Q1: The next one-round presidential election will take place on November 28th, 2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The World Day of Press, which took place on May 3rd, 2011, brought together professionals with experience and an interest in media. In your opinion, how important are journalists’ role in the electoral process?
Regarding the media, I think that the Democratic Republic of Congo has made great progress. We have a very liberal press, and a considerable number of daily newspapers and TV channels, allowing the majority as well as the opposition, to freely express themselves. Concerning this link with the celebration of the World Day of Press, it is obvious proof that our media is organized. It corresponds to a quite remarkable professional confederation, and journalists attend all kinds of events without distinction, whatever the party is. From this I believe that we have reached a level of press liberty that you cannot find in other countries, even those who claim to be democratic.
Q2: You mentioned in your lecture that only 32 % of Congo citizens live in cities and thus have internet access. What could the development of the internet bring to your country?
Social media can do a great deal, but only if the population is educated to select and use the information the find on the internet in a clever way. So the education of our citizens is the first priority and an appreciation of the importance of social Media in a second step. Since independence, up until the 90’s we had very good schools and universities. Unfortunately, in 1994, our neighbour countries faced political problems, and the refugees came to Congo, based on the decision made by the International Community. They are still there today, and are the basis of several problems: exactions, massacres, robberies, rapes. This region is very important for tourism, and these difficulties give an unfortunately a bad image to DRC. We have the hope that with the elections happening in our neighbouring countries, pushing towards democracy, the refugees will have the courage to go back to their native country, leaving us in peace. So for that, we need the help of the International Community that is now silent on this problem. We still have the MONUSCO, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that is doing an admirable work, but this is not sufficient.
Q3. The United Nations organization MONUSCO emphasizes protection of DRC civilians against armed groups. Do you think that soft power is a method which can be used to achieve these ends?
It depends. The situation we are in necessitates an urgent solution. Soft power is a tool that needs time to be effective; because we have to negotiate, we have to understand each other, and to agree on a certain number of facts. But regarding this question of refugees from Rwanda, Ugandan and Burgundy who are in Congo, I think that soft power is not enough. Another way is necessary, a harder one. I would not dare to recommend hard power; it would be too strong, but something close to it. Harshness is necessary to resolve these problems because the collateral damages are huge and unacceptable for civil population, especially women and children. We cannot anymore, in the twenty first century, deal with problems that started in twentieth century.
Q4. During your lecture, you spoke about music as a soft power tool between different ethnic groups in your country. How is that visible?
In Congo, we have 400 ethnic groups, corresponding to 350 dialects. So without music or sport, it would be hard to communicate. Because through music, that is usually sung in the four main dialects, people manage to communicate cultural, educative or political messages. People use the different national languages for their political campaigns. When you know at least these four languages, you can travel all around in the very large country that is the Congo; covering roughly 2,345,000 square meters, five times the size of France, eighty times the size of Belgium and four and a half times the size of Germany.
Q5. You contributed to the writing of a book which focuses on women in the process of development of your country. Could you tell us more about what women could bring to the Democratic Republic of Congo?
In my country, like in all societies, the woman has a very important place. She is really the mother of the party. She is at the basis of education, it’s her who gets up in the morning to work, and makes sure that the children eat and go to school. The statistics show that she is the most resistant, the one who stabilizes Congolese society, through all aspects.
Interview conducted by Claire Boudon & Letizia Binda-Partensky
Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy