Three recent disastrous events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, indicate that it may be approaching another meltdown point, not at all the first in its history.
The highly contagious disease Ebola, the outbreak of which in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa in 2014 became a global concern, has reappeared, not for the first time, in northeast DRC, in the region of Kisangani, formerly known as Stanleyville.
The second event, potentially catastrophic in its implications, is the killing of two human rights workers, one Swedish and the other American, who were inquiring, on behalf of the United Nations, into reports of other killings, perhaps even by DRC soldiers, in the south-central region of the country.
Other deaths, of Congolese colleagues of the two international workers, may also have occurred although neither they nor their bodies have yet been found.
If these two killings signal a trend, violent actions against international workers, the implications for delivery of health care, education and other services in the DRC will be grave.
International peacekeeping forces, numbering 22,000 at present, will not be sufficient to provide protection to these workers, their lives will be in danger, more may die, and the services may disappear.
The third disaster was the escape last week of perhaps as many as 4,200 prisoners from Makala prison, the main lock-up in Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital.
An anti-government group attacked the prison to free its leader, Ne Muanda Nsemi, imprisoned by the government of President Joseph Kabila.
These incidents, across a country a quarter the size of the United States and with a population of 80 million, do not necessarily spell governmental collapse.
On the other hand, the leaders of other African countries concurred in Kabila’s postponing elections and extending his own rule beyond constitutional limits by a year, with a promise from him that he would not seek to stay on past that time.
At the moment, with the occurrence of the three recent incidents outside of and scornful of governmental authority, prospects for orderly, credible elections, a peaceful transition and even peace and quiet in the meantime do not look good at all.
Kabila may try to use them as an excuse to stay on, reaching for “President for Life” status.
Source: The Korean Herald