Kabila’s killers escape from jail

The 14 assassins, who were being held at a prison in the capital for their role in the 2001 assassination, made light wind in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and DRC security forces caught up with two of them on Wednesday. It is widely believed that the escape was not without the blessings of insiders in the Kabila government.

Authorities in the Congolese capital last week said an investigation to establish the events leading to the escape would be launched amid suspicions that the prisoners’ escape had been facilitated by insiders.

Laurent Kabila, father of the DRC’s current president Joseph Kabila, led a coalition of rebel movements that toppled Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1998, and became the country’s president until he was assassinated by one of his bodyguards in 2001.

The assassin was killed a few minutes later by Kabila’s security forces, and investigations into the assassination plot led to the arrest and conviction of at least 72 soldiers by a military court.

News agencies last week quoted DRC security sources as saying the inmates had escaped through the back gate, “It seems that this was orchestrated from inside”.

The DRC is scheduled to begin its runoff presidential polls, which pit president Joseph Kabila against his arch rival former rebel chief and current vice president Jean Pierre Bemba this morning.

The much anticipated election is the center of regional attention, as the DRC makes its last stride in its transition to a civilian democracy. The country’s polls went into a run-off after Kabila narrowly missed the requisite 50 per cent majority in July. Kabila had 44 percent while Bemba mustered 24 per cent of the votes.

Kabila is widely expected to win today’s run-off, as he has managed to win the backing of other political parties that lost in the first round of the polls. His opponent Bemba has however maintained his strong following in Kishasa and western parts of the DRC.

Kabila last week refused a live televised debate of the current issues facing the country with his opponent Jean Pierre Bemba, who insisted on a face-to-face debate while Kabila said he preferred pre-recorded interviews.

The DRC holds great potential for the region if it manages to pull through its transition. The country has vast mineral deposits, with minerals such as copper, cobalt and diamonds, iron ore, manganese and coltan. The country has been encouraging investors to assist in the development of value added activities and establish processing of raw materials in the DRC, which currently saves only as a source of raw material processed in other countries.

However, while the country holds great potential, its infrastructure has deteriorated from over 40 years of regression, and it will focus on developing infrastructure such as airports, rail, ports, and building a strong human resource base for skills and expertise to kick start its economy.

The country is reported to have received US$4 million from the World Bank and IMF for infrastructure related development programmes, and a lack of expertise on how to utilize the funding has seen it turning to South African companies for assistance.

Meanwhile, the DRC remains southern Africa’s biggest hope in the area of power generation, with the much awaited Inga III power generation project currently under construction. The refurbishment of the Inga plant is currently under way, and the DRC government is expediting it in preparation of Inga III expected to assist the region evade the 2007 power outage.

At least five SADC countries, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola and the DRC, have teamed up to form Westcorp, which will fund the construction of Inga III.

October 2006
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