Apollinaire Muholongu Malumalu is a Catholic priest, a professor of Political Science at the Catholic University of Graben in Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Managing Director of the School of Electoral Training in Central Africa. He is also the President of the European Centre for Electoral Support based in Brussels. Malumalu was appointed by the DRC Bishops as the Director of Cardinal Martino Pan-African Institute for Social Doctrine of the Church in Kinshasa, founded by the Episcopal Commission Justice and peace. He is currently involved in negotiations between the Congolese government and M23 (Mouvement 23 Mars). He has been Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) of DRC from 2003 to February 2011, and for his activities he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Liege and the University of Lubumbashi. The 7th of June 2013, he has been elected president of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI, the new denomination of the Commission) for the second time.
Would it be possible today that a vast and pluralist country such as Democratic Republic of Congo could be jeopardized by separatist movements, as Sudan and Mali have recently experienced?
The threat of balkanization is always there, but people’s support is essential to make it true and effective. In the case of DRC, despite several wars plagued the country, we can notice that, every time, the population and especially civil society, made all the possible efforts to denounce and block the various secession attempts. DRC will remain one and indivisible. However, to face the recurrent wars in the country, the Government must promote radical structural reforms, concerning especially the security sector. The Government should be supported by international community in order to put pressure on neighboring countries and fight against cross-border exploitation of natural resources.
Could you describe the role of ethnic loyalties in DRC and how they have influenced the political life?
The state crisis has exacerbated community linkages and identity clashes. Ethnic conflict is a result of political manipulation of social tensions, based on identity categories such as history, culture, territory and solidarity. Most of social tensions come from a negligent management of economic and social resources, political irresponsibility and land disputes. Some ethnic loyalties were manipulated by eastern neighboring countries with the aim to destabilize Mobutu and Kabila regimes. However, it is important to underline that ethnicity is not the deeper driver of DRC recurring belligerence. In fact, local communities, though ethnic loyalty has been exploited for political goals, have long since understood that the cultural mosaic of DRC represents a richness for the country. Today, peaceful coexistence between different ethnic groups and reconciliation after violent conflicts are considered fundamental values to achieve, that’s why citizenship education should play a key role in those contexts where people are manipulated by antagonistic community leaders.
How could you describe the steps of DRC democratic process expressed in 2006 and 2011 general elections? Is it possible to state that elections were influenced by ethnic or regional differences?
In a democratic system, voting is the act by which citizens freely choose their leaders according to their projects of society. However, the electoral dynamic must face and coexist with factors such as ethnicity, territorial belonging and particular interests. Thus, during the elections of 2006 and 2011 in DRC, many candidates tried to attract local communities through the use of ethnicism and regionalism. In general, there has been an electoral rift between the East and the West of DRC. It’s important to underline that presidential candidates get most of scores from their electoral strongholds which correspond to their ethnic base. But whereas ethnic vote has a patent impact on the results of both parliamentary and provincial elections, success in presidential elections necessarily exceeds this logic. Therefore, elections act as a filter. If elections are fair and transparent, they will gain in quality being like a sieve for political actors, who will no longer rely only on ethnic support, refining their social projects and committing themselves on different social causes.
Catholic Church has always had a certain impact on Congolese political scenario and, in general, on political and cultural debate. Could you help us to better understand in which way now the evangelical Churches could influence politics in DRC?
Catholic Church is deeply involved in Congolese society, acting in several sectors such as education, health, rural development and democratization. Traditionally, Catholic Church has been questioning political groups and leaders in key moments of national life. In this social pastoral, the Church of Christ has been following Catholic Church’s action. After the Sovereign National Conference took place, all the religious groups are more and more involved in cooperation with civil society in order to strengthen democracy, human rights and governance. They worked together in the inter-Congolese political negotiations, but also for citizenship education and election monitoring activities. Nevertheless, the other religious institutions have not the same strong impact and negotiation capacity in Congolese political life as the Catholic authorities.
The presence of natural and mineral resources in DRC attracts Uganda and Rwanda’s interests, exacerbating conflicts in the North East area. Which are the consequences for DRC political stability?
Uganda and Rwanda have supported several rebellions in eastern DRC. Rwanda continues to support some of the rebel forces that destabilize DRC; in particular, the last two politico-military movements, CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple) and M23 are clearly backed by Rwanda Government. A report produced by United Nations independent experts has showed the links between the exploitation of natural and mineral resources and military rebellion in eastern Congo. Even if the fragility of the Congolese state favors this dynamic, we must never underestimate the negative role of the bordering countries’ influence on DRC instability.
Is M23 movement an expression of internal rebellion groups or is it only the product of the influence of neighboring countries? Is it a rebel group with ethnic or regional roots?
The report of the experts panel of the United Nations (No. S/2012/348 and addendum) widely denounced Rwanda Government’s interferences and especially its strict relations with M23 Movement providing it logistic and financial support from its territory. Rwanda doesn’t respect UN resolutions on weapons and protection of the population in the Great Lakes region and has been hosting war criminals wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) or by Congolese justice. This unjustifiable Rwandan mismanagement undermines the efforts of reconciliation and reconstruction of the Congolese nation. Unlike the other former rebellion groups, the M23 does not have an ethnic/regional base or influence. In fact, no ethnic group recognized itself in M23. The recent cruel battles between two rival clans inside M23 showed that their motivations are external and far from Congolese interests.
Will it be possible to negotiate a peace agreement with rebels groups and with the neighboring countries? Will it be possible to design a legislative framework to regulate mineral and natural resources exploitation with the contribution of neighboring countries?
A memorandum of understanding has been signed in Addis Ababa on the 24th of February 2013 between DRC and all neighboring countries with the support of the United Nations, African Union, Southern African Development Community-SADC, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region-ICGLR, and other international partners, with South Africa’s difrect commitment. According to this agreement, each part is strongly involved in the stabilization of DRC and the Great Lakes region. The memorandum paves the way to a transparent cooperation, that, instead of focusing on illegal exploitation of Congo's resources paid with the blood of Congolese population, foresees a strategic approach based on investments and transactions’ traceability. Currently, a delegation of Democratic Republic of Congo and M23 is holding talks in Kampala. The conclusions of Kampala talks should state the Congolese refusal to renew practices that haven’t led to sustainable solutions. The Congolese Government must, once for all, eradicate these rebellion movements with the support of the UN peace force.