Interview with Pacifique Sukisa- Makasi:
Pacifique Sukisa-Makasi, founder of Revolution Congolaise
Hello Mr Sukisa-Makasi
Thank you for joining us in this interview
You are welcome
You are the founder of Revolution Congolaise. Could you please tell us about this movement, when was it started and for what reasons?
Yes, the Revolution Congolaise (RC) is my initiative but I launched it in partnership with other Democratic Republic of Congo nationals. The RC’s vision is a peaceful, stable and prosperous DRC, good governance, good management of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s natural resources and a viable environment to the private sector.
I initiated the Revolution Congolaise following the flawed November 2011 presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in addition to the corrupt amendments of the DRC’s constitution at its articles: 71, 110, 126, 149, 197, 198, 218 and 226 in favour of President Joseph Kabila in January 2011, political system rooted on myths, intimidation and corruption, unrest in various parts of the DRC and gross human rights abuses in the Eastern DRC where I originally come from, bad governance, poor management of our country’s natural resources, meaningless and irregular salaries for civil servants, among others: teachers, medical doctors and nurses, members of the national army; police officers, etc.
The main message of RC is a new beginning for DRC. This is a very hopeful message. Could you please tell us why the DRC is in so much need of a new start? Do you think that it is not just a political necessity but also for the people?
Yes, it is a hopeful message. The DRC is in need of a new beginning because the political system that all the current political parties and government are based on are all wrong; such as self-centered political ambitions, diversity intolerance, deliberate ignorance of the DRC’s constitution, ignorance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, democracy and other universal principles, looting of the DRC’s natural resources, deliberate isolation of the DRC from the international community, etc.
Honestly I do not love politics. I love farming but I have come to understand that no one can successfully farm or successfully run any other business where there is no peace, good governance or a viable environment for business and the private sector in particular. Convinced that positive change in DRC is its every citizen`s responsibility, I have decided to play my part. Actually, my main objective isn’t to become a politician but a servant leader committed to lighting the candle to a Needed New Beginning or a political system that will benefit all the DRC people without discrimination, a political system that will allow the hard worker and the honest to invest and fairly benefit investors and workers, based on universal principles.
Let us go back in time to hear about your origins. Where are you from in DRC and can you tell us about your life there?
I was born on the 18th September 1971, in a small village known as Cagala that is situated about sixty kilometres from Bukavu in the persistently troubled eastern province of South Kivu.
I come from a rural and economically powerless family. As a child, we lived on my father and mother’s subsistence farming in addition to my father’s medical practice and his small photographic studio in my village of birth. My father owned a small medical clinic in our village of birth. He also owned a small photo studio and employed a couple of photographers who he trained and sent to schools, marriages, religious and other celebrations’ ceremonies, to take pictures and my father developed the pictures at home. In addition to farming my mother owned a small informal business. She bought smoked and dry fish that she resold to the markets in our village and other surrounding villages. My parents had a small restaurant that they ran on certain days and especially in the mornings and evenings. As a young man my father worked as a tax collector before he joined the then Zaire’s national Red Cross for which he worked as a commander, for several districts. My father quit the national Red Cross to become a full time farmer.
In 2005 you started a political party called Mouvement Populaire pour le Developpement. What was the reason for this, what made a farmer become a politician?
I voluntarily repatriated to the DRC’s capital city , Kinshasa, in the year 2003 with the help of the University of Cape Town’s law clinic in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) after several years of exile. I voluntarily repatriated to the DRC with high hopes to start a poultry farm there. I hoped to produce eggs and chicken meat while training other DRC compatriots to become modern poultry farmers. The main objectives of this poultry farming were to contribute on fighting malnutrition while contributing to the improvement of our country’s economy.
After six months of trying to start my poultry farming project unsuccessfully because of high corruption and bad politics in Kinshasa, I realized that there was need for political change in DRC in order to successfully start and run such projects. So, I decided to start the Mouvement Populaire pour le Developpement (MPD).
