Last June, 19 Belgian experts launched a call to make Public Health a priority of the bilateral Cooperation with DRC. This initiative echoes the effort sustained by the Congolese government in this sector.
Three Challenges to Tackle
The first challenge of Congois about territorial management. With a territory equivalent to Western Europe and a population of 65 million, DRC is the second most populated country in sub-Saharan Africa. 69% of people are living in rural areas, most of the time in scattered housing since there is a low human density (24 per km2). Some landlocked and remote regions endure a difficult access.
The second challenge of Congo is about demography management. On this issue, statistics are close to the continent average. The demographic growth is 2.7% (African average is 2.4%). 46% of the population is below 15 (African average is 45%) and the
average age is 17. The fertility rate is still high at 5.8 (African average is 4.6) and Congolese have a shorter life expectancy of 50 (African average is 56).
The third challenge ofCongois about Development management. DRC is still in a reconstruction era after 7 years of wars that caused the death of 5 million victims. The Congolese population endured massive displacements, recurrent epidemics and a complete collapse of the Health system. Facing a 70% poverty rate, the Development strategy is focused on protecting vulnerable groups.
For the government, the main issue is to mobilize enough resources to finance the development of Public Health. In the next budget, the share for Health will increase from 3.5% up to 6.8%. However, the government contribution only represents 24% of the total spending in this sector. Private contributions (donors, NGOs) remain vital since they cover 76% of Health costs.
The access to medical care reached a 50% rate in 2009 but more needs to be done. The government has launched a major decentralization process to develop the health map efficiently. The National Plan for Health Development 2011-2015 arranges the progressive setting of Health Provincial Divisions. Rural health services are at the core of this strategy. The purpose is to achieve a generalization of basic health care and to reduce disparities between provinces.
The attention is also focused on building a medical capacity. In 2011, the government decided to increase the number of physicians by 50% before 2015. But with a 1/9,000 ratio, DRC still lags behind the WHO recommendations of 1/650. However, once again, the country positions in the average of sub-SaharanAfrica(1/10,000). To address such a low medical density, the government develops alternative solutions such as rural health centres staffed by health workers and mobile clinics.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the main guideline in the efforts dedicated to Public Health. In this regard, some encouraging results can be noted.
Maternal mortality has significantly receded with a 40% drop since 2006. Congo has a 540/100,000 ratio. This figure is close to the African average and 14 sub-Saharan countries score worse. It is unlikely that DRC will reach the MDG rate of 322 by 2015 but there is a sustained endeavour to improve maternal conditions. Today 90% of pregnancies receive medical attention and 74% of births benefit a medical environment.
In addition, child mortality (from 0 to 5 years) is also improving. Since the beginning of this decade, it has been reduced by 22% and DRC ranks33 inthe 48 sub-Saharan countries. WHO notes a significant progress in vaccination rates with 85% for BCG and 72% for polio. However, death in the neonatal phase still represent 1/3 of infant mortality. A better awareness is required in post-natal supervision.
Lastly, fighting pandemics is also a priority in this overexposed country. Congo strives to develop a coordinated strategy to stem the spread of three main threats: malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Due to a better case detection, prevalence figures are high. Regarding malaria, DRC is among the most affected countries globally but WHO projections hold out some hope for a curve in trend by 2015.
The support from European countries remains therefore essential to achieve efficiency in Public Health. While DRC has engaged unprecedented efforts, the commitment of partners sends out a very positive signal ■
Last 13 June 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the elections in DRC. This initiative highlights the challenges of the democratic transition.
In this Resolution 2012/2673 (RSP) on monitoring elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, all the remarks regarding the electoral process are relevant. After the previous ballot of 2006, the presidential and legislative elections of 28 November 2011 were the second vote since the 1960 Independence. With the benefit of hindsight, some useful lessons can be learnt.
Obviously, the change in electoral law was not explained enough. DRC decided to finance by herself almost entirely these elections. The decision to adopt a one round system with relative majority for the presidential ballot avoids the financial burden of an electoral process spread over several weeks. In this country as large asEurope, this is common sense.
In addition, the Congolese authorities and the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) have taken full account of all the dysfunctions and shortcomings. The close examination of the 469 litigation cases reveals that irregularities were caused by local individual initiatives. The security of ballot boxes remains the main concern.
