News

Congo's Diaspora Struggles to Bring Change From Outside

Protesters, like here at a recent rally outside the White House, have called for a new vote in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Protesters, like here at a recent rally outside the White House, have called for a new vote in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nico Colombant

Members of the Congolese diaspora are working to bring about change in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They describe economic, political, social, human rights and security conditions in their home country as catastrophic.

Former 2006 presidential candidate George Alula flips through a neatly organized binder he has labeled, "The Congo Recovery Program."  The subtitle is "An Economic Response to an Economic War."

Alula has presented his proposal to U.S. administration officials, hoping they will respond more firmly to what is taking place in the U.S.-aided Congo.  

Alula said he is dismayed by both the botched elections, which returned Joseph Kabila to power last year, and the violence which continues in the mineral-rich east.

"We have seen a strong position from the Obama administration concerning the Ivory Coast, concerning Libya, concerning Syria. We have the news in Syria every day, but what is going on in the Congo? We provide the material that you use for the communications of the world, the storage capacity coming from coltan [a metallic ore] in the Congo," said Alula. "We deserve your attention. We deserve people’s attention and the world’s attention toward what is going on in Congo."

Poverty, violence are rampant

Kabila first took power after his father, former rebel leader turned president Laurent Desire Kabila, was assassinated in 2001. Since then, the younger Kabila has been declared the winner in two controversial and violence-marred elections.

In recent years, Alula, who now lives in the Washington area, has been taking time off from a business venture in the U.S. automobile industry to meet with U.S. officials, testify in hearings and help organize protests.

Alula said the typical Congolese inside Congo is too crushed by poverty to take part in a sustained people power movement.

"When he wakes up it is about 'what am I going to eat?' So when you are calling them for any protest or any other activity than food, they are not there because they have to find something to eat. So that is why the Congolese diaspora takes over because we do not have that problem," said Alula.

Abraham Lwakabuanga shows a video he helped make recently calling for protests in the Congolese diaspora. The activist for the APARECO opposition party said it is a duty for the 5 million or so Congolese outside the country to play an aggressive role.

He is very disappointed they do not have the right to vote, so he uses other tools, such as a new Internet video channel he has started called Code 243.

Lwakabuanga said he thinks Kabila’s security forces are too harsh for any protest to have any impact, beyond a rising death toll.

Activists like Lwakabuanga describe the ongoing violence in the eastern Congo, where warring factions compete for mineral control, as genocide.

"We lost like 8 million people. Some are saying 6.5 million. When is it going to be called genocide? Nobody wants to talk about what is going on in the Congo. What is a Congolese life worth?" Lwakabuanga asked.

Declaring genocide

Lwakabuanga believes a genocide label would force the international community to really commit itself to end the violence, partly committed by Congolese soldiers and proxy militias. The International Rescue Committee has described Congo's conflict, which started in the late 1990s, as the world's deadliest since World War II, even though the exact number of dead is in dispute. The group estimates the conflict continues to cause the deaths of as many as 45,000 people every month.

Lwakabuanga worries there are too many economic interests, including from U.S. companies, to stop the current situation.

Still, he remains optimistic that like the former Congolese and once U.S.-backed dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, Kabila also will see his days in power end.

“I am an optimist, that is who I am. Kabila is just a man. Mobutu was there thinking that he was going to remain for 100 years. Somebody was there to oust him with the help of the international community. We need a new leadership in the Congo and we will push until that will happen,” said Lwakabuanga.

Ruling party officials have described exiled opposition leaders as out-of-touch agitators who use their activities as a way to make money.

They also say the country is moving toward more democracy, stability and better governance after years of war and massive corruption, with the help of the United Nations and foreign governments, including the U.S. administration. Kabila himself has been silent recently, with his last address to the nation more than two months ago, as he tries to form a new government.

U.S. officials have recently expressed concern over what they have called the allegations of human rights abuses during last year’s electoral process, which included legislative elections. They have called for those responsible to be held accountable and for security forces to be restrained accordingly.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs