‘I’m looking at tomorrow’s Congo’, says presidential hopeful

Francis Mvemba [Handout photo]

Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo are set to decide who will succeed Joseph Kabila as their president on 23 December. The polls have already been delayed by over two years, after Kabila sought to extend his mandate beyond its two term limit, and will take place against a backdrop of militia-led violence in several regions.

Businessman Francis Mvemba is running for the presidency and sets out his vision for Congo. He spoke with EURACTIV’s Benjamin Fox.

You are presenting your claim to the Congolese presidency from Brussels. Why start an international tour here?

Congo has a history with Belgium. If I started by making a media appearance in another country than Belgium, given our common history, that would not make as much sense. We have to start with the beginning. At the beginning there was Belgian Congo, so it’s also a nod to our history.

Do you think you will gain some international support?

Any support helps, but what I’m looking for more is national support, the support of Congolese people because they are the ones who want a change. Once they have given their intentions for change, we will then look for international support.

What exactly is your vision, in a few words?

My vision is of a strong, united and powerful Congo. It’s about young Congolese people having access to free education, having health coverage, thanks to the state, from birth to the age of 18, and then in old age, when you are no longer able to work and take care of yourself.

My vision is of reaching food self-sufficiency in the coming years, by favouring all local production such as agriculture, and the industrialisation of fishing.

How confident are you that these elections will be free and fair? There is still fighting in the Kivus, a lot of uncertainties, disputes about the electronic voting machine. Is this election actually going to happen and is it going to be fair?

Today, the time of being for or against the voting machine is over. We will vote using the voting machine, that’s the way it is.

Everyone hopes that these elections will be free but a candidate’s hopes do not count. Do the organisations taking care of the elections also want them to be free? I don’t think so.

If you won the presidency, what would you do in the first 100 days? You’d be inheriting a country that has been very poorly governed for decades.

I will start by going to church (smiles and laughs). Then, I would call everyone to talk to everyone. I am in the spirit of bringing people together.

I want to show that we aren’t minded for grudges, revenge and settling scores. I want to say to everyone: “what can we all do together for Congo?” We have to put Congo before everything, forget ourselves and think about Congo.

What would be your first steps on the international level?

As president, I would honour my neighbours to reassure them, to tell them that I do not have bad intentions. I would show them my respect, because you must always respect your elders, and show them that my vision has my country’s well-being as its goal, and not settling scores. So, I would first go on trips in my region before going to Europe.

You talked about tackling corruption and the culture of impunity. How would you go about tackling the deep rooted political corruption by President Kabila’s family, for example? Would you prosecute them, how would you go about this?

I’ll say it again; I’m not here to settle scores. What is in the past is over. I’m about the future. I will leave my elders to fight between themselves. I’m looking at tomorrow’s Congo.

Settling scores has to take place between the elders because they know what happened. I wasn’t there, so I can’t judge them, I want my country of Congo to move forward.

What would you do to ensure, for example, that the profits made by mining companies from Congolese resources stay in Congo, and that the money and jobs created from these resources benefit Congo?

There is a lot of plundering of resources and the population of Congo does not benefit from this. We have to regulate and restructure all of these resources so that they firstly benefit Congo, before personal profit. We need to return to transparent governance, where the state accounts for what it earns, exports, etc. Without transparency, Congo cannot move forward.

We also need factories, so that the transformation can take place in the country, this will create added value that will enable the financing of studies and health and to better develop the agricultural sector.

With respect to cobalt mines, reports have shown that minors are working in them. How would comment on this?

I think that no child should work. A child’s place is in school to be educated and to be equipped for work. The children need to know that work isn’t for them, but for adults, for those who have taken the time to be educated. We need to stop and close down any company which employs children because their place is in school.

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