Further, in contrast to the elections organized inIraqor inAfghanistan, DRC did not experienced huge outbreaks of violence, massive fraud or systematic coercion. There was neither arbitrary closure of ballot stations nor large-scale manipulation of the electoral roll.
The outcomes of these two recent votes have produced a clear majority. Modest scores indicate a real competition: 48.9% for President Kabila and 22.2% for his PPRD party. The opposition got 31% of the seats in the Assembly. During the 5-year mandate, the MPs from the opposition will have to built-up efficiency, join forces around credible leader, take initiatives and fully develop their contribution in the democratic debate.
The new government was appointed 5 months after the legislative results. This period of time highlights the desire to balance political forces and to ensure the best possible representativeness for the parties of the majority coalition. Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo doesn’t have a high political profile and he enjoys a strong reputation for integrity. He is widely perceived as a result-oriented leader, open to dialogue.
Achieving the democratic ownership of Congolese politicians is certainly the greatest challenge. DRC is conducting reconstruction in a thorny post-conflict environment. From 1996 to 2003, this country suffered 6 years of war and a complete collapse of public institutions. Today, DRC is being engaged in the double process of reinstating State authority and completing Democratic transition.
However, beyond political circles, the 73,5 million Congolese people also have to develop this democratic ownership. Since 2005, the number of registered voters has raised by 25% to reach 32 million. This surge of new registrants confirms a genuine citizen engagement. With 58%, the voters turnout is still below expectations but a Congolese civil society is emerging. People make their voices heard on all major issues. Progressively, this civil society is building a check-and-balance capacity.
In its final Observation Report, the EU EOM has forwarded 22 recommendations. They will be implemented in the preparation of the local and provincial elections scheduled in January 2013. The date of this coming ballot has been several times delayed with the purpose to optimize organization. A restructuring of the CENI is under process and the creation of additional organizations is under consideration. The stakes are important: Congolese people will elect representatives who will interact with them every day.
Learning about Democracy cannot be achieved with 3 ballots. As the MEPs rightly put it in the Resolution, « elections are necessary, but are not of themselves sufficient to create the necessary conditions for a democratisation process ». Time and experience are requested to endow people with the indispensable democratic responsibility. This maturity is being built day after day on dialogue, respect and solidarity —three principles that Congolese people have discovered only recently.
Therefore, the EU support should remain unbiased and constructive. Without any doubt, such a commitment contributes to advance Democracy in DRC ■
The degrading situation in Kivu directs the attention to the efficiency of the armed forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Yet, the on-going operations highlight the effort to restore State authority.
Three Security Challenges
Between 1996 and 2003, DRC has suffered a long instability era with a regime change and 6 years of war. Facing first a deliquescent then a painfully restored State, the army was reconstituted from scratch.
In addition, since 2008, this country is facing the violence of rebel militia active in Orientale, Northern and Southern Kivu, three provinces bordering Uganda,Rwanda and Burundi. Quiet often imported from abroad, those militia thrive on the looting of Congolese mining resources, the extortion of local populations and the trafficking across borders. Only a sustained and efficient bilateral cooperation can eliminate this threat.
Lastly, since the end of April 2012, the armed forces of DRC (FARDC) are challenged by a group of mutinous soldiers. Active in the Kivu region, they wage a local guerrilla. The FARDC have to bring this rebellion to an end in the respect of populations already badly affected. For the young Congolese army, this is a major test.
A Fundamental Mission
The situation in Kivu highlights indeed the necessity for the FARDC to be fully and exclusively acknowledged as the only legitimate force representing the State authority. The conduct of this fundamental mission is undertaken with much rigour, considering that this country has endured a damaging contestation of institutions in the past.
Vested with the democratic legitimacy of modern forces, the FARDC are fully developing all the dimensions of their mission. They are engaged in border surveillance, homeland security, population protection and territorial control. This last point is critical.
In accordance with article 52 of the Constitution of 2006, the FARDC intervene to restore territorial integrity and State authority in areas infested by militia and rebels. In this country as large asEurope, the full control of the national space is a condition to definitely ensure security.
Transformation under Process
This new security test arises while the FARDC have been undertaking a long process of modernization since 2006. Progresses are visible but there is still a long way to go. DRC wants indeed to achieve a forces transformation through better professionalization, improved equipment and maximum preparedness.
