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The Emperor Said So

A bunch of Congolese politicians have recently been courting Jean-Pierre Bemba, the head of the Congolese opposition who is now in jail at the ICC in The Hague. First it was Vital Kamerhe, the former Kabila ally turned opposition politician. Now apparently José Makila, the former governor of Equateur who has clashed with the leadership of the MLC, has visited the disgraced leader in prison.
Both Kamerhe and Makila say that they walked away with Bemba’s endorsement. Bemba himself, however, has told some close friends that he hasn’t given anyone an official endorsement for anything, and that people are exaggerating and misinterpreting what he meant. Of course, he being in prison, it is difficult for people to contact him to figure out what really happened. And in any case, he is apparently prohibited from getting involved in Congolese politics by the ICC – the MLC had to write a letter to the ICC when he first put in prison saying that he would stay out of politics. Oh well.
This reminds me of a story that Paul Kagame liked to tell to the RCD leadership, when they were still based in Goma during the rebellion (1998-2003).
Once, frustrated by their shenanigans, he told the RCD executive council the story of an emperor who had a wonderful advisor. As a reward for his loyal service, one day he told his advisor that he would fulfill any wish he had. The advisor told him: ‘I have but one simple request. When I want to tell you something, can I whisper it in your ear?’ The king, dumbfounded by the modest request, granted it immediately. From then on, whenever there was an important decision to take, the advisor would go up to the king and whisper banalities in his ear – he talked about the weather, or what the cook would make for dinner – and the king would nod. The advisor would then go and tell the court that the king had agreed with his suggestion regarding the momentous decision.
Kagame then thundered, wagging his finger. “Some of you fools come and see me here in Kigali, just to say hello and ask about my family! Then you go and tell the rest that Kagame agrees with your decision on this or that.” He banged his fist on the table. “I will have none of this!”
(The story was also told of Emperor Haile Selassie. Origin unknown. But very appropriate.)

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