What do you think is the importance of development especially for a country like DRC? What success did you have with MPD?
The importance of development for a country like the DRC is that extreme poverty and high unemployment are key causes of conflicts, corruption and many related barbaric actions that are currently taking place in DRC.
The only success I can think of with the MPD is that it is through my attempt to build the MPD that I realized that our country’s political system needs to be challenged and replaced by a new political system. The other kind of success related to the MPD is that it has paved a way to the Revolution Congolaise that I believe to having the key to positive change in our country, based on its New Beginning ideal.
So the government increased the non- refundable deposit that new political parties must pay. How do you think this effects democracy in DRC?
This affects democracy negatively because most of the DRC citizens who promote democracy in its true sense of the word are economically powerless and most of them unemployed or if employed their salaries are meaningless and irregular, meaning that this greatly increased nonrefundable fees simply excludes potential good leaders from the DRC political scene.
What happened to MPD? Did you and your family have to leave the country?
In addition to the high nonrefundable fees to get a new political party registered, there were some confusing laws which said that to get a new political party registered the party had to be a national party meaning that the party needed to have founding members from all the DRC provinces. This means that I needed to get some fellows from the different DRC provinces together so we could discuss the MPD’s creation and registration. Unfortunately, there were other confusing laws saying that for one to organize anything politically related, one needed permission from the mayor of where the meeting intended to take place. The confusing part of these laws was that to get such permission from the mayor, one needed to provide a registration license of the organization that intended to organize such a meeting! In other words, the presidency deliberately chose to block Congolese people from creating and legalizing new political parties.
Only later, I learned that political parties were being registered for free on condition that the founders of the new political parties sign an agreement to become allies of the ruling party as soon as they would be registered! I tried to boycott these laws. I put some fellows together without the mayor’s permission but I ended up in trouble with the National Information Agency, a government intelligence known as ANR by its French acronym. Some of its agents decided to physically remove me from politics but thank God one of them tipped me off about their plan that day before whatever they planned to do with me could happen. I had no choice but to run to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo known by its French acronym as MONUSCO. At MONUSCO, I had a meeting with a gentleman known as David Mugnier who was the head of the MONUSCO’s political affairs in Lubumbashi, Katanga province, where I was at the time.
After a long meeting between Mr. Mugnier, his local colleague and I, Mr. Mugnier phoned the Governor of the Katanga province’s political advisor for my safety and asked him if he could guide me to have the MPD registered. The Governor’s political advisor agreed to see me at the Governor’s office the next morning. The next morning I went to the Governor’s office. After some tough questioning by the Governor’s political advisor, he told me that he had to seek advice at the office of the Minister of DRC’s internal affairs in Kinshasa. After that phone call that lasted almost two hours, he told me that the minister was not in his office but I should come back the next day. The next day I went to the Governor’s office.
The governor’s political advisor gave me a long list of political parties. He told me that he had been ordered by his hierarchy that I choose which one of the political parties on that list I wanted to join because there was no need for new political parties. In short some years later I discovered that the list of the political parties I was asked to choose from were what came to be known as political parties which are actually members of President Kabila’s allies! I refused to join any of them but after that I was faced with extreme harassment by the ANR in partnership with the Presidential Special Security Guards known then as GSSP and currently known as GR.
Some years later in the 2008 to be precise, my family and I went back to the DRC hoping to move our political ideals forward but unfortunately I was again victim of the DRC government intelligence and its partner – the Special Guards of the President. This time they arrested me, tortured me and accused me of being one of some six mercenaries who were planning to assassinate President Joseph Kabila! The day I was to be secretly assassinated by the ANR and the GSSP, but a miracle happened. I was visited by a Katanga provincial senior traffic police officer. After questioning me, he ordered my release telling his juniors that they almost became accomplice in the planned death of an innocent potential leader who would pave a way to a better DRC for the Congolese people including those who almost killed me! This traffic police officer asked me to leave the DRC as soon as I could because should those who originally arrested me find me, it could have been the end of my life! The officer asked me if I needed any help from him.
