Republic Of Congo Essay, Research Paper
A republic, according to the Webster s dictionary, is a government in which the supreme power rests in all the citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives elected by them. However, a government s claims to be a republic does not necessarily make it a republic. The Republic of Congo, a small country in south-western Africa, has democratic and republic aspects in its parliamentary system. The government of the Republic of Congo has a tendency to change seemingly rapidly when compared to that of a more stable system of government, such as that of Britain. The Republic of Congo is a relatively small country with a land area of only one hundred and thirty-two thousand square miles.1 One can get a better idea of the size of the Republic of Congo s size by comparing it with that of Britain, which is ninety-four thousand two hundred and forty-nine square miles.2 Even though Congo has more land area than Britain, Britain has a much greater population of 58.26 million whereas Congo has a population of 2.5 million.3 Seventy percent of the people of the Republic of Congo live in or around the capitol city of Brazzaville.4 With this much of the population in or around the biggest city in the country, very little of the population is to farm what land is can be cultivated. Only about three square miles of land in the entire country is irrigated land.5 This is mainly because of the fact that petroleum is Congo s most valuable resource. Congo first produced oil in 1957.6 Since that time, the oil industry has become the largest area of concentration for the government. This, however, has led to the diminish in other important areas such as food production, medicine, and public health. The Republic of Congo imports most of the food supply. Also, according to the Consul to the Republic of Congo in the United States, medical facilities are limited and medicine is in short supply.7 These problems have been some of the factors that have reduced life expectancies, which is currently forty-four years for males and forty-seven years for females, and increased infant mortality rates, which is currently at one hundred and six deaths per one-thousand live births.8 Experts believe that the Congo was uninhabited until the mass African migrations of AD 1500. Settlement of the Congo led to the establishment of native kingdoms that were undermined by the Portuguese slave trade in the 16th Century. As the Portuguese dominance diminished, the French dominance began to flourish. The French gained control of Congo in 1880 when the French explorer Brazza signed a treaty with a local tribal leader. In 1883 the French established a protectorate, which is the relation of a strong country to a weaker country that is under its control and protection, and in 1910 merged Congo with several other French colonial possessions to become French Equatorial Africa. During World War II, Congo gave strong support to France, so that in 1946 General DeGaulle granted French citizenship to its inhabitants. French Equatorial Africa was dissolved in 1959, and in 1960 the Congo declared its independence but remained part of the French community.9 The Congo’s first president, Fulbert Youlou, was driven from office by labor unrest. The military took over in 1963 and installed Alphonse Massamba-Debat as president. He was reelected, but, in 1968, he was deposed by a military junta. In January 1969, leftist Major Marien Ngouabi took power as president and established the People’s Republic of Congo. He was reelected in 1975. The same year, he signed an economic aid pact with the Soviet Union. In 1977, Ngouabi was assassinated. Former president Massamba-Debat was charged with the assassination and then executed. Army Chief of Staff Colonel Joachim Yhombi-Opango took over as president and resumed diplomatic relations with the United States that ended a 12-year estrangement. Yhombi-Opango resigned in 1979 and was replaced by Colonel Denis Sassou-Nguesso who was reelected twice.10 Sassou-Nguesso was the ruler of Congo for more than a decade until he was forced to enact political reforms in 1991. Also, in 1991, Congo returned its name to the Republic of Congo and began to move toward multiparty democracy as opposition parties became legal. In the election of 1992, Lissouba was elected president. Sassou-Nguesso claimed vote fraud in the election.11Events have not gone smoothly since Pascal Lissouba was elected president. In 1993 there were outbreaks of tribal and ethnic violence. Fighting broke out in early June 1997 when Lissouba tried to disarm troops that remained loyal to former Marxist president Sassou-Nguesso. This began a civil war. Lissouba feared Sassou-Nguesso would disrupt the planned elections of July 1997. 12 Due to the fighting between Lissouba and Sassou-Nguesso, Sassou-Nguesso had gained control of about three quarters of the country by October of 1997.13 On October 15, 1997, Sassou-Nguesso declared victory over President Lissouba, claiming that he was, at that time, in control of most of the country.14 The current Constitution of the Republic of Congo was approved on March 15, 1992.15 The Constitution proposes a strong presidency in a parliamentary system. The Constitution of Congo also addresses many issues that constitutions of other countries do not. For example, in Article 9, the Constitution says that the State has total and permanent sovereignty over all riches and natural resources. In addition, the Constitution addresses other issues such as discrimination, especially concerning women s rights. In Article 31, the Constitution guarantees that, for the same work, women are entitled to the same salary as men.The British Constitution, on the other hand, is unwritten. The basis for the British Constitution comes from four sources: