Monday, 25 June 2012

$8 Billion 2012 Budget Announced in Kinshasa

Prime Minister Matata Ponyo presented the 2012 budget to the National Assembly on Friday 22 June.

It amounts to nearly $8 billion, a 20% increase over last year’s budget. The budget has increased steadily over the past decade but remains proportionally insignificant to the country’s size, resources and population.

Internal revenues (mainly from taxation) come to nearly $5 billion. Contributions from international donors are $3 billion.

For reasons of comparison, the annual operating budget of Boston University is $1.6 billion.

Matata defined the need to build an effective state (25% of the budget), the imperative to develop basic infrastructure (18%), the revitalization of the main production sectors (25%) and strengthening human capital and improving social conditions of the population (30%) as his government’s main priorities.

Budget allotment and management is a good indicator of a government’s performance. Although a half-century of development aid shows that more money does not necessarily mean better results, it will be difficult to accomplish much in DRC with $8 billion.

Producing some visible, even small-scale development and social results, however, could contribute to establishing the relationship of trust that is so badly needed between the government and the people.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Disappointing European Parliament Resolution

The European Parliament published a resolution on the follow-up of the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 14 June.

It is a disappointing benediction of Kabila’s struggle to hold on to power. Kabila is gradually securing an important diplomatic objective as time goes by: European recognition as Congo’s de facto leader. The question of electoral legitimacy is fading out of the diplomatic debate.

European MPs lack either the political will or the understanding of the Congolese political landscape to issue a more meaningful declaration. The only relatively harsh statement in the resolution is that results of the November 28th elections remain ‘questionable’ due to ‘the lack of proper monitoring of these key electoral processes’.

Given the honest and critical report of the EU monitoring team led by Maria Nedelcheva, we could have expected European MPs to take a firmer stance.

Their resolution can be interpreted as wishful thinking for improved governance, utopian sentiments about Kabila’s good intentions, or worse – outrageous cynicism (we don’t really approve of Kabila but given his vulnerability we can deal with him and can carry on with business-as-usual).

Does anyone really care about the Congolese? Apparently European Members of Parliament do not.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

ICG on MONUSCO & Powerlessness

Louise Arbour, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group published an open letter to the United Nations Security Council, calling for more creative thinking in its approach to insecurity in eastern Congo.

The letter merits a careful read. Congo experts won’t learn much from it, but it reinforces the view that a realistic diagnosis of the situation is a step towards solutions. Some interesting passages are indicated below:

… the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) is failing in its core mandate of stabilisation and protection of civilians.

The stabilisation strategy underpinned by MONUSCO was centred too heavily on an expectation that the 2008-2009 rapprochement between DRC and Rwanda was enough to contain the conflict in the Kivus. The bilateral agreement was based on President Kabila's willingness to integrate Rwanda's proxy CNDP forces into the army, but the strategy was short-sighted as it made no provisions for addressing the underlying causes of conflict beyond Rwanda's security objectives.

The current mutiny underway in the Kivus is perhaps the clearest evidence to date of how little progress has been made in stabilisation.

The 2008 and 2012 crises appear remarkably similar, including their ethnic dimension, reported support from Rwanda and the negative impact on civilians, including displacement and potential for increasing ethnic tensions at the community level. These crises are symptoms of unresolved regional and local conflicts over access to land and resources, as well as a failure to achieve structural reform within the security sector, poor governance and non-existent rule of law, and the inability to address the sources of financing for armed groups, end impunity and extend state authority, including through decentralisation.

Without a new approach and re-engagement by the Security Council, MONUSCO risks becoming a $1.5 billion empty shell.

MONUSCO has lost credibility on several fronts and urgently needs to reorient its efforts.

Durable protection of civilians will only come through an enhanced political process and the establishment of accountable state institutions.

… MONUSCO technical and logistical support to deeply flawed elections in 2011 and the inability to successfully promote dialogue between the parties has altered perceptions about the mission's impartiality… If not corrected, international involvement in the DRC, including through MONUSCO, risks entrenching an unaccountable government and undermining its own eventual rule of law and peacebuilding efforts.

The Security Council should undertake a review of MONUSCO's strategy and improve performance.

Clearly there is a need to address both local drivers of conflict between communities and the interplay with regional dynamics, including relations with Rwanda, whether through renewed political dialogue or a national accountability and reconciliation process, or both.

To bolster the government's accountability, the holding of credible provincial and local elections, including in th
e east, is essential. The mistakes of 2011 should not be repeated and clear standards on the organisation and holding of elections should be communicated to the government by the Security Council and MONUSCO, in particular serious reform of the Commission électorale nationale indépendante (CENI) and improved transparency in the logistics and supply procedures of the elections.

The Security Council should send a signal to the Congolese government and its partners that it is time for a new strategic dialogue. A business-as-usual rollover of MONUSCO's mandate will send the wrong message to all parties.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Matata, M23, Bosco Ntaganda: ‘Whiz kid’ in trouble

Despite a good dose of indulgence and wishful thinking, the news coming out of eastern Congo proves that Augustin Matata Mponyo’s government of ‘whiz kids’ (les surdoués) is in deep trouble.

The Matata government is unable to control the mutinies of FARDC troops loyal to CNDP’s Bosco Ntaganda in the Kivus and the commercial and military operations of the Rwandan-infiltrated M23 rebel group.

Matata lost credibility when a two-day transport strike brought Kinshasa to a standstill last month.

The World Bank suspended budgetary support in response to the poor management of the post-election crisis.

The UK government at the end of 2011 announced it would double its aid to Congo in 2012 but in March backtracked on that plan.

In the wake of botched elections in which no one really knows who won, Kabila needed to send some kind of positive message to international donors. So he appointed one of Congo’s better respected technocrats as Prime Minister. Matata Mponyo had previously earned credibility by his negotiations the World Bank and IMF officials while Finance Minister.

In July 2010, DRC reached the Completion Point under the HIPC initiative. This means that $12.3 billion of Congo’s $13.1 billion debt stock was forgiven. Strict criteria were required, including publishing information on partnerships with mining companies, improving the foreign investment environment, improving fiscal transparency and approving a law governing procurement practices. Implementing the Strategic Plan for Growth and Poverty Alleviation (DSCRP) that emphasized pro-poor spending was also a condition.

Granting Congo Completion Point status was based much more on political considerations than macroeconomic results. There was political motivation to stabilize Kabila in view of the then upcoming 2011 presidential elections. Matata, who is often described as ‘a brilliant technocrat’, provided Kabila with loyal service in these negotiations.

Matata survived with minor injuries the plane crash in which Augustin Katumba Mwanke died in February. Matata’s aura and the symbolism of walking out of a plane crash that killed someone more powerful than himself is not insignificant in Congolese culture.

But the image of being Congo’s top finance technocrat and a survivor has not really helped Matata manage the security challenges in the east.

Hailing from Maniema, which is neither a political nor economic high stake province, is emerging as a political handicap.

The best financial manager in Congo can’t be expected to master all of the country’s overwhelming challenges to reconstruction. From the security, social and political perspectives the Matata government is under pressure. Time will tell if a hobbled government will be an advantage or a disadvantage to a vulnerable and marginalized president. A weak government could be to Kabila’s advantage.

It’s no longer hakuna matata, but just matata throughout the Congo.