|Residents in Kinshasa brace for election results, fearing that supporters of losing candidates turn violent [Reuters]|
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo – Tensions remain high in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as residents brace for provisional election results expected on Tuesday.
Behind the security barricades, tanks and riot gear being set up across the city in expectation of clashes between supporters of rival political groups and security forces is an electorate that participated in the elections – hoping to improve their lives.
The DRC is currently ranked the lowest of 187 countries in the UN Human Development Index with extremely high levels of poverty, unemployment and social development.
Behind the veneer of opposing leaders fighting for power, and the cascade of rumours which pin blame on foreigners and government leadership, are ordinary people – angry with slow economic progress and disappointed with electoral fraud, but still hopeful that democracy will usher in change.
Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa reports from Kinshasa.
Franics Colombo: 23, unemployed
Franics Colombo said that he would not hold a grudge if the candidate that he supported lost. He only hoped that the outcome of the elections would improve the job market.
“Of course, some people prefer Kabila and other like Tshisekedi… we are not resentful, because whomsoever wins, will lead this country ultimately…
“People should not be quiet or afraid. We voted because we want jobs, because it is problematic that so many of us are jobless, walking around.”
Colombo also expressed concern about European countries meddling in the DRC’s affairs – a feeling shared by many Congolese.
“Many of us still feel that European countries are running this country. And if this is case, it is time to let us go, let us free.
“It is also the Europeans who know which candidate is going to win these elections. If they knew how we are suffering since the war with Rwanda and since Kabila became president, then they would have released Jean-Pierre Bemba [former rebel leader currently at The Hague for crimes against humanity].”
Ngalula Mariette, 45, teacher and informal trader
Ngalula Mariette says that if the DRC’s elections have, in fact, been marred by fraud, she will no longer participate in democratic elections.
“We want the results of this election to be published accurately and fairly because we want a president to lead this country in peace.
“The way I see it is that if it found that this election was fraudulent, I will never vote again. And if they tell us to vote again, I won’t do it.”
Mariette also expressed frustration with her difficult work life and meager financial situation – even going so far as to suggest that the next president be paid a teacher’s salary.
“I am a teacher at an elementary school in the mornings and in the afternoons I sell water on the street to earn extra money to support my children. The money that I earn at my teaching job does not equal the type of work that I do. I earn $50 a month and I have five children. Only one studies, but school fees are $15 per month.
“I am supporting the UDPS candidate, Tshesikedi, because it has been 10 years and I have not seen any change in this city.
“Look at me, I am 45 years old, but I look as if I have been around for much, much longer. I don’t even have the money to have shoes. A teacher, like me.
“We voted for a president, a new leader, but his salary [perhaps] should be the same as an elementary school teacher.”
|Ajani Mbila, 49, cashier|
Ajani Mbila, a supporter of main opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, expressed hope that the DRC’s new president would improve living conditions for all Congolese.
“We all wanted to vote, but unfortunately there have been many irregularities. When we went to vote, many of us did not find our names on the voter roll at the polling station and this has made us angry.
“We believe that a new president will change and improve this place.
“We do not have rights and the new president will make this country into a place where people will have rights, and there will be social welfare. We want jobs, and proper salaries.
“And we need our president to create rules so that foreign companies pay properly as well. This is Tshisekedi’s slogan: people first.”
Mbila says that if Tshisekedi does not win, his supporters will ignite a revolt that is likely to “burn” the country. Such strong sentiment is the reason why so many Congolese have fled Kinshasa ahead of official election results.
“So many of us want Tshisekedi to be the president of the DRC and if he is not president, Congo will burn up. What happened in Libya, Ivory Coast, would have been small in comparison.
“We are waiting for tomorrow, we are waiting for the results, and Tshisekedi does not succeed, you will see for yourself what will happen.”
|Edo Sompa, 30, unemployed|
|Tshimbela Mukanya, 50, mechanic|
Tshimbela Mukanya said “The Election Day was easy. There were no queues, and I just walked in, filled in the ballot and it was done. It was all very easy.
All I needed was my electoral card and it was very pleasurable to go and vote for my candidate.
Now we are waiting for the final results but we are told that the results are delayed. I am remaining silent and just awaiting the final, and correct results. CENI must publish the results accurately; the candidate with the most votes must win. And people have chosen Tshisekedi, so if the results don’t show this, people wil react. Me, myself, I am not going to act on it.
The elections are not gong to affect my job or change the way I work. I voted because it is my civic duty to vote.”
|Jean Pierre Risasi, 34, mobile lavatory operator|
Jean Pierre Risasi said “It is very unclear what is going with these election results. Of course, we knew well in advance that these elections were going to have an element of fraud. We knew even before the elections that CENI would be involved in some fraudulent actions in favour of their candidate.
But it is not normal to have so much fraud; the elections could have taken place under a decent democratic climate. The suspicion of fraud have pushed the population to contest the elections and even though we know that fraud exists, why did CENI have to be corrupt as well?
I know that Congo is known for much fraud and cheating, but the question is why it is like this? Why are our people so corrupt that all they are concerned with is lining their own pockets and worrying about their own personal interests?
I, myself saw problems between police and other people at polling stations and through this fighting, many people lost their lives.
They lost their lives for this election, and even I lost my cousin during the election violence, in Kisangani.
He was a witness in a polling station. While he was working, a jeep came with suspicious ballots and equipment and there was a confrontation with the witnesses at the polling station. My cousin was beaten to death.”