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Congo (Kinshasa): From Votes to Security?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 31, 2006 (061031)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Voting went peacefully in presidential runoff elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo on October 29. And both contenders have promised not to resort to force to contest the results. But there is still a significant threat of violence as the votes are counted.

While most observers see the election success as a "moment of hope" for the Congo, there is also agreement that fundamental issues of security, corruption, and governance, as well as how to sustain international funding for reconstruction, are still unresolved..

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two recent UN reports, an oped by Jason Stearns and Michaela Wrong, and excerpts from the executive summary of a policy report from Refugees International.

For updates on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, see Previous issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin on the country are available at

Other recent commentaries, including the broader context as well as the elections, include:

International Crisis Group


Pambazuka News

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Congolese Voted in Peace

United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa)

October 29, 2006

By Oscar Mercado

In spite of the heavy rain that disrupted the displacement of the voters in Kinshasa and in other cities of the country, the historic vote of Sunday 29 October, 2006 took place in peace. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) mentioned two isolated incidents in Equator province which caused at least one death.

"The Independent Electoral Commission is pleased to inform the national and international public opinion that the votes of 29 October 2006, for the second round of the presidential election and the provincial legislative elections took place normally on the whole national territory," indicated a communiqu‚ of the IEC.

However, the Commission draws the public opinion attention to two "serious incidents" that occurred in the Equator province and caused at least one death in the locality of Bumba. The IEC announced that a new vote will be organized on Tuesday 31 October in 12 centers of this district.

The IEC president, Apollinaire Malu Malu, didn't give any indications on the turnout of the polls because some offices remained even open. According to an initial estimation made by observers and the media, the participation at the second round was less substantial than at the first round of the presidential election, last 30 July.

In spite of the heavy rain that fell on Kinshasa and few other cities in the west of the country, the Congolese went to the polls to choose their future president, between the two candidates, Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba, and their provincial deputies.

Mr. Malu Malu thanked all those who contributed to the success of this day, in particular the international and national observers and the witnesses of the political parties. And he asked them to continue monitoring the counting of the votes.

The provisional results of the second round of the presidential election should be announced by the CEI at the latest next 19 November according to the electoral calendar.

As to the provisional results of the provincial elections, they will be declared on 5 December, according to the same calendar.

DRC: Kabila, Bemba pledge to keep the peace after poll

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Networks

[This material may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

Kinshasa, 30 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - The Democratic Republic of Congo's incumbent President Joseph Kabila and his challenger in Sunday's presidential election run-off, Jean-Pierre Bemba, have pledged to respect the results and promised that whoever loses the poll would not resort to violence.

Representatives of both men signed a post-election declaration of intention document on Sunday, in which they promised that the loser would renounce force. They pledged that any poll disputes would be resolved legally, as required under the election law.

The document requires that, in the event of unrest, both candidates would publicly appeal to their supporters to keep the peace.

The agreement also stipulates that the winner ensure the personal safety of the loser and that his property and financial assets be respected in line with national and international norms. The loser's bodyguards would also be accorded respect, according to the document.

The losing candidate would support in full the establishment of institutions and engage in politics without resorting to acts of direct or indirect violence, it says. He will be guaranteed the freedom of movement to visit all part of the country, it added.

Observers welcomed the accord, but expressed some doubts over its implementation.

"Congo is the winner here because today we can say that the results of the second round are not going to help create the scope for further fighting like that which occurred during the first round," Jean-Marie Labila, a political analyst at the University of Kinshasa and adviser to the Ministry of International Cooperation, said.

Three days of heavy fighting between Kabila's and Bemba's security guards after the announcement of the provisional results of the first round of the presidential elections left at least 23 people dead in Kinshasa. The violence only ended with the intervention of the United Nations Mission in Congo, the European Union force and African Union envoys.

Other analysts said peace would depend on the sincerity of both candidates.

"The accord was signed under international pressure, but if the margin is wide, the winner will assume a certain arrogance and can isolate the loser," said Philippe Biyoya, professor of political science at the Protestant University of Congo.

Struggle for a Functioning Congo

Jason Stearns and Michela Wrong
in Financial Times, 4 August 2006

[Jason Stearns is senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. Michela Wrong is author of In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo]

With votes still being counted after Congo's elections on Sunday, it is too soon to determine who has the lead in the chaotic tally. Joseph Kabila, the current president, and Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel leader, appear to be frontrunners, with political newcomer Oscar Kashala also making a strong showing. But much more important than who wins is that the country's first multi-party poll in four decades appears to have come off without serious violence. This is a tribute to the international community's $6bn investment in the country since 2001 - five years in which a peace deal was signed, ending a war that claimed millions of lives in the late 1990s.

But the vote is not the culmination of the peace process, nor does it alone guarantee a stable democracy. The elections will mean little unless state institutions become far more functional. The final vote count itself still has the potential to create a new class of disenfranchised politicians eager to use any means to regain power. To prevent this, the international community must invest more in creating all the other fundamentals of a legitimate democracy with appropriate checks and balances: a strong parliament, independent courts and a genuine sense of government accountability.

These are not abstract needs: corruption is one of the biggest killers in this country. A brief encounter in the hills of eastern Congo illustrates the point. Three women were walking in front of us on a dirt trail recently, each weighed down by a 100-pound sack of flour. Sitting on the path was a soldier with his AK-47 between his knees. The women dumped their bags on the ground and, without being asked, handed over the equivalent of 20 cents - almost half their daily wages. As they lifted their bags, the soldier grinned at us and said: "Chai yangu - my tea."

Multiply this one incident by tens of millions of Congolese who face the same petty yet devastating corruption every day and you understand why people here see their state primarily as a predator. It is not there to serve its citizens but to run a massive extortion racket. The government provides next to no healthcare, education or even security for its citizens. In a recent survey carried out by the World Bank, Congolese were asked how they would treat the state if it was a person. "Kill him" was a frequent reply.

Predation and the failure of state institutions help explain the "Congolese paradox": a country that remains one of the poorest in the world in spite of its enormous mineral wealth. Congo contains some of the largest deposits of copper, cobalt, diamonds and gold but 80 per cent of the population makes less than a dollar a day. Almost a third of the population only eats once a day.

The challenge is to transform a predatory government into one that actually delivers services. The international approach has focused on "setting up systems". This means establishing payroll mechanisms, retiring redundant staff and providing the infrastructure for officials to do their work. These investments have been crucial but, as a World Bank official explained, their shortcomings are clear: "Systems are good - but if the people in the systems are corrupt, you haven't got very far."

This past year, between 60 and 80 per cent of customs revenues were estimated to have been embezzled, a quarter of the national budget was not properly accounted for and more than $3m were stolen from the army payroll. In spite of this, not a single Congolese official has been convicted on corruption charges during the past three years of transitional rule.

There are concrete steps that can be taken to remedy this situation. First, life must be breathed into the different branches of government. The parliament has launched some good initiatives, including an audit of state companies and a review of mining contracts, but it has not been able to push through any of its recommendations. The incoming government will provide a new opportunity to strengthen the legislature's impact at the national and local level. Twenty-six new provincial assemblies will be set up that could, if endowed with the necessary resources and checks and balances, make local administration more accountable.

Similarly, the courts, which act as more of an appendix to the executive branch than a check on power, must be given the salaries, infrastructure and resources necessary to do their job and resist corruption. Without international aid, this will be impossible.

Second, the Congo's resources must be made to benefit the whole population. Much of the country's mineral wealth has been signed away in the past few years to international companies. The terms of many of these contracts barely benefit the Congolese state or people. The parliament and the World Bank, which has invested millions in reforming the mining sector, must pressure the Congolese government to review these contracts and amend them if necessary.

More than 1,200 people continue to die every day in the Congo from the humanitarian consequences of the conflict. Elections alone will not bring an end to this tragedy but creating a functioning state just might.

Seizing This Moment of Hope

Refugees International

October 17, 2006

Executive Summary


For more than a decade, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has struggled with one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. Yet, improbably, that situation has improved markedly over the past few years. Seventy percent of the electorate has voted in the first democratic contest for president in four decades; violence in the east has eased, largely due to the presence of the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC; and humanitarian response has improved even as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees begin to return home. No longer is the DRC an intractable quagmire: it has arrived at a moment of hope that must be seized.

The international community must now redouble its efforts to help those still in need and further stabilize the country, to build on the improvements made and protect its already substantial investment. The priority is action - this is no time for efforts to lag or attention to wander. The DRC is vital for strategic as well as humanitarian reasons, with staggering potential as well as tremendous suffering. Its vast natural resources could be a motor for regional development and stability, but instead have fueled regional conflict following the collapse of the Mobutu regime in the 1990s. Four million people have died as a result, and 1.6 million remain displaced inside the DRC today. Despite the signs of hope brought by the elections, fighting and displacement will continue during the year to come, even as a new government takes power and long-term development programs take root.

