I’m currently at a speech being given by DRC presidential candidate and current Senate President Leon Kengo wa Dondo at SAIS. The speech itself was mostly an anodyne review of Congolese political history, starting with independence, but the questions coming in are harsh. (Video can be downloaded here.)
Commentator #1: Kengo worked for Mobutu, whose rule was obviously disastrous, and “sacrificed” the lives of the current generation. It seems like the current batch of presidential candidates who worked under Mobutu has not yet redeemed themselves. How will they change the course of history and improve the quality of life of young people today? Response #1: Brushes off the accusation that the commentator’s youth was sacrificed, pointing out that he clearly got a decent education in the DRC if he was able to continue to study abroad. Long discussion of the state of education in the DRC.
Commentator #2 chews him out for being the same type of personalistic leader as Mobutu and continuing the same policies. Unconvincing response #2: he won’t be the same if elected.
Commentator #3: Does he think he’ll actually win, given the “social, political and cultural context” of the country, and without a base? If not, why is he running? [RJS: I assume this is a comment on his half-Polish, half-Rwandese heritage.] Response #3: He’s created a party before, so why not another? He has a base in Kinshasa, apparently.
Commentator #4: Will people keep changing the constitution for political reasons? Response #4: He considered it a necessary and legal reform. Wouldn’t discuss reasons further, because he’s a member of the Senate and must keep the confidentiality of the deliberations, but will give his point of view: it wasn’t wise to reform the constitution just before an election. Draws a distinction between the legality and the legitimacy of the revision – he felt it was legal but not legitimate.
Commentator #5: Will Congolese abroad be able to vote in the future? Response #5: If the opposition wins, they’ll change the law to allow expats to vote.
Commentator #6: Would he be willing to support Tshisekedi as a unique candidate? Response #6: Negotiations on this issue are ongoing, and it’s too early to tell which opposition candidate has the largest support. However, if it turns out not to be him, he’ll support that candidate. If he’s elected, he’ll bring the other opposition candidates into his government. [RJS: this is largely the same set of responses given to this question by Medard Mulangala at SAIS last week. It sounds like “negotiations will be ongoing” about a single opposition candidate up till the day of the election, at this rate…]