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You Can’t Close Pandora’s Box

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 28, 2018 11:01

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The Democratic Republic of Congo does not have a good memory of elections. Those of 1960 led to civil unrest and a putsch by US- and Belgian supported Mobuto. In 2005 the UN supervised an election which confirmed Joseph Kabila as President, but there is a belief that he stole the 2011 elections. Now he has to leave, but will he?

It was a blistering hot day in 2005. Steamy haze lifted from the placid Congo river. A researcher for the UN Security Council explained: “We will help the Congolese elections in a few months, and once an elected Government is in place, the UN withdraws. Six months and all will be over.”  
 
Well, hardly. A contrasting view: “This Democracy thing is bad. Families are pitted against each other, people disrespect their tribal leaders. It’s the Europeans who want democracy, so they must pay for the elections.”
 
The history of elections in the DRC bear out this cynicism. Yet people had come to expect that elections will bring a better life. And the polls, now due to be held on 30 December, have been long-awaited.

Having won the 2005 elections and the subsequent 2011 elections, Joseph Kabila tried everything to extend his term in office. Elections were due in 2016. Constitutional amendments, claims that the voter’s rolls are not ready, all were tried, until Kabila’s close friend and Minister of the Interior, Emmanuel Shadary, told him the time was up. Shadary was nominated as candidate for the ruling party, with Kabila not ruling out an eventual return to politics.

Election fever


Two politicians could oppose Kabila. Jean-Pierre Bemba, ex-warlord, successful businessman, Deputy President, faced a decades long war crimes trial at The Hague. Disqualified from the present elections, he is one of the major backers of Martin Fayulu, political newcomer but now frontrunning candidate. Fayulu's other backer, popular ex-governor of Katanga, Moise Katumbi, was likewise disqualified on legal grounds.

Electoral material burns. AFP

Voting, due on 23 December, was postponed by a week due to public unrest, including a fire that destroyed a number of the disputed voting tablets. Rebel activity in the east prompted the electoral commission to cancel voting in several important opposition-friendly cities, causing even more violence. Opposition parties question the constitutionality of this step. Rioters in the eastern town of Beni, repulsed from the electoral commission offices, ransacked a medical center, sending highly infectious Ebola patients fleeing

Vote! Samuel Mambo/Reuters

The DRC is a ramshackle structure of ethnic entities and corrupt administrative systems. Secession is not an unknown term in politics, and several areas are no-go for Kabila’s forces. Over the last decade civic activism has grown, often centered around churches. And small wonder: one of the richest countries in the world has more than halt its 80 million inhabitants living on less than two dollars a day. It is estimated that less than six percent of mining earnings reach the treasury.

A retired Congolese military friend reassured me: “The outcome is sure. Kabila will win. He controls the machinery. The only question is how long the popular reaction will last. Usually the food runs out after three days.”

 Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images



Pandora's box released evils and demons, but also hope. And that is all one could offer the people of the DRC on 30 December.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 28, 2018 11:01

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Source: Al Jazeera

The recently acquitted former DRC vice president discusses 10 years in captivity, upcoming elections and Congo's future.

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