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December 18, 2016


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This is, as always, the big problem with going hard after criminal ex-presidents. There's a fundamental tradeoff between justice and making sure the guy with the power actually steps down.

Will poor DR Congo *ever* catch a break?

Fear of prosecution: I'm less certain. A number of former Presidents and Prime Ministers have been convicted of corruption, but the track record is... well let's list the ones in this century (that I can recall). To my surprise, they fall neatly into three groups: life in prison, took a hit that ended the political career but moved on, and slap on the wrist.

Life in prison, I got two: Fujimori of Peru and Chen of Taiwan. Neither of them are ever getting out.

Took a hit: Svetozar Marovic, President of the short-lived union of Serbia and Montenegro (2002-2005 IMS). Copped a plea and will spend a year or two in jail. Also Rodriguez of Costa Rica (five years in jail, won and got out on appeal). Merabishvili of Georgia, though that looked more like a revenge hit than real corruption. I'd also put Silvio Berlusconi in this group -- he's only been convicted on one middlin' charge and he's 80 years old. Ehud Olmert.

Slap on the wrist, Jacques Chirac.

Doug M.

But anyway: the corruption argument only makes sense if Kabila is in a particular intermediate state -- corrupt, but not in a way that has provided him an eight or nine figure nest egg somewhere safe and pleasant.

That's... possible. Mobutu seems to have blown most of his stolen wealth on a combination of high living and patronage. Kabila wasn't as ostentatious as Mobutu but on the other hand he inherited a much more damaged country.

That said, if he really wanted to leave you'd expect him to be negotiating a deal. That's not the vibe I'm getting. I think his stubborn is up.

BTW, there have been rich Congolese exiles in the past. A bunch of them fled after Mobutu fell, les Mobutistes. Afterwards, under the Kabilas, there were waves and trickles back and forth, nervous wealthy Congolese getting out, rehabilitated former ministers coming home.

They don't go to Saudi Arabia. They go to Francophone Europe, Belgium and Switzerland and France. If Kabila were to move there, he'd find large communities of Congolese expats to hang around with. Of course, the problem there is that his fate would ultimately depend on the relationship between the successor government and the government of his host country.

Doug M.

Mobutu and his cronies could bolt to France or Belgium because they were his main patrons. But when the Kabilas came to power, the French Foreign Ministry saw them as American puppets. I'm not sure if they still feel that way, given everything that's gone down since 1997.

Does anyone know how to find an online version of that ad the Congolese government placed in the NY Times a week ago? From what I remember of it, it didn't seem like Kabila had any inclination to step down. (Noel said Kabila looks weary...where is this from?)

So he's headed for Trump Tower?

Trump doesn't care for losers.

A general rule with Mobutu was that he perpetually triangulated between the US, France, and Belgium, alternately annoying and placating each of the three but always on excellent terms with at least one. No idea whether Kabila _fils_ has continued with that.

Note that DR Congo has had a bad year economically; they had six good years, driven by commodity prices, but 2016 saw the slowest growth since 2009. Food prices have risen, which is always worrisome when your capital has 10 million people, more than half of whom are living very close to malnutrition.

Doug M.

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