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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. 

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Some other candidates have been preaching hatred in their addresses instead of telling and proving how, based on their leadership skills and integrity, the country will get reconstructed. There should not be violence during the campaign but still there are reported cases here and there. And while the campaign has already launched, there is unrest in Nyambembe mining area in the Shabunda territory and there have been clashes between the FARDC and the Raiya Mutomboki armed group. A similar case in the Fizi territory with YAKUTUMBA armed group. Clashes are reported in the surroundings of Misisi gold mining area. Are people in this part of the country going to listen to the candidates or go to the polls or just hide under their beds because of gunfire?

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Another local reveals that he is very angry with some of the candidates, especially those from the “Presidential Majority” backing Joseph Kabila. These politicians come to the poor communities and start distributing money and other gifts among the population. He said:

Isn’t this simply state fund abuse? Where are they getting this money from? Why can’t this money be used to pay the teachers, soldiers, and so many Congolese working with almost no salary? And where are the roads as promised in 2006? Many people are left homeless only because their houses have been put down under the pretext that it is high time the Bukavu road driving south to Uvira city was fixed! Why only during the campaign while we have been waiting for so long? Isn’t this a shame? We will believe only when we see [improvements].

But in Bukavu there is hope, too. There are still good seeds that the country can sow and harvest into stability. Walking across the main road in the city, there is a single flyer by one candidate with the message, “NO CORRUPTION AND NEVER BETRAY THE NATION,” written to the voters. Voters say corruption is one of the biggest issues that must be addressed in Congo and that the country is desperate for leaders with integrity.

But compared to the 2006 elections, a notable percentage of the inhabitants of South Kivu are saying that the upcoming election is at risk since the number of political parties has almost doubled, increasing the potential for tension and violence. Additionally, the strength of international observers, especially from the European Union is low, and there are no observers on behalf of the United Nations. Why are these key monitors failing to address and speak out about the corruption, impunity, insecurity, human rights violation, and horrific mass atrocities, which continue to happen even during the campaign?

The Congolese I spoke to in Bukavu wish that the presidential elections next week will be fair, peaceful, transparent, and democratic. They said they hope the new upcoming Congolese government will work for the welfare of the whole nation—and not for their selfish interests—fight impunity and corruption, put into place a system of good governance, and make good on their development promises. They also hope that international and regional policymakers will prevent post-election violence by holding all candidates accountable and responsible and make those responsible for any post-election turmoil accountable for his misdeeds.

Amani Matabaro blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.

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