Extract from my recent trip to Bukavu: A weekend with Zitto in Bukavu
(This is post that has been taken from Soraya A. Souleymane Blog sharing her thoughts on my recent visit to Bukavu, DRC http://rdcdevelopment.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-weekend-with-zitto-in-bukavu.html)
A weekend with Zitto in Bukavu
by Soraya A. Souleymane URL of the Blog Post: http://rdcdevelopment.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-weekend-with-zitto-in-bukavu.html
lawmaker in the Parliament. He is also a Shadow Minister for Finance and the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Corporations Accounts Committee, which oversees the running of state agencies. He is an active member in the social media, and I have been following him closely since 2010 during the last presidential elections in Tanzania. There is no doubt that Zitto has
positioned himself as a prominent politician in the opposition. He recently led a move of MPs for a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, in a move said to target other ministers who were outside of the National Assembly’s reach. The motion could not be moved during that session, but contributed to President Jakaya Kikwete to reshuffle his cabinet. Zitto has done a great job in his work as an MP. He has brought many changes from Parliament to his constituent and has been very active in lobbying for the development of Kigoma through health, education and infrastructure projects. After rumours in various media, Zitto made it public recently that he will not stand as an MP candidate in the 2015 general election, but will ask his party to give him blessings of standing as presidential candidate.
From our backgrounds, one interest I shared with Zitto was oil, gas and mineral resources in our respective countries. As the Tanzanian Mining Code was undergoing its reforms of 2010, Zitto raised an issue of lopsided contracts in parliament, got suspended, and bravely joined the presidential mining review team and consistently pushed for a new mining law which included his private amendments that Gemstones must be mined by Tanzanians only. As a development practitioner, I have learnt a lot from Zitto through posts on social media and articles on development and governance. So, when he told me that he was coming to Bukavu in a private visit, I asked myself what I could do to maximize the opportunity of having such a prominent MP in Bukavu, and how that could benefit both South Kivu and Kigoma in particular, and the DRC and Tanzania in general. The DRC being on a critical path in renewing its contracts and reviewing its mining code, I was very keen to hear what Zitto would have to say to that.
Zitto arrived in Bukavu on the 19th October 2012 and received a couple of phone calls regarding some marches which were going on in Dar-Es-Salaam following an incident of a young boy desecrating the Holy Qur’an, which led Muslim protesters to vandalise and torch five churches in the city, leading to the arrest of a prominent Sheikh, Ponda Issa Ponda. Zitto gave me his personal view on this incident and I was impressed to see that he was not talking as a Muslim, nor as a politician, but as a leader. He told me that there should be a dialogue involving Muslims and Christians about religion tension and how to manage them. He also said that when a child desecrates the Holy Qur’an it was not a religious issue but a strong symptom of a decaying social fabric that must be addressed as soon as possible.
As he was still tweeting and talking to people back in Tanzania, displaying his sense of leadership, we discussed about several things and I have to say that the benefits of this interaction exceeded by far my expectations.
In Bukavu, Zitto fell in love with the view of Lake Kivu as we drove along the Kavumu road, leading to the Kavumu airport. He took several panoramic pictures of La Botte at Karhale and posted them on his twitter account. He also posted some pictures of the N2, a road built under the SICOMINE agreement. On our way back, Zitto saw Congolese youths volunteering on road maintenance in Kadutu. As we were driving, he explained to me the implementation of a project aiming at replacing Kigoma fishermen’s kerosene in Karaboi with a solar one, involving a solar energy firm, a university, their National Social Security Fund and the fishermen. I am planning to try the same with fishermen in Baraka.
One of the questions I asked him was:
– Mheshimiwa, there is no doubt that Kigoma has benefited a little more than other provinces in terms of Government infrastructure projects. What arguments do you use to convince the Government to invest more in your constituency?
His answer was clear and short:
– I just make sure I present the opportunity in a way that its importance for Tanzania is too great to be ignored.
As an action oriented person, he resembles himself to Dr. Mahatir Mohamad of Malaysia and Meles Zenawi from Ethiopia. Using the road linking Kigoma to the Burundian border as an example, Zitto explained that it was one of the projects aimed to open up Kigoma, “the nation’s western gate” as he calls it himself.
– That would not only position Kigoma as en entry point to the great lakes region, but could also boost the economic activities in the neighbouring countries, including yours, he told me. The DRC-Tanzania border (Kigoma-South Kivu and Kigoma-Katanga) offers too many opportunities to be ignored. There are quite a number of economic opportunities that could not take place a decade ago because of civil unrest in South Kivu, but with the regained stability this littoral should be an area of focus between the our two countries. Peace and security bring economic development, but at the same time economic development consolidates and strengthens stability and prosperity.
Zitto and I were in sync on this and we got very excited talking about the many exchange opportunities that could emerge from a strategic partnership between our countries. Among many possible projects, Zitto and I discussed about the ports of Kigoma and Baraka. Some businessmen from the DRC bring in their goods, especially fuel, through Kigoma, cutting by a third the Kenyan-Ugandan-Rwandan-DRC road they are currently using. Of course, there are still lengthy administrative procedures to be solved at both Dar-Es-Saalam and Kigoma port, but that is precisely why we both identified the upgrade of these two ports as a first quick win-win project for our provinces and undertook to convince stakeholders from both sides to come together and discuss the way forward in the next few months.
We had a few disagreements concerning the ways in which the projects could be funded. Understanding the DRC context better, I first suggested that this project should be built using tax revenues, through a participatory budget that would strengthen the governance of decentralised entity and put citizens at the heart and head of the project. His opinion however was that tax money should be used to educate the population, provide better health services and rural roads and electrifications and that the money used should be from private origins, under a Build Operate Transfer type of project. This could work in Tanzania but with the weak State capacity and endemic corruption in the DRC, it was just too much asking. He opposed my second suggestion of having the Government of South Kivu entering an agreement with a mining company to build a port as it wouldn’t be different from SICOMINES deals. During this discussion I had the opportunity to assess how permeable to criticism he was and I truly appreciated his patience in listening to me as I lined up my arguments. When I laughed at some of his points, he proved not to be as easily offended after all.
The next evening, I was delighted to be invited to a dinner organised in his honour by some Tanzanian working in the mining industry in South Kivu and Maniema provinces and had the opportunity to listen to their conversations with Zitto on matters varying from Tanzanian professionals’ expatriation to the general security situation of the region and the possible involvement of Tanzania in solving the Congolese conflict in the eastern side. The discussions were relaxed, informal and very convivial. Zitto had the chance to experience Bukavu by night with my Tanzanian colleagues and myself.
During this weekend I learnt quite a few things from Zitto. I learnt to see the silver line in the DRC clouded sky. Until last weekend, I knew the silver line was there but had never seen it. In this period of crisis, when the foreign investment is hard to attract, maybe a neighbouring country sharing some elements with the DRC could believe in projects as the ones we discussed. Is this not the way out? Having local tailored solutions to our problems? I think so. I was happy that the target of my “Si RDC m’etait contee” initiative was so pragmatic. After arriving in Tanzania, Zitto made contacts with Kigoma Regional Authorities, Tanzania Ports Authorities and Tanzania Railways. He wrote to me that discussions were under way for an official delegation to come from Kigoma to Bukavu. This is very encouraging news.
Did Zitto learn anything from his trip? He certainly did! He qualified his trip as “enlightening” and said to be looking forward to come back on an official visit and take our discussion about Baraka and Kigoma port on a practical level. It was an honour for me to spend a weekend with Zitto; I am looking forward to welcoming him again in the South Kivu, with more friends of the Congo.