DRC elections: time to ask questions

For successful polls, political actors will have to learn to respect will of the people at the ballot box, and put aside personal interests in their quest for power.


    As people across the Democratic Republic of Congo wait for the country's election commission to announce the final results from presidential elections, there is a real sense of fear in the capital, Kinshasa.

    After 16 nights here, it is not difficult to understand people's anxiety. 

    At least 18 have been killed in election-related violence and the situation has raised many questions.

    Can this vast country deepen its democracy or democratise successfully given the conditions here, such as very poor infrastructure, tribalism, corruption, poor standards of education and insecurity?

    Then, there is its history to consider.

    When ordinary Congolese flocked to the polls on November 28, it was only the third democratic election to take place after some 51 years of independence from Belgium.

    Chaos expected?

    The question must be asked: do we expect too much from countries like the DRC in terms of their ability to conduct free, fair and transparent polls? 

    Should we expect logistical chaos, rigging, ballot box snatching, clashes between police and opposition party supporters as part of the path to democracy? 

    And when one looks at the world's most developed and stable democracies, one has to ask whether they experienced such challenges on the path towards building their democracy.

    There is no doubt that holding this election is a positive step towards empowering the Congolese people, but there is still a very long way to go.

    For starters, the manner in which elections are organised here needs to be overhauled.

    Hundreds of thousands have missed out on casting their ballots, simply because ballot papers failed to arrive in many parts of the country, and the process of compiling results has been chaotic and confused.

    There is not doubt that this will lead to some candidates losing their rightful place and some candidates wrongly assuming power.

    Impact on the region

    The poll needs to be decentralised and it is unreasonable for such a vast country to have one just one nerve center based in Kinshasa.

    Political parties need to be strengthened so that those with the true ability get a chance to run for public office, and not just candidates who are wealthy.

    Overhauling the elections and decentralizing the manner in which the polls are conducted will do much to improve the legitimacy of future elections. 

    Finally, there is a huge role to be played by members of the international community, remembering that this country borders nine others. 

    Its political maturity and its stability has ramifications for millions in Africa, beyond its borders. Much more needs to be done, in terms of training and funding projects, individuals and organisations, who are all working towards trying to improve democracy in the heart of Africa.

    But above all, the country’s key political actors will have to learn to respect the will of the people at the ballot box, and put aside any personal interests in their quest for power.




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