Congolese worried ahead of polls
By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG – As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares to go to the polls on 28 November, Congolese living in South Africa express fear, that post election violence could occur back home, if the current president refuses to admit defeat. “There are indications the current president may not easily relinquish power if he is defeated, which will cause supporters of Congo’s main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, to revolt and that may lead to violence,” Eddy Kasembo, leader of the Congolese Associations in South Africa and a Political analyst at University of Johannesburg said.
According to Kasembo, this year’s election was unique in the DRC since it is only the country’s second election since the end of the conflict. “Congolese in South Africa are watching this year’s election closely. It is important (for them) that the election be free and fair so that stability is consolidated.” He added that the DRC police have been heavy handed in dealing with protestors who were demanding transparent electoral reforms ahead of the 28 November elections.
Last week human rights groups warned that the security situation in the DRC was deteriorating ahead of the elections. In a joint statement, the 40 groups said recent clashes between the police and opposition showed the potential for destabilisation. Official campaigning for the elections kicked off on 28 October. The 2006 presidential election was won by President Joseph Kabila, which civil society groups claim were marred by widespread violence. Kabila has ruled DRC since 2001, following the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.
Earlier this year, Members of the Congolese political party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), submitted a memorandum to the South African parliament, requesting its intervention in the Congolese crisis. The memorandum gave the South African lawmakers a perspective of the situation prevailing in the DRC during the 2011 pre-electoral period.
Authors of the memorandum requested the South African government to intervene in the Congolese crisis by ensuring that the country’s elections were held free and fair. They also wanted the country’s natural resources to be responsibly managed in a manner that would develop and benefit all Congolese, rather than keeping the natural wealth in the hands of only a few individuals.
Meanwhile, this week Tshisekedi met with senior African National Congress officials and businessmen to drum up support ahead of the polls. He also met with investors and South African mining and agricultural companies. Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) is the main rival to Kabila in an election seen as a crucial step in the mineral-rich nation’s recovery from a civil war that ended in 2003 and left 5 million people dead.