Kindu-gate: Sorcerers Mess with the Money

When, at the end of February 2010, thousands of dollars went missing from the safe-box kept in the governor’s office in Maniema (some say 75,000 USD, others say more), there was a good explanation. The explanation was presented officially in an understated manner by the provincial Minister of Sports, Art and Information who addressed the local press.

porte parole of governor
Maniema’s Minister of Sports, Art and Information, Toussaint Kawaya

He spoke of an episode “rocambolesque” which in translation means “incredible”.

The Provincial Accountant gave more details. At midnight she heard the voice of her little brother, but opened the door to see only soldiers who took her to the bridge leading to the governor’s office. They bewitched her with some leaves and mysterious drops and suddenly she and they were in front of the safe-box. She had no sooner opened it for them than she was magically all alone on the bridge again and screaming for help.

The credibility gap is increased by this being the second time the accountant has been bewitched to the detriment of government cash in the safe box. Some of the local legislators thought that this was once too often and the accountant is now in prison. The opposition legislators rose up in the provincial assembly demanding the governor’s impeachment. In fact this disappearance of funds just added to their pile of previous accusations of major embezzlement, tribalism and mis-management. The provincial assembly, however, is deeply divided , so much so that on the first of March the gavel unleashed havoc. The elected deputies were pulling punches, knives and jumping out of windows.

some tried to hold others back
Slinging words and slinging fists in the Provincial Assembly

the speaker of the assembly escapes
The speaker of the Assembly climbs through the window and escapes with police escort.

Shots were fired that night around the houses of certain members of the opposition. Windows were shattered. Not good. The central government called the governor and top opposition to the capital Kinshasa to be heard by the Minister of the Interior. That is where they still are, and we are still waiting to know the fate of Maniema’s government.

But these things take time. Remember Watergate? There, too, party politics was involved. It was in June 1972 when five men were arrested at 2:30 a.m. while trying to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel and office complex.

And there were plenty of lies and even some rather incredible explanations that came from the Republican White House. In December 1973 an 18 1/2 -minute gap in one of the subpoenaed tapes was found. Chief of staff Alexander Haig suggested that “some sinister force” may have erased the segment. The white house secretary, Rose Mary Woods, more mundanely offered that her foot may have slipped on the wrong foot petal.
Both were proved wrong by electronics experts who determined that the erasure was done quite deliberately in 5 or 6 segments.

Richard Nixon
A beleaguered president on his way out

It wasn’t until August 1974, more than two years after the Watergate break-in, when Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency of the United States under threat of impeachment.

I actually think it will be much easier for many of us to remember the good that Didier Manara did as Governor of Maniema .
1. He was the first governor of Maniema ever to put in place a closed hunting season and
2. He supports the proposition of a national park along the Lomami.

the governor of Maniema at ease
The governor under better circumstances

For right now, let’s think of this as two steps forward and one step back.


  1. cleve hicks
    Posted 2010-03-26 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    This is a wonderfully-told tale and makes me smile (and nearly cry) to remember similar chaotic scenes in Congolese assemblies. I also like how you tied it together with similar shenanigans in the White House.

  2. cleve hicks
    Posted 2010-03-26 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I agree … it’s so easy to be condescending when faced with some of these situations, but I am sure a Congolese in the middle of the ‘Tea Party’ nonsense in the States would be just as flummoxed by our craziness as we are by some of the scenes in Congo.
    Were you actually there in the assembly, taking the photos?

  3. cleve hicks
    Posted 2010-03-26 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Actually, you don’t have to answer that last one :)!

  4. Terese Hart
    Posted 2010-03-26 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I’ll answer off-line.

  5. Bryna
    Posted 2010-03-31 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    nice post… sometimes it is good to remember the insanity of our politics (or Congolese politics) is only a different shade of the same color of politics everywhere!

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