In remote eastern Congo, consensus is that upcoming election won't be fair
In eastern Congo's South Kivu region, one of the most-conflict ridden areas of the country, pessimism is widespread, particularly when it comes to the candidates themselves.
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo
Congolese will go to the polls on Monday, Nov. 28, in the country’s second democratic elections since independence. For the first time the presidential and parliamentary vote will be combined in the same election. Elections themselves are logistically difficult – Congo is home to over 71 million people, from about 450 tribes, spread over a vast country the size of Western Europe.Skip to next paragraph
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Congo is also known for its impressive natural resource wealth, yet it is as rich in resources as it is in atrocities given the fact that it has been ravaged by successive wars for more than 15 years. The province of South Kivu and its capital city, Bukavu, is one of the worst conflict-affected areas in eastern Congo. In light of the conflict and hardship in the East, I asked myself: Do the upcoming elections matter here?
Across the country and here in South Kivu the campaign is the subject of countless conversations among the locals. I spent some time walking around in town to capture the sentiments of people.
When asked about local perspectives of the upcoming elections, a community leader, a note of desperation in his voice, said:
I am very, very afraid and somehow disappointed with these elections before they even happen. I am not even sure that they will happen on this date. One of the opposition leaders, Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi Wa Mulumba, has declared himself president less than three weeks before the elections are due to take place, but let’s pray they happen. And who knows, isn’t he going to fight? It seems to me like so many people in this country have unmeasured lust of power. But I really think – and so do many of my countrymen – that the polls on the 28th should be a big moment to make an unforgettable change in the history of the Congo. It should be a moment when people are given a heavenly fallen opportunity to really free themselves from the bondage of the wicked and make a choice of their committed and called leaders of the example of Moses in the Old Testament for those who read the Bible! This should be time to transit from unrest to peace and from violence to stability. Unfortunately the playing ground is not leveled.
I asked other people around the local leader to expand on his suggestion that the campaign is not fully fair or transparent and they shouted in agreement. A young man, around 25 years old, said in a disappointed tone:
Why should the president and the Civil Aviation Authority keep the other candidates from using aircraft inside the country for sake of their campaigns? Will one candidate fly in several aircraft at the same time?
A bit later I spoke to a group of youth near a tire repair shop in the middle of Bukavu. I asked about their feelings regarding the ongoing campaign. Most people were willing to speak with me but showed little excitement. They expressed their apprehension about the tactics of so many of the candidates, either running for presidency or seeking a seat in the parliament. One young man said:
Many of them [candidates] are handing out t-shirts and caps. You will see their photos and banners almost everywhere with key messages or just slogans. For me these candidates are poking fun at the local populations. We need to hear more about their past backgrounds, plans, motivations, and leitmotifs. And mostly we have to come to know if the candidate has ever contributed, in one way or another, to the chaos the country is in. We must get convinced and decide if it is worth voting for him.