Dec 09 2011

Congolese election reminder of African political pathologies

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 10:10 AM

The Economist this week has a rousing article on the robust economic growth in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Impressive. And the attention is long overdue. I’ve harped for years on the neglected story of the expansion in Africa’s middle-class and the relative prosperity of cities in the region and even ordinary farmers.

The new African prosperity is welcome, but political dysfunction persists. The announcement that Joseph Kabila is again the presidential victor in a Congolese election is a grim reminder that no manner of economic growth can soften the blows of pathological politics.

International observers are calling Kabila’s election “disputed,” in part because Kinshasa, the heart of the Congo and one of Africa’s most vibrant and largest cities, is home to legions of Kabila’s opponents. As to how Kabila could win the election without Kinshasa there is only one explanation. He stole it.

In the weeks ahead, the Congolese will decide whether Kabila can persist in his misrule in peace. If strife does break out, the Congo’s many international supporters will regret that they did not insist that Kabila retire from politics as a price for continued aid to the country. Having come to power after his father, a coup leaders, was assasinated, Kabila has few ties to his own country, and his performance as president — as measured by his success in improving government services and reducing violence in the troubled Eastern region — has been abysmal.

There is no reason to believe that Kabila will do any better this time around. He should and let new leaders, with strong support, take their chance at leading this vast country with so troubled a past.

Of course, Kabila’s voluntary departure is a fantasy. Even as Africa’s economy grows at an Asian-like pace, the region’s politics too-0ften defies logic and practicality. The Congo isn’t the only country where dictatorial rulers rely on elections to provide “cover” for their Hobbsian rule.

Perhaps now that the international community is starting to grasp that Africa’s problem isn’t poverty — but rather how to fairly distribute the wealth being generated by its endowments and its people — there will be a new focus on promoting a genuine revolution in African democracy.

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