In this regard, the mutiny of rebel soldiers in Kivu emphasizes the difficulty of reintegrating former militiamen into a regular army. All the countries in post‑conflict environment experience this situation. The obedience to an exclusive hierarchical authority, the compliance to democratic principles and the respect of the Rule of Law take time.
The mutiny of rebel soldiers also emphasizes that DRC should continue to sustain efforts to improve human resource management. This is crucial to enforce discipline and make stronger the group cohesion. The effort is oriented in particular towards the quality of barracks accommodation, the evolution of statuses and the regularity of the remuneration paid to militaries.
In this new security test, the role of international partners is more significant than ever. Their contribution to modernizing the FARDC has been particularly effective and they continue to provide a necessary support.
First, the Monusco deploys in DRC more than 19,000 Blue Helmets, in military and police formats. The current mandate will end on 30 June 2012 and its action, as a complement to the FARDC, confirms the interest of the international community for stabilization inCongo.
Second, with EUSEC, the European Union is committed to sustaining an advisory and assistance mission for security reform. This support was first launched in 2005 and the current mandate runs until 30 September 2012.
Lastly, as the first partner of DRC in the EU,Belgiumprovides a substantial support, in particular regarding the education and training of Rapid Reaction Forces. This country also contributes significantly to the Stabilisation and Reconstruction Plan for Eastern Congo (STAREC).
The conditions for a sustainable stability in DRC are therefore in place. Therefore, the the challenge is now to demonstrate a new capacity.
Now invested Prime Minister, Matata Ponyo has selected a close-knit team to sustain his reforms.
When he became Finances Minister two years ago, Matata Ponyo came to this conclusion: in DR Congo, institutions and mechanisms do exist but they do not operate properly. Consequently, he has directed his action towards a consolidation of the Congolese system of public finances.
Matata Ponyo has worked with the basic conviction that efficient management requires neat balance sheets, transparency at all levels and a constant reporting. He has waged a fight against dysfunction, waste, corruption and fraud. He has also overturned the habits of the Congolese civil service thus far engulfed by sluggishness. With patience but much determination, he has successfully develop more reliability and coherence.
Matata Ponyo has achieved several reforms such as the new Customs Code, the new Code of Public Procurement and the Value-added Tax. Other reforms are still under way, such as taxation or decentralization. To complete this agenda, he has selected a team that reflects his priorities.
A Close Team of Experts
The Prime Minister remains very focused on dossiers related to public finances and on the implementation of the recently adopted framework law. With his new team, he has organized an innovative proximity in the decision-making process. The new government provides Ministers with further authority, in particular through the positions of vice-Prime Minister and Deputy-Ministers.
Daniel Mukoko gets much sway with the new position of vice-Prime Minister in charge of Budget. This status ensures the necessary influence to push priorities.
Another innovation is the portfolio of Deputy-Minister in charge of Finances attached to the Prime Minister. In this position, Patrick Kitebi Kibol Mvul reports directly to the Head of the Government since the Prime Minister wants to ensure a better control on the management and on the allocations of public spending.
Lastly, two vice-Ministers complement this team of « superintendants »: Abayume Liska in the position of vice-Minister for Budget and Roger Shulungu Runika in the position of vice-Minister for Finances. They will be the voice of the government to address the administration and local authorities. They will also be in charge of the everyday control of public spending.
More State Authority
In parallel of restoring the regalian authority, Matata Ponyo wants to strengthen the role of the State. In his investiture speech at the Parliament (7 May 2012), he has insisted several times on the expected performance of State functions. The Prime Minister considers that good governance and budget discipline are critical tools to modernize the country.
There is no doubt that the ministries in charge of public money will be invited to use all the available monitoring and regulating instruments. For the new government, the agenda is clear: turn the DR Congo into a modern State able to mobilizes all the necessary financial resources for development. Domestic public revenues now reach 21% of the GDP against 15% 5 years ago. This is still a modest figure but it highlights considerable progress, considering the challenges that this country with the size ofEuropehas to tackle.
The Prime Minister wants a close coordination between the different ministries. In this regard, the Minister in charge of the new portfolio Planning and Follow-up of the Modernity Revolution has a strategic position in the governmental architecture. He will indeed contribute to define the overall resources and means to turn the DR Congo into a middle-income country. The objective is to join the group of emerging nations by 2030.
