Tuesday, August 29, 2006

DRC: Post-electoral tensions (Update 3)

DRC poll rivals meet for talks: "Kinshasa - President Joseph Kabila and his chief challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba met for the first time on Tuesday in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital to discuss the forthcoming run-off election, said an electoral commission spokesperson.

The meeting comes in the wake of unrest sparked by the results of the July 30 elections - the first democratic vote in the central African nation in 40 years - which had left at least 23 dead.

The preliminary results released by the election commission last week gave Kabila about 45%, to 20% for Bemba, his closest competitor and former rebel leader.

'They are meeting now to discuss the October 29 elections.

'They will agree to respect the results of that vote,' said Desire Baere, a spokesperson for the independent electoral commission (IEC).

The European Union and the United Nations applauded the relative calm and freedom of the July 30 elections.

However, after the recent violence - between Kabila's presidential guard and forces loyal to Bemba - called for the two leaders to demonstrate a 'sense of responsibility'."
The news comes from News 24, a South African agency, but I have not been able to see confirmation of this in other news sources, or from people in Kinshasa. What is for sure, is that their aides met, and agreed to a joint investigative commission, to probe the causes of the post-electoral violence that erupted in Kinshasa, following the publication of the presidential poll results. What that will bring, I don't know, but at the very least it is a step in the right direction.

What is more... obscure at this point, is the exact motivations behind these actions. There seems to be no advantage whatsoever, strategic or otherwise, to provoke this turmoil. I am therefore left to ask: Why? Is there a mutual agreement between the two parties, that we are not privy to? They won the first round, and now they are fighting each other: It makes no sense! At least not to the rest of us. So I went around the net, and tried to find a few analyses, that attempt to give a comprehensive look at the situation in DRC. The idea here, is to start a discussion on the matter:
There are other sources, in French, but it would be counter-productive to list them all here. My take is essentially that there is a generalized lack of leadership at the helm of the country, and that petty personal interests continue to direct the actions of the various political movements that control the country. The armed "elites" are not ready to relinquish the quasi-totalitarian control they have over the life and death of the general population, their influence in the country, and more importantly, the hold on whatever portion of the country's wealth that they have garnered over the last 10 years or more. No one likes to give up their golden goose. Ultimately, this - IMHO - is a tale of unrestrained greed. But I am open to other views.

In the mean time, two important things must be noted. First of all, a group of 6 TV hannels accused of inciting hatred during these latest turmoils, were suspended[Fr] by the Media High Authority. Good (temporary) ridance if one asks me. Also, and more importantly, the electoral results for the legislative elections have also started to be published. May the best candidates win.

20 comments:

Richard said...

I think the violence absolutely is a result of elites anxious to appear strong in the wake of the election. But the fact that things have calmed down bodes well. It would have been unrealistic to expect no violence at all.

Another good source of news, in French, is this Belgian journalist's blog...

http://blog.lesoir.be/colette-braeckman/

Black River Eagle said...

All of this worldwide, multi-lingual coverage of the national elections/post-election period in the DRC is great. Journalist Roukaya Kasenally of the L'Express reporting from Port Louis (where is Port Louis??) has an error in his 3-page article re: the contribution by the "international community" toward the cost of the elections. He writes USD $40 million which is less than 1/10th of what was spent so far. The Belgian journalist Colette Bräkman's blog looks very interesting too. Eye on Africa blog by independent journalist Mvemba Phezo Dizolele is one of the best finds of the year as far as I am concerned.

In regards to why the violence broke out between Kabila's presidential guard (militia) and JP Bemba's vice-presidential guard (militia), has it not occured to anyone yet that it may be that neither of these guys are in full control of their respective militias? That's a scenario that everyone should be very worried about, that the militias rebel against their masters and take power for themselves. If it goes that route after the 2nd round of voting, don't call on Kofi Anan and the U.N. to help, they're bogged down and overstretched to the max. Plus they (the U.N.) are broke!

Kabila's boys really trashed JP Bemba's personal helicopter during the fighting at Bemba's compound in Gombé. Looks as if they didn't want him leaving town too soon. I wonder if the two (Kabila and JP Bemba) worked out a deal about who is paying for the damages to the chopper and the residence?

Jonathan Edelstein said...

I'm also reduced to guesswork about the reasons for the violence, but I wonder if it might have to do with two factors. First, many of Kabila's forces expected a first-round victory. Second, many of the allegations of irregularities (burned or discarded ballots etc.) came from Kinshasa. Maybe, when the Kinois votes came in and pushed Kabila below 50 percent, some of his people got the idea that Bemba was rigging the count in the capital, and decided to get even.

Another possibility is that some lower-level people got into a fight on the street and the whole thing spun out of control.

Is it clear yet which side started the violence, and whether it was ordered at a high level?

The parliament thus far looks like a mess - more than 30 parties already, the largets party likely to finish with a quarter to a fifth of the seats, lots of regional nationalists and at least two Mai-Mai factions winning seats. It will be a seller's market.

