A Travellerspoint blog

November 2011

Election Day in DRC

storm 18 °C

Today is Election Day!

It’s raining heavily this morning and there have been rumours that rain could delay proceedings [floods, access, comms] so we are hoping it clears up for the afternoon……

Planned rallies on Saturday and Sunday were cancelled at the last minute but there was still time for UDPS, PPRD and PNC [Police] to clash in Masina [15k out of the city centre] on the road to the main international airport N’Djili. Etienne Tshisekedi arrived at the airport and was detained, preventing him from following his planned campaign route into the city centre. Vital Kamerhe was held under house arrest for the day. After a fair level of violence in Masina in the morning [10 dead, 40 injured say Radio Okapi] the Governor of Kinshasa cancelled all the rallies citing ‘security concerns’. The centre of town stayed calm.

At the Stade de Martyrs, one of the main staging grounds for political meetings over the campaign, large groups of street kids ‘chegues’ were taking sides, beating each other up, and throwing stones across the Boulevard Triomphale. The role of street kids in electioneering has been overlooked – there are huge groups of fairly hardened and violent young people [8-17 years] surviving on Kinshasa’s streets that have no political loyalty to one party or another but will wear a free t-shirt and plump up the crowd for the price of a Coke, and will take advantage of chaos and disorder to steal. A large number of the photos in the press this weekend were of street kids, not political party members [take a look at their feet – no shoes=street kid] and information from various Embassies asking us to avoid the area due to election violence suggests this particular aspect has been wildly misunderstood. I suppose that’s not new for the kids…….

[Added 29th November........]

Today is still Election Day!

After logistical difficulties and heavy rain in the morning yesterday voting has been extended into today. Due to the HUGE number of candidates to vote for [only 11 to choose from in the Presidentials but in the Parliamentaries there are 8 seats and 650 candidates in some areas] it takes an average of 26 minutes for each person to vote. That is if they can even find the polling stations, which are not all where they are supposed to be say EU observers.

Violence has been minimal and concentrated in specific areas. Lubumbashi is reporting 3 dead yesterday after a truck carrying voting materials was fired upon and police retaliated. West Kasai is reporting 3 polling stations burnt down by protestors and various areas of Equateur are reporting voting abnormalities.

Good news so far.....

Posted by hobbit1 01:01 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged elections drc kinshasa street_kids Comments (0)

Live from Kinshasa

From relative safety in Kinshasa for the Presidential election period. My sources are Congolese nationals and all names have been changed to protect identities.

sunny 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 [75] 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……..

Posted by hobbit1 08:57 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged elections drc kabila kinshasa Comments (0)

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