I told him that I needed my passport that was with my wife who had taken refuge at her parents’ house as she feared to stay at the hotel without me. I also told him that it was unwise of me to leave my wife and children behind because my wife was being harassed by unknown people who approached her in addition to some neighbors who were trying to convince her to leave me for her to avoid the consequences of being my wife, labeling me to be a Rwandan mercenary! I begged the officer to help me go with my family. The officer ordered a taxi and gave me a policeman to escort me and my family to the border between the DRC and the republic of Zambia that is situated about 90 kilometers away from where I was unlawfully held by this government intelligence and the Presidential Special Guards.
The policeman introduced me to an immigration officer who escorted my family and I through this dangerous and corrupt border post of Kasumbalesa and only left us once we were already at the Zambian side. About a year and half later, I secretly entered DRC through Lubumbashi hoping to see the officer who rescued me from that assassination attempt but I was told that he himself had left the DRC and had became a refugee in an unknown country! Last year, I paid the immigration officer who helped me cross the DRC border in 2009 a visit. I asked him the whereabouts of the officer who rescued me but he suspected that he might have been killed by the DRC government special agents. To cut this story short, my family and I had no other option but to leave the DRC.
So you and your family left DRC and fled to SA. But you continued your political struggle. You and your wife Marguerite started a foundation. Can you tell us about the foundation? And were you able to help Congolese refugees in SA through your foundation?
Marguerite and I made a commitment to contribute to serving our fellow citizens in any possible way we could. At that time new Congolese asylum seekers struggled to access the South African Refugee Reception Centers’ services because of the language barrier and because despite such services being free of charge some compatriots who assisted the new asylum seekers to access their first asylum seeker permits did so in exchange for an amount of money between one hundred and three hundred US dollars. Marguerite and I were disturbed by this because some of these asylum seekers could not afford such an amount of money and ended up almost locking themselves in houses for months fearing arrest by the South African police .
Marguerite and I decided to help such compatriots for free. We knew that we had no law related qualifications but we simply took courage to try anyway. We relied on our broken English and God’s help; we were seriously committed to do some community work. To make things easier we decided to do this via a formal organization rather than doing it as individuals. So, we initiated the Pacifque Sukisa Foundation in March 2007 with a commitment to contributing to making the Democratic Republic of Congo , Africa and our seemingly irreversible interdependent world, better places.
Through the PSF, we wanted to promote an effective solidarity/diversity tolerance among the people of the DRC living in South Africa, while also promoting social cohesion between DRC nationals living in South Africa and our hosts , South Africans , in line with the International Declaration of Human Rights and democracy principles through activities such as Bible-based gathering, sport (football), DRC music concerts and other shared activities.
We also wanted to:
· Work in collaboration with other national and international organizations mainly based on Christian, human rights and democracy principles;
· Empower the management committee members of the PSF with the necessary skills for the PSF to successfully achieve its objectives;
· Ensure that the PSF members know and understand their rights and obligations in South Africa; and
· Represent the PSF members at the South African Institutions such as Home Affairs, Police stations, courts, etc, when necessary.
Main activities and services – projects, programs and events:
We wanted to promote Human rights and genders related issues with a main focus on children`s education.
The PSF wishes to support, annually, at least twelve kids struggling to attend primary education. Based on its wish to play an effective role in promoting gender equality and social cohesion among itself and the surrounding communities, the beneficiaries of this project will come from both the DRC and South Africa. The number of boys will have to be equal to the number of girls. In South Africa, the criteria will be based on the black and white principle while for Congolese beneficiaries; the criteria will be based on the Western/Eastern DRC principle. In order words, the Lingalaphone and Swahiliphone principle.
The PSF`s main challenges are lack of funding and skills. There is growing hatred between Congolese people living in South Africa and also a lot of mistrust between the Congolese people and some South African communities. The project has potential to vitally contribute towards promoting tolerance, especially among children.
