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Congo (Kinshasa): Democracy Still Deferred

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Mar 29, 2012 (120329)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

African and world leaders have celebrated the democratic election in Senegal this month, and moved quickly to condemn the coup in Mali, urging a return to democratic rule. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), however, there is hardly any international attention to the post-election crisis following last November's election. This despite the prominent role of the United Nations and "donor" countries in sustaining the government of this strategically located country, the largest by area in sub-Saharan Africa.

When the DRC does attract international attention, it is more likely for being one of the countries affected by the attacks of the Lord's Resistance Army; for the multifaceted ongoing conflict in the east of the country, with its high frequency of conflict-related rapes, and the related debate over "conflict minerals" exported from that area; for the recent International Criminal Court conviction of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga; or for the failure of impunity for widespread violations of human rights by both Congolese and foreign combatants in "Africa's World War" over the years from 1993 to 2003 (see ).

None of these serious issues is likely to be resolved, however, without the missing prerequisite of a democratically elected and accountable government. President Joseph Kabila, the disputed incumbent, has not yet appointed a new government, more than three months after the election. And even when he does, as a coalition of Congolese civil society organizations noted in February, the country will still have two heads of government, one legal but illegitimate (the incumbent) and the other legitimate but not legal (the challenger Etienne Tshisekedi).

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the translation of a letter from the Agir pour des Elections Transparentes et Apaisées civil society coalition, as well as excerpts from a longer article by Congolese scholar and pro-democracy activist Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, focused on the need to resolve the crisis of lack of democratic legitimacy. The full text of that article is available at / Direct url:

Given the recognition of the Kabila government by African states and regional organizations, the failure of the DRC's Western partners to proffer more than pro-forma criticism of the elections, and divisions even within opposition ranks in the DRC, such proposals from Congolese pro-democracy voices may stand little realistic chance of being adopted. The consequences of this continued failure, however, will continue to weigh heavily on the future of the Congo.

Other recent articles on democracy in the DRC found on the new Possible Futures blog include "The Congo: A Revolution Deferred" by Jason Stearns, March 8, 2012; "For Next Steps in Congo, Listen to the Congolese" by Joshua Marks, February 15, 2012; and "Values vs. Interests: The US and African Elections," by Anthony W. Gambino. The blog also includes an incisive critique of the International Criminal Court strategy in the Lubanga case: "The ICC and Lubanga: Missed Opportunities," by Pascal Kambale. See

For a report released this month by the UN Human Rights Commission ( on serious human rights violations during the election period in the DRC, see A summary news story on the report is at

Reports from the UNO Stabilization Mission in the DRC, including the latest from January 2012, are available at

Testimony at the hearings on the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, on Feb. 2, 2012, from three U.S. government officials, can be found at (click on the names of the witnesses for pdfs of the testimony). There were no other witnesses at this hearing.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visit

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

Letter from Congolese Civil Society to the Secretary General of the United Nations about the Post-Electoral Crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

February 9, 2012

[Original French at / Direct url: English translation by AfricaFocus.]

Kinshasa, February 7, 2012

Agir pour des Elections Transparentes et Apaisées [Action for Transparent and Peaceful Elections] Headquarters and Secretariat: 25, Av. Lubefu, Kinshasa/Gombe.
TEl.: 0999923152 - 0991008236 - 0991008239 - 0813330181

To His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary General of the United Nations / New York
Subject: Letter of Congolese Civil Society on the postelection crisis in DRC

Mr. Secretary General,

As your Special Representative in the DRC prepares to to submit his periodic report, it seemed useful to share with the assessment by Congolese Civil Society of the postelection situation as it currently exists. The general situation of the country is characterized by a profound crisis in the political, institutional, and socio-economic spheres and in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Nevertheless, we want to focus on the political front, particularly with regard to the post-election crisis. We wish to bring to your attention that the Congolese are living through an experience of having two head of the country: "On one hand, a legal but not legitimate president and another president who is legitimate president but not legal."

Our conclusion is that if proper attention is not paid to this situation, peace and security may be seriously affected for many years to come, not only in the DRC but also in the subregion.There would be no exaggeration to speak of a future African War featuring the confrontation of several African armies. From its founding, th UN has an institution on which the peace and security of peoples and nations depends. This is the context of the current mission of MONUSCO, which the Congolese people fully appreciate. Now, when financial crises impose austerity and disorganize world economies, it is necessary to devote a little more money and manpower for an extra effort to avoid facing a situation that tomorrow may become uncontrollable and costly.

There is no need to revisit the serious findings of chaos and the immeasurable magnitude of fraud that characterized the preparation, organization, vote counting and declaration / publication of results of presidential and legislative elections of 28 November 2011 in the DRC. The lack of credibility of these elections has been recognized by all observers: the European Union, the Carter Center, domestic observers, and observers of the Catholic Church, to name only a few.

