Rights Activists warn that poll in DRC could spark off new violence

By Paul Ndiho
November 16, 2011
Tensions are high in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of this month’s presidential election, with several people injured after supporters of the main opposition party clashed with supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila, during a rally earlier this month.
The national elections are due to be held on 28 November 2011 and will mark only the second time since its independence in 1960 that the DRC will be holding democratic elections. But human rights activists warn that the poll could spark off new violence. Ravina Shamdasani, is the Spokesperson, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“We are very worried about security in the upcoming election and this is why we are sounding an alarm bell at this point. To try and prevent the kind of violence that accompanied the previous election in 2006.”
Incumbent president Joseph Kabila is favored to be re-elected. But Kabila facing stiff competition from tweleve other candidates Human rights activist Yussa Bunzigiye Prosper, says the opposition is prepared to take their political struggle to the streets.
“This time around the guy who is the leading opponent of Kabila has no blood, has no crime on his hands, he has never used army, he has never been a rebel, this guy he has been an advocate of people’s rights and good governors for the past 30 years… he did it during Mobutu time. The only difference is that during Mobutu’s time is he was only advocating. But this time around the world environment is different; he has been given the chance to go to the battle… So what does that mean? It means that when the elections are over and it’s clear that Kabila has rigged the election, Tshisekedi Is going to run a parallel administration from the street.”

The human rights report released this week notes that the situation in the East of the country is of particular concern. Political parties have reportedly been targeted and their members detained, ill-treated and threatened. Most of the violations committed are said to involve elements of the Congolese National Police, or the National Intelligence Services.
“We’ve seen people destroy voting cards of citizens of the DRC so that they will not be able to vote. We’ve seen police prevent demonstrations from taking place; prevent press conferences from taking place from opposition political leaders. This has to stop and the Government has to send a clear message that there will be accountability for such violations. According to Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Violations have targeted the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC) parties.
President Kabila faces a struggle to hold onto the eastern provinces that sealed his victory in 2006, where voters now blame Kabila for failing to provide peace and security.
The Human Rights report calls upon the international community to step up efforts to train security forces and judicial officers, and to promote monitored, free and fair elections.
In Katanga Province, Governor Moise Katumbi supports the Kabila government, which he says has made great strides in the troubled east in just one term.
“In my view, we need to start a system of rotation. What has ruined Africa today are presidents who want to stay in power indefinitely or politicians or governors who want to stay in office for life. Thankfully, our constitution here only allows for two terms in office.”
But human rights activists say that President Kabila has failed to deliver for Congo.
“There is no peace in the Kivu region I come from there … One of the biggest challenges Kabila has, is that he has failed to live up to the standards of his father.”
Kabila promises that he will improve road infrastructure and higher education. The president’s support base is in the east of the country, where he was born, and an area rich in minerals. Congo has about 4 percent of the world’s copper reserves, about half its cobalt and is the largest supplier of tin ore in Africa.

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