It is unfortunate that the website host has shut down the site of PSF without consulting the organization. The website assisted asylum seekers to access information on asylum seeker permits, etc. Through the PSF we prevented the deportation of many DRC asylum seekers from the Lindela Repatriation (deportation) Centre. It also freed many from police custody, helped many kids to access education and others to healthcare services. During the recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, the organization worked with undocumented migrants and especially children, in partnership with the United Nations agencies; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
In addition, the organization also worked with South Africa’s Chapter Nine institutions; the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality, as well as with nongovernmental organizations; Save the Children, United Kingdom; Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CorMSA), and the Coalition Against Xenophobia, etc.
While living in SA what happened to you and your family?
I am genuinely thankful for South Africa to hosting my biological family and many compatriots during this difficult time in our country but honestly speaking South Africa is no longer safe for activists who are truly opposed to the current DRC political system and the government in particular.
My family and I have been targeted by unknown people who have threatened our lives via phone calls , we have been threatened verbally and physically.
In the past couple of years we have been forced to change our physical address nine times, running away from such threats.
Among the assassination attempts that I have survived and that unfortunately affect my wife and children directly since we launched the Revolution Congolaise are:
– I have been taken hostage by a former DRC military commando in his friend’s flat in Pretoria.
– I was almost slaughtered by three thugs (a Zimbabwean, a Bulgarian and a South African national) in my bedroom. After my wife and I successfully defended ourselves against these thugs, they called some police officers who I was later told to be friends with. It is not a secret that in every organization there are good and bad staff members, it is no secret that some South African police officers are themselves criminals.
As one of these thug’s phone was on loud speaker when he phoned a police colleague, I heard one of the police officers telling this thug that he was personally coming because he was tired of looking for that stupid Congolese (me) unsuccessfully! That’s the time; I slipped out of these thugs’ hands and ran into my bedroom. From the bedroom, I went out using the back door of the bedroom. I ran to a South African friend’s house. She asked her son to rush me to the police station to report this incidence. While, I was at the police station, I received a call from my wife who told me that there were three heavily armed male police officers who were talking to her through the window and who were insisting that she open the door for them to enter the bedroom because they were looking for me. I asked her to give them the phone so I could speak to them. I told them that I was on my way home so they could stop harassing my wife.
Not knowing that I was already at their police station, they hang up the phone and that is when they forced open the door of the bedroom where my wife and the children were. They ordered my wife to follow them into their police van that was parked outside! She later told me that they intimidated her pointing guns at her and ordered her to follow them but when she asked that children come with her, these police officers refused and said my wife was under arrest and not the children! She gave me a call.
Fearing that they might rape her as some police officers have been reported to rape women in South Africa, I asked one of the police officers who was next to me at the police station to confirm to his colleagues who were threatening my wife and children that I was at the police station and was in the process of opening a case against the thugs who attacked me. I think that this is the time they left my wife. They came to the police station with the Zimbabwean thug who almost cut my throat.
One of the police officers who were at my house while I was at the police station asked me if I had already opened a case against the thug . I said, not yet. He took me to where the other two police officers were, who had been threatening my wife in the company of that Zimbabwean thug. One of these police officers was helping this thug to open an assault case against me! I was the victim, attacked in my own bedroom but these police officers wanted my attacker to play the victim!
Surprisingly, some months after I opened this case, this Zimbabwean thug begged me over the phone to withdraw that case I opened against him. I told him that I would have loved to withdraw the case against him on condition that he first tell me and the police what the motive behind their attempt to kill me was. He told me that it wasn’t him but some people who he described as some guys with broken English and who had been looking for me for a long time. He added that he had been seeing those three guys in a VW car but he didn’t know that they had been looking for me until a few days before they approached him. A few days after that, I started receiving phone calls from some police officers who kept insisting that I withdraw the case against this thug! The recent phone call I received in regard to this case withdrawal was about seven months ago. This last call asked me to urgently come to the police station and I did. When I met the detective who called me in he didn’t waste time telling me that he called me to advice me to withdraw that case because the court had important cases to deal with than that one!
