Thursday, March 9, 2017

Talking About Politics

In general, I don't like talking about politics - it only garners arguments. There is a saying that there are three sides to every story - your side, my side, and the truth. When politics are involved there are a lot of gaps in the information available to my side or your side. The DRC is a country where being patriotic is acceptable but being a critic is not as welcome. The government has been known for shutting down social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Skype, etc.), cellphone text messaging, and internet (all during the time we have lived here) in order to control flow of data and information. Thus, I tend to hesitate to share, but there is some information I need to disclose now so that you will know what is going on here. (This blog will be filled with lots of links from various sources so you will have a less biased view of the situation and also less emotional input from me and more facts so you can form your own opinion.)

The DRC is a democratic society but it is still new to that term. When Kabila's father Laurent Kabila was killed, his son Joseph stepped up and took over in his father's stead in 2001. Kabila was officially elected into his position in 2006. At the same time, the assembly placed constitutional provision on the limit for terms an elected president can serve to two terms. He was elected again in 2011, which should have been his last term. Unfortunately there was no money in the budget in 2016 for the general elections. This means that the current president will remain in office until elections can be held.

The people want change and decided to protest, which ended in many lives lost. The opposition party met with the presidential party to discuss options that will make both groups happy: if Kabila steps down, his position of wealth will be in danger; if he stays, the people will be unhappy. It is a difficult time. 

The opposition elected party member Etienne Tshisekedi to be a right hand to Kabila, which the government accepted as part of a deal leading up to an eventual election. Unfortunately, Tshisekedi recently died while in Belgium, leaving the opposition party without a leader. The body of Tshisekedi was scheduled to arrive in Kinshasa this Saturday the 11th, but now even that is up in the air. He was a popular man who was the face of change for the future to many people. Many people fear the uncertainty without him being their leader. 

That being said, there have been many rumors about what will happen when Tshisekedi's body returns. A funeral is quite the affair to the Kinois community. When the body is transported from one location to another in a car (like a hearse but just a regular car here), the car itself has sirens and is decorated in flowers, all while people follow in vehicles hanging out the windows shouting the whole time. When the body reaches it location for the viewing, there are professional mourners who are hired (by the family) so that there is a constant wailing. When the body heads in a processional to the burial location, people follow in cars and motos or will walk, following the body, all while wailing, chanting, and/or singing. A funeral and is procession are huge events - a time to show respect for the body. The opposition and family want to bury the body but so does the government, an event guaranteed to attract many people. There have been discussions over who will have possession of the remains for burial. 

In the end, the facts are that the country desires change, but when a majority is uneducated, it is hard to know how to (safely) go about the change. People know how to protest to show their displeasure which can end dangerously. Please pray for the situation as those in power determine when the body will arrive. Please pray that the presence of the body does not incite more anger from either side. Please pray for peace.