Jonathan Edelstein said...

BTW, apropos of nothing, I dare anyone here to say "Union of Democratic Mobutuists" with a straight face.

TheMalau said...

Jonathan, you're so funny. Believe it or not, the son of Mobutu may be more of democrat than the ones we have in power now (or so I am told by people in Kin), which is the ultimate irony of these elections, I believe.

People, keep the comments coming, this is interesting. BRE, I was just thinking that today: the chain of command is not very clear in the militias, so maybe there is a problem of lack of control... we'll see.

Mvemba said...

These comments are very interesting and thought-provoking. I just cannot believe that the republican guards acted on their own, without the consent of their commander -- the president. The first day of the clash, maybe. The second and third days, no way. In fact, on the second and third days they brought in heavy weaponry, including tanks. Tell me their commander did not give the green light for the operation.

Fred said...

Just to shift the perspective a bit, I'm impressed that this thing was contained, at least. That means both Kabila and Bemba agreed to order their troops back into barracks.

The rumour mill is busy with accounts of how it started: for example, a spat over some provocative pro-Bemba banners in Lingala ('God has chosen a true Congolese for the Congolese') seems to have escalated. The Commission involving representatives of both candidates will examine what happened.

Black River Eagle - the UN is routinely underfunded for the tasks it is entrusted with, but I don't expect they'll be left in the lurch at this stage. Donors have been pretty responsive thus far.

Fred said...

PS The News 24 report you cite is being confirmed on the radio.

Meanwhile, there's an interesting AFP report that Gizenga (who came 3rd) has been talking to both Kabila and Bemba.

Black River Eagle said...

To Fred of This Way Please blog:

I hear what you are saying about the donor nations being responsive (financially) to the MONUC mission and the national elections and the EUFOR-RDC security mission and all, but a report today at BBC News online claims that many Rwandan troops that make up a large part of the 7,000-man AU peacekeeping mission to Darfur have not been paid in two months... and might not get paid at all unless some "donor nations" pitch in to help out with more money. The AU-UN Mission to Darfur is also broke! Here is the link to the story:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5302116.stm

The Congolese must get this transformation to democracy right on the first and second round of voting, because if they don't their international partners will be standing around with their hands in their pockets__ flat broke.

Lorraine said...

Richard, I agree with you that "Le carnet de Colette Braeckman" is a good blog to read AS LONG AS the reader knows that Ms Braeckman has a very pro-Kabila bias at times.

I agree with Mvemba when he points out that the militia may have taken the initiative the first day maybe, but certainly not the second, third day including the use of heavy weaponry.

MONUC: If there was a private enterpirse that was as rifed with as many SERIOUS internal problems as MONUC (the latest being pedophilia and let's not even talk about the money management issues!!)) the top management echelon would have been fired and the Board of Directors would have been asked to resign long before now!!! After all these are the people who should set the example of what is (un)acceptable behavior within an organizaton.

To paraphrase JE I dare anyone here to say MONUC and a role model of effective conflict management and peackeeeping with a straight face.

Funding is going to be an increasingly dire issue for MONUC given that the UN is being pressured to increase its forces in Darfur AND now with the whole explosive Middle East region....

Speaking of money, will the Congolese government give the $20 million dollars towards the election ?

Question: When will the official final presidential electoral results be published? I keep checking http://www.cei-rdc.cd/clcr/ expecting to see a completely green map of the RDC only to see "Résultats partiels publiés par affichage aux CLCR" and according to the map some areas are still en cours.

Jonathan Edelstein said...

Believe it or not, the son of Mobutu may be more of democrat than the ones we have in power now

If Mussolini's granddaughter can be a right-wing but relatively normal member of the Italian parliament, then Mobutu's son can certainly be a democratic party leader. Stranger things have happened.

It will be interesting to see the commission's conclusions, although I wonder if the commission won't be more interested in smoothing things over than in getting to the bottom of the clashes.

Jonathan Edelstein said...

I mostly agree with Lorraine about MONUC (although not all of its demobilization-disarmament programs have been total failures), but that's only half the international aid problem. The other half is that nearly all the aid has gone to security with almost nothing going to development. This is a major issue because (1) security without development is a band-aid, and (2) it leaves the exploitation of Congolese resources to the looters. If the int'l community wants to make a permanent difference, then it will have to invest far more than the bare minimum necessary to stop people from shooting each other.

Black River Eagle said...

I'm sorry to get off-subject here again (O.K., maybe I'm not sorry) but this is important.

I've just read something today that makes this whole thing about Joe Kabila being a true Congolese or half-Tanzanian or 1/4 Rwandan or whatever a fluke. There is a guy running for office in these elections named Jean-Pierre Chalupa who was born in the DRC (or Zaire at that time) and is presently a citizen of the DRC and qualifies to run for office in every way (except for one thing):
He is WHITE (Caucasian)!!!