After, the time I was a victim of a serious poisoning and the burning of our house in which my family and I almost lost our lives , one colonel – a senior investigation officer who apparently had had an interest in my situation gave me a phone call. He asked me to urgently come to the police station.
When I came into his office, he told me that I was in a serious situation and that he wanted to approach the Hawks which are a division of the South African polices services ,the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) which investigates cases of serious organized crime; to try and see if the Hawks could arrange some sort of protection for my family and I.
The colonel called one of his juniors and asked him to transport me to the headquarters of the Hawks that is situated about seventy kilometers away from the local police station where I was. At the office of the Hawks, I was questioned but after the questioning the officer who brought me was asked to take me back because there was a need for an internal meeting before any action could be taken. Some weeks later, I received a phone call from the provincial Hawk’s boss who wanted to know where he could meet me about this matter. I told him where I lived at the time.
The next day he came to meet me at a restaurant near to my home. After answering all his questions he promised to come back to me in the following days as he had to report our meeting to his hierarchy. The following week I phoned him to try and follow up on the meeting we had the week earlier. He told me that he had given my file to one of his juniors who I would from there on deal with. Some weeks after this his junior came to see me for further questioning. Some months later, he called me over the phone, threatened to get me arrested if I `do not stop my nonsense`! I asked him what he meant. He angrily told me that if I continue to plan to overthrow a democratically elected DRC sitting government from the Republic of South Africa, I will be forced to leave South Africa or face some consequences! Following continuous threats, a South African friend advised me to approach the South African Office of the Public Protector to see if they could help me but unfortunately I received a phone call and an e-mail from their office informing me that my request was rejected!
I’ve been taken to the South African National Defense Forces’ Intelligence headquarters several times for questioning but I have so far failed to understand why I should go through questioning there.
I have survived a number of poisonings but the one which alarmed me the most left me spending almost six months in hospital and eighteen months recovering. That particular assassination attempt almost ended in heart and stomach surgeries!
My wife, children and I almost died in a terrible fire that burned down the house we lived in at the time. I learned from the Hawks that this house burned because of an electrical fault but some experts suspect that the house was petrol – bombed.
I have on several occasions been threatened by members of the South African Police Services. Just the other day some police officers came to my home at around 11am heavily armed to the point that my children are scared each time they see a police officer.
I have been attacked by some compatriots who have accused me of being an enemy of the people because of my political opinions. I can only think that these attackers were being sent by a compatriot who once worked for the DRC national intelligence in South Africa who had used the same words during an argument between the two of us.
After our home burned down, I needed a copy of my marriage certificate that burned in the fire . I then had a meeting with the deputy ambassador but who instead of helping with a copy of my marriage certificate, wanted us instead to talk about the Revolution Congolaise; a situation that ended up getting my marriage file deleted from the embassy’s filling system! However, I had been warned some months before by a close compatriot to the DRC embassy that there were rumors at the DRC embassy in South Africa that I am a Burundian national who got married to a DRC national so I could use that marriage to secure a Congolese nationality! Could this allegation be the reason why my marriage information was deleted in the embassy’s filing system?
Why do you think the DRC establishment sees you as a threat? Do you think it is why they have tried so hard to harm you?
I think that the DRC establishment sees me as a threat simply because I am truly opposed to their political system. Unlike most DRC political opponents, I haven’t committed any gross human rights abuse, I haven’t made wrong promises to the DRC people or to the international community or to the regional blocs which our country belongs to. I haven’t contributed to looting the DRC and while most DRC politicians’ ideals are to own the DRC and isolate the DRC from the broader international community; I have ideals which shall position the DRC on the global arena with no selfish ambitions.
In the opinion of many Congolese, you are the only honourable opposition. Can you tell us why the politics within DRC is so compromised both in power and in opposition?
Humanitarian journalists like you know better when it comes to such information. I am glad to learn that most of my compatriots you have spoken to believe that I am an honorable opposition to the current political system and government of DRC. However, I am very sure that there are many other compatriots who are truly opposed to the current DRC political system and government but whose fear is blocking them from showing up.
