Despite a good dose of indulgence and wishful thinking, the news coming out of eastern Congo proves that Augustin Matata Mponyo’s government of ‘whiz kids’ (les surdoués) is in deep trouble.
The Matata government is unable to control the mutinies of FARDC troops loyal to CNDP’s Bosco Ntaganda in the Kivus and the commercial and military operations of the Rwandan-infiltrated M23 rebel group.
Matata lost credibility when a two-day transport strike brought Kinshasa to a standstill last month.
The World Bank suspended budgetary support in response to the poor management of the post-election crisis.
The UK government at the end of 2011 announced it would double its aid to Congo in 2012 but in March backtracked on that plan.
In the wake of botched elections in which no one really knows who won, Kabila needed to send some kind of positive message to international donors. So he appointed one of Congo’s better respected technocrats as Prime Minister. Matata Mponyo had previously earned credibility by his negotiations the World Bank and IMF officials while Finance Minister.
In July 2010, DRC reached the Completion Point under the HIPC initiative. This means that $12.3 billion of Congo’s $13.1 billion debt stock was forgiven. Strict criteria were required, including publishing information on partnerships with mining companies, improving the foreign investment environment, improving fiscal transparency and approving a law governing procurement practices. Implementing the Strategic Plan for Growth and Poverty Alleviation (DSCRP) that emphasized pro-poor spending was also a condition.
Granting Congo Completion Point status was based much more on political considerations than macroeconomic results. There was political motivation to stabilize Kabila in view of the then upcoming 2011 presidential elections. Matata, who is often described as ‘a brilliant technocrat’, provided Kabila with loyal service in these negotiations.
Matata survived with minor injuries the plane crash in which Augustin Katumba Mwanke died in February. Matata’s aura and the symbolism of walking out of a plane crash that killed someone more powerful than himself is not insignificant in Congolese culture.
But the image of being Congo’s top finance technocrat and a survivor has not really helped Matata manage the security challenges in the east.
Hailing from Maniema, which is neither a political nor economic high stake province, is emerging as a political handicap.
The best financial manager in Congo can’t be expected to master all of the country’s overwhelming challenges to reconstruction. From the security, social and political perspectives the Matata government is under pressure. Time will tell if a hobbled government will be an advantage or a disadvantage to a vulnerable and marginalized president. A weak government could be to Kabila’s advantage.
It’s no longer hakuna matata, but just matata throughout the Congo.