The sleeping giant to hold presidential elections tomorrow
The Democratic Republic of Congo will see its second free presidential and parliament elections tomorrow. It is an exceptional event for an exceptional country on the African continent. On the one hand the DRC is a country which is shaken enormously by civil wars and internal conflicts. Around the turn of the millennium it staged of one of the biggest conflicts of the world. And it still is. The borderlands towards Angola in the South West as well as the bordering regions with Rwanda, Uganda in the East and South Sudan in the North still face daily conflicts under the influence of various protagonists such as several rebel movements, national armies as well as business men. On the other hand, the DRC stands for Africa’s wealth of natural resources such as diamonds, gold and copper. Both DRC’s neighboring countries and the international community look with worries to this year’s elections in Africa’s wounded giant.
Different news agencies as well as international newspapers and organizations recently reported about ongoing violent riots ahead of tomorrow’s elections. After clashes on Saturday and today United Nation’s general secretary Ban Ki-moon called for calm and peaceful political rallies in the DRC. According to Al Jazeera, Ban Ki-moon announced in a statement:
I call on all political leaders and the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to exercise restraint throughout the process to ensure that the elections are held in a peaceful and secure environment.”
While opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi still tried to circumvent the ban of political rallies, the police took action against crowds in the country’s capital Kinshasa. They used tear gas and shot in the air to get people under control.
The whole situation in the DRC is currently very unwieldy. Different protagonists try to influence people for their own benefit in this year’s elections. Besides that rebel groups in East Congo, Kivu region near Goma, recruited recently new rebels and came out of the bush. Rwanda for its part still looks suspiciously on the wounded neighbor where a lot of genocidaires from 1994 found shelter in refugee camps of the UN and in the bush. In 1996 Rwanda invaded in the neighboring country and since the 90ies the government in Kigali observes very closely what happens in the DRC.
Although there seem to be logistical difficulties and violent riots between followers of the political candidates, election officials said
Our teams assure us that things are going well and that the polling stations will open tomorrow on time. There will be no postponemen. Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI)
In total, voters will have the choice between 11 candidates running for the president’s office and more than 18.000 candidates for the 500-seat parliament. All in all there are about 30 million Congolese entitled to vote in one of the 60.000 polling stations in the country which is about two-thirds the size of Western Europe.
Tomorrow’s elections will be wittnessed by several international observers from the United Nations and the European Union. Their task is to check that the elections proceed peacefully and free. The United Nation’s worldwide largest peacekeeping mission which consists of 20.000 soldiers also is to ensure a regular course of the elections. Besides that, South Africa for its part sent some 70 soldiers to Katanga region to ensure people’s security. The South African soldiers already arrived a few days ago to help Congolese election officials deploying the election materials to the several less accessible parts of Katanga province. South African military officials sent six helicopters to the region to support Monday’s election.
The Congolese population, international observers as well as neighboring countries await the presidential elections in the DRC tomorrow full of suspense. All participants hope that the news will not be ruled by pictures of violent street fights and disastrous second free elections in Africa’s wounded giant.