Bizarre Campaign With Less Than A Week to Go
According to one of the Friends of the Congo's observers on the ground in the Congo, one would hardly know that an election campaign is underway. Our observer has noted that in Kinshasa there is an eerie calm, there is not the usual fanfare and activity that goes along with a campaign, especially one for the presidency.
Our observation is reinforced by several facts. Neither Kabila nor Bemba has left Kinshasa to campaign in the other provinces. They have either sent their wives or surrogates to campaign in the rest of the country. Many reasons have been offered for the candidates' reluctance to travel throughout the country to campaign, ranging from a shortage of funds to fear of being attacked in areas that do not support them. However, probably the most plausible reason is that both are focused on reinforcing their presence in Kinshasa. It is said about the Congo that he who holds Kinshasa, holds the Congo. Kinshasa is not merely the nation's capital but it is the cultural hub and strategic fulcrum on which the Congo balances. Almost all reports coming from the Congo indicate that both Kabila and Bemba are reinforcing their military strength in Kinshasa. In fact, it can be plausibly argued that they have prepared more for conflict than they have for the elections.
One continues to hope for a peaceful outcome to these fundamentally and tragically flawed elections but the indicators are not promising. Partisans of both Kabila and Bemba have been physically attacked while campaigning in different parts of the country. Arms continue to flow into Kinshasa and Kabila has recently made changes in his cabinet to bring in military men in key posts in his government. As for Bemba, he is under United Nations protection, about 10 armored U.N. vehicles now guard his residence.
Should the two camps launch an all out war, there is little that the United Nations and European troops can do, even though they have beefed up their presence in Kinshasa. Both the British and US governments are like canaries flying out of the mine. They have asked their citizens to leave the Congo in advance of the October 29 elections.