The fact is that today the vast majority of the Congolese people do not recognize the published results as those votes which they participated. Witnesses do not recognize much of the official minutes as being the same ones to which they had affixed their signatures.

The results of these elections, presidential and legislative-are now being challenged by the main opposition parties and several candidates, including some members of the governing coalition parties. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, failed in with its mission to organize free, transparent and credible and no longer deserves, therefore, the confidence of politicians and the Congolese population.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops of Congo (CENCO) in its Declaration of the extraordinary plenary session of January 2012 and Civil Society have called for a national dialogue. To date, despite the seriousness and magnitude of the situation, MONUSCO has called on the public not to resort to violence and to pursue claims through institutional channels, that is, the courts and tribunals known for their lack of neutrality and transparency.

One can not confine some under house arrest, asking them to follow an obsolete procedure, while others are already planning to set up institutions based on the fraudulent elections. Taking advantage of the report of your Representative, we suggest you take this opportunity to launch an effective initiative to help the DRC emerge from its post-election crisis. To this end we submit foro your attention the following proposals from Congolese Civil Society:

The Security Council / General Secretary should:

  • Give MONUSCO the mandate for election observation and certification of results;
  • Start with the prior established of a new office to give credibility and integrity to the INEC, replacing the current staff and including civil society;
  • Apply a comprehensive solution to both the presidential and parliamentary elections without separating them;
  • Require disclosure by the INEC of all the minutes as they were displayed on the night of the election;
  • Clearly and strongly request the government to guarantee free democratic expression of the Congolese people, including freedom to demonstrate;
  • Obtain a mandate for UN election monitoring and certification of results;
  • Decide between two options:
    1. recount the votes; or
    2. organize a second round of voting for presidential and legislative elections, combined with local and provincial. These could take place within 6 months rather than in March 2012 so as not to botch them again;
  • Protect key opposition leaders through armed guards selected by mutual agreement with the protected persons. More specifically, the safety of Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi must be ensured by a contingent of the UN;
  • Ensure freedom of movement and expression for all political leaders.

Signatory Member Groups [list of 40 groups available with original French at]

Congolese Vote, but Who Decides?

by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja

March 14, 2012

African Futures

Possible Futures: A Project of the Social Science Research Council / Direct url:

In his excellent contribution to this blog on 15 February 2012, Joshua Marks writes that "It is difficult to make sense of the reaction of many Western governments and international actors to the disastrous elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on November 28, 2011." To those of us who have followed the actions of Western governments and international actors since their complicity in the illegal removal of Patrice Lumumba from his position as the democratically elected prime minister of the Congo in September 1960 and his assassination on orders of the US and Belgian governments in January 1961, their total contempt for the democratic right of the Congolese people to choose their own leaders is perfectly understandable. It is symptomatic of the hypocrisy and double standards governing the foreign policies of these self-appointed promoters of democracy and human rights.

In a presentation to the 2009 annual meeting of the African Studies Association in New Orleans, I made the following critique of President Barack Obama's foreign policy, based on his 4 June 2009 speech in Cairo:

"The hope in Africa is that governments claiming to have the interests of the African people at heart, as Obama's administration does, will support the continent's popular struggles for democracy. That implies holding the same yardstick for all regimes, and not employing double standards or playing favorites with strategic allies. For example, the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is notorious in its violation of human rights and its conduct of fraudulent elections, and yet Washington is extremely timid in pressuring its ally on this matter. In his Cairo address to the Muslim world, President Obama had little to say about democracy in Egypt."


In the DRC, the Obama administration has disappointed all those who had expected a return to the principled policies of democracy and human rights promotion of the Carter administration. As a Senator, Barack Obama is credited with one major piece of legislation, which then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton supported as well. It is Senate Bill 2121, the "Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act." It has been enacted into law as PL 109-456. One of the provisions of this law requires the US government to impose sanctions on countries engaged in plundering the DRC. Obama as President and Clinton as Secretary of State have done nothing to implement this law, in the face of several UN reports on the plunder of Congolese natural resources and other forms of wealth by Rwanda and Uganda. The reason for this failure is crystal clear: Rwanda and Uganda are major US allies from the Great Lakes region in the fight against international terrorism, the number one threat of the post-communist age for the United States, with Rwanda having troops in Darfur, and Uganda leading the peacemaking role in Somalia.

The role of President Jimmy Carter in the democratization process is all the more important because it took place before the end of the Cold War. In the wake of the First Shaba War of 1977, Carter sent Ambassador Donald McHenry on a mission designed to read the riot act to then Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko. The gist of McHenry's brief was the liberalization of the system, and Mobutu responded positively by appointing a prime minister to take care of the day-to-day running of the government, and the holding of the freest parliamentary elections that the country ever experienced under a one-party system. Individuals were free to stand for Parliament on their own, instead of being handpicked by the politburo of the ruling party, the Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution (MPR). The result was a parliament full of independent voices, and one that had the courage to stage fairly brutal interpellations, or questions and answer sessions during which cabinet ministers had to explain their policies and justify their expenditures.

