A Call to American People and Democrats around the World
The democratic process in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) is under attack. The Constitution is being challenged to change through political trickery by seating President Sassou Nguesso and his party, the Congolese Labor Party. They want army General Sassou to be able to run again, even though the constitution does not allow a third term. The Congolese people, both abroad and in the country, are opposing this autocratic attempt to change the constitution. Among those who oppose the will of Mr. Nguesso to forever rule the Congo is a group called the Assises Nationales du Congo-USA, a Forum for Democracy.
The Assises Nationales du Congo USA aimed at upholding the current Constitution of Congo. There are Congolese people abroad and in the country of Congo who believe in a political alternative as the only way the democratic process can reach its full potential in this oil-rich but very poor Central African country. We, the member of Assises Nationales du Congo, aim at building a true democracy in our home country. As many other people over the world fighting for a better country and a better life, we Congolese of Diaspora dream of a country where true democracy flourishes. A country where stability would help promote US and other foreign investments, that would help relieve poverty, and boost economic development. Such a dream is not impossible. But President Sassou Nguesso, the current Head of State, who is supposed to end his last term in office by mid-August 2016, has no intention of respecting the country’s constitution. Statement after statement, General Sassou Nguesso has been questioning the accuracy of the constitutional term limit, and has triggered a violent and unjustable dispute on the Congolese political arena on this issue, putting national stability at risk, and in the path of new political and social unrest, violence, and civil war as it was in 1997.
Through a well organized media campaign at home and abroad, President Sassou Nguesso is about to change the Constitution so that he could run again after the end of his last term. The Congolese government financed media pundits, linked to the regime are working hard to make this change of the constitution look like it is the will of the people of Congo. No, it is not. This is the will of one man who has been in office over 30 years as Head of State.
Lastly, in a speech to his supporters in Oyo, his home town, he stated that there was no one in the entire Congo who could replace him as president of the country. This is simply a flat lie because Congo has thousands of well trained professionals and politically able to take over, and bring new leadership, transparency and accountability in public affairs of the Congo. We believe in “alternation”, the renewal of political leadership as an anchor for Democracy through a fair and honest election 2016. That is why the Congolese of the Diaspora are uniting their forces to prevent a constitutional coup d’état by army General Sassou and his backers.
As a matter of comparison with the American democracy system, where political alternation is a sacred principle, and a key factor of political renewal, General Sassou Nguesso has been ruling the country for three decades. In 2016, when his last constitutional term ends, he will be 72 years old. Instead of retiring, as required by the Constitutional Law, he is already maneuvering to change the existing Constitution, as to stay in power forever, whether by force, or by political tricks. As a reminder, General Sassou Nguesso first time came to power in 1979, when President Jim Carter was in office. George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush came and left the White House, but General Sassou Nguesso is still in business. He lost an election in 1992 to Professor Pascal Lissouba, and then came back to office after a bloody civil war in 1997 that took 10,000 lives. Since then, he has organized a series of rigged elections. Now President Barack H. Obama is in the midst of his second term, but this military paratrooper is still in charge. Long after President Obama is gone, this former communist Marxist will still be ruling the Congo without the consent of the large majority of its people.
In fact, people are fed up with Mr. Sassou’s regime. In 2002 and 2009, he swore to defend the Constitution and the republican form of the State. But now that his last term of seven years is nearing, he and his political party, the Congolese Labor Party do not wish to relinquish power. Even if under his leadership, all elections have not been fair, but for the sake of peace, and the stability of their country, the Congolese people have let Mr. Sassou Nguesso keep his grip on power for 13 years.
Next year, around mid-August, the Congolese people will be choosing their new leader. But so far there has been no sign that the election is going to be held according to international standards. The national electoral body is under the total control of the executive branch. Activists and political leaders who oppose President Nguesso will of changing the Constitution have been arrested, tortured and sometimes had their homes violated by the police.
Recently a military exercise has been conducted near schools, colleges and universities in downtown Brazzaville. This was an indirect message to students, labor trade and political activists around the nation. It was a way to intimidate all those who oppose the change of the main law of the land. In January of this year, during the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Equatorial Guinea, after every game of the Congolese national team, the Red Devils, the youth in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and elsewhere in the country stormed and looted stores. In Talangai, a neighborhood in Brazzaville, a strong hold of the Congolese Labor Party, the party in power, the office of MP, Mrs. Claudia Sassou, daughter of the country’s President, was set on fire by frustrated young people. Such behavior, as delinquent as it was, is signal of the upcoming social unrest and violence, should General Sassou Nguesso go head with his project of changing the Constitution and clinging to power. The United States of America, the oldest democracy in the world has a morale obligation to stand with the people of Congo.
Balèle Mathieu Bakima