank Group head noted infrastructure finance as one of the greatest needs in the developing world. He said he led the Group to mobilize its financing by working with private sector partners to build sustainable, climate-smart infrastructure in developing nations.
Immediately after his exit, Mr Kim said he would join a firm focussing on increasing infrastructure investments in developing countries. He said details of his new position would be made public later.
Under his Presidency of the Group, Mr Kim said the World Bank set the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and to grow shared prosperity, by focusing on the 40 percent of the population in developing countries.
Besides, he said the Bank enjoyed strong support from shareholders to better position it to respond to the development needs, particularly its Fund for the poorest, the International Development Agency (IDA), which achieved record replenishments that enabled it increase its work in areas suffering from fragility, conflict, and violence.
Mobile money transactions have increased by about 177 per cent between 2013 and March 2018, reaching GH¢312. 93 million and valued at GH¢52.35 billion transactions in March this year, Dr Ernest Addison, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), has said.
He said companies with GH¢48.24 million transactions were valued at GH¢5.91 billion in March 2015, whilst mobile money accounts had increased from 8.20 to 25.3 million.
He said the increase in mobile money transactions present a huge opportunity to mobile money operators to bring on-board all economically-active people into the formal economy and good prospect for domestic revenue mobilisation drive in achieving the ‘‘Ghana beyond aid’’ agenda, and that of Africa’s economic emancipation.
Dr Addison, speaking at the launch of the Mobile Money Interoperability Project, in Accra on Thursday, urged banks and mobile money operators to continue working together to develop new, innovative and efficient mobile-based products and services at reasonable costs to meet the demands of consumers.
The Mobile Money Payment Interoperability is the service which allows direct and seamless transfer of funds from one mobile money wallet to another mobile money wallet across networks, which was developed by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS).
It creates convenience for mobile money users to transact business and drives financial inclusion, lowers cost of transaction, increase service reach and reduces reliance on cash for payments.
It also provides a financial transaction engine that is versatile, efficient and robust and enhances patronage by both banked and unbanked segment of the population.
Dr Addison said the rolling out of the initiative marked a significant milestone in the collaborative efforts between stakeholders in the financial services sector to push the boundaries of Ghana’s payment systems.
He said the launch further attested to the BoG’s broad objective of promoting an all-inclusive, safe and sound financial sector, noting that collaboration between the financial institutions and the telecommunications sector would accelerate national economic growth and alleviate poverty.
Dr Addison commended the Vice President for his encouragement and supporting the realisation of the system into the financial landscape and pledged the support of other market participants in ensuring the success of the programme.
He said with the implementation of the system, banks could leverage on the existing 143,418 mobile money agents and 25 million mobile money accounts to expand the scope and appeal of electronic payments,
The BoG Governor challenged financial institutions to offer more innovative payment products that provide convenient, simplicity and speed at minimal transaction costs as well as ensuring efficient means of delivering financial services in deprived communities.
‘‘Today’s launch started about a decade ago with the establishment of the Real Time Gross Settlement System, the Electronic Central Securities Depository, the Automated Clearing House system and Codeline Cheque Truncation system.
‘‘All these systems have been working smoothly over the years and today, we are adding another layer to harness the advantages of technology and bring most economic activities into financial system,’’ he said.
Dr Addison assured that the development of the country’s financial sector was on course, noting that the unveiling of the payment system was fundamental to that process.
‘‘The full implementation of the system is expected to further deepen financial inclusion, promote the country’s cash-lite agenda and most significantly, serve as a viable vehicle for financial intermediation.
‘‘Presently, the country is witnessing a shift to a new kind of retail banking system where a large segment of the population, previously unbanked, are being absorbed into the financial services sector, via mobile money, ‘’he noted.
He said over the years the BoG had taken measures aimed at strengthening the corporate governance and risk management structures and practices of the banking sector.
He noted that a stronger and resilient banking sector, together with the continued improvements in the payment systems would help support the country’s growth agenda.
The BoG Governor underscored the need to enhance consumer confidence in the reliability of mobile money networks, safety and security of transfers for mobile payments to thrive as means of access to financial services.
1 GHS = 0.204570 USD