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***DR CONGO: Elections

by Elco B Wed Aug 2nd, 2006 at 03:59:21 AM EST

                   

Sunday 30 July 2006 is a historic day in DR CONGO (DRC). For the first time in 46 years democratic elections are organised.  This morning the message came that a Belgian unmanned aerial vehicle (Israeli made B-Hunter) crashed in the streets of Kinshasa wounding two. Belgian military are in DRC as part of the European force to keep an eye on the elections.((Operation EUFOR RD Congo).). Is this the omen the elections will crash also?

From the front page ~ whataboutbob



Once again, remember DRC is a very big country (As in the distance Paris-Moskou).
So the situation on any level can be totaly different in various regions.

As DRC was a former colony of Belgium (till 1960) ties are still strong: many Belgians work in DRC, lots of NGO's are active, the catholic community holds pieces together that otherwise would desintegrate (education and healthcare)military cooperation, economic interests.....)
Also members of my family worked in DRC and I still have friends residing there. In the Belgian press there is a lot of interest for what happens in the DRC. This morning I could find over 20 Belgian reporters from papers, radio and TV-stations that made the trip. Since two weeks there are daily articles, intervieuws and documentary's .

Impossible to find a general picture of the situation overthere: City's have a totaly other atmosphere than a village in the bush, controlled areas are different than semi'autonomous' areas and those who are abandonned by every autority hardly know there are elections.
What our reporters and other contacts tells us is a cacophony of facts, rumours, situations, incidents, raw power, military arbitrariness, hope, scepticism, hilarity, stupidity, unwillingness.....in their reports one can find every mood from sadness to joy, from nihilism to 'The New God Will Arrive'.
So this isn't realy a diary but an attempt to paint further on the picture we have of DR Congo.

What are the elections about?

After the agreements of the last years, a transitional government became in power under president Kabila. There are 4 vice-presidents: former leaders of opposition and rebellion groups.
After initial difficulties the date of 30 july 2006 was set for elections. Purpose : election of the members of parliament and election of a new president.
Yesterday was the last (official) day of the campaign and people have to choose between 9000 (nine thousand)candidates for the 500 seat parliament and between 33 candidates for the presidency.
For the parliament most candidates only are on the list of their own province. There are 297 political party's and only 13 present a list in all of the 11 provinces.

The whole operation is supported by variuos country's and specially the EU gave logistic support for the voting materials, printing ballots and distributing it over the country by plane,car,boat,jeep and foot expeditions.

With 33 candidates for presidency it is unlikely the new president will be known after this elections: a majority of 50% is needed. The expectations are that a second round will be needed between the two candidates with highest results.

A official timetable is not yet set. There is a official committee (CEI) as the highest authority about the elections. They expect the official results of the first round on 14 sept.(remember, DRC is a big country whith almost no infrastructure) If a second round is necessary they will hold the presidential elections second round on 15 october together with those for the provincial governments.
Those results are expected by 30 Nov.2006 (remember....) In this scenario (seen as optimistic by many) the new president and membersof parliament could be installed just for years-end.

News-bits from over the country:

  • Kabila, held a meeting in a impoverished part of Kinshasa. Soldiers , extra payed formed the largest part of the crowd, the others came for a free T-shirt and softdrink.
  • Every political party has his own media : paper, radio-station and in the large city's a TV-station.Now they can grab in state-money to finance this. After the elections there will be losers. Only on this level they already created a recipe for disaster.
  • Since the vast majority of voters is illiterate, ballots are printed with the photo of the candidates; this is almost hilarious for Kinshasa: people must find their candidate among 500 other photo's.
  • Here in the bush, we never saw a candidate on campaign. No Tv-station can reach us (remember....), so we can vote at the station 20km from here: so what choice I have? I will look at the photo's and pick the one with the nicest face.
  • Elections, what is this? never heard of a thing like this? oh...we can pick a candidate?  Nobody told us anything.
  • So long the Primus-factory(beer) is working I am satisfied. Nobody gives a ** about us in the mines.
  • Bumba(city in the North): Kabila came by plane for a meeting and dissapeared after two hours. A Belgian journalist couldn't find an internet connection to send his report. So he saw a dish-antenna and asked the people there (catholic Belgian missionairy) how to reach the outside world. The only thing they could offer was a radio-connection with another post who could reach Kinshasa.He had to spell out his report. The dish-antenna was for TV-only. Besides, the only stations they could recieve are Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

DR Congo : facts and figures
The Invisible Congo Tragedy.
D.R. CONGO: Minerals Flow Abroad, Misery Remains

Display:
Important day...I will be interested to see what emerges...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 08:28:53 AM EST

Voters came to the pollingstations in large numbers even before they were open.

Struggling with the huge ballot....



The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 09:31:56 AM EST
Voting by photo is a good idea...but 33 presidential candidates and 3000 parliament members?? Really, you wonder who knows who is running...I sure hope it works out for the best, that poor country sure could use a break.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 09:51:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reuters 30 Jul 2006 13:11:26 GMT

Apart from incidents in the south central diamond mining province of East Kasai, where a polling station was burned and voters were threatened, voting was generally peaceful, orderly and enthusiastic, according to witnesses, election officials and U.N. radio.


