From relative safety in Kinshasa for the Presidential election period. My sources are Congolese nationals and all names have been changed to protect identities.
25.11.2011 - 26.11.2011 35 °C
Today is the first day of ‘restricted movement’ in the capital. We have all done our hibernation shopping [water, fuel and pasta] and made up our Go Bags [pants, hard-drive and cigarettes] and are now playing ‘wait and see’ for the future of one of Africa’s biggest countries.
Over the last few months there has been a fair amount of posturing from a selection of candidates but the big news has been the absence of historic rival to the incumbent and main opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba of the MLC. He is indisposed by his trial at the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in neighbouring Central African Republic by his Equateur-based militia. He is still a huge political power in DRC and as he refused to step-down as Leader of the Party and allow someone else to stand in his place, the main opposition party under which all others would have united has no presidential candidate.
In Bemba’s absence an old  leader of the Kasai people at the time of refoulements, living in Belgium, announced his presence at the beginning of 2011 with a boom and a bang stating the Mobutu regime was less corrupt than that of the current President Joseph Kabila in an interview with a National paper. Etienne Tshisekedi had arrived. He and his supporters, of the UPDS, have created more headlines than any of the others and election violence has been mainly focused between them and the supporters of the current President Joseph Kabila and his PPRD party. In September 2011 this rivalry ramped up with the burning of several houses and key offices of the 2 parties and a huge number of UDPS supporters and campaigners have been arbitrarily arrested. Tshisekedi left the country immediately after depositing his formal candidature and has been travelling around Europe and South Africa trying to gain international backing for a very expensive electoral campaign. He, like all the others, visited Bemba in the Hague to gain his political, financial, and military backing, and although Bemba remains officially on the fence, calling for unity of the opposition, privately he is said to favour Tshisekedi as the candidate with the best chance of bringing change. President Kabila’s main rival in the East is his former ally Vital Kamerhe of the UNC, who has also signed a political pact with Moize Katumbi, Governor of Katanga Province. He is young and has a good reputation and a strong following in the East.
Added to this mix is the new National Independent Electoral Commission [CENI] led by former political advisor to Kabila, Pastor Daniel Ngoy Mulunda from Katanga Province. Problems started early in 2011 when the ruling PPRD party proposed changes to the voting systems that were seen to greatly benefit themselves and other allies. Reports of huge vote fixing started when the CENI announced the number of registered voters eligible for 2011 elections [more than 32 million], following a leaked report from a private Belgian company revealing double-registration for significant proportions of the population, and a report by MONUSCO radio revealed some of the CENI registered offices didn’t even exist. And in a more traditional move, opposition radio and TV stations have been shut-down leading up to November 28th. In Equateur there were considerable doubts about the CENI’s ability to distribute election kits throughout the province to ensure all eligible voters could vote. Road conditions are incredibly poor, even more so in rainy season, the infrastructure is very weak and viable alternative transport [commercial flights, UN etc] are very thin on the ground.
Lest we forget the DRC [four times the size of France] is running legislative elections for more than 18,000 candidates for both houses along-side the national Presidential Elections – a logistical nightmare for even the most developed and experienced countries to navigate.
Tomorrow, Saturday 26th, all three main candidates [Kabila, Tshisekedi and Kamerhe] will be holding huge rallies in close proximity across Kinshasa. This has the potential to get very very ugly……..