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The democratic republic of the Congo (DR Congo) after reaching the completion point
by Victor Nzuzi
10 November 2010

The debt in the RD Congo has recently been reduced, from 13,704 to 2,931 billion US dollars, as a consequence of the RD Congo reaching the completion point at the conclusion of the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative on 1 July 2010. The total reduction should be 12.3 billion; 11.1 billion as a result of the HIPC Initiative and 1.2 billion as a result of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). According to the Congolese government, this constitutes the most significant debt relief to have benefitted a country in the south within the scope of these two initiatives (HIPC and MDRI). But in return the government has been forced to submit to the dictates of International financial institutions, which are the inevitable consequence of the relief conceded by the creditors of an odious debt: a debt entered into by a dictator, General Mobutu, which has not benefitted the population in any way and which occured with the complicity of western creditors.

Why hasn’t the government exposed the odious nature of this debt, and repudiated it? The answer can be summarised as follows: for fear of feeling isolated in an unjust world where those who control the finance have imposed, by means of the debt, another form of colonisation. Instead of throwing off the yoke of this neocolonialism, the DRC has, like the other countries classed as HIPC, chosen to submit to the injunctions of the World Bank, the IMF and the Paris Club within the framework of this initiative with the humiliating term Heavily Indebted Poor Countries!

From the standpoint of the social movements we cry out loud and strong that the DRC is neither poor nor heavily indebted. It is for this reason that in 2007 we sent a petition to the president demanding an audit of the debt in order to discover the truth about this debt that has been imposed on us, ascertain who are the responsible parties and sanction them with reparations for the damages caused to the Congolese people. Of this correspondance, only the Senate, copied into the debt letter, confirmed receipt.

Our stance regarding the audit remains unchanged, particularly given that at the moment of the pronouncement the Congolese authorities made explicit reference to the odious debt. To give an example, the government’s spokesperson declared,“this odious debt has just been relieved“. More serious still, the authorities speak of a “great victory for the Congolese people who have endured sacrifices for many years“.

Before explaining these sacrifices we should return to the origin of this Congolese debt. Since independance in 1960, Belgium and the World Bank have organised the illicit transfer of the debt entered into by the former colonial metropole with the World Bank onto the shoulders of the Congo. Yet the Treaty of Versailles prohibits the transfer of colonial debts. Secondly, there is the debt entered into by the dictator Mobutu, financially supported by the capitalists. The latter contracted debts in order to build a number of “white elephants“ for the benefit of western multinationals; the Inga 1 and 2 hydroelectric dams with a transport line of current stretching 2000 kilometres from Inga to the mining region of Katanga in the direction of Zambia. This line, built to supply electricity to companies, does not benefit the Congolese people. Many villages remain in darkness, as well as certain towns, such as Kananga in Kasaï. For Inga 2, where there are 8 turbines, Belgium sold 4 turbines which have never operated...

Another example is the steel industry in Malaku, built by the Italians, which recycles scrap metal from Europe instead of using iron from the Congo. France alleges to have installed communication and radio materials with the company Thompson, which have never functioned. France has also built a 22 storey trade centre which, to date has never been used, owing to lack of air conditioning. Germany has built cement works at Kimpese in the Bas Congo region,which has never operated beyond 30% of its capacity.

There are plenty of other examples: namely in the military cooperation where fighter planes such as Mirages and other was material was sold to the dictator Mobutu in the context of the cold war, weapons which have also served to repress the Congolese people. The height of injustice, it’s for these debts that the Congolese people have ebdured and continue to endure the sacrifices to which the Congolese authorities refer today. That is why we refuse to ay these debts!

What exactly do these scarifices consist of? Here are some examples. Education is at the parents’ expense, to the point where at the moment over 30% of children do not attend school. After they have given birth, women and their babies are taken hostage by the hospitals because they are unable to pay the fees. Despite the fact that the DR Congo is the second largest freshwater reserve in the world, only 17% of the population has access to safe drinking water and children continually die of hydric diseases. Only 1% of the population has access to electricity in a country that possesses this dam in Inga. 17 % of the population suffers from malnutrition, etc. Teachers’ and public servants’ salaries are 40 dollars a month, which gives them only enough to live on for 10 days. How is it possible to live with dignity in such conditions and speak seriously of the millenium objectives for development (MOD)?

Our Constitution is violated every day. To give some examples, the government has been unable to provide the provinces with the funds for operating as indicated in the Constitution for decentralisation. The provinces therefore remain unfunded. The local elections have not yet been organised owing to a lack of funds. The government, which made an agreement with China for building infrastructures was forced to review its agreement under pressure from the IMF. The sovereinty of the DR Congo is thereby confiscated as our right to development. Our social rights continue to be flouted, while the pronouncement that we are a HIPC is supposed to free financial resources and teachers’, public servants’, doctors’, magistrates’, etc strikes follow. The authorities ask the workers to wait for payment of their delayed salaries...

The fight against the debt must continue and must go hand in hand with the fight against vulture funds, these private companies that purchase, at a very low cost, on the secondary debt market, the debts of developing countries unknown to them, in order to force them, by legal means, to repay them at an exhorbitant price, in other words, the initial sum of the debts, plus interest, penalties and various legal expenses. In this way the vulture fund FG Hemisphere obtained the right by the tribunals to confiscate during the next 15 years the revenue from the sale of electrical current in South Africa for the sum of 105 million dollars. But there is also all the pressure of the country’s resources linked to leonine contracts signed by the Congolese authorities and multinationals such as the Canadian company First Quantum, etc. This pillage of Congolese resources is facilitated by the laws voted by the Congolese parliament in order to satisfy the creditors: the TVA law, laws of public procurement, the law on the business climate in order to align with the rules of the WCO, etc. Finally, what can we say of the UN mission in the DR Congo? Each year this UN mission costs 1 billion dollars, without achieveing any positive results. Women continue to be raped a few metres away from these peacekeeping soldiers who are sometimes themselves involved in these atrocities.

Let’s stop payment of the debt and let’s put an end to foreign interference in the DR Congo!

Victor Nzuzi

NAD UNIKIN Kinshasa RDCongo