It was out of the Parliament elected in the wake of Shaba I that Etienne Tshisekedi and the Group of Thirteen emerged in December 1980 with their fifty-two page letter to Mobutu demanding multi-party democracy. Repeatedly arrested, tortured and jailed under Mobutu's reign of terror, Tshisekedi and a diminishing number of his comrades persisted in their defiance of Mobutu's externally backed kleptocracy. Despite the ban on opposition parties, they founded the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) in February 1982, making the latter the oldest prodemocracy political party in the DRC today. Tshisekedi's exemplary courage in the face of adversity and his commitment to the ideals of democracy and social progress are qualities that ordinary Congolese find admirable in a person who has come to incarnate their deepest aspirations for freedom and material prosperity. As a delegate to the Sovereign National Conference in 1992, I still remember the hugs and applauses we received from the people of Kinshasa when we came out of the People's Palace in the early morning of August 15 following our nightlong election of Tshisekedi as prime minister of the transition to democracy. We were congratulated for having voted for the "people's candidate." For most of the Congolese people today, there is no doubt in their minds that faced with a choice between the neoliberal policies of the dominant centers of world capitalism and the best interests of the Congolese people, he will not hesitate to side with his people.

The same cannot be said of Joseph Kabila, a very weak leader who, after eleven years in power, is still unsure as to what his job is all about. He is more at ease behind the steering wheel of a vehicle (a fast car, a jeep) or on a motorcycle than he is at playing the game of head of state. For someone who had been named major general at twenty-five years of age and without officer training or significant military experience, he is deficient in both military science and the art of governance. ...

Given the strategic importance of the DRC as a land of considerable natural wealth located in the center of Africa, with world-class resources in fresh water, tropical rain forest, hydroelectricity, arable land and numerous minerals, the major powers in the international community do prefer leaders with no national constituency who are easy to manipulate like Joseph Kabila over those like Etienne Tshisekedi, who are unapologetically nationalist and committed to serving their peoples. In eleven years in office, Kabila has failed to fulfill his mandate in restructuring the state and the security forces. Ours is probably the only country in the world with general and superior military officers who cannot read a map, as some of them are illiterate. Instead of a professional and disciplined national army, we have units made up of former rebels and militia groups, who continue to harass the civilian population and engage in heinous crimes such as rape and forced labor. It is also the only army in the world to incorporate an independent militia loyal to a foreign country (Rwanda), the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), which has been commanded by a general who refused orders to deploy to a part of the country other than his own region of origin (Laurent Nkunda), or one for whom there exists an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (Jean-Bosco Ntanganda). The presidential guard, which is the best equipped, trained and paid unit, is rumored to include mercenaries from Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

In the economic and social field, the country's enormous wealth in natural resources has not been used to benefit the mass of the people. Instead, it has gone to enrich the country's rulers and their business and political partners at home and abroad. In the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report, the DRC is ranked the last of 187 nations surveyed in terms of the Human Development Index, a measure of wellbeing based on life expectancy, personal income, health and education. In this context of a failed state, Congolese people would be unlikely to vote for a man who had done nothing for them in more than ten years in power. Kabila and his external backers were surely aware of this in devising his electoral strategy.

The constitution was changed by his loyal parliament to remove the requirement for a run-off election in case no one had received an absolute majority of the votes cast; eighteen new judges were named to the Supreme Court in the middle of the electoral campaign, to make sure that they would ensure Kabila's victory; and Pastor Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, a close political ally of the President, was selected as chair of the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). In addition to these measures, a formidable machine of violence and intimidation, corruption, and electoral fraud was established to make sure that Kabila would come out as a victor. Now that the Catholic bishops of the DRC have called on the CENI to correct their lies or resign, I wonder what US State Department officials who rejected our complaints about Ngoy Mulunda and defended his integrity would say today.


Moreover, why did the CENI refuse to allow the technical teams from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES) sent by the US to help them recount the votes? Recounting the votes on the basis of results from each polling station is the only way of establishing the truth of the ballot box. Figures in the possession of the Catholic Church, which had deployed 30,000 observers or close to half of all polling stations, should be able to help in this process. The bishops must show their commitment to the truth by publishing the results obtained by their observers.

Another comment from external observers is that people have remained largely passive in the face of the election being stolen by Kabila and his cronies, and this might be an indication that they have accepted the current outcome. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All over the world, the Congolese diaspora has proclaimed Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential election and demonstrated against the fraudulent results and their apparent acceptance by the international community. South Africa, Belgium, France and the UK are now deporting Congolese immigrants without appropriate documents in retaliation for their participation in sometