Thursday, January 27, 2011

DRC Elections: Indifference is the Enemy

On 16 December 2010, I was observing the roads around Bukavu, and was impressed by the thousands of people who had come to welcome Vital Kamerhe. Two days before, in Kinshasa, Kamerhehad resigned from the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and his parliamentary seat, in order to announce his candidacy for the 2011 presidential elections on behalf of the UNC (Union for the Congolese Nation). The previous week, the legendary opponent Etienne Tshisekedi had returned to Kinshasa after a three year absence. On 11 December, the UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) named him its candidate for the same elections.These leaders’ “Joyeuses Entrees” and candidacies rallied many people, to whom events seemed to be leading towards an electoral contest between participants with different visions and plans for society.

I was in the middle of a visit to the east, and was concerned by the wall of indifference regarding the elections. People do not feel the elections relate to them, and are disappointed by the few palpable results of the 2006 elections in their daily lives. It is certain that they will register to vote. In a country which for a long time has not issued bona fide identity documents, a polling card is an important document. However, many of the people I saw will not vote.

This lack of interest was all the more worrying when seen alongside the trend towards disintegration that dominates the country. The FARDC remains very undisciplined. Various armed actors continue to recruit, with the CNDP doing so more quickly than others. During 2010, the Congo seems to have evolved from a “post-conflict climate to one of pre-conflict”. I am neither an activist nor partisan in Congolese politics, but the mobilisation around the leaders of the opposition pleased me. It proved that it was possible to interest the population in the res publica

Since mid-January, the situation has changed. The constitutional revision that has taken place means, amongst other things, that the presidential elections will be carried out in a single round. From an immediate perspective, it seems as if this revision is designed to protect the political arena. Stepping back, it is a step towards the evolution of the semi-presidential system of the 2005 constitution to a centralising presidentialism (in terms of justice, control of the provinces, etc.)

It is EurAc’s opinion that the second electoral cycle, which is crucial for the consolidation of the democratisation process, is no less important than that of 2006. The Congo will never leave its insecurity behind unless the Congolese State is strengthened, including its instruments through which to guarantee the state of law and good governance. The elections will only have a chance if massive participation by citizens contributes to maximum legitimacy of the results and a strong mandate for the elected institutions. This will not be possible without the formation of an informed electorate or without a firm commitment to hold grassroots elections, as local elections must play an essential role in the rehabilitation of governance in the DRC. The political arena must ensure the protection of civil society and the independence of the press.

The international community’s interest in the peace process and democratisation seems less in 2011 than in 2006. The indifference of the international community, and of a disillusioned population, may jeopardize the progress made on the long road walked since transition and the installation of the Third Republic.

Kris Berwouts, Director


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