It is the final sprint in Congo. President Kabila was in the opposition stronghold of Mbuji-Mayi, in opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi's native Eastern Kasai province (Kasai Oriental). The campaign stop had the expected result: decent turnout at best, stones thrown at the convoy, a few injured (and maybe dead) people... same old, same old. As much as I am cautious about these elections, I do not understand why attention to it seems to constantly be amped up only when such clashes occur. Sensationalist media at its best, I guess.
I do hope the readers of The Salon do not mistake my excessive cautiousness, and my "healthy" level of skepticism for a lack of support for my people, and the monumental opportunity these elections could bring forth. I am amazed that it is this close, and they still seem to have everything on track, despite the corollary mess. So for once, we can actually say: absent an unforseable development, elections will happen on Sunday!!!
Now, that said, there are a few roadblocks here. The country is 50%+ Catholic, and the Catholic church seems to be leading towards encouraging abstinence from the vote, on account of the apparent irregularities in the process. They are not alone: 19 out of the 33 presidential candidates still claim to be advocating for a new delay, and a "recalibration" of a process that they have seen as biased in their disfavor. Yet several of them, when interviewed on Radio Okapi, were quick to reply that they did not actually stop campaigning, despite their grievances. In the end, Le Potentiel claims[fr] that there are about 20 viable candidates here. The Salon would say about 10, but who are we to talk, right?
A story that has also been going around the wires is that report by UNICEF, that states that 600 children die everyday in Congo... 600!!!! And here we are talking totally avoidable, human-factor-driven deaths, that should be the stuff of a gruesome past, and not a contemporary matter. This brought back to me - not that it ever left - the urgency, and the unbelievable amount of hope that surrounds the upcoming elections. It is after all a huge gamble: A country that was THE textbook case for kleptocracy, and was ruled by nepotism, personality cult and submission to the will of one man, and a country with a corruption-infested society, that country is basing all its hope on an experience - democracy - that 60%+ of the country has never experienced. I wrote about the issues I saw around that in my short senior thesis, but it boils down to the fact that it is somewhat of a longshot, but one that can be succesfully made, with the right conditions, and the right perspective. The conditions are almost all there. The perspective... let's wait and see.
One more thing. Our friend Ethan Zuckermann, of Global Voices and My Heart's in Accra, has a wonderful piece on the effects of the crisis in the Middle East, on such big and important stories such as news from the Congo. I recommend the piece, because it expressed in clearer terms, a sentiment that I have been feeling for the past 2 weeks. And it is not helped by the fact that my sympathies tend to not be with the Israeli government, at all. But that is another story.
D-5. Wow! It's really happening, isn't it? On a more personal note, I have found out recently that my uncle David Mbwankiem is running for a seat in the national Parliament, and my very own brother Theophile Mamina Kayembe is running as an independant for a seat on the Provincial parliament of Kinshasa. I am really proud of their commitment to the country's affairs, and I wish them both good luck, and I hope they win.
We are still bringing you what we can, in English, so that the story of Congo can be spread further. Keep watching, as from now on, we will have daily updates.