The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) occupies a strategic role for US foreign policy advisors and firms on the African continent.
That was a central message that emerged from a conversation with DRC political figure Martin Fayulu at the Atlantic Council on September 15, 2022. The conversation included questions from journalist Robbie Gramer of Foreign Policy, Julian Pecquet of Jean Afrique/Africa Report, and Carol Van Dam Falk of Voice of America, and was moderated by Africa Center Senior Director Rama Yade.
To open the conversation, Gramer asked Mr. Fayulu about Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent trip to the DRC and whether this trip achieved any breakthroughs in U.S.-Congo relations. Fayulu responded by highlighting the security situation in the eastern part of the country, which he mentions has primarily resulted from violence between the Rwandan FDLR and Congolese groups. “What Secretary of State Blinken didn’t achieve is to really see how the world can remove the FDLR,” he said. In Fayulu’s view, this is the first step in quelling the violence.
Asked whether DRC elections are to be held this year, Fayulu stated that “the elections should take place. There is no matter of doubt.” He stressed the timeliness of the nation’s elections, stating, “our constitution says that every five years, you should have [an] election.” At a time when the stability of the DRC’s democratic institutions is increasingly being called into question by international observers and voices within the country itself, Fayulu reassured that these elections will be held regardless of the outcome. Additionally, when asked whether he would run in the next elections, he confirmed his intention to run again as presidential candidate in the DRC. “I confirm that I will run because the people of Congo want me to run,” he noted.
The DRC has recently been pushing to join the Eastern African Community, despite its location in the central part of the continent. Fayulu criticized this, saying, “We are not in the Eastern African part. We’re in the central part of Africa.” He stressed the importance of focusing on the DRC’s role in the larger African community: “We want to play our role, but that role should be played with the Congolese.” According to him, a Congolese-centered approach is the most effective in tackling multilateral issues.
In discussing the increasing prevalence of Chinese firms in Africa, Fayulu urged greater US private investment. In recent years, Chinese firms have continued to occupy the African space; however, Van Dam Falk noted the “catch-22” of African countries being hesitant towards Chinese interference. “I think it’s an all-Africa problem,” stated Fayulu, “because the Americans have given away the place.” He discussed the need for US private enterprises to recognize the value of investment in Africa. “With the soft power of the United States, with the technology, with the change of technology, I think we need [the US].”
With the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties approaching in Egypt this November, moderators asked Fayulu for his thoughts on the potential outcomes for the DRC’s climate initiatives. Fayulu emphasized that for the DRC to participate in the discussions and emerge with effective change, there first needs to be in place a series of “prerequisites.” “We should have a country with a rule of law,” he first mentioned. While outlining the extent of environmental degradation in the country, saying that “we are disturbing our land,” he went on to state, “we don’t have any comprehensive program for that. That’s why I’m saying, as a prerequisite, we should have a government.”
The conversation emphasized the significance of this moment in time for the history of the DRC. Foreign governments and international observers continue to look to the DRC and the Tshisekedi government for what comes next.
Caitlin Mittrick is a young global professional at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and a graduate student at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.
This event features Congolese political leader Martin Fayulu, who ran for president in 2018. It will take place during a period rich in diplomatic events, between the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in September and the U.S.- Africa Leaders’ Summit in December, during a challenging period marked by the consequences of the war in Ukraine on the African continent. As one of the largest and least developed countries in Africa, the DRC – part of Secretary Blinken’s tour in early August – occupies a strategic role in the competition between global powers in a region heightened by attacks from militia groups on the eastern side of the country.
Difficulties as wide-ranging as food insecurity and the current energy crisis compounded at a time when investment opportunities abound, and global geopolitical competition strategies stress the power of engaging with the continent. Internally, the upcoming presidential elections and challenges on the domestic democratic front may also threaten the country’s future.
Hon. Martin Fayulu
Engagement for Citizenship and Development Party
Democratic Republic of Congo
Hon. Martin Fayulu ran for President of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018 and is the President of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development Party. He also serves as chair of the Congo-based Commitment to Citizenship and Development. You can follow him on Twitter at @MartinFayulu.
Carol Van Dam Falk
International Broadcaster and Occasional Host of VOA’s International Edition
Voice of America
Jeune Afrique/The Africa Report
Amb. Rama Yade
Senior Director, Africa Center
The Africa Center works to promote dynamic geopolitical partnerships with African states and to redirect US and European policy priorities toward strengthening security and bolstering economic growth and prosperity on the continent.