Friday, June 30, 2006

Election Campaign Begins on Independence Day

The first multi-party elections in 46 years began at midnight on Thursday, June 29. The campaign period will run through July 29 and the Congolese will vote for president and parliament on July 30. Although tensions in the country have been high leading up to the campaign period, things are calm in Kinshasa, the nation's capital. Two key events are taking place in Kinshasa today:

1. Vice President Azarias Ruberwa announced the long-awaited political consultations which were to take place on Monday as a follow-up to the . The consultations are supposed to establish consensus regarding the inclusiveness of the electoral process, security of the candidates, equal access to the media during the campaign period and the overall legitimacy of the pre and post election period.

Participants in the consultation include:
• Five leaders of the government (President and four vice presidents)
• Five delegates from each of the following political parties PPRD, RCD, MLC
• Ten delegates from the political opposition and civil society
• Two delegates from the RCD/KML, RCD/N and the Mai-Mai
• Interior, Justice and Defense Ministers along with their deputies
• Members of the Electoral Commission
• Presidents of both chambers of parliament
• The presidents of other support institutions of the democratic process and their deputies
• The 33 presidential candidates
• The President of the UPR Mme Babandoa and two delegates from her coalition FCCTE(Front commun des congolais pour une transition non exclusive)

2. The political opposition led by UDPS, FONUS, UPR and others are leading a peacful protest march in Kinshasa to demand a more inclusive process.

A number of coalitions have developed to date. Coalitions have formed around Joseph Kabila (Alliance of the Presidential Majority), Jean Pierre Bemba (The Rally of Congolese Nationalists) and Pierre Pay-Pay (Coaliton of Congolese Democrats).

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Uncertainty is the Order of the Day

Twenty-four hours before the official start of the thirty-day campaign period, uncertainty and concern are the order of the day. Monday, June 26 was the date set by president Kabila and the transitional government to set the ground rules for consultations among political actors prior to the June 30th (Date of the official end of the three-year transition process. The 30th of June is also Congo's independence day). However, the date has come and gone without any word from president Kabila. He is in the east of the country speaking to the population in what appears to be pre-campaign addresses.

A collection of political figures has traveled to Gabon to meet with president Omar Bango to discuss the uneasy political climate. A third group of political actors including Jean-Pierre Bemba of the MLC, Azarias Ruberwa of the RCD and the CIAT (international conterpart to the electoral process) are awaiting Kabila's return to Kinshasa.

As the campaign period (June 30 - July 30) draws near, one can only hope that peace and dialogue will prevail over uncertainty and intrigue which could lead to violence.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Catholic Church Speaks With One Voice

The Catholic Church spoke with one voice making seven suggestions in a message of hope to the Congolese people. The Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops, Standing Committee members of the national Episcopal Conference of Congo,(CENCO in French) issued their message following a four-day meeting of the group. The suggestions were:
1. A call for a consensus regarding the end of the transition beyond June 30th;
2. Establishment of a process of governing during the election period as most of the government leaders will be involved in the elections;
3. A unified military;
4. A guarantee for the security and transparency of the elections;
5. Accelerate the publication of the voting lists and candidates for the different levels of government;
6. Resolve the problem of inclusivity in a just and equitable manner;
7. The signing of a non-aggression pact and an end to hostilities.

CENCO also condemned the diversion of public funds by those in power to fund their election campaigns. The group did not support any one candidate but called on the people to vote for candidates that have a love for the country and the best interest of the people at heart. In addition, they called on the people to support candidates who have high moral principles, and the intellectual capacity and experience to govern the country.

Finally, CENCO thanked the international community for the role that they have played thus far, especially in funding the elections but they cautioned the international community to respect the sovereignty of the Congo and not impose a leader on the Congo that is not the choice of the Congolese people.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Annan Calls for Calm

The United Nations Security Council published its 21st report on its mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Click here to read report (PDF).. In its report the U.N. Secretary-General called for the following:
• Condemnation of arbitrary arrests of politicians and journalists
• The cessation of attempts to manipulate the political process
• Condemnation of the intimidation of voters
• Vigilance regarding the security situation in the Eastern provinces
• Concern about the deployment of the Presidential Guard to different parts of the country
• Swift justice for military persons involved in human rights violations
• Continued aid and sustained engagement of the international community following the elections

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tensions Rise in Kinshasa

As the June 30th date approaches, which will mark the end of the transition period, tensions in Kinshasa are rising. A number of political parties, non-government organizations and the Catholic church (50% of Congolese are Catholic and the Catholic church is arguably the most organized institution in the country) have called for dialogue among political leaders before the July 30th elections.

The Kabila government and the International community in particular are wary of such talks because they believe that this may open pandora's box and lead to further delays of the elections.

The role of the international community has been brought into question as it relates to the finalization of the electoral calendar. The post July 30th calendar was announced from Brussels by the EU special representative in the Great Lakes region, Aldo Ajello, which confirms the complaints of many Congolese that the election process has been built to serve the needs and interests of the Kabila government and the international community and not the Congolese people ( Read Article >>).

Let us know your ideas about the importance of a dialogue prior to the elections as well as your thoughts about the role of the international community in the organizing of the elections.