Rome, Tuesday, October 25, 2011
It is not possible to say “I want peaceful elections” and at the same time not be able to remain calm in order to avoid violence. The political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo seems to be going dangerously adrift. Last September 29th for example, the party of Etienne Tshisekedi (UDPS) organized a demonstration to promote a peaceful climate and the carrying out of the political campaign in a calm manner. The demonstration took place in Kinshasa and in the main cities of the Congo. Photo: Kabila and Tshisekedi, the two main candidates.
Whoever came close to the crowd that left 10th Street, where Tshisekedi resided, to go to the June 30 Boulevard in the center of Kinshasa, where there INEC –the Independent National Electoral Commission- is based, they saw people armed with clubs and stones. And yet everyone cries out that they want peace, and they ask insistently that the November 28 elections take place in a climate of serenity and transparency.
In a note on last August the 8th, eight leaders of Religious Churches expressed their desire to see the elections in the Congo take place in a peaceful climate. “As an organization of Religious Churches –they said-, we must not, in spite of individual preferences, take positions for this or for that party, nor give directives to vote in favor of or against this or that candidate, except evidently in case of affirmations contrary to morality, human dignity, or religious convictions.”
This sentiment of the religious leaders is shared by the majority of the population. No one wants violence, and most of all no one wants to repeat the experience of 2006 when the two finalists (Kabila e Bemba) attacked each other in heavy militarily way. More, no Catholic would want to see the Church endorse one or another of the candidates.
Five years ago the ordinary Christians were scandalized to see some bishops endorse a candidate. So much so that Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo (at that time the archbishop of Kisangani) personally intervened to calm the waters. On last September 8th, also, Cardinal Monsengwo, along with the president of the Episcopal Conference, Bishop Nicolas Ndjomo, and with his vice president and five other Archbishops of the country, spoke out strongly in favor of peace. Actually, in some cities in the Congo, and especially in Kinshasa, there have been violent political demonstrations which caused damage to the infrastructure and the death of two persons.
The Leaders of the Church have repeated that “the wise person controls his anger” (Proverbs 29, 11); they have then asked everyone to avoid violence and asked the authorities to guarantee security so that the coming elections can be free, transparent, democratic and peaceful. For this purpose the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (NECCO) has officially launched a civic and electoral educational campaign. The Justice and Peace Commission of NECCO has given out material produced for this purpose: a CD with songs, appropriate cartoons on how to elect the candidates, posters, etc. Foreseen also are radio messages to be used by the 32 catholic radio broadcasts in the country in French and in the 4 national languages (Tshiluba, Lingala, Kikongo and Kiswahili). The theme of this political formation is: “Elections in peace and for development”.
According to INEC, there are 32,024,640 registered voters. The sending of election material to the 15 hubs, to which must be added the city of Beni, has already begun. The election kits were ordered from China. The voting booths come from Lebanon.
The electoral campaign will officially start next October 28. But in the city of Kinshasa they have already put up posters with huge pictures of Kabila, the “one responsible for the 5 development programs.” Isn’t this already election publicity?
In fact, whoever has the means (especially radio and television stations) already for some time have been hard at work. Digital Congo for example is a television station of the sister of Joseph Kabila, and therefore we can guess who it favors. Then Tele50 was inaugurated directly by the present president to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nation’s Independence. The television station RLTV, which was making propaganda for an opposition candidate, was burned down last Sept. 5th. They are looking for every opportunity to promote their own candidates.
In the meantime the situation in the country is not peaceful. According to MONUSCO (the United Nations forces), there are at least 4,000 people there, speaking only of the North and South Kivu, who are causing thousands to be displaced and making it impossible to live a tranquil life. According to eye witnesses in Butembo and the surroundings (North Kivu), a large number of Rwandans are acquiring houses and land, provoking in the local people ill-will and a desire to react violently.
Freddy Mulumba, the director of the daily “Le Potentiel” in Kinshasa, affirms that between those in power now and the opposition, the mutual accusations are increasing, almost as if to make it clear that everyone is afraid of the next elections on November 28th. The actual text of what he wrote in the Sept. 29, 2011 edition: “It is not possible that, from one part to the other – between who are in power and the opposition – they say they want peaceful elections but at the same time they are not able to remain calm in order to block the violence. We shall see.
Tonino Falaguasta Nyabenda – Afriquespoir
Note: President Joseph Kabila campaigns with his wife and mother
1-. A very important link: http://africanarguments.org/2011/10/11/congo-votes-again-consolidating-democracy-or-deepening-the-confusion-by-kris-berwouts/
2-. Parties contesting the elections meet in Addis Ababa to negotiate a code of conduct for allowing tolerance and avoiding inflammatory speeches. But the main party did not sign. Mostly people believe that the “One Round” law is the big issue, because you can win with a small mandate and become the President. Already there are complaints about the process: opposition leaders said ineligible miners are being enrolled. There is also the issue of foreigners: in the East, Tutsis-Congolese are recognized as voters. But Rwanda has a presence in the East of DRC and they will be voting too. There are also waves of migration: they say these are returning refugees, but they are rather signs of mass migration to occupy the Eastern DRC. There is a history of ethnic groups being on both sides of the borders. Tribalism is a factor in making deals: “I can bring my ethnic group and region; so make a coalition with me.” Tchisekedi claims not to make such deals, which undermine the process. For many he is the lesser evil; but he is also the oldest.
Photo: Joseph Kabila Kabange and Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, the two main candidates. Radio Okapi / Dr. John Bompengo.