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News for the New Year: An unjust budget, Kabila’s speech and Chinese prostitutes

Congo Siasa is back after the Christmas vacation. There was not much action in the Congo during the holidays – as opposed to previous years, when there had been LRA massacres and CNDP offensives. The short-staffed UN mission (many officials go away on vacation at this time of year) breathed a sigh of relief.

A few stories of interest, nonetheless:

  •  Veteran Congolese human rights activist Pascal Kambale had a good column in Le Potentiel newspaper that analyzed the Congolese budget. How can Kabila, he asks, say that there will be « Zero Tolerance » for impunity in the country and then allocate a measly 0,1% of the budget, a mere $6,7 million, to the justice sector? The state prosecutor’s office has just over $1 million to hunt down and arrest criminals, less than the budget of the somewhat redundant ministry of parliamentary relations. The anti-corruption cell has a budget ($141,621) that is fifteen times smaller than the Bureau of Personal Services for the President. Kambale also highlights some of the more ridiculous budgetary lines: over $1,2 million for the upkeep of the prime minister’s residence, $60,000 for « clothing » for the ministry of culture and arts, and $60,000 for the same ministry’s food and drink budget (whereas the ministry of justice only got $5,000 for the same budget line).
  • The president gave a New Year speech to the nation that was broadcast via radio and television. You can find it here. It was pretty vague and pollyannish (he said that never had the country’s prospects been as good as in 2010), which annoyed some Congolese – see an opinion piece here from Congoindependant. Alex Engwete had a some thoughts here, as well as this report of an incident at parliament:

Earlier on during the day, at a Senate hearing–and I commend senators and MPs for working on New Year’s Eve–the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education was confronted by senators over the « achievement » being claimed by the government of « free primary education for all children! » It did however transpire from the hearing that the claim of free primary education is at best a pipe-dream or at worst a practical joke at the expense of Congolese citizen. Many parents, fleeced by schools, have already given up on educating their kids–in a country with 96% unemployment rate! 

  •  Finally, on a lighter note, the Chinese government carried out a sting operation together with the Congolese police on a karaoke bar in Kinshasa. Apparently 11 Chinese prostitutes had been trafficked there and were working for the establishment. However, they ladies of the night refused the offer to return to Chinese – the $100 they got per customer (half went to the bar) was apparently better than they could get back home.
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