Easter was celebrated in Kinshasa with several political events. First, Etienne Tshisekedi held a large political rally, his first since arriving back in the country in December last year (aside from his welcome rally). According to AFP and Radio Okapi, around 50,000 people were inside the stadium, filling it to capacity, while 20,000 listened outside. It was encouraging to see the government allow the rally to take place and to deploy policemen who did not disturb the UDPS. Apparently, Tshisekedi reminded the crowd of the role that the UDPS played in fighting against Mobutu’s dictatorship and encouraged them to vote for him.
The other political event was a debate hosted by Radio France International at the Halle de la Gombe in Kinshasa. It was the first real debate of the election season to my knowledge, with two members of the opposition and two from the presidential coalition: Vital Kamerhe (UNC) & Constant Ndom (MLC) vs. Lambert Mende (MP – Presidential Majority) & Atundu Liongo (MP).
Again, it was very encouraging to see such an open debate and to see RFI back in Kinshasa after many years of tension with Kabila’s government. It was a rowdy affair, with the audience siding mostly for the opposition. The debate centered around the « Cinq Chantiers, » the promises Kabila had made with regards to rebuilding the country. No surprises here: Mende said the government had done a lot , while the opposition said that not enough had been done and that many of the projects had been poorly executed and overpriced. Mende talked about the roads built, Kamerhe countered that the roads were poorly done; Mende said they were about the inaugurate a new big hospital in Kinshasa, Ndom said that the hospitals that exist don’t even work. Worth a listen to get a feel for how the electoral fever.
Little was said about the conflict in the East or regional relations, I guess that’s for the next debate.
One of the memorable quotes – when Atundu Liongo said « anyone who says that we haven’t begun to rebuild the country, just see the married couples who go and take pictures on the new Gare… » Kamerhe responded, « The Congolese people don’t need to take pictures! They need to rebuild their country. » Ndom said: « Before taking pictures, we need to eat! » [I paraphrase.]
Mende said: « Just look at the new Hopital du Cinquantenaire in Kinshasa that will be inaugurated in Kinshasa. » Ndom parried: « That’s for us, the elite – what about the poor people? » [I paraphrase.]