Did you know about this Ali? I bet you did but kept it secret. The big question now is did he win a seat in the Parliament to represent his district Lukunga-Kinshasa? Hat Tip to Life Over IP blog for bringing this important fact to our attention. Read the blog post "The Only White Guy in the Congo's Election" over at the LiveJournal blog Life Over IP:
http://rayne-vandunem.livejournal.com/66595.html

The Italian site Conflitti has a profile on Jean-Pierre Chalupa but my Italian is worse than my French-language skills. Here is the link to the article "Chalupa detto - il bianco":
http://italy.peacelink.org/conflitti/articles/art_18080.html

Anybody ever hear of this guy?

Lorraine said...

Hey BRE,

Kate Wolf writes about Chalupa on her blog http://katewolf.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_katewolf_archive.html and several newspapers/magazines wrote about his campaign poster stating "Chalupa, pourquoi pas?"

(for example in Jeune Afrique RD CONGO - 27 juillet 2006 - AFP
"Chalupa, tu es Congolais mais ta peau est blanche. Nous, on te choisit Tonton Jacques")

The difference is that Chalupa officially requested and RECEIVED Congolese citizenship from the Congolese government and as such has the legal right to run for office in the DRC. However, I don't believe he could run for president of the Congo. My understanding is that according to the current Constitution you have to be born of two Congolese parents.

TheMalau said...

Yes, actually I am convinced I have mentionned this in a previous blog. Yes, we have heard of this guy, and his campaign was so good, that e is almost assured of a seat in parliament, despite the fact that Kinshasa results are not fully out yet. He basically said "A white guy... Why not?" I mean he is Congolese after all, born in Congo too, and contrary to Kabia, he can actually prove it with legal papers, birth certificates, and what have you...

Granted, to be fair, Kabila was (officially) born in a rebel-town, where records were obviously not kept; and Kabia the father was NOT a Catholic, so the likelihood that his children would be baptzed in church are minimal at best. So Kabila may be forever unable to prove that he is born in Congo. That said, no one has been able to provide birth certificates that prove that he is born elsewhere, or to another father, either... So who knows?

Lorraine I always appreciate your grain of salt, however slanted. I think that MONUC is not as bad as you make it seem. MONUC is suffering from the same problems that have underminded the UN (and Western countries) for years: The rich give money, and the people giving the actual manpower are the poor, from corrupt countries. You cannot expect someone who comes from let's say the Pakistani military, to change their military culture of total domination over civilians, overnight. So of course you are going to end-up with cases of abuse and mismanagement, etc. I do not particularly like Swing, but he is not the problem. The problem is the structure in the UN. Mvemba and Richard, I am happy to see you

Lorraine said...

Hey Malu, We are going to have to disagree on this one.
Accountability should start at home and for Mr. Swing, home currently is MONUC. The fact that the UN has its own set of problems does not excuse Swing and his staff from addressing issues in the field.

Granted every mid-sized corporation/organization (after all, there are only 17,600 uniformed MONUC people from 58 countries) has its share of problems and the PDG shouldn't be expected to know everything happening at every level within the entity. This is why when the sex scandal broke out the first time I thought that Mr. Swing and his staff should be given ample opportunity to address the problem.

HOWEVER, as we all know this is not the first time that a sex scandal has rocked MONUC. Furthermore, as you so succinctly observed, MONUC workers in the field come from different cultural backgrounds. Mr. Swing and his corporate staff should be well aware of BOTH factors (and if they aren't then that REALLY leads to questions of competency!) and should have taken IMMEDIATE steps to rectify the situation and not only implement the alleged UN zero-tolerance policy towards sexual misconduct but also maintain extreme vigilance against further abuse and implement a broad range of internal corporate cultural training and policies to address such issues.

The fact that yet another sexual misconduct scandal is rocking MONUC so shortly after the first one indicates that no such measures were taken (or they were taken on paper but never properly implemented).

MONUC keeps talking about accountability and justice, especially with respect to sexual violence, in the RDC . I would contend that the organization should set an example and start in-house.

Such gross cultural mismanagement does make me seriously wonder about financial management. After all the total cost of MONUC's operations over the last 7 years is about $3.8 billion with the approved 2006-2007 budget of $1.1 billion. This is not chump change to say the least.

If a leader does not take immediate action to correct and hold accountable his/her people who are engaged in wrongdoings then (s)he should be held accountable as well.

When people ask me about Kabila's heritage I ask them "why go so far back?" Why not focus on the last five years? Ask President Kabila and Vice President Bemba: "Show us what you did to concretely improve the lives of the Congolese citizens while in power" and then "TEll us what you will do to make life better for all in the RDC if you are elected President."

Anyone have the inside scoop on what Mr. Gizenga is planning? The staff of Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies posted a DR Congo Analysis: Who Will Win the Runoff Elections? at http://www.bloggernews.net/2006/08/dr-congo-analysis-who-will-win-runoff.html

Jonathan Edelstein said...

Chalupa was elected, in case anyone's still interested.

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