On November 14, President Dr. Félix Tshisekedi, following the provisions of the DRC's constitution, addressed the Congolese Congress.
This is an annual occasion for any Congolese Head of State, a kind of "State of the Nation" assessment, which would normally lean in the direction of a political manifesto.
However, in this instance, the President ignored the fact that he is standing for election on December 20, 2023. Demonstrating his maturity and his overriding desire to be the voice of the people's aspirations, he spoke as if there were no opponents to his candidacy sitting in the audience or watching on their laptop screens. His address to members of both the House and the Lower Chamber was an understated, factual end-of-term review, a rare exercise for Heads-of-State, whether in Africa, in Asia, or in the democratic West.
In his speech, the President asked his Nation to forget, for the moment, the election. He asked that our attention be focused instead on the merits of constitutional governance; on what a democratically elected President could hope to achieve on the economy, education, health, infrastructure, climate change, and human rights in a period of three years.
The President's assessment was no doubt tempered by the ruinous and tragic effects of the war that has plagued the east of the DRC for three decades. In his speech, he never shifted attention to the war as a means of excusing unfulfilled promises of reconstruction and development.
In his speech, he was able to demonstrate that he had not allowed the war to paralyze social and economic development, nor to bankrupt the Nation. He was thus able to achieve remarkable development throughout 145 territories, deploying public funds to build provinces that enjoy peace and security.
In making this extraordinary speech, the President certainly knew that it would be ignored by the international press. Too many facts, too many statistics demonstrating steady progress.
And what were the reactions of his opponents, listening and watching on November 14.
Before this speech to the Nation, President Tshisekedi was portrayed as the embodiment of bad governance: A leader content to let his Cabinet Ministers rest comfortably in their offices, without delivering on his promise to move the Nation forward. But they learned that they were now going into electoral competition with a contender who:
Restored democratic values in the country and believes;
- Built 30,000 kilometers of urban and agricultural roads;
- Allowed more than 5 million children to return to school and increased the education budget from 9.1% to 23.9% ;
- Reformed the country's mining and forestry sector;
- Invested in health not only through free maternity but also through the construction of health infrastructure;
- Improved access to potable water and a reliable electricity supply, etc…
President Dr. Felix Tshisekedi did not neglect to discuss frankly the security challenge in the east of the country, and the resulting unprecedented humanitarian crisis caused by the unrelenting displacement of populations in search of shelter. His decision to declare a state of siege in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri has had the effect of abating the crisis. Although this exceptional measure has not yet completely restored security, it has helped to reduce mining abuses and customs fraud – both sources of conflict.
With regard to insecurity, he has been willing to acknowledge the inability of MONUSCO, present in the east of the country for three decades, to put an end to the war and insecurity against the populations. In addition to UN troops, he has welcomed the controversial support provided by forces from East African countries. He maintains that the Congolese army and people must take their destiny into their own hands to counter attacks in which local rebels and militias are acting as proxies for the aggression of neighboring countries and multinationals. Hence he reiterated the need for MONUSCO to complete its withdrawal, as requested of the UN Security Council.
We believe the President's speech leaves little room for his opponents to counter. Would they propose a full reset of the Nation's economic development strategy? We know what President Tshisekedi would do: Continue the construction of the Nation on the solid economic and social foundation that he established.
Of course, it would be no surprise if his opponents turn up on the streets of foreign capitals, especially in Europe, expending further monies on lobbying to convince them that our Nation is an example of a failed State, destroying its own ecosystem and ignoring the welfare of its people.
Will the so-called democracies of Europe and the United States take note of the State of the Union address? Or will the public narrative be that President Tshisekedi is the familiar African dictator, planning a rigged election to obtain a second term?
We, members of the Congolese diaspora can only ask the following of foreign governments:
- They should recognize that the DRC's economic growth, attested to by the international financial institutions is a result of structural reforms that have given confidence to foreign investors;
- They should acknowledge that a socially-responsible free market system has allowed the Congolese government to create the conditions for growth and prosperity. And that system is underpinned by democracy and respect for human rights;
- They should praise the President for upholding democratic values after more than 50 years of dictatorship under Mobutu and the Kabila;
- They should critically reassess the intellectual honesty of certain Congolese opposition figures who have through lies given the impression that the Administration of President Dr. Félix Tshisekedi has been only a failure.
Instead of considering the above achievement, the NGOs-dominated Western press has focused on the economic hardship caused by the Rwanda aggression, alleged isolated human rights abuses, and the unsubstantiated cries of the opposition.
Instead of relying on slander, half-truths, and fallacious promises, the West must be brought to understand that President Dr. Félix Tshisekedi is a democrat, trained by the school of the father of Congolese democracy, Dr. Etienne Tshisekedi, a nationalist respectful of market principles in which foreign investors assert themselves through respect for the laws of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the ability to face competition.
Dr. Joel Ngoie Nshisso is President of FICE. Mr. Stephen Lande is President of Manchester Trade Unlimited, Inc