Elections in the Congo-Kinshasa: trouble or peace ahead?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is gearing up for new presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of this year (2011). I would like here to express some concerns I have about what these elections will give rise to.

I do feel Congo is heading toward another big political and social storm. I know, some of my readers might consider me as a prophet of doom…But let’s ‘give time to time’ and they might change their mind about my ‘predictions’ here.

Several events that have taken place in the Congo in the past months have raised serious concerns about the possibility of holding peaceful and fair general elections in the Congo that result in the Congo’s moving to a time of greater stability. It is clear that the majority of Congolese are tired and sick of the cycle of violence and poverty that has brought the giant Congo to its knees. However, it is also clear that several dangerous seed-events have been planted in Congo political life in the past months, pointing to the fact that Congolese might in the months to come reap a time of trouble instead of a season of stability. The biggest of these seed-events that are foreshadowing greater instability in the land is the constitutional changes made this year in the area of electoral rules. History will certainly show us that the choice of one round of voting for the election of the president has been a huge political mistake with dangerous repercussions. The government has justified this choice by the fear Kabila and his followers have of an “explosive confrontation” that might occur if two challengers have to go to a second round of voting. Such a fear might be justifiable when one remembers about the violence that followed the election of Kabila in 2006. However, trying to avoid an explosive confrontation by tampering with electoral rules can also generate a greater degree of violence than what the government is trying to prevent. What can possibly happen if Kabila or whoever with a simple majority of 15% of votes is elected as president? Trouble, trouble, trouble…85% 0f frustrated people are likely to contest the result of elections and…(we know what happens in Africa when a group contests the result of elections). I expect the level of frustration to be relatively higher if it’s Kabila who wins the election. The frustration would simply rise from the realization that the change in electoral rule has made a united front of the opposition during the second round impossible.

The second set of seed-events I consider as having the potential of yielding trouble and instability in the months to come is the clashes between the Police and the opposition supporters outside the building of the electoral commission. These people have come to this building to protest against alleged irregularities in voter registration. My greatest concern is over the way the government chooses to handle people’s protests and complaints. No matter how effective is the work of the electoral commission, there will be complaints and protests about one thing or another. And, the more we approach the days of elections, the more complaints people will voice. How will the government respond to them? History has shown us that sending out soldiers and policemen to violently disperse protesting militants has never been an appropriate response. Such a clash between the Police and supporters can easily spark off a city-wide or nation-wide violent movement. If the government of DRC does not change its method of responding to movements of protest, this year might end up in political confusion.

The last thing that gives me reasons to be concerned about the outcome of general elections in the Congo is the instability that still prevails in Eastern Congo. News are still being released about repeated attacks of FDLR and other militia groups in various villages and towns in Eastern Congo. I can’t simply understand how peaceful and fair elections could be held in such a hostile environment. And, if they are held (as current events are pointing to), what could be the outcome in terms of people’s agreement with the results? History will tell us.


July 15, 2011


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