The most pressing humanitarian priority is increasing security for civilians by reforming the Congolese armed forces, expanding MONUC, and implementing the embargo on arms and natural resources. Pockets of violence, displacement, and need persist throughout the east, internally displaced people live just beyond the reach of assistance, and attempts by the displaced to return home are thwarted by fighting. The FARDC - the new Congolese national army - is the most serious threat. Despite a process of integration designed to create a professional defense force, the FARDC's ill-trained and underpaid troops, a collection of former government and rebel forces, are abandoned by their commanders, forcing them to live off the backs of the population and opening the door to brutal abuse - particularly rape.

Civilians also come under attack from local militias and rebel groups seeking control over natural resources or fighting against neighboring governments. Joint operations between the FARDC and MONUC to subdue these groups have displaced hundreds of thousands since January 2006, with little strategic gain. MONUC has come under pressure from the U.S., its largest contributor, to pursue such a military solution, but neither MONUC nor the FARDC has the capacity to implement it.

In addition, the UN Security Council recently extended an embargo on the flow of weapons and the natural resources that pay for them to and from the DRC. MONUC again does not have the capacity to monitor and enforce this embargo, despite a specific mandate to do so, due to a lack of troops, equipment, and intelligence capabilities. The embargo is crucial to choking off the source of conflict in the DRC, but has never been respected. Rwanda and Uganda have a particular role to play in this regard, and the ongoing flow of arms from their territories into eastern DRC demonstrates their failure.

In the ever-widening areas where peace makes assistance possible, more humanitarian funding and continued coordination between agencies remain critical. ... A new initiative, the Rapid Response Mechanism, has performed well by establishing NGO teams that can respond quickly to new displacement crises with shelter and household kits, food, and water. In terms of return and resettlement, however, the response so far has been slow. Given the scale of the problem, donors and agencies need to identify the areas of return that they will assist first, focusing on those that will draw the largest number of displaced or that are most at risk of renewed fighting. They will need to meet basic humanitarian needs first, then move swiftly to ensure the ongoing safety of the population as well as access to markets, clean water, education, and health care.

Humanitarian response for both displacement and return is dependent on funding - and funding for the crisis in the DRC is completely inadequate. If the objective is minimum standards of assistance for all who need it, then donors are not providing the required resources. The problem is compounded by the fact that humanitarian action in the DRC is expensive: distances are long, infrastructure non-existent, and corruption endemic. The United Nations laid out the most comprehensive picture to date of humanitarian needs and proposed responses for the DRC in its 2006 Action Plan, yet donors have not taken the appeal seriously, supplying only one-third of the requested $680 million. Donors have begun contributing more to longterm development programs, but the shift is creating a gap in short-term assistance that could save lives now. The European Union, in particular, has cut off support for humanitarian assistance before its development funding has become available.


Improvements in security, assistance, funding, and coordination are humanitarian imperatives for the DRC. The hope fostered by improvements over the past few years, capped by the recent elections, must drive the Congolese people, their government, and the international community - the United States and other leading international actors, regional actors, donor agencies and appropriators, the United Nations, NGOs, and the media - to redouble efforts to stop the killing and displacement of civilians, meet the basic needs of those affected by the conflict, and help people get home and rebuild.

Refugees International therefore recommends that:

Improving security

  • The DRC request that the United States and other donors invest in the FARDC by increasing salaries, extending and improving training, and supporting the prosecution of soldiers and their superiors as necessary for abuses, especially rape.
  • The new Congolese government request, and the UN Security Council authorize, a twelvemonth expansion of MONUC, adding four additional battalions to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian response; deter armed groups while encouraging their disarmament and demobilization; support FARDC reform; and enforce the embargo on weapons and natural resources.
  • Rwanda and Uganda begin enforcing the embargo on weapons and natural resources, with the U.S. and the United Kingdom, as supporters of the two countries, assisting them as well as holding them accountable (through the UN Security Council if necessary) for violations.

Improving assistance

  • The new president of the DRC appoint a high-level coordinator for humanitarian affairs; the new prime minister promote the most technically qualified staff to head relevant ministries at both the national and provincial levels; and the new national assembly establish a committee to monitor humanitarian needs and response.
  • The DRC government, donors, UN agencies, and NGOs work together to strengthen the Rapid Response Mechanism and improve IDP camp management and assistance to survivors of rape. In addition, donors must resolve current food shortages by increasing contributions to the World Food Programme.


Improving funding

  • Donors increase their contributions for humanitarian response in the DRC, including security and peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and coordination.
  • Donors, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the DRC, and the World Bank work to manage the shift from humanitarian to development funding, ensuring that implementing agencies do not have to suspend projects and lay off experienced staff during the transition.

Improving coordination

  • The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNDP complete the rollout of the Early Recovery Cluster and link it firmly to the Protection Cluster so that IDP and refugee return is voluntary and safe as well as rapid.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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