common law, statute laws, traditions and conventions, and commentaries written by constitutional authorities.16 The common law principle includes laws that are understood by the majority, such as freedom of expression and sovereignty of Parliament, which means that Parliament may make or abolish any laws.17 Statute laws are laws that override common law and are effectively constitutional law.18 Traditions and conventions are not actually laws, but have been in use for so long that they are considered binding. Finally, commentaries are written by constitutional authorities. These interpretations that the “authorities” give are often used in good faith as coming from an “authority” on the subject.The Constitution of the Republic of Congo divides the government into three basic categories: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The executive branch contains the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister. The legislative branch is made up of the Parliament. The judicial branch is made up of the High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Council.The President of the Republic of Congo, under the Constitution, is the Head of State. There are both restrictions and powers granted to the President by the Constitution. Article 73 deals with the Presidential incompatibilities. Under this, the President may not exercise any other elective mandate, any public employment, civil employment, military employment, or any professional activity. He also can not belong to a political party or a political association. The Constitution addresses the issue of payoffs and bribes by requiring that, upon entering office, the President must make an official declaration of all his possessions. The powers, however, heavily outweigh the restrictions. The President names the Prime Minister, who is then approved by the National Assembly. The President may hire and fire other members of the government with the advice of the Prime Minister. The President presides over the Council of Ministers. The President must sign all laws for them to take effect. He may also submit bills to the legislature for debate. The President has the power to dissolve Parliament and call new elections. He has the right of pardon, may appoint ambassadors, and is the Commander-in-Chief of the military.19These powers are significant when compared to the Head of State in Britain, which happens to be the monarch. In Britain, the monarch holds very little power. The monarch has the right to consult with the Prime Minister, as well as, the right to dissolve Parliament and call new elections, although, in practice, this is only done at the request of the Prime Minister. The monarch has the right, if no party has an absolute majority in Parliament, to name the new Prime Minister. However, most of these powers are rarely used. The monarch serves as more of a figurehead than a ruler.20The Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo, the Head of Government, has an outlined role in the Constitution. The Prime Minister assures execution of the laws and exercises regulatory power. The Prime Minister names civil and military employees. There are also, however, incompatibilities with the office of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister may not exercise any parliamentary mandate, may not occupy any office of professional representation, may not occupy any public employment, or any compensated private activity. Finally, the Prime Minister may not belong to a political party or association.21The Prime Minister of Britain has significantly greater powers. The British Prime Minister, along with his cabinet, makes the policies. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons and must be a member of Parliament. The Prime Minister has the power to call elections and the power of appointment.22 These two powers are significant in that the Prime Minister may, if in dissent with Parliament, dissolve it and call new elections. This gives him significantly more control over Parliament. He also has the power of appointment which will allow him to appoint people who have political views that are similar to his.The Parliament of the Republic of Congo is divided into two houses, the National Assembly and the Senate. These two houses of Parliament are responsible for passing laws. Each house has some independent powers of its own, but basically both Houses have similar powers. For example, only the Senate shall approve the election of members of the Supreme Court and members of the High Council of the magistrate. The Senate plays the role of moderator and counselor of the nation. On the other hand, the National Assembly is solely responsible for budgetary acts. Both Houses, however, must pass laws and constitutional amendments. The bills that are passed must be exactly the same before being presented to the President for signing. If these bills are not exactly the same, a joint commission is established, which will amend the bills. The bills will then be sent back through both Houses and then to the President.23Like Congo, Britain s Parliament is divided into two Houses: the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The two Houses are very different with very different powers. The House of Lords is the highest court of appeals. It can introduce, revise, or delay legislation, but most decisions can be overruled by the House of Commons. The House of Lords is given ample time to discuss and debate issues. The House of Commons is responsible for debating legislation and passing laws.24 In Britain policy making is done mainly by the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Parliament becomes a point of access and debate concerning the policy making. However, the interplay between the media and public opinion is the most important influence