The government initiated national dialogue. Was this idea from RC? Why do you think the government failed to unite people in that national dialogue process?
The DRC government didn’t initiate that dialogue. I personally initiated that dialogue but it was hijacked by the DRC presidency.
The government failed to unite the people mainly because people have lost trust in it and the president; and his allies ended up accepting that dialogue that they had been opposed to since it was suggested to them; because they ran out if means to hang on power. I think that they hoped to use that dialogue to control or to bribe all the participants of that dialogue for the president and his allies own selfish ambitions.
In addition, it is almost impossible to successfully make a project work without its original initiator on board.
The people of your country have been divided. In the same way all the people of the Great Lakes countries have been divided, divided from each other and divided nation from nation. How do you think we can overcome identity politics? How can so much hurt, pain and suffering be healed? How can we unite not only the people of DRC but all the Great Lakes countries?
I do not want to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs. The Great Lakes region is made up of countries which should independently enjoy their individual sovereignty even though there is a need for neighboring countries to collaborate socially and economically based on universal principles. In other words, allow me please to only speak about the DRC. The Great Lake region’s problems are international problems which require international expertise. As you know when you have leadership made up of bankrupt / self-centered individuals at the head of a government and at the head of political parties small problems become complicated.
All the answers to these questions are clearly explained in our country’s constitution which is supposed to be the key guideline to finding peaceful, durable and lasting solutions to governance, economic and social problems in DRC. The DRC constitution doesn’t promote human rights abuses or mismanagement of the DRC’s natural resources. It doesn’t promote tribalism or discrimination of any nature. In short, the lack of the implementation of our country’s constitution is the key to social, economic and governance problems in DRC and all solutions to those problems are found in that very constitution.
In conclusion, much damage has been done and none of us has the power to fix the past. Therefore there is a need for unconditional forgiveness and reconciliation in order to pave a way to the much needed new beginning in DRC. Briefly talking about the entire Great Lake region , in addition to the existing international laws there is an existing ‘Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region’ which if implemented has the power to fix most of the problems of the region.
You speak about the need for a New Beginning and your message is about forgiveness. You do not call for the indictment of president Kabila. I also do not want him to be taken to the ICC. What you say about the current government reminds me of Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso and his attitude of forgiveness. Given the repeated attempts on your life and all that your family has suffered it must require a greatness of heart for your message of forgiveness. Can you give us your thoughts on that?
Unless a new beginning takes place in DRC, we will only keep experiencing the repeat of the same negative political, social and economic results.
Revenge has never solved any problem but simply make the problem bigger. Allowing President Kabila to resign without punishment will simply give him and other DRC politicians the understanding of how servant leadership works. It will also spare the country and the region from further unnecessary bloodshed of innocent people. I personally wish for my children, Kabila’s children and all other DRC children to inhabit a peaceful, stable and prosperous DRC that they will call home with dignity and where they can live in harmony.
My commitment to a peaceful, stable and prosperous DRC, a better Great Lakes region, a better Africa and a better world should not be about me or about my biological family but the broader Congolese population.
Actually I know little about Thomas Sankara but I am happy to learn that he promoted forgiveness instead of revenge.
There have been repeated attempts on my life and my family has gone through a lot of unnecessary suffering because of my activism but one truth is that `a smooth sea does not make skilled sailors`. Each assassination attempt I have been faced with strengthens me because it makes me believe that I am on the right path. I am always convinced that I do not survive these assassination attempts by chance but by God’s Grace and for a good reason beyond my understanding. Knowing that God has over the years brought arrogant powerful people to their knees through socially and economically powerless people like me, I have this conviction that it is only by forgiving those who oppress others that God can miraculously save both the oppressor and the oppressed and allow a new start for a shared destiny for both the former oppressed and the former oppressor.
Thank you Pacifique Sukisa-Makasi for this interview with africanagenda