Monday, July 31, 2006

Peaceful Elections

The Friends of the Congo observation delegation in Kinshasa reported that the voting in Kinshasa was peaceful as it was in much of the country. The main disturbances took place in the Kasai province where supporters of Etienne Tshisekedi boycotted the elections and prevented voters from going to the polls. Tshisekedi's supporters set ablaze trucks carrying ballots as well as polling stations. The Independent Electoral Commission had to extend voting to a second day in Kasai because of the disruptions on Sunday.

The results from the elections will not be finalized for three weeks. Although, preliminary results may be released in days. Should there be a second round, the Electoral Commission has announced that it will take place on October 29, 2006.

Members of the opposition maintain their position that there were a lot of irregularities and let it be known that should Kabila win in the first round, the country will become ungovernable. There is still a strong belief that Western governments and corporations strongly back Kabila.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dispatch from Kinshasa: Kabila Security Forces Kidnap Presidential Candidate Campaign Staff

The Friends of the Congo were contacted minutes ago from Kinshasa by one of the presidential candidates, Alafuele Mbuyi Kalala of the Rally for a New Society. Dr. Kalala shared with us that Kabila’s Special Presidential Security Group (GSSP in French) kidnapped his press secretary, Mr. Jacques Mampembe and his special assistant, Mr. Kalengi Kasyui, at 4:50 P.M. Kinshasa time.

Dr, Kalala said that two presidential guard vehicles without licence plates pulled up to their car and snatched his two campaign staff persons from the car; dr. Kalala was not in the car at the time. Dr. Kalala said the elections were plagued with a tremendous amount of irregularities, nonetheless “they [Kabila’s government] will have to kill all of us to steal the elections.”

Dr. Kalala calls on the United Nations and the international community to call for the immediate release of Mr. Mampembe and Mr. Kasuyi.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

UN Mission Announces International Committee of the Wise

The UN Mission in the Congo,known by its French acronym MONUC, announced an international committee of the wise to assist in the transition process from election day until a new government is put in place.

Its purpose is to support the five transitional institutions (see below)and to aid in the resolution of any electoral disputes.

The committee is made up of Joaquim Chissano, former Mozambican president, Nicéphore Soglo, former Prime Minister of Benin, former Senegalese Prime Minister Mame Boye and the former president of the Tanzanian president of the Independent Electoral Commission, Justice Lewis Makame.

The committee was created at the behest of the Congo's five transition support institutions Independent Electoral Commission, The High Authority of the Media, The Truth and reconciliation Commission, The National Human Rights Observatory Commission and the Commission of Ethics in the Fight Against Corruption with the support of the African Union and the United Nations).

The Calm Before the Vote

The Friends of the Congo delegation has arrived on the ground in Kinshasa and has obtained its credentials for observation of the Congo's historic elections. Our partners on the ground have taken very good care of us. We are staying in a safe and beautiful neighborhood with all the modern amenities. Kinshasa is truly a beautiful city and has a tremendous amount of potential, should the people be able to freely choose their leaders without outside interference.

One thing is clear after being here for a short while, people want change. They do not simply want to vote for the sake of voting but rather, they want their vote to make a difference so that they will be able to eat regularly, earn a decent wage, send their children to school, live in peace, basically everything that any other human being wants.

The Friends of the Congo will be observing the elections in Kinshasa, the capital city of 8 million people. We will provide you with updates of how things unfold.

Stay tuned ...

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Last Day to Campaign

Friday, July 28 is the last day for the candidates to campaign. Campaigning will end today, no campaigning will take place on Saturday and the vote will take place on Sunday. The Electoral Commission said that voting will only take one day. It is hard to see how this will happen but time will tell.

The Catholic Church decided in the end to back the elections and issued a call to its parishioners to turn out en masse.

Investors Business Daily published an excellent article today, in which they pointed out key flaws in the organizing of the elections and were critical of the United Nations but the critique should also be applied to the United States and the European Union as well. Below is a seminal quote in the article as well as a link to it:

"Today, Congolese are protesting in the streets because they don't want that [a weak state that left the country vulnerable to invasion by its neighbors] repeated. They want confidence in a fair system, which is the most critical factor in a credible democracy. It has less to do with money than it does with leadership. The U.N., in arrogantly ignoring these concerns, is showing little leadership."
Read more >>>

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Protests Repressed Once Again in Kinshasa

Several thousand marchers in Kinshasa protesting irregularities in the election process were violently repressed once again by the police.

Several injuries were reported, however no fatal injuries were reported. The climate is becoming increasingly tense in the nation as we get closer to the July 30th election date.

The international community has a lot vested in the elections. It is highly unlikely that it will allow anything or anyone to disrupt the polls.

Many Congolese although, disenchanted and believe that kabila will be installed as president will turn out to the polls, especially to vote for officials for the parliament.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Peaceful March Violently Repressed by Police, Carter Center Issues Election Update

On July 11, 2006 a peaceful march organized by the 19 presidential candidates calling for a cessation of the elections and allies of Etienne Tshisekedi's the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS)was violently suppressed by the Congolese police. The group of 19 presidential candidates has called for the cessation of the elections due to the printing of 5 million additional ballots and other irregularities.

Two people were injured, one of them a member of parliament Mr. Franck Diongo who is currently in intensive care. The police said they cracked down on the marchers because the march was not authorized. The organizers vehemently reject the police's position, noting that the governor's office of Kinshasa was duly noted of the march's itinerary in advance.

The march and subsequent crackdown, reflects an increasingly tense environment in the Congo, which will in all likelihood become worse leading up to the elections.

The Carter Center's recent report reinforces the sense of a tense environment. In addition, what is resoundingly clear from the Carter Center report, is that the Congo is not ready for elections. The elections appear to be rushed and the playing field is tipped in favor of the government who has been able to use the state resources to undertake its campaign efforts. Click here to read the Carter Center report!.

A rushed and flawed election, in the end will be worse than a delayed election. The CIAT and other members of the international community should take heed to the deficiencies in the organizing of the elections pointed out by the Carter Center. Almost all of what the Carter Center highlighted, have been raised by numerous Congolese observers and activists. The Congo deserves free and transparent elections, not something half-baked that will reinforce the status quo under which far too many Congolese have suffered.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Kabila A No Show To Consultations

The dialogue organized on June 30 by Azarias Ruberwa was eschewed by president Kabila. In addition to kabila, vice president Yerodia (part of the Kabila camp), CIAT and a number of presidential candidates did not show. In fact, the kabila government characterized the meeting as illegal and worthless. The June 30th meeting was supposed to be a follow to a process initiated by Kabila himself. However, it is now clear that Kabila only initiated the process to buy time until the official launch of the campaign.