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Unresolved problems for democracy

· Tension mounting in the Congo with a view to elections ·

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is preparing for presidential and legislative elections next 28 November, while leaving as yet unsolved the majority of the problems of its incomplete transition to peace and the uninterrupted violence in the Eastern part of the Great Lakes Region to start with. Particularly in recent weeks various sources of civil society in North Kivu have reported a resumption of armed military activities and numerous acts of banditry and violence to the detriment of civilians, both by rebel groups and by unchecked members of the army.

Such a context renders more than dubious the possibility that there can truly be a free exercise of popular sovereignty.  Julien Paluku himself, the Governor of North Kivu and a former militant of the old rebellion in Goma, the chief town of the region, said that he was disturbed by the reappearance of an atmosphere of insecurity linked to the upcoming elections. “Not knowing the political future, many politicians are manipulated by their ethnic groups to gain consensus. These people only survive because they are part of the institutions”, said Paluku.

The political climate is also becoming heated in Kinshasa, the capital. Within a week incidents here have caused at least one death and left a dozen people injured. Among other things the headquarters of the Peoples Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), founded by President Joseph Kabila, have been ransacked, as well as those of  the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the main party of the opposition, and of the RLTV, a radio and television broadcasting station close to the opposition.

Young people of opposing groups were engaged in particularly violent clashes in Limete,  a neighbourhood where, precisely, there has been one death. According to the UDPS the police intervened outside the Party's headquarters to disperse certain militant demonstrators and flanked the building by armed men, called “pomba”, who are said to have mortally injured a youth. Other incidents occurred during a demonstration by the opposition at the weekend and then last Monday, when the leader of the UDPS, Étienne Tshisekedi, went to the offices of the Electoral Commission to submit his candidacy for the presidential elections on 28 November, a candidacy,  moreover, that has not succeeded in gathering unanimous support from all the opposition parties.

The Government – which claims that the young demonstrators were exploited for political ends by the opposition – considers that tension was created on purpose at the beginning of September, by the looting of several public building sites for the construction of roads. For their part, the supporters of the UDPS say they are victims of repression by the forces of order and of the violence of gangs in the pay of President Kabila.

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Sept. 23, 2018

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