in Britain.25The Congolese judicial system is defined under the Constitution. There are three main sections: the High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Council. The High Court of Justice judges the President of the Republic, the members of government, members of Parliament, members of the Supreme Court, and the Heads of Courts for crimes committed while in office. The Supreme Court exercises the right of judicial authority. This gives it the right to hear appeals passed up through the lower courts. The Constitutional Council assures the Constitutionality of laws, treaties, and accords, as well as, regulates activities of public authorities and regulates the election process.26Alternatively, in the British judiciary, there is no separate constitutional court. Parliament decides Constitutionality and has supreme law. Britain has no supreme court. The House of Lords is Britain s highest court of appeals.27
Subnational governments in both the Republic of Congo and Britain are similar. Since both governments operate on a unitary system, there are no requirements for subnational governments. These lower governments are made up of districts, counties, cities, and townships. However, the local governments only exist at the whim of the national governments. These subnational governments have no real power.Elections, in the Republic of Congo, are held differently for each office. The President of the Republic is elected for five year terms by direct universal suffrage, meaning that anyone who is eligible to vote may directly vote for the President. He is eligible for reelection one time. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, is not elected, but is appointed to office. The President appoints the Prime Minister with a majority of approval in the National Assembly. The one hundred and twenty-five members of the National Assembly are elected by direct universal suffrage for five year terms. The sixty Senators are elected by indirect universal suffrage, which means that voters vote for a person who votes for a person, which becomes similar to a pyramid, for six year terms. The Senators shall be renewable every two years by thirds, which means that every two years one-third of the Senate is up for elections. The members of the High Court of Justice are appointed for life by Parliament and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court s members are appointed for life by Parliament. The Constitutional Council is made up of nine members: two magistrates elected by the High Council of the Magistrate; two law professors from the university elected by their peers; two lawyers elected by their peers; and three members named proportionately, one by the President of the Republic, one by the President of the National Assembly, and one by the President of the Senate. The members of the Constitutional Council are elected for six year terms renewed every two years by thirds.28Britain has a different method of elections. The Monarch is not elected, but rather obtains the throne through family heritage. The Prime Minister of Britain is not elected, per se, but is the leader of the majority party in Parliament. This assumes that he or she was elected as a member of Parliament. The members of the House of Lords are not elected. The House of Lords is made up of twenty-five archbishops and bishops of the Church of England; hereditary peers, such as Lord… or Lady… ; and life peers, which are mainly public servants that have been offered peerage for life by the monarch. The six-hundred and fifty-nine members of the House of Commons are elected for renewable five-year terms in single member districts.29The election system in the Republic of Congo has encouraged a multiparty system. In fact, there are numerous parties who are often in Parliament. The most important party is the extreme left Congolese Labor Party, led by Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Then follows the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy which is a social-democratic party led by Pascal Lissouba. The conservative Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development Party is led by Bernard Kolelas. There is a social-democratic Congolese Party of Renewal. There is a centrist party known as the Rally for Democracy and Development, which is led by Yhombi Oyango. The socialist Rally for Democracy and Social Progress is led by Thystere Tchicaya. The centrist Union of Democratic Forces is led by David Charles Ganao. The social-democratic Union for Development and Social Progress is led by Jean-Michael Bohamba-Yangouma. There is also the social-democratic National Union for Democracy and Progress, the centrist Patriotic Union for National Reconstruction, the centrist Union for Congolese Democracy, and the centrist Union for Democracy and Republic.30 These parties are relatively new and not much is known about them.Britain, however, has some older and more established parties. There are three main British parties: the Labor Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats. The Labor Party is currently the party in power, and is similar to the Democratic Party in the United States. The Conservative Party is the oldest party in Britain and is similar to the Republican Party in the United States. The Liberal Democratic Party, in their beliefs, falls in the middle of the Labor and Conservative Parties.31Both the Republic of Congo and Britain have interest groups that try to affect the policy-making process in each country. The main sections of these interest groups are labor unions, business groups, and environmental groups. Britain has the oldest, largest, and most influential environmental movement in the world. Some of Britain s interest groups include the Confederation of British Industry and the Trade Union Congress.32 