The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the second largest nation in Africa after Algeria, is again dominating the headlines for failure to organize free and fair elections. Some are blaming the country’s size for the logistical failure, but there is no excuse for killing, arresting and imprisoning members of the opposition. Clearly, a lack of democracy is one of Congo’s major problems.
Although the incumbent President Joesph Kabila had the legal rights to seek reelection, there is no justification for sending soldiers into villages in North Kivuto threaten people with violence if they don’t vote for him. Intimidation is too common in the history of African elections, especially when the incumbent has command of the military and police.
News reports said that elections were chaotic in some places across Congo. For example, in the city of Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province, two policemen and one civilian were killed when armed men attacked the polling station. Seven or eight of the attackers were also killed, according to government sources.
Violence, shortage of ballots, late opening, and long lines at polling stations have also been reported. Some of these problems could have been avoided because they were brought to the attention of the electoral commission ahead of the elections.
While the opposition believes that these irregularities were intended to give a competitive edge to the incumbent president Kabila, we must not conclude that he has already won because the results of the elections have not been released. During a debate on Okapi Radio’s show called Inter-Congolese Dialogue, the guests were asked whether the disputed elections should be nullified due to all the problems. Franklin Tshamala, member of the Presidential Majority said: “the irregularities are minor and may be corrected in the future. The Congo did not collapse and it will not collapse tomorrow.” For Professor Elykia Mbokolo, political analyst, “the elections can be partially or completely reorganized only if irregularities are serious and proven.” “If the results are disputed, it is the Supreme Court that will decide on the cancellation of the elections or not,” said Professor Elykia Mbokolo. Jean-Baldwin Mayo, spokesman of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) disagreed, saying that “the Supreme Court is not independent. There have been attempts of fraud all over for one candidate.” Without giving a precise answer to the question, Professor Comi Toulabor, research director at the center “The Africa in the World” in Bordeaux, France, asked: “We believe that irregularities are in favor of Kabila. And if it is Tshisekedi who wins, would he agree that the elections be reorganized? ” Many analysts have been wondering why President Kabila did not leave power after a decade as Congo’s president; it is a general trend in African politics for presidents to cling to power. Sometimes it is because they fear retribution for the crimes they have committed while in power, like assassination, embezzlement of funds, fraud, and many more. Presidential candidate Kamerhe Vital promised that nothing would happen to Kabila after he relinquished power, demonstrating the prevalence of this risk. Is Kabila’s reelection bid a temporarily measure to protect himself from prosecution for his crimes before and during his presidency? If so, such a strategy is very shortsighted. The lessons from the fates of longtime strong men in North Africa and this week’s announcement that former Cote D’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo arrived in the Hague to face justice at the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be a wake-up call cause for concern.
Why should President Kabila trust the words of Kamerhe knowing what he and the Kabila political family did to Kabila’s challenger Jean Pierre Mbemba in 2006? Politics are dirty. It is no coincidence that my primary school teacher told us that politics is the art of lying.
More on the elections:
Watch Voice of America’s InFocus with Ndimyake Mwakalyelye and Traight Talk Africa with Shaka Ssali
By Bahati Jacques