From dictatorship, civil war and a continued failure to peacefully transfer power, the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been anything but democratic. The country’s history is one of conflict, violence and exploitation. In the 19th century King Leopold of Belgium took control of the country in what became a brutal and violent period with institutionalised slavery and amputation of limbs for unmet rubber quotas.
In 1960 Patrice Lumumba became the country’s first prime minister. He was assassinated in 1961 which then led to Mobutu Sese Seko rising to power. He remained in office for 30 years until he was overthrown by Laurent-Desire Kabila who had become president after leading a rebel army. His was a presidency that started in the midst of the Rwandan genocide, which led to conflict spilling over into DRC. In 2001 Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard and succeeded by his son who is today still the president of the country. Following the Mobutu years the country experienced two civil wars that led to millions of deaths and internal displacement.
Although the constitution limits presidential power to two five-year term, President Kabila has been in power for 18 years. There were violent protests following rigged elections in 2006 and 2011. Pro-democracy activists have had a presence in Congo since 2012. With results of an election held on 30 December still being expected it is not farfetched for one to assume that similar to previous transitions, this transition may not end well.
21 candidates ran in the election however only three are considered serious candidates. Martin Fayula is a former oil tycoon who previously served as a member of parliament. Critics worry that he will not protect the needs of the poor. A second candidate is Joseph Kabila’s choice, Emmanuel Ramazani. He is a former interior minister who led the violent crackdown of 2017 protests. In his efforts, he was sanctioned by the European Union. The third candidate is Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the son of the late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. He insists that he is not attempting to rival his father but hopes to achieve his father’s dream of leading DRC to become a country that positively flourishes.
Irregularities have plagued this election. On December 31st once results started rolling in which confirmed Fayulu’s victory, the government responded by shutting down the internet, radio and cell phone services. Election results have been delayed. Corneille Nangaa the head of the country’s electoral commission expressed that although the commission is making progress, they have only received 47% of ballots from polling stations. He also expressed that manual collection and compilation of the votes has added to the delay. The commission was initially meant to use the internet to collect votes, however this was abandoned when the opposition alleged that the system was vulnerable to fraud.
The biggest worry for many with the delayed election and questionable irregularities is that it is slowly losing credibility and may lead to a fresh wave of violence. The election itself which had a high turnout is a positive sign of citizens desperately seeking change. Without effective leadership however and decision making even through elections that does not honour citizen’s freedoms and electoral wishes, this election may lead to yet another violent transition.
Featured image| Kabila casting his ballot in the 2018 general elections| John Bopengo | wikimedia commons
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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