By Saifullahi Attahir
Pascal lissouba was a former President of Republic of Congo Brazzaville, a country located very closed to its counter part DRC Congo with capital Kinsasha.
The story of this two close neighbors was another irony of our continent, both capitals are only separated by a river, which you can easily spot each other by mere sight.
They share much in common but are bitterly sabotaging each other due to mere nonsensical issue of tribe, and language, and to the benefit of their former masters, this division created an opportunity to be ruled and controlled by their former colonist.
He was born around 1940’s to a middle income family in a village before the country independence.
He studied in the government run school and was an intelligent student culminating in him gaining scholarship to study Agriculture at France elite academy Ecole in Paris.
He had a stinch stay in Paris working as a scientist before he came back home starting a job as a senior civil servant in the ministry of Agriculture under President Massamba Debat.
His expertize was noticed and soon climb the social ladder and in less than a decade and became the minister of Agriculture.
He held other positions in the Debat government and was later promoted to the post of prime minister until their government was overthrown by an army General called Denis Sassou Nguesse. His former boss was assassinated while he was forced to resigned.
Amidst this quagmire, Oil ( petroleum crude oil) was the central player of all this and future unrest that were to follow in this tiny country.
It was discovered a little while around 1960’s after the country got independence, and most of the exploration, production and transactions were handled between the government and the giant French conglomerate Elf OIL COMPANY.
The deal was marred with corruption, shadowy maneuvers, and the oil money mostly ended up being stacked in the Paris banks.The little that got to the Congolese is also largely slashed by the politicians and the ruling class. Without mentioning only little or none the ordinary citizens of Congo benefit from this newly found wealth.
Another problem was that the discovery of this oil lead to Dutch disease development, where by the government abandoned other key infrastructural income sectors like Agriculture. The common populace too abandoned their hoes and rushed for the golden egg only to meet with frustration.
This oil also created another problem of division and hatred among the different tribes of the country, everyone was trying to dominate his brother for the booty and no one to think for the country.
During this period Pascal Lissouba retired from Politics and took a job as an academician and genetic lecturer in the University initially in Paris and later in his country Congo.
Despite the rise in the world crude oil prices of 1970’s due to the historic Arab Embargo, Congo Brazzaville begins to accumulate debts upon itself by involving in elephant projects and depending so much on Pseudo Economic consultants advice.
The economic situation in the country begins to change for the worse, salary arrears begins to accumulate for several months, inflation raised high,and hunger begins to appear.
The president of that time becomes unpopular and this created a chance for the emergence of Pascal Lissouba as the new President of Republic of Congo Brazzaville after an election in 1992.
It was reported that Pascal became President with the support of France and the Elf oil company with the agreement of continuing business as usual, which means to allow the monopoly exploration of Congo Crude oil by the Elf company only.
After he settled down as the president Pascal begins to saw the real mess his country was already in, with billion of Dollars already in debt, and the continues siphoning of the little they got through corrupt middlemen.
He discovered that almost 2/3 of their earning went into debt servicing with nothing to show of what was done with the loan received at the first instance.
He too begins to face public resentment due to over 6 months salary arrears his government owes to workers. Face with no alternative, he rushed to Paris and met President Mitterrand for help and was surprisingly denied.
He rushed to the Elf company for aid and was negotiated under terms that includes conceding several millions of crude oil barrels in advance. This Mr. Pascal turn down too.
Cleverly and courageously He went to an American oil company called The Occidental and secure a deal that ensure his country to collect a loan of $150 million, in exchange for license of oil exploration to the company.
Desperate to satisfy his people and to quench their thirst plus an election around the corner, he quickly rushed home and to the applause of his people, and surely He won the mid term election.
Problem begins to develop between his government and the Elf Company for including the Occidental in oil exploration.
The grudge was also backed by President Mitterrand too, and soon the Paris begun to loose tie with its former friend and started supporting new one called Suisse Nguesse.
Nguesse desperate for power couldn’t allow him to wait for election time, but instead begins to financed militias to ouster President Lissouba.
The country was thrown in to civil war between 1995 to 1997 until President Lissouba was overpowered off course with the help of foreign powers and military intelligence. President Pascal Lissouba fled the country and exiled in London.
This essay was written purposely to highlight the complex situation of most of our African countries, especially those that depends on Natural resources such as crude oil as the sole source of exchange earning.
The story is not much different in countries like Angola, Gabon, Central African Republic, and Nigeria. It’s always the same tactics, only the players change but the game is the same old tricks.
If I were Pascal Lissouba, and God granted me wisdom,courage and fearlessness, I would have begins a mass national orientation campaign since before I assumed office to explain to country the dire need of every citizen to sacrifice for the period ahead so that the whole country would head toward a common goal of emancipation of their natural resource.
I would have renegotiate the terms of oil contract with the Elf Company with this time inviting other key players in the world especially the global South block for military and infrastructural aid.
I would have engage in constant national campaign to ensure the whole population are well informed so as to acquire their support for the hard road ahead.
But I begins to doubt the realization of this dream due to the complex behavior of our very own people.
We African are creatures that mostly lack endurance of hardship, we usually prefer short term gratification of our desires, most of us can not sacrifice long enough no matter the value of what was ahead.
We are creatures that easily fall in to division, we easily delve in to ethnic, religious, tribal and regional self interest conflict. We love chaos, we love greediness that surpasses the imagination of any self conscious human thinking.
We can kill because of money, we can sacrifice our brethren because of money, we can amass so much through crook method what even our grandchildren can not spend.
And from my perspective this is not a problem of leadership alone or the problem of a single or few individuals, this is a pandemic disease, it’s almost within the blood of most of us unless those few God chosen.
This problem was within every strata of our society, and I can’t belief the mere excuse of leadership alone as the only cause.
This problem is complex and multifaceted, our very own people fueled it, we love short cut, everybody loves to arrive quickly, we love overnight riches, we want enjoyment but we lack plan and disciplinary execution.
Even at individual level that is how we are, and that makes our homes, family, so it’s not surprising that we have a nation or continent that lament.
The coups are organized by our people, the sabotage are supported by our own people.
This problem is not peculiar to only politicians, it’s present among college students, among academicians, among families, among workers, among the businessmen, it’s everywhere.
I begins to sympathised with people like Pascal Lissouba because most of the men who have tried to opposed the status quo are usually prematurely retired from leadership and some even unfortunately got killed.
Where is Gaddafi, where is Murtala, where is Sankara, where is Abacha,where is Saddam, where is Lumumba, where is Mandela ?
Saifullahi Attahir wrote.