With the runoff election between Presidential candidates Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba less than two weeks away, tensions are running high in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Last week, Transitional President Kabila replaced a number of civilians in his cabinet and provincial governors with military officers. Following the replacements, critics accused Kabila of attempting to entrench himself in power.

The replacement of civilian leaders with military officers is potentially troubling for the DRC on the eve of elections because it severely compromises the neutrality of the state’s armed forces. If Kabila controls the military, it will be difficult for the DRC to move from militarization to democratization regardless of who is elected President on October 29th. Although the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) denies that Kabila’s recent actions will interfere with the fairness of elections, the replacements do have great potential to undermine security. People will be less likely to turn out in large numbers if they feel that their security is not guaranteed, thus compromising the democratic process. Security is not a characteristic associated with the DRC’s past, and it will not be one associated with its future unless the new government can assure that the armed forces are politically neutral.

To read more about the current situation in the DRC visit the UN’s Integrated Regional News Network .