Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Countdown to elections: D-11

The elections are coming! They are coming... and they are still looking very strange. On tuesday, members of the International Community were asking that the army be confined to barracks, as it was necessary for free and fair elections. And they seem to have a point! With seven people (or more) killed around Rutshuru, and an increasing sense of lack of security, people have started to wonder whether these elections are more than an elaborate rubber-stamping process. I am still hopeful, as always, and the Salon will still operate on the assumption that these are simply squirmishes, and minor faux-pas in an overall acceptable process. But we remain vigilant.

If there is one entity that is helping to make this a real election, and that is contributing to the education of the Congolese people in this process, it is the UN-sponsored Radio Okapi. This tuesday, however, it was put before quite a dilemma. Last week, a journalist, Bapuwa Mwamba, was murdered, and Congolese media people decided to organize a "media-less" day, with all the radios and newspapers not working for the entire day. They also organized a big march in Kinshasa [video, fr], to show their solidarity, and to shout their anger at the fact that the government does not seem to care about their safety. Being a UN radio, Okapi had to be neutral, and therefore broadcasted as usual, with one exception: All the shows were giving room for journalists to express their views on their safety situation. A creative way to fulfill all their duties. But back to the elections, Okapi features 1-on-1 interviews with all the presidential candidates[fr] (so far about 20 out of the 33), and they have been trying to stage mini presidential debates[fr], with some success. Okapi is the only radio that can put itself above politics, and have the neutrality needed, because they do not belong to any politician, and although the journalists are Congolese, they have UN-protection.

The Congo topic is getting hot on the Western media, all of a sudden. Partly, I am sure because now, with the arrival of EUFOR-RDC, the EU's "dissuasion" force, there are some White people in harm's way. But I'd like to think that (at least some) people in the West (or everywhere else, Mr. BRE), do care about the fate of my people. The new Arab-Israeli conflict might occult what happens in Congo though. In any case, we will be here to report what we find, what we hear, what we can.

Observers have been announcing their arrival from everywhere. The Carter center has been there for a little while, and COMESA has sent a few as well. South African observers seem to also be on the way. There may be some hope yet!!!

I am still wondering

D - 11

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