afrol.com, 26 January - Joseph Kabila, sworn in as Congolese President today, yesterday told a United Nations envoy that he was not willing to restore democracy in the country "as long as foreign troops occupied parts of his territory". Undemocratic statements, anti-Western sentiments and an exclusively military background nourish fears for how the 31-year-old will rule Congo Kinshasa (DRC).
President-elect and General Joseph Kabila, the oldest son of assassinated President Laurent Kabila, yesterday met with Kamel Morjane, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative in the DRC. It was their second encounter since the death of President Laurent Kabila, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard yesterday told the press at UN Headquarters.
During the meeting, which the UN described as "positive in tone and content," General Kabila expressed readiness to participate in the inter-Congolese dialogue. He allegedly affirmed his "will to restore democracy in his country," but said this would "not be possible as long as foreign troops occupied parts of his territory," Mr. Eckhard reported from the encounter.
Joseph Kabila was supposed to be sworn in as President yesterday, 25 January, but the ceremony was postponed until today "to allow more time to complete legal preparations for the succession," for which there is no provision under Congolese law, according to the BBC. The Congolese Parliament had cleared the way for Joseph Kabila's succession in a unanimous vote two days ago.
Joseph Kabila has been sworn in as Congolese President today, and he is supposed to make his first-ever public statement later this day. In his speech at the inaugeration (in French) he swore that he would respect the laws of the country and "guarantee the independence, unity and cohesion of the Congolese people."
The naming of Kabila junior as the new Congolese President has been received with poorly hidden disappointment abroad. His father's death, although his assassination was unacceptable, produced some hopes of a new Kinshasa government more willing to find a peaceful solution to the DRC conflict. General Joseph Kabila has already given the opposite signals, ordering a government offensive in northern Congo, ignoring democratic institutions, pleading more support from his foreign allies and demonstrating anti-Western sentiments.
His father's funeral became a cruel meeting with the new Congo for the Belgian ex-colonial power and Western journalists. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel was the only Western government official attending the funeral and suffered a decisive humiliation.
After a minor incident between Belgian and Zimbabwean bodyguards attending the funeral with their respective government officials, Congolese armed police walked into the two Belgian guards, pointed a gun and made them kneel. The two were detained and were not let free until Mr. Michel insisted he would not leave the country without them. The photo of the two kneeling officers upset the Belgian public.
Likewise, a bus carrying most Western journalists covering the funeral was attacked by demonstrating mob in Kinshasa, shouting anti-Western slogans. According to the attacked, and finally robbed, journalists, the police was around but only observing the incident for a long time.
The new anti-Western sentiments were underlined by the encounter of a "reluctant" Joseph Kabila and Belgian Louis Michel, which only has been describes as chilly. One of the few things known about the "shy" President-elect is that he easily falls into distrust.
Joseph Kabila seems to have found trust in his three allied countries, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, on which he depends even stronger than his father, according to several analysts. This was underlines by the fact that allied soldiers, not Congolese, were guarding General Kabila at his father's funeral. The allies already have sent fresh troops to the DRC to avoid the country' falling into chaos in this transition period.
The new leader himself yesterday stated that he was prepared to "work closely" with the UN operation in his country in order to achieve peace when he met with UN envoy Kamel Morjane. However, the UN conditions for sending peacekeepers is the ceasing of armed hostilities, a move Joseph Kabila does not seem to be willing to accomplish, so far.
With Joseph Kabila depending so heavily on his allies, these will be even more important in achieving a peace in the DRC, analysts say. With the first signs from the new leadership in Kinshasa not being uplifting, Kabila's enhanced dependency on the moderate governments of Angola and Namibia is the most positive development for those seeking peace in the DRC.
Sources: UN, BBC and afrol archives