That was just ten years ago. President Joseph Kabila was slowly ending his first term as president. Etienne Tshisekedi was still an opponent. The Chinese had only just arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the country’s roads were still a quagmire. Papa Wemba sang Ye te oh. MONUSCO was still called MONUC, for a few days. Finally, neither the Ebola epidemic nor the M23 had ravaged North Kivu.
Papa Wemba sang Ye te oh
The country was celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of independence. Its independence. In Kinshasa’s heat and on brand new tarmac, FARDC, PIR, the Presidential Guard and brass brands were at the top of their game before marching in front of the authorities. Senior dignitaries from across the subregion were gathered on plastic chairs on a platform lining the immaculate red carpet, awaiting this historic reunion.
Another distinguished guest, the King of the Belgians, Albert II (brother of Baudouin I), had walked on the tarmac of Njili airport a few hours earlier. On the official route, along the road and along the refurbished facades, the Congolese people had gathered to witness this “historic” visit. In spite of hunger, in spite of unemployment, in spite of daily life, they watched him come. And then leave again.
On the 30th of June
Ten years later, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is preparing to commemorate the famous 30 June 1960 once again. It was the day when a young nation snatched its independence from the Belgian colonists and put an end to 75 years of humiliation. A few months before the celebrations, Lumumba’s speeches, the lyrics of OK Jazz and the memories of a glorious and proud past are all blossoming again.
Will we be able to measure the country’s temperature on June 30th? As the continent prepares for new appointments with its destiny, can this pivotal moment in the history of one of Africa’s largest countries serve as a barometer of Congolese weariness with regard to the present time? Or of their elites? After 60 years full of wars, epidemics, looting, leap-frogging, it might seem legitimate. And of this past decade, it would be very imprudent to claim that it has lived up to the expectations of the Congolese people. While an official invitation has just been addressed to the King of the Belgians for the festivities of the now “sixtieth anniversary” of independence, a feeling of déjà vu reigns over the 30th June Boulevard.