A biometric passport is quickly granted to one Jean-Pierre Bemba while the other opposition Moses Katumbi is being prosecuted for alleged falsification of the same passport. If Joseph Kabila, who made his speech on the occasion of the anniversary of the country’s independence last Friday sought to open a new page, his approach should be different.
On Friday, June 22, Joseph Kabila’s Congolese government officials announced that he would issue a biometric passport to Jean-Pierre Bemba who was released from prison after being acquitted by the ICC.
This announcement shows a special treatment that contrasts with the fate of another opponent, Moses Katumbi. Katumbi was forced into exile in Europe two years ago. A case against him of forgery has been opened by through judicial inquiry. Is this not the case “double standard”?
The contrast is striking. Just four days after the Attorney General of the Republic, Flory Kabange Numbi, opened a criminal investigation for “falsified passport” against Moise Katumbi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonard She Okitundu wrote to the President of Senate, Léon Kengo Wa Dondo, to signify the availability of a form for obtaining a diplomatic passport in favor of Jean-Pierre Bemba.
Why is there such a difference in the treatment of the two opponents?
To answer this question, it is necessary to refer to the DR Congo Congolese electoral map and sociology. We’ll establish that all opponents, including Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi, would not often be placed on an equal footing.
Put simply, they provide varying threats to Joseph Kabila’s hold on power.
Jean-Pierre Bemba, how has he established his troops on the electoral plane? Before answering this question, it is important to understand that in the DRC, as in other African countries, voting is primarily ethnic, tribal, provincial, regional, linguistic. Voters bring their votes for the candidate who has a connection to them.
There is also that uneasy fact that in a country of more than 80 million inhabitants, majority voters are domiciled in the east of the country: That is, 55% voters in the east against 45% in the west.
In the West, politically, the strong man since the 2000s is Jean-Pierre Bemba. In 2006, the “chairman”, as his supporters call him, rose to the second round of the presidential election with 42% of the votes against Joseph Kabila.
But Bemba’s political score was aided by the circumstances of the election that was boycotted by the main opposition leader at the Etienne Tshisekedi. Jean-Pierre Bemba benefitted to a large extent from Tshisekedi’s boycott. It was simply a vote of rejection of Joseph Kabila .
However, in 2018, this scenario will not happen again. Felix Tshisekedi, his son, is now at the head of the UDPS, the dominant party in the central provinces of Kasai. And this one has forged a political alliance with Moïse Katumbi the political powerhouse from Katanga Province.
In addition, Jean-Pierre Bemba’s relatively good score in the 2006 presidential election is explained by a series of alliances with other leaders.
The electoral stronghold of Jean-Pierre Bemba is located in the west of the country, roughly the former province of Equator and its surroundings, and in Kinshasa – a city increasingly cosmopolitan because of the growing presence of Congolese from the east and central parts of the country.
To broaden his electoral base during the second round of the presidential election in 2006, Bemba had formed alliances in the east of the country with personalities such as Mwando Nsimba and Lunda Bululu in the former Katanga, Thambwe Mwamba in Maniema, etc.
However, if he decided to run for the next election, which is far from certain, it would be impossible for Jean-Pierre to resume such agreements today.
Members of the party of Mwando Nsimba (now deceased) have joined Moïse Katumbi; the same can be said about Lunda Bululu.
As for Thambwe Mwamba, he is the zealous Minister of Justice of Joseph Kabila. More embarrassing, Jean-Pierre Bemba does not benefit, far from there, of a total support to the west.
The province of Bandudu for example, one of the most important electoral reservoirs of the country, escapes him very largely. It is shared today between the PALU of Gizenga, allied with Joseph Kabila, and Olivier Kamitatu, former president of the National Assembly and once an ally of Moïse Katumbi.
Part Two Of This Article Will Follow
Adapted from an analysis written By Par Prosper Bagondo for Le Point Afrique