Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bad omens for the electoral season

The New Year has not kicked off well in the Congo. At least in electoral terms. After Vital Kamerhe was prevented from holding rallies in Goma and Bukavu - authorities argued that the campaign season had not yet begun - the opposition in Kinshasa was briefly prevented from meeting in Kinshasa to discuss a joint stance on the proposed constitutional revision (they eventually met and denounced it).

Then, a journalist for the CCTV TV station was reportedly arrested in Bas-Congo after organizing a debate on Kabila's presidency (the governor's office says he was arrested for other reasons). In Uvira, a journalist was arrested for ten days following a radio program during which he criticized the president and the local administrator. Another journalist who participated in the same program has been living in hiding since then.

3 comments:

massivejean said...

A dictatorship "legitimised" by elections in 2006 is becoming more and more autocratic. One can predict gross violations of citizens' rights in 2011 as the dictatorship prepares to use the security forces to repress any and all dissent. The DRC is not a democracy, it is headed by a repressive autocratic dictatorship which is preparing to do exactly what President Obama denounced in Accra : organise an electoral mascarade to ensure its' grip on power.

As for the sudden concern about State finances expressed by a government that has blatantly, and with total impunity, misappropriated public funds in a manner that makes the mobutists look like angels - an excuse used to cover up the organisation of one-round electoral fraud for the purpose of maintaining their grip on power, even with near-zero legitimacy, no Congolese are willing to buy it.
Mgr Mosengwo, the head of the Catholic Church, spoke for the voiceless (the people i.e. public opinion) when he denounced how irresponsable it would be to declare president someone elected on say a 20% vote, meaning with extremely low legitimacy in the eyes of the people, this in a country the size of a continent where 80% of the provinces would not recognise his authority and where the authority of the state remains so fragile.

If they weren't misappropriating public funds on such a huge scale, they could come up with the funding.

When the Congolese see the formidable US engagement next to the South Sudanese today, they are touched as are Africans all across Sub-Saharan Africa, and they wonder what would it take to have the US and International Community take a similar strong stand and engagement to ensure that the 2011 elections in the DRC actually result in briging in qualitative (competent) leadership? 15 years after the fall of Mobutu, it is time!

Anonymous said...

@massivejean

Enjoyed your post. Your last piece is particularly salient.

In the US, there is a very, very powerful constituency- evangelical Christians. Mostly the white, middle class ones. These are the folks who vote mostly Republican and whom Bush was their guy.

They are also deeply engaged in Central Africa as missionaries.

Given their concerns for the Christian brothers and sisters in Sudan, they have put maximum pressure on both the Democrats and Republicans leadership in Washington. Intense pressure. Again, in American politics, they are among the most powerful "civil society" constituency for the Republican Party. This Party is again ascendant.

Without similar domestic pressure directed at the Congo (a nation of Catholics whereas America is mostly Prostestant)it is unlikely Congo will be treated as has the Sudan.

African Americans, a very powerful constituency for the Democrats and particularly for Obama, is perhaps a group to make cause with if this is to happen.

Rich said...

-massivejean,
Ref #"Mgr Mosengwo, the head of the Catholic Church, spoke for the voiceless (the people i.e. public opinion) when he denounced how irresponsable it would be to declare president someone elected on say a 20% vote, meaning with extremely low legitimacy in the eyes of the people, this in a country the size of a continent where 80% of the provinces would not recognise his authority and where the authority of the state remains so fragile."

I find some of your comments quite pertinent. However, I think Mgr Mosengwo’s remark is one distraction too much that Congolese could do without! I have due consideration for the catholic prelate on the faith front however, I find what he said about the elections at best, irresponsible and at worse misleading. His argument has no statistical substance what so ever.

Why do I say this:

A percentage is a way of expressing a number as a fraction of 100 (per cent meaning "per hundred"). To do this one needs to know the base upon which the calculation of a percentage can be made. Any number can constitute a base for the calculation of percentage.

I can understand the populist urge in some people but let us remain objective here. 20% or 50% of vote do not mean a great deal if we cannot refer them to a base that will enable us to convert them into absolute values. Once we have the absolute values of these percentages, will they still hold the same significance level??? I DON’T THINK SO. This is because they will be confronted with other harsh realities that may well dilute their relative meaning and power.

For the last election, in the first round of the presidential there were 25 420 199 registered voters, 70.54% participated or 17 931 238 persons went to cast their votes. Out of which 16 937534 voted for someone, 870 758 voted for no one and 122946 bulletins were left blank. If we work out the percentage of votes out of the total population (estimated at around 66 Million for 2006 INS projections) we will have almost 26% of the total population. J Kabila got about 8 Million votes in the first round that comes up to about only about 12% and Bemba got about 3.3 Million or 5% of the total population. What does this tell us? The relative value given by these percentages almost disappears when confronted with the absolute number of total population.

Being elected by 40% or 60% of the votes casted is in no way significant of the size of your legitimacy because you can still be representing a very small portion of the total population. In election what matters is coming in ahead of all contenders regardless of how many people participated to elect you.

Because J Kabila got 1.9% of votes in Equateur and 89.9 in Maniema, are we going to say that J Kabila is more president or LEGITIMATE in Maniema than in Equateur?

In 2008 the turn out for people of voting age at the US presidential election was 132 618 580 voters or 56.8% out of 231 229 580 individuals (total population of voting age). Barack Obama got 34.35% and McCain 65.65% in Oklahoma, are we going to say President Obama is, somehow, less president or LEGITIMATE in Oklahoma?

Once elected you are the president of the nation, meaning those who voted for you, those who did not vote for you, those who abstained and those who did not participate at all. That is what the law says the rest is just pure distraction.

See, Journal Officiel - Constitution de la République Démocratique du Congo. TITRE III. : DE L’ORGANISATION ET DE L’EXERCICE DU POUVOIR. Section 1ère : Du pouvoir exécutif Paragraphe Ier : Du Président de la République. Article 69, « Le Président de la République est le Chef de l’Etat. Il représente la nation et il est le symbole de l’unité nationale… »

By the way, I am in no way a J Kabila fan I am just trying my best to remain objective especially when we are dealing with notions that can be easily reflected back on FACTS.

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