Thursday, December 15, 2005

DR Congo: Countdown to the Polls (-3)

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Radio Okapi

The political class of the DRC is finally waking-up to the immensity of what is going to happen. They all have an opinion, and they finally realized that their expressing it was actually... their job!! And the main avenue for them to express this, has by far been the one and only fully countrywide radio: Radio Okapi.

This Radio that was set up by a joint effort of the UN Mission in Congo, and the Geneva-based Hirondelle Foundation, has become the main audio media in the country, and their relative neutrality has allowed them to become the media of choice for unbiased information. And pursuant to MONUC's mission of support for the process, Okapi has been the main forum for high-profile debates, complete with timing, and equal access. In a country where the media has often been coopted by one political group or another, Radio Okapi needs to be praised for their work.

Radio Okapi will also provide 36 hours of live coverage of the polls process, in French, and in national languages.

The Congolese Diaspora

Much of the Congolese people outside the Congo are very disappointed that they cannot participate in the polls. But they do participate intensively in the debates, with very prolific messages in Congolese mailing lists. An average of 400 messages land in my mailbox every day. And the opinions range from personal politics, cults of personality, and very serious and thoughtful arguments for either side of the debate. The level of engagement in politics is higher than ever before, helped by... the Internet!!! The Congolese community has appropriated the new information technologies, and in so doing, the Global village. Things are changing, hopefully for the better.

The Debates

The quality of the debates between politicians has also gone up a notch. They have actually started to have in-depth discussions on the intricacies of legislations, and judicial precedent, and the role of the DRC as an African powerhouse, within the African Union, and the world. And the level of condescendance they used to have towards the people, is slowly - very slowly - disappearing, as they have to factor in the possibility that they may well have to face them to be elected. I am cautiously feeling more optimistic.

Referendum D-Day -3


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