Nov 29 2011

High Stakes in Congo’s Elections

Feature Stories | Published 29 Nov 2011, 11:12 am | Comments Off on High Stakes in Congo’s Elections -

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Voters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are casting their ballots for a second day today after chaos and violence marred the polls yesterday. The DRC’s election officials extended voting after widespread complaints of irregularities and poor access to the polls. Congolese are voting in Presidential and Parliamentary elections. At least 5 people were killed yesterday following at least as many deaths in election related violence in the days leading up to the vote. The front runners for president used inflammatory language in the days before the election and encouraged supporters not to accept defeat, raising tensions between political and ethnic groups. President Joseph Kabila is expected to beat opponent Etienne Tshisekedi. Kabila set off alarm bells within the international human rights community when he insulted the ethnicity of his opponent, referring to his ethnic community as “mosquitoes” and saying, “[n]ow is the time to apply insecticide.” MSNBC reports that Tshisekedi, for his part, called on his supporters to break prisoners out of the jails and “teach Kabila’s police ‘a lesson in front of their families’.” The LA Times reports several polling places were burned down in the West Kasai province, an area dominated by Tshiesekedi supporters. Voting in the Congo is complicated by a poor system of roads, and an election infrastructure unable to easily accommodate 32 million voters. The sheer number of choices for Parliament is also overwhelming, with an estimate 18,000 candidates running for just 500 seats. There is fear that if the Presidential candidates or their supporters condemn the election results as rigged or flawed, the nation will slip into civil conflict.

GUEST: Kambale Musavuli is the national spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo

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