THERE was a time when sympathy for the DRC among many Africans just dried up.
Although this vast country has been independent since 1960, its sovereignty has, in the view of many Africans, lost all meaning.
In spite of its vast natural resources, the country has just not managed to provide its people with a political, economic and social lifestyle that would make them feel proud to announce to any foreigner that “I am a Congolese.”
It is said DRC citizens routinely let strangers believe they are from Congo-Brazzaville, rather than from the mess across the river.
Nigerians once suffered that same ignominy, until, after a few civilian administrations, their country seemed to settle into a semblance of order, unrelated to the military But last week, all that seemed to unravel into the old chaos which the country first tasted after the assassination of its prime minister, Sir Abubakar Balewa.
Nigeria has plunged into a period of religious bloodshed — if that is the appropriate adjective.
To add to the confusion, there was the alarming, ill-timed decision by the government to abolish the fuel subsidy.
President Goodluck Jonathan could not have taken this decision without recognising its possible consequences for his administration.
If he really did, then all we can say to him is “Good luck to you, sir — you’ll need it.”
Although people have been killed in the religious carnage, there has not been any substantial loss of life over the subsidy crisis.
The government’s reaction to the demonstrations was circumspect, in the circumstances By the end of last week, there was hope that an agreement would be reached between the government and the labour unions.
The economic consequences on ordinary Nigerians are stark: it will raise their cost of living sky high.
People living on a dollar a day may find their lives sinking to the depths of penury.
Moreover, all civilians believe somehow that the government itself is going to exploit the removal of the subsidy: corruption is still rampant in Nigeria
People believe, almost without a pause, that most of the money will go into the pockets of corrupt politicians and comrades-in-graft, the civil servants.
If the government handles this crisis without considering the plight of the poor, we could see Nigeria going up in flames again.
The great pity of it is that, like South Africa, this most populous nation on the continent must set an example for the rest of the continent.
It has vast natural resources which must make life relatively tolerable for the poor.
There is no suggestion that the poor ought to be given everything for free: no country could survive that kind of Father Christmas generosity for long
But the poor in such “rich” countries as Angola, DRC, Ivory Coast, Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria must be made to believe that the natural wealth of the country, while being used to bolster the infrastructure to improve the economy, must most certainly be used to also uplift their living standards.
There is a crisis in South Africa, where the poor remain as poor as they were before the end of apartheid 17 years ago.
This is unconscionable. The explanation can only be related to corruption in high places.
The welfare of the poor is being ignored, often on the incredible fallacy that they are “mostly lazy.”
The people of Nigeria came out into the streets, remembering how effective this was in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.
All over the world today, the young people are beginning to appreciate that there is strength in numbers.
In every economy in crisis, it is the young who suffer the most.
In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, most economies are going through hard times.
Even in China, there is a forecast of hard times ahead.
Already, there have been demonstrations against the government in a number of cities. Young people, even in that communist regime, are risking their lives to protest against injustice This is the land in which the world saw the horror of the Tiananmen Square massacre years ago.
That slaughter helped to herald a new era in China.
Although democracy is still an alien language there, things have changed — for the better.
Today, change ought not to cost so many lives.