The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 09:51:05 AM EST
East-Kasai: Seven pollingstations set on fire, one dead many injured in province capital Mbuji-Mayi.
East-Kasai is a stronghold of UDPS(Union for Democracy and Social Progress). Etienne Tshisekedi leads the party and opposed the elections. He was Prime Minister under Mobutu, but never could realize anything as he was only a puppet in Mobutu's political game.
But in the diamond and copper-rich Kasai a man of influence and able to destabilize the whole process of democratisation. He has a personal(amateurish) website in 4 languages, also in Chinese(!) and with his basic statement "Democracy, Constitutional Freedom for All and Economic Progress. Strong alliance within the free world." you know which side he is on.

Other news:

  • Thousands of Congolese nationals living in Burundi began crossing the border on Friday into the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to cast their ballots during elections.

  • At least 1,300 international observers will be deployed all over the Democratic Republic of Congo during Sunday's elections, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

  • Delegation of Euro-MP's meets lots of distrust, since  Louis Michel,European Commisioner responsible for Development and Humanitarian Aid, made declarations suggesting he supports Joseph Kabila for president.

Some news here


The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 11:12:26 AM EST
Thank you for the ongoing commentary and updates, Elco B!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 11:25:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rather smooth until now? It seems .. although there are soem reports of paramilitary in the wing.

Let's wish the best.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 11:25:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sunday evening 19.00 local time (Belgium)

Poll stations in DR Congo are now closed, albeit on some places they stay open till everybody waiting could cast his vote.

The general picture is one of enormous enthousiasm of the Congolese people for this elections, participation was very high notwithstanding difficulties; some people had to walk two days to reach the nearest poll-station.(remember, DRC is a very big country...)
There were incidents and sabotage on some places but reporters in different parts of the country said this difficulties were minor in the light of the whole operation.

It will now take several weeks to assemble all the ballots to the counting-centers (remember...)and an official result is expected around 14 September.

In the meantime lets cross fingers nothing desastruous happens...

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 01:23:59 PM EST
Only one more remarkable newsflash.
In Brussels there is a large community of Congolese people, and there is a concentration of them in one neighbourhood called Motonge or also 'little Congo'
I use to go for sightseeing and shopping once or twice a year and really it feels like 'Africa in the middle of Europe'.

Brussels police has now intensified patrols and checkpoints(!) in case discussions between poltical fractions turn into violence.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 01:44:17 PM EST
The wonders of multiculturalism. </snark>

We have had some incidents with Shia-Sunni sectarian violence in Sweden. All hushed down by the regime-loyal media of course.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 04:26:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes,no way to escape globalisation

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 05:04:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not yet two hours after closing polling stations first ghastly reports coming in from various places in DRC.
Some include children abuse, others about looting people trying to reach polling stations, militia-men robbing others from their voter registration cards.
Elderly people denied transport to the polling station 50km's away (remember....)
Most of this incidents happend in the north-West (Ituri) where several militia's are still active...

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 02:29:43 PM EST
No country has suffered more from European meddling than Congo.

It was created by the sadistic psychopath, King Leopold II of Belgium, who made it his personal property and enslaved nearly the entire population to harvest ivory and wild rubber.  Up to half the population died.

After an international outcry, Leopold swindled the Belgian government into buying the territory from him for a lavish sum.  Outright genocide dwindled out, but forced labor and terror remained a hallmark of Belgian rule until independence.

Did I say "independence"?  In name only.  Belgium and the US arranged for the brutal assassination of democratically elected Patrice Lumumba.  They installed Joseph Mobutu, a kleptocrat who robbed the country blind and impoverished his people, but was a reliable Cold War ally.

Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 by Rwanda and Uganda, eager to get their hands on Congo's vast mineral wealth.  Brutal massacres and forced labor followed.  Rwanda and Uganda eventually began fighting each other over mining rights.  Several other neighbors joined in, anxious for their share of the loot.  Ethnic disputes spiralled out of control and the country was reduced to barbarism.

Four million people died.  

Western companies blithely bought coltan, diamonds, and other minerals from the various warlords, not caring if people had died mining them.

Now there is peace, of a sort, but many militias remain armed.  Warlords are now cabinet ministers and presidential candidates.  The election is a great step forward, but a truly stable democracy is a very long way off.

by tyronen on Mon Jul 31st, 2006 at 04:36:25 PM EST
Yes , this is a good summary of a very long and complex history.
But the elections now camouflage the positions other country's are taking and the manipulations by international busines.

Here a picture of the personal (huge) helicopter of Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the MLC , vice-president of the transition government now and candidate-president. He still controls an airport in the north, Gbadolite and denies acces there to the UN force Monuc.
The picture is taken near Kinshasa in july 2006.
Only seeing this you know democracy is far, far away.



The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Tue Aug 1st, 2006 at 11:19:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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