Cross­roads in the Congo

Elec­tion could bring change or more of the same

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - International -

Elec­tions in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo of­fer the po­ten­tial to be­gin re­sus­ci­tat­ing a na­tion rich in re­sources but im­pov­er­ished through vi­o­lence, cor­rup­tion and po­lit­i­cal thug­gery.

The con­test — postponed for more than two years by Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila, who is long past the end of the sec­ond term per­mit­ted by the Cen­tral African coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion — was held Dec. 30. Among the 20 or so can­di­dates were Mr. Ka­bila’s pre­ferred suc­ces­sor, Em­manuel Shadary, and Martin Fayulu, a law­maker who was en­dorsed by a coali­tion of op­po­si­tion lead­ers and widely ex­pected to cap­ture the pop­u­lar vote.

The sur­prise win­ner, an­nounced last week, was an­other op­po­si­tion leader, Felix Tshisekedi, and the news im­me­di­ately stoked con­cerns about fraud. That is al­to­gether pos­si­ble in the DRC, pre­vi­ously known as Zaire, which hasn’t had much ex­pe­ri­ence with real elec­tions since gain­ing in­de­pen­dence from Bel­gium in 1960. The 47-year-old Mr. Ka­bila took of­fice in 2001, after the as­sas­si­na­tion of his fa­ther, Lau­ren­tDésiré Ka­bila. Mr. Ka­bila de­layed the Dec. 30 elec­tion for more than two years cit­ing fi­nan­cial rea­sons and the need for an ac­cu­rate cen­sus, but it was more about main­tain­ing con­trol of the gov­ern­ment and busi­ness net­works that have en­abled his fam­ily to plun­der the na­tion’s re­sources for per­sonal gain. When Con­golese took to the streets to de­mand elec­tions, his se­cu­rity forces vi­o­lently put down the protests, killing about 50.

Mr. Ka­bila has shown pre­cious lit­tle in­ter­est in the ac­tual task of gov­ern­ing while his peo­ple bat­tle grind­ing poverty and re­gional po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence so wide­spread that the na­tional gov­ern­ment lacks con­trol over huge swaths of the coun­try.

Fix­ing these things won’t be easy, but the process can be­gin only when the DRC makes a com­plete break with the Ka­bila era. Mr. Shadary did not rep­re­sent that kind of change. The con­sen­sus was that Mr. Fayulu just might. The an­nounce­ment of Mr. Tshisekedi’s vic­tory throws an­other wrench into the works, and a le­gal chal­lenge by Mr. Fayulu could bring more tu­mult to a coun­try that’s had more than its fair share of it al­ready.

One thing is clear: Mr. Ka­bila fi­nally needs to get out of the way and let new blood steer the DNC in the way he should have done.

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