Congo November 2011: Will the people accept election theft?

KPFA Weekend News, 08.20.2011


KPFA News Anchor Cameron Jones:  Presidential polls are approaching on November 28th in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but few observers expect them to be free or fair. The country’s Parliament recently changed the Constitution to favor sitting President Joseph Kabila with one round or winner-take-all voting in which opposition candidates would be expected to divide the opposition vote amongst one another, leaving Kabila with the highest vote count and no run-off to face.  Most observers agree that even if the opposition unite behind one candidate, neither Kabila nor the dominant foreign powers in the region, including the U.S. and its military partners Rwanda and Uganda, will tolerate his defeat. But huge crowds greeting opposition presidential candidate Étienne Tshisikedi suggest that election theft will be impossible to disguise. KPFA's Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison:  Multiple complaints have been filed about Congo's National Electoral Commission, and the Constitutional Amendment creating one-round, winner-take-all voting in November’s presidential election, but few expect reform.  However, 
huge crowds greeting Etienne Tshisekedi, first in Congo’s eastern Katanga Province, a traditional Kabila stronghold, and then in the capitol city of Kinshasa suggest that the election theft so widely expected in November will be impossible to disguise from the international community and the Congolese people.
Delphin Kyubwa, a Congolese immigrant and computer science professor in the California State University system, now plans to return home to stand for the presidency, though he says that the opposition will be stronger if it can unite behind a single candidate.  Kyubwa does not believe that the Congolese people will accept a stolen election.

Delphin Kyubwa:  The reaction of the Congolese people to another unfair election in November 2011 is something that everybody can see.  It's obvious; it won't be  different than what happened in Egypt or other parts of the world, where the population will just go on the street and they will not accept anything than what should be the fair and democratic election.

KPFA:  Eric Kamba, a social worker with the Boston-based Congolese Development Center who cannot safely return home under Kabila, says he will return if the Congolese people vote for Étienne Tshisekedi and refuse to accept a stolen election.  He says that Congolese people are organizing now to fill the streets with protestors when Kabila is announced the winner, and that this is possible, because the Congolese have been pushed to such extremes.
Huge crowds greet presidential candidate Étienne Tshisikedi in Kinshasa.
Eric Kamba:  Congolese people, they are tired with Kabila's regime.  Poverty; there's not electricity; there's no water. People don't eat. So they are mad. They just want Tshisikedi to come back and fix the country.

KPFA:  Maurice Carney, Executive Director of Friends of the Congo, a Washington D.C.-based NGO, agrees that extremes of civil unrest are likely after an election that will no doubt be stolen, but feels that Congolese civil society has been so shattered by war, coup d’états, foreign invasion, and ruthless mining corporations that it is not strong enough at this time to defend an election.

Maurice Carney:  If we use the standard of Bolivia, for example, or Brazil, or even Venezuela, that type of organized national movement does not exist in the Congo, and understandably so. Congo has gone through, over the last 50 years, assassinations, dictatorship, wars, invasions.

KPFA: Almost no one disagrees that the central issue in Congo, election or no, is Congolese control of the country's vast resources.  November’s election is taking place amidst the ongoing, violent struggle for eastern Congo’s unparalleled mineral wealth, which has cost over six million lives since 1998 alone.

The Congo conflict has created the largest Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) population in the world. Most of those among the six million war dead have died of hardship after being driven from their villages.
For Pacifica, KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.


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