We got to interview Ms Monique Mukuna Mutombo under the Political Economy theme of the Journey with the Women of SADC campaign. Ms Mukuna Mutombo is a Politician and businesswoman from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She is currently a Presidential Candidate running against President Joseph Kabila in 2016 elections which were postponed and are yet to take place. See our interview with Ms Mukuna Mutombo below.
I was born in a mining town, Kolwezi, south of Katanga, DRC. My family is from the center of the country, Kasai Occidental. We trace our heritage from a tribe known as Bakwa Ndolo where my late grandmother, from my father’s side, was a respected princess. African culture has a deep impact on my way of life, through lessons learnt from my family who taught me the importance of heritage received from ancestors, and how to evolve with the times while retaining our cultural values. In 1994, during the tribal war between the native people from the Kasai region, my family moved to Lubumbashi, the capital city of the southern province, for safety.
As a child, I was very shy, more comfortable in my own dreams than in a crowd.
I started to read a lot from a very young age, trying to create my own world. I was inspired by my grandmother who used to tell me that a king or a queen should serve the people and not the other way around. I remember that I could not stand injustice, I was saddened to see poor students at school not dressed as my friend and I were, or not having lunch.
She passed away in 1998. She was a great person. She used to wake me up in the night, as sometimes she was staying with us, telling me to live as a people orientated person. She gave me the passion of fighting for justice instead of complaining. She told me to live by only one principle, to be respected not for what I have in my bank account but because I have done good to people. She was short, but so great in her soul! She also told me that a royal person does not accept people praising him if they are hungry. I hope that she is proud of the person I am today, as I try to practice her wise advises.
The journey has been long and not very easy as a woman. I am an economist and I started my professional life at the bottom of the scale, as a cashier for 2 years. The job allowed me to pay my school fees for some years, to assist my father who lost his place at Gecamines, the state mine company, due to a tribal war between people from Kasai province and the natives of Katanga province. In 2006, I was in charge of registration of candidates and voters at the electoral committee in Lubumbashi. After that, I worked as the head of an Italian NGO, Alba Logistics that is in charge of managing the UN inter-agency for Katanga. In 2009, after the elections, I decided to leave for Kalemie, at the border of Lake Tanganyika to manage Ecoprop (now closed) part of a South African based group of companies, Van der Ghinst company for one year and half.
To challenge myself, I decided to start a new professional life in Tanzania, to achieve my dream, I had to do two months training in Cape town at SA Health Care, hoping I could find a market for South African health care equipment in East Africa. Unfortunately, the market was completely saturated by Indian and Chinese cheaper products. A long period of searching for new opportunities began, which was very difficult! For more than a year before I was hired as a Senior Investment Officer of a German mining company, Metalcorp group based in the Nederland, for Eastern and central Africa for 2 years. This work allowed me to understand the regional mining sector and the situation of my country. It has been a great field experience with all the challenges of a woman not necessarily accepted by artisans in the mines.
After that, for four years, I was the regional representative, in 11 African countries for Antaser Afrique, a Belgium based company dealing with electronic cargo trucking system. My role was to study the socioeconomic system of the 11 countries, to facilitate the implementation of the system through the ministry of finance or transport. The system allows the different countries to get 24/7 online import statistics, specifications of the goods and different documents and all the online information needed for imported goods. I announced, in March 2016, in Paris, my presidential candidacy. Today I have a political platform, RDC Nouvel Horizon, grouping 10 associations and 7 political parties. I am currently taking online specialisation courses on visionary leadership from Michigan University in the United States.
What is happening currently in my country, The Democratic Republic of Congo, is pathetic for Africa in the 21st century. The main issue is the way that the current president got into power. His father was assisted by some countries in return for some promises, and now the son has to fulfill the promises of his late father. He also makes a very big mistake by surrounding himself with 70% of the advisors of the late Mobutu. We understand that he is lacking in management experience and has only military experience.
Today, the “stakeholders” of power want him to remain in power as it serves their economic interest. The opposition is scattered, more motivated by the financial side of power than serving the country. There are a lot of rebel groups: some coming from South Sudan are used to intimidate Congolese natives to prevent a revolt; some are supported by our neighbors; some by Congolese mining bosses; Some African countries want to see the current regime remain in power; some for personal financial support from Kabila; some for the promise of business deals in sectors such as mining, oil and arms.
Beside this sad picture, Congolese people are suffering of hunger; unemployment at around 45%; a lack of basics like drinking water, electricity and decent health care; war; refugees – more than 1.3 million displaced since late 2016. Over the last 20 years, 15 million of Congolese have been killed.<br></br>The currency depreciates daily. The election calendar is not yet published.
Despite all the above, 13 African countries – among them South Africa and Ghana (the big surprise) – are against an international investigation of the crimes committed in the Kasai province. As was the case for apartheid in South Africa, financial pressure on the Congolese leader will accelerate the installation of the Democracy in the DRC.
As is often the case, until a woman has proved her ability to lead, men have the tendency to not let her do her job. What I found bizarre, while I was working at the electoral committee, women were more jealous of the authority of their female peers. At Kalemie, at Ecoprop, the first week was more complicated for me has I was the only woman among more than 100 workers. The mining sector is particularly tricky. Some mine workers still believe that a woman can bring bad luck if she is having her period!
In all these situations, experience plays a big role. I try to stay focused on what I have to do, showing all my capabilities to those under my leadership.
If I win the presidential election in the DRC, I will be the first woman to do so. From the study we are carrying out, on social media and in the field, approx. 60% of the population does not have a problem, 30% are dubious and 10% are really very aggressive, insulting and completely against the idea of a woman at the head of state.
I have very big support from women! The situation of the Congolese women is so neglected that they have many expectations from my candidacy. They are being raped every day, some doctors are trying to assist them but no one is taking care of their mental health. Our justice system does not protect widows from the in-laws who expropriate poor women from what belongs to them and to their children. They hope that I will better defend their rights, which I definitely will!
We have a lot of NGOs and organisations that are trying to find a solution for these women. I cannot, even though my NGO, do anything that has a real impact on the 50 000 000 Congolese women. Once I am the head of the state, I will make sure that women are respected and get an equal chance at education and employment.
I am 43 years old, my life has been very rich in challenges. As I said, I am not used to complaining. It might be difficult but I will fight to give prosperity to my country. As they say in my mother tongue: Where a woman points her finger, is where the house will be built.
I am a fighter by nature, and the love of my country and the idea of leaving a safe place to live for my two daughters make me wake up in the morning and see all the challenges before me as stairs.
They can do so much! African women are so generous. Girls, please, set your standards very high. You can! You are very strong! Africa is waiting for you to get rid of all atrocities that a woman’s heart cannot allow!
Monique is currently a Presidential Candidate running against President Joseph Kabila in the presidential elections which have been postponed since 2016.
The Journey with the Women of SADC edition of PESA Dialogues commemorates the invaluable role of Women in African society during the month of August. The edition profiles and celebrates the lives of a few women who are champions of industry in their respective backgrounds. The campaign focuses on three thematic areas, namely: Political Economy, Business and International Trade, and Social Activism and Gender Relations. The interviews provide unique, first hand encounters by women in different industries and sectors, their journeys, challenges and contributions towards improving the lives of women in the SADC region.