Thursday, July 27, 2006

DRC: Countdown to elections: D-3

In Congo, river canoes bring chance to vote - Yahoo! News:

"MAITA, Congo (Reuters) - 'Vote on Sunday! Vote on Sunday!' men shout at villagers from aboard a 50-foot wooden canoe as it glides along the vast Congo river, packed high with boxes of voting ballots and red plastic tables and chairs.

Smiling women and children wave and run along the bank as the pirogue arrives at the tiny island of Maita, bringing to villagers there the chance to vote on Sunday in
Democratic Republic of Congo's first free elections in more than 40 years."
This is the day that the lord hath made (Psalm 118:24)? I really cannot say, but I sure hope so. For a country as staunchly religious as the Congo, a biblical reference seemed fitting. It seems as though nothing will stop the current (hopefully) fair electoral process, not even natural obstacles... Well, we shall see, shan't we? The DRC has finally received some good news in the Eastern front, where three militias have accepted to lay down their weapons, and join the integration program of the Congolese Armed Forces. The timing of this event is utterly suspicious, but that may simply be my overly skeptical tendency.

What of the campaign front? Well in the final sprint, the Presidential heavyweights are coming back to the Kinshasa, to give their grand-finale meetings. As I am writing this post, Radio Okapi is reporting that VP Jean-Pierre Bemba is walking from Kinshasa-Ndjili International Airport, on the Lumumba boulevard, towards Tata-Raphael stadium, with a humungous crowd, for his last - and biggest - electoral speech. Other candidates, such as Harvard-educated Dr Oscar Kashala, the patriach Antoine Gizenga, and VP Azarias Ruberwa, already did their Kinshasa rallies, with some mderate success. President Kabila reserved the last day of the campaign, friday, for his big rally; although in his case, the rally in Lubumbashi on Wednesday, where he was accompanied with the first lady, for her first public engagement, may rival the one in Kinshasa.

Aside from these heavyweights, the campaign is a true road to calvary for most candidates. And the rise in human rights violations is not helping. That was one of the main points at the weekly press briefing of the UN mission in Congo. I have to say that MONUC gives a lot of much needed leeway to journalists, as they were able to ask very pointed and frank questions to the UN Resident coordinator Ross Mountain, on the apparent bias of the International community in favor of one party, electoral irregularities, and other topics. The press conference was also the occasion to invite journalists to a tour of all the main locations of the electoral commission's tallying equipment, including the much anticipated "central server".

This sudden openness seems to have stemmed from the concerns of the catholic church, who threatened to call for a boycott, if apparent irregularities are not addressed. In fact, the head of the catholic church in Congo, Mgr. Laurent Monsengwo is supposed to organize a press conference today, to clarify things a bit. Meanwhile, on Friday, there will be a final joint UN-EU-Electoral commision press conference, live on Radio Okapi.

Friday is also the end of the campaign. We still don't know what UDPS has in store for the last days, so the jury is still out on all this. I have noticed, quite remarkably, that Western media coverage has picked-up. We are not at the level of a "Congo decides" graphic animation on CNN (due - I am sure!... - to the new crisis/war/WWIII in the middle east), but the - written and/or on-air - coverage of the Washington Post, IRIN, RFI and the almighty BBC has pleasantly picked-up a notch. I send particular kudos to the BBC for their wondeful reporter's blog, and their Ask the voters feature, which have been rather refreshing. Also kudos to RFI (Radio France International) for interviewing every presidential candidate (like Radio Okapi does).

I also want to give kudos to Global Voices, for doing a wonderful job trying to do a roundup of all the Congo bloggers. The Salon is full of gratitude to them, and we will be here to do our part, and to inform you to the best of our abilities, and keep the story of Congo alive!

Congo, mabele ya motuya! Congo kino liwa! D-3


Denis said...

Thanks for the RFI link, I didn't notice they had interviews of almost all candidates. Too bad Bemba is missing.

Black River Eagle said...

There IS a lot of good coverage on the DRC elections out there on the Internet and in the blogosphere these days. I particularly liked the roundup over at GVO and the BBC News Reporters Log and Q&A with voters down in Lumumbasha.

Too bad that the decision-makers at the BBC News HQ in London are too frightened or stupid to use Technorati (or some other service) to link their news articles to global bloggers. Fortunately a number of other top news organizations (The Washington Post, Newsweek, TIME, Reuters, et al.) do support citizen journalists in various ways.

You have done a great job here at The Salon in keeping us informed as well and you deserve a lot of credit for the hard work. Keep it going here at your blog LONG after the elections are over. That is the period when it will get really interesting down in the DR Congo.

TheMalau said...

I may slow down a bit after tomorrow, for work, but I will still be posting, don't worry.

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