With this new government, DR Congo enters into the era of modernity. The challenge is now to optimize the huge potential of this country.
En devenant Premier Ministre, Matata Ponyo a mis en place une équipe rapprochée qui va poursuivre ses réformes.
Une transformation amorcée
Il y a deux ans, lorsqu’il a pris le portefeuille des Finances, Matata Ponyo est parti de ce constat : en RDC, les institutions et les mécanismes existent mais ils ne fonctionnent pas correctement. Il a donc orienté son action vers la consolidation du système congolais des finances publiques.
Matata Ponyo a travaillé avec la conviction qu’une gestion efficace exige des comptes assainis, une transparence à tous les niveaux, et un reporting permanent. Il a lutté contre les dysfonctionnements, le gaspillage, la corruption et la fraude. Il a aussi bousculé l’inertie d’une fonction publique peu habituée à être sollicitée. Avec patience mais détermination, il a réussi à installer plus de cohérence.
Matata Ponyo a mené plusieurs chantiers tels que le nouveau Code des douanes, le nouveau code des marchés publics et la taxe sur la valeur ajoutée. D’autres chantiers sont en cours tels que l’impôt ou la décentralisation. Pour les mener à bien, le nouveau Premier Ministre a choisi une équipe qui reflète ses priorités.
Une équipe de proximité
Le Premier Ministre reste très mobilisé sur le dossier des finances publiques et la mise en œuvre de la Loi d’encadrement récemment adoptée. Avec sa nouvelle équipe, il a donc organisé une proximité inédite dans la chaine de décision. Il a aussi donné plus d’autorité aux Ministres en créant des positions de vice-Premier Ministre et de Ministre Délégué.
Ainsi, Daniel Mukoko Samba s’impose avec le titre de vice-Premier Ministre en charge du Budget. Cette position lui assure l’influence nécessaire pour relayer les orientations et faire passer les priorités.
Autre innovation, Patrick Kitebi Kibol Mvul est Ministre Délégué auprès du Premier Ministre, chargé des Finances. Ce poste le rattache directement au chef du gouvernement qui est soucieux d’assurer un meilleur contrôle de la gestion et de l’affectation de l’argent public.
Enfin, deux vice-ministres complètent l’équipe des « grands argentiers » du gouvernement : Abayume Liska au poste de vice-ministre du Budget et Roger Shulungu Runika à celui de vice-ministre des Finances. Ils seront les relais directs du gouvernement auprès de l’administration et des autorités locales. Ils seront aussi en charge du contrôle des dépenses publiques au quotidien.
Plus d’autorité régalienne
En donnant à ses Ministres plus d’ autorité régalienne, le Premier Ministre veut renforcer le rôle de l’Etat. Dans son discours d’investiture au Parlement le 7 mai 2012, il a d’ailleurs insisté à plusieurs reprises sur l’exécution efficace des fonctions régaliennes. Le Premier Ministre considère que la bonne gouvernance des finances publiques et la discipline budgétaire sont des outils privilégiés pour transformer le pays.
Il ne fait aucun doute que les Ministres en charge des comptes publics seront invités à renforcer et à utiliser tous les instruments de contrôle et de régulation à leur disposition. Pour le nouveau gouvernement, l’enjeu est clair : il s’agit de faire de la DRC un Etat moderne qui mobilise toutes les ressources financières nécessaire à son développement. Les recettes publiques internes atteignent 21% du PIB contre 15% il y 5 ans. Ce chiffre est encore très modeste mais il démontre un progrès considérable compte tenu des challenges que ce pays grand comme l’Europe doit relever.
Le Premier Ministre souhaite aussi une étroite coordination de l’ensemble des ministères. A cet égard, le Ministre du nouveau portefeuille du Plan et du Suivi de la Révolution de la Modernité a une position stratégique dans la nouvelle architecture gouvernementale. Il va en effet contribuer à définir l’ensemble des moyens requis pour transformer la RDC en pays à revenu intermédiaire. L’objectif est de rejoindre le groupe des pays émergents à l’horizon 2030.
Avec ce nouveau gouvernement, le Congo entre donc dans la modernité. Il s’agit à présent de tirer le meilleur parti de son immense potentiel.