Monday, December 12, 2011

The elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is another LONG overdue post. I have pretty much neglected this blog.

Now let us cut through the formalities. The elections in the D.R. Congo have some controversy behind them. According to the Carter Center(located in Atlanta,GA,USA), the elections were devoid of credibility.

According to President Joseph Kabila, there had been some mistakes made in this process.

The election had some delays for one reason or another. On Friday, 9 December 2011, it was announced that Joseph Kabila was the winner. Soon after, there were riots from the opposition in Kinshasa, D.R. Congo's capital. The reason behind this was that there was "alleged fraud". Riots were also taking place in Mbuji Mayi, where 97% of the votes went to the opposing candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi.

According to the head of the national police, General Charles Bisengimana, only non-lethal force was being used. I have a hard time believing that non-lethal force was being used. Four fatalities have been reported, which could possible contradict the statement from General Bisengimana. Radio Okapi puts the death toll at six.
It is reported that there are about 63,000 polling stations in the D.R. Congo. Some of the raw data is also finding that the places with the most votes to the opposing candidate had the most votes discarded. This is where the most rioting is occurring.

To give a bit of a background on the D.R. Congo, one must look at the history of the D.R. Congo. The first organized state in what is now D.R. Congo was the Kingdom of Luba. It was founded around 1585 by King Kongolo Maniema. It must be noted that a kingdom is not a democracy. The kingdom declined by the 1870s. Long distance trading was not helping matters. Traders from East Africa were looking for slaves and were raiding the kingdom for slaves. This would lead to the destruction of the Luba Kingdom. In this destruction, another kingdom would take advantage of this. The Congo would become the Congo Free State and later the Belgian Congo. Under the rule of King Leopold II of Belgium, there was much exploitation. The native peoples were put under slave labor where they were forced to harvest rubber. If they failed to come up with the daily quota, punishments ranged from beatings with a hippopotamus-hide whip(a chicotte) to getting one's hands chopped off. I will explain more later in another blog entry.

After King Leopold II's death, the Congo would go from being King Leopold II personal colony to a Belgian colony in 1908. Even without the butchery of King Leopold II, there were still restrictions lasting into the 1950s. Blacks could not vote in municipal elections until 1957. The D.R. Congo would gain its independence in 1960, with Patrice Lumumba as its first elected Prime Minister. Ten weeks later the Congo Crisis occurred and the Lumumba government was deposed, and in 1961, Patrice Lumumba was executed via firing squad. After that, there were short-lived governments during the 1960's. In 1965, Mobuto Seke Seko became the President of the D.R. Congo(named Zaire after he became President). He pretty much ruled with an iron first for over 30 years. He was a stauch anti-communist, which during the Cold War, gave him friends among the USA. However, he was a corrupt man and tried to make himself "president for life". Example of being drunk with power. Kleptocracy and nepotism was rampant under his regime. If you were a political rival, you would be executed. Later on he tried to buy off political rivals. Corruption on the top would lead to corruption on the bottom Because of the corruption, salaries for civil servants would be very low, and a culture of corruption on the lower levels was encouraged, leading to corruption among civil servants. Mobutu would be overthrown in a coup during the 1996 First Congo War.

There has been a history of political violence in the D.R. Congo and very little, if any, true democratic rule. There was a second conflict in the Congo starting in 1998. Officially, it was ended in 2003. However, civil unrest has continued in eastern portions of the nation. This nation has the potential to become one of the world's wealthiest nations. The Congo river flows through the nation and is powerful enough to supply hydro-electric power for the whole nation. This would create jobs. There are bountiful resources here, such as tin, copper, diamonds, and gold. However, the D.R. Congo is among the poorest nations in the world with one of the world's lowest GDPs(Gross Domestic Product), and one of the most corrupt nations in the world. There are so many people dying from malnutrition and rape is a severe problem in the D.R. Congo. It takes, on average, 65 days to start a business in the D.R. Congo, versus 3 or 4 days in Rwanda. Is this election just another example of more of the same things happening? All I know is that the D.R. Congo needs better than this. There is potential, but this potential keeps getting hurt by corruption, civil unrest, and other problems. People are seeing corruption and want to do something about it. The problem is what to do about it. People look at Africa as a continent from the outside and see nothing but the world's "problem child". I look at it is see that the situation is much more complicated than that, and that the potential is so much more. What is needed is for that potential to be realized.