Saturday, March 11, 2006

The drumroll of democracy?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is supposedly on the road to free and fair elections. At least that is the official line. On thursday, President Kabila promulgated the new Electoral Law, the last piece of legislation needed for the Electoral Commision, to start organizing the elections. That is technically a positve event.

However, between the Parliament controversy we narrated a few posts earlier, and the RCD's (Congolese Rally for Democracy, Rwanda-backed former rebellion) boycott of yesterday's cabinet meeting, the likelihood of this pre-electoal period running its course smoothly and in good faith, seems to be crumbling away.

The RCD's reasons for the boycott are centered around the fact that the new electoral law also establishes voting districts. These voting districts coincide with the DRC's territories (See Territorial organization in the DRC). While it was controlling the province of South Kivu, the RCD had created new "territoires", by elevating the entities of Minembwe and Bunyakiri to that status. What is special about these particular entities, is that they are entities that are majoritarily popultated by Tutsi Congolese, also known as "Banyamulenge", the very people for the rights and defense of which the RCD claims to have started their rebellion. The President of the party, and DRC Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa is in fact a Tutsi Congolese. The RCD seem to have implied from the various agreements, all the political decisions that had been taken prior to reunification would be respected, and endorsed by the transitional government, and in this case included in the Electoral Law.

That did not come to pass, and President Kabila signed the bill into law, meaning that he ignored their demands, to their chagrin - hence the boycott. Having those territories would have guaranteed Tutsi Congolese people of those territories seats in Parliament. Detractors of the RCD claim that the RCD is seeking special treatment for the Banyamulenge, above and beyond what other ethnic groups get. The population of Banyamulenge is not known, but the least conservative estimate places it ar betwen 1% and 3% of the DRC's population. To be contibued...

Meanwhile, as if that was not enougn, Arnaud Zajtman of the BBC brings us this:
BBC NEWS | Africa | Tear gas at DR Congo poll protest

Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have used tear gas and batons to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters in the capital, Kinshasa.

They want to register for the country's first democratic elections in 40 years set for 18 June, after boycotting the initial voter registration process.

They are angered that President Joseph Kabila has approved the electoral calendar allowing nominations.

The polls are to end a power-sharing period after a five-year civil war.

The protesters in Kinshasa were among thousands of supporters of the veteran opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, who held demonstrations across DR Congo.

(See also : Police detain opposition protesters in Congo from CNN).
Now what is up with that? Is this how Kabila and his team are planning to bring about democracy in the DRC? By suppressing peaceful dissenters because they make them look bad? I mean even the usually tame MONUC (UN Mission in Congo) protested the excessive use of force, and the obstruction by the police.

Our leaders need to get off their high horses, and realize that the time of the maquis, and survival of the strongest, is over. They need to stop acting like guerilla chiefs, and more like leaders of a Republic. Tough switch? Well leadership has a price, my friends!! And the Congo is way overdue for true and elected leaders. These evading tactics by all sides... we are not buying it! Elections now!

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