The purpose of the Badilika Congo Blog (Badilika means “change” in Kiswahili) is to feature voices of Congolese youth who have much to say about their lives and country but lack the resources to access the internet. This is the third post in this series.
Meet Ali Bitenga, a 20-year-old college student studying linguistics at a local Bukavu university. He has a gift for languages but struggles like most to pay for college tuition ($350/semester) – and a poor quality education. His knowledge and skills are certainly a testament to his intelligence and desire to find a way out. Ali is also resourceful and has earned money working as a translator – a job, I’m proud to say, he started with us (Panzi Foundation USA) two years ago. I’ve hired him for the 3 months I’m here now and we spend much time together in meetings, with the children at Aire de Jeux, or with the women; and of course, dialoguing about all topics imaginable. When I wrote a blog in 2010 entitled, The Future of Congo (is in our living room!) http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/future-dr-congo-our-living-room, Ali was one of the young men who stood out due to his passion for learning, his desire to change his country, his critical thinking skills, and his humility. He will graduate in May and it looks as if he has secured full-time employment. We are so happy for him and pleased to add his voice to the Badilika Congo Blog!
EVEN IN THE FACE OF IMPOSSIBLE ODDS, PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEIR COUNTRY CAN CHANGE IT – Ali Bitanga
Okanisi yonde Oko bongisa Mboka oyo?Translation: Do you think it is you who will change this Country?
The Congolese history has been bloodied by war and violence at the hands of different rebels groups such as RCD, CNDP, and M23 etc. Hundreds of thousands of women are raped, people are being killed like flies, corruption reaches the roof and all forms of crimes are perpetrated against civilian people, corrupt leaders have driven million of people into poverty. Will you change this country?
A good number of Congolese ask one another the question above and the frequent answer is negative, “I am not a person to change this country,” but today I will give you an answer: it is you and I who will change this country. What I want people to understand is that a community or a society is made of individuals, and it is very hard for the community to change if the individuals that make the society do not change. Change should come from individuals to the community. I change, you change, he changes, she changes and then we change.
If you are a teacher and you grade students according to the bribes they give you, stop doing that, and other teachers will learn from your good manners.
If you are a political leader and manage the welfare for your personal gain, stop doing that. Do not wait for other political leaders to change so as you can change. Just change and others will learn from you. Be honest and accountable; know that politics is just a mission and not a business.
If you are a policeman or a soldier, educate yourself about your mission which is to secure people and their belongings and never to rape women nor steal things from people.
If you are a student, never give a teacher some bribe in exchange for grades because the future of Congo lays in your hands. It is your education that will build or destroy Congo tomorrow. Corruption is evil; it disenfranchises the poor, weakens public services, reduces investments and holds back the whole nation. In the BADILIKA Congo, we do not need such a thing! Accountability, transparency and honesty are all we need for the good future of our nation. We have been involved in corruption for many decades, and we have not seen any change. It is now time to turn the page from violence to justice, from corruption to honesty. The time has come when we need to build a national culture based on virtue, transparency and patriotism.
If I were president of Congo, I would work harder to improve the lives of people by paying them better salaries and increase the measure of punishment to those who are corrupt. There is no wonder that Congo is one of the most corrupt nations of the world, but we should bear in mind that Congolese are corrupt because of hunger and poverty. I fervently believe that if hunger and poverty strike America today, the Americans will also be as corrupt as Congolese. The best tools to struggle against corruption should be education, better payment to people and severe punishments to those who are corrupt. Those who believe that corruption is part of Congolese culture are wrong. Congolese are corrupt because they have no leaders, they are hungry and poor and they lack education. Change is also possible in Congo and it will come by educating our citizens, paying them a good salary and punishing those who are corrupt.
In addition to that our nation is at war against a far reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, our education system is seriously ruined, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make good choices of leaders and prepare the nation to a new age. In 2016 we have a new appointment with the history of our country; we are going to elect leaders who are going to head us toward our vision which is peace, prosperity and freedom all across the country. Each and every Congolese should think critically about who is the right candidate, who is the candidate that has good dreams and visions for this nation, what is the evidence that proves that he is the right candidate? In the new Congo we should start selecting our leaders in terms of their knowledge, experience and character, and never in terms of tribal alignments or family relationships. It is time to turn the page from tribalism to nationalism. And any elected leader should bear in mind that he is not serving only his tribe or his family, but he is serving the Democratic Republic of the Congo! We have heard many leaders saying, “It is the turn for our tribe to eat.” We need to get rid of this childish behavior for the good of our nation. In the new Congo, we do not need such things. It is time to turn the page from selfishness to generosity. The time has come when we need to bake a huge cake enough for everyone and not only for our tribe.
The other problem is that Congolese people are not aware of their rights; hence they do not know how to claim for them. How can people claim for the rights they do not know? How can people respect the laws they do not know and understand? It could be extremely important if the world human rights organizations have an outreach in Congo so as they may inform men and women of Congo about their rights and how to claim for them. Once informed about their rights, they will know how to claim for them. Once they understand how important the law is, they will comply with it. People can never respect what they do not understand and know. It is time to turn the page from ignorance to education of our citizens.
I strongly believe that Congo can become one of the most powerful nations of the world if Congolese make it their project. But patience and perseverance are needed for this vision to become a reality. One generation can pass, and the other, but another generation will live the prosperity of Congo if the present generation starts changing their attitude and behavior. Congo should stand united and have the spirit of common purpose. It is time to turn the page from ethnical divisions to national unity.
Concerning the present situation in Congo, I blame the Congolese leaders for the unrest, poverty and misery within the Country, and I also blame the international community, but I blame the Congolese leaders at 55 percent and the international community at 45 percent. The international community only profits from our divisions to weaken us and sow conflict in the Country so as they steal our raw materials. If we were united, we could resist against any will to sow conflicts in our Country. It is time to turn the page from conflict to national reconciliation.
It is well known that there is an international network that support rebels in Congo stretching from Africa to Western Europe and North America. The entire world should work hard to put an end to this. If we want war and violence to be finished in Congo, we should stop selling weapons to the rebels, we should help the Congolese government eradicate the negative forces throughout the eastern part of the Country. There are many people who live in peace in their own countries, but they forget that there are some other people who suffer at the hands of merciless killers in other parts of the world; they rape, mutilate and murder civilian people; it may be Congo today, but tomorrow it will be your country. We should all work harder for justice in any part of the world so as injustice may not expand up to our country tomorrow. Injustice and violence are vermin to be eradicated. If we do not eradicate them, they will multiply and become an extremely big issue for all us. It is time to turn the page from antipathy to empathy.
Change is possible in Congo, peace is our faith and freedom our vision, prosperity our hope. All of us can foster the creation of Congolese solutions by investing in talented youth in the DRC. It is time to turn the page and write a new chapter of the history of the great Congo.