The Republic of Congo has issues such as air pollution, water pollution from dumping of raw sewage, and deforestation. Groups such as the Union of Congolese Socialist Youth, the Congolese Trade Union Congress, the Revolutionary Union of Congolese Women, and the General Union of Congolese Pupils and Students address these and many other issues.33Information about public issues is not always readily available in Congo. There are five radio stations and, as of 1987, four televisions stations in the entire country. Most of these are government owned and operated. There are very few telephones. Approximately one in every one hundred and fifty Congolese have a telephone. There are less than half that many televisions.34Britain, alternatively, is known as having one of the most active and respected media in the world. Most of Britain s media are national and deal with national news and issues. This helps Britain to promote a more in-depth type of information to the public audience.35As in most countries, there is a link between economic and foreign policy in the Republic of Congo. Congo, since the economic decline began has been trying to relieve pressure from the government in an effort to privatize many of the government owned commodities such as water, electricity, and food production. Part of the decline was caused by an eagerness to find and produce more oil. The oil industry has brought many foreign companies such as Shell and Exxon into Congo, but this has been at the cost of other economic aspects.36Britain has slightly different foreign and economic policy concerns. Since the World Wars, Britain has been in an economic decline. This has been addressed to promote relationships with former colonies and the United States.37 The decline is, however, still a problem that may possibly be solved in the future.The history of the Republic of Congo clearly shows that Congo is subject to strong opinions and rapid changes. This is very different from the British, who value bargaining, compromising, and incremental change. The Republic of Congo has, in it s Constitution, republic aspects, but military takeovers and rapid changes do not always allow it to be a republic in practice. Therefore, one can see that just because a country claims to be a republic, it is not necessarily a republic. Endnotes 1. United States. Energy Information Administration. Congo. March 1996.2. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.3. “Republic of the Congo.” CIA Factbook. Internet. Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/cf.html4. “Republic of the Congo.” CIA Factbook. Internet. Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/cf.html5. “Republic of the Congo.” CIA Factbook. Internet. Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/cf.html6. United States. Energy Information Administration. Congo. March 1996.7. United States. Consulate to the Republic of Congo. Congo-Consular Information Sheet. June 24, 1996. Available http://travel.state.gov/congo.html8. “Republic of the Congo.” CIA Factbook. Internet. Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/cf.html9. “Professor Pascal Lissouba Congolese President.” CNN Plus: Newsmaker Profiles. Online. Internet. 1997. Available http://cnnplus.cnn.com/resources/newsmakers/world/africa/lissouba.html10. “Professor Pascal Lissouba Congolese President.” CNN Plus: Newsmaker Profiles. Online. Internet. 1997. Available http://cnnplus.cnn.com/resources/newsmakers/world/africa/lissouba.html11. “Professor Pascal Lissouba Congolese President.” CNN Plus: Newsmaker Profiles. Online. Internet. 1997. Available http://cnnplus.cnn.com/resources/newsmakers/world/africa/lissouba.html12. “Professor Pascal Lissouba Congolese President.” CNN Plus: Newsmaker Profiles. Online. Internet. 1997. Available http://cnnplus.cnn.com/resources/newsmakers/world/africa/lissouba.html13. “Republic of Congo government retains palace, airport in fighting.” CNN Online. Online. Internet. October 12, 1997. Available http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9710/12/congo/index.html14. “Former Leader Claims Victory.” ABC Online. Online. Internet. October 16, 1997. Available http://www.abcnews.com/sections/world/congorep1016/index.html15. Congo Page. Online. Internet. Nd. Available http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Country_Specific/Congo.html16. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.17. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.18. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.19. National Constitution of the Republic of Congo.20. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.21. National Constitution of the Republic of Congo.22. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.23. National Constitution of the Republic of Congo.24. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.25. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.26. National Constitution of the Republic of Congo.27. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.28. National Constitution of the Republic of Congo.29. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.30. Elections in Congo-Brazzaville. Online. Internet. Nd. Available http://www.agora.stm.it/elections/election/congobra.htm31. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.32. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.33. “Republic of the Congo.” CIA Factbook. Internet. Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/cf.html34. “Republic of the Congo.” CIA Factbook. Internet. Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/cf.html35. National Constitution of the Republic of Congo.36. United States. Energy Information Administration. Congo. March 1996.37. McCormick, John. Comparative Politics in Transition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publication, 1990.