Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Post-election worries

Congolese and international observers, first suspected, and then documented numerous irregularities in the electoral process. The big day has passed; today, reports describe the situation as being relatively calm.

Tomorrow will bring other problems – ntango eza ndeko ya liwa. Giving some examples of these irregularities will help frame what the ambiance will be once results are announced.

Compared to the 2006 vote, this one was more violent and fewer voters cast their ballot. MONUSCO and other international observers witnessed attempts to cheat.

Reporting from Goma, Cindy McCain - founding member of the Eastern Congo Initiative and wife of Arizona Senator John McCain - referred to technical difficulties from the polling stations that were clearly organized.

The electoral process initiated in 2006 legitimized poor leadership. Kabila used his first five-year term to consolidate power at the expense of the Congolese people. His position as incumbent, plus the money generated by the selling off of state assets at bargain prices, enabled him to dominate the campaign landscape.

Candidate Kabila had a disproportionate access to state media.

Kabila illegally used state planes, jeeps and helicopters while on the campaign trail.

The state security forces under Kabila’s control systematically obstructed opposition candidates from campaigning – notably Etienne Tshisekedi.

Kabila’s clansman Pastor Ngoy Mulunda, head of the Commission électorale indépendante, was partisan, not independent.

Fictitious polling stations and pre-marked ballot papers were discovered. Stuffing the ballot boxes is not uncommon in Africa, but inventing fictitious polling stations seems to be a new twist on Congolese creativity.

The Belgian company Zetes organized the high tech services needed for voter registration. Zetes reported that hundreds of thousands of voters were registered twice.

Some European Union election observers were withdrawn from polling stations on election day for their own security, testifying to the potential for things to explode.

Some opposition candidates – but not Tshesikedi - have called for the annulment of the elections because of these irregularities.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Theodore Trefon speaks with BBC News: "Failed state: can DR Congo recover"

As the Democratic Republic of Congo prepares for just its second general elections in four decades on 28 November, BBC News spoke with Trefon on whether whether this failed state, still recovering from a war which led to an estimated four million deaths, can ever be rebuilt.

Read the full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Kabila condemned by UK MP, Eric Joyce

British MP Eric Joyce, chair of the UK Parliament Great Lakes of Africa Group, has just released a devastating report. It details Kabila’s systematic pillaging of Congo’s resources. Kabila and his friends are the beneficiaries – the Congolese people are the big losers. The government sells state-owned mining assets to shady business partners based in the British Virgin Islands.

Joyce documents a strategy that has already resulted in the loss of $5.5 billion – 'Powerful evidence proves that the natural resources of the Congo are not being used as a legitimate source of revenue for the people. Instead, a series of complex arrangements between their own government and various BVI shell companies means that a few are enriched at the terrible cost of the many.'

copyright Eric Joyce

Read the full report:

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Congo’s social agenda

Can logistical obstacles be overcome to allow people vote on 28 November? How will the runner-up and his supporters react to the results? Will Congo follow the Côte d’Ivoire scenario? Will the disenfranchised of Masina, Kimbanseke and other ‘zones rouges’ of Kinshasa take to the streets? These are important questions. They are timely and require immediate planning.

But focus on these questions tends to mask other priorities. The recently released UNDP report on human development indicators puts elections hype in perspective. It ranks DRC at the bottom of the list of 187 countries surveyed. The new Doing Business report also reveals Congo’s fragility. Already poorly positioned last year, DRC dropped down two points this year, ranking 178 out of 183 countries.

Some macroeconomic stability has been achieved under the aggressive tutelage of the FMI and IMF. Public works efforts at reconnecting the fragmented territory need to be acknowledged thanks to the EU and China.

Security in the Kivus remains alarming despite the UN’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping force. Five years after the election of Joseph Kabila, ordinary people have not seen social benefits. They remain hungry and poor, angry and confused. The 'cinq chantiers' development program is an unequivocal failure. The current government is reproducing the historic dynamics of institutionalizing humiliation.

Kabila or Tshisekedi (or Kamerhe or Kengo) as president matters little. The way that power will be structured to improve the well-being of ordinary Congolese after the elections is the real issue. With attention riveted on the elections and the personality politics character of the campaign, people’s needs and expectations tend to be overlooked. Holding elections is important but designing and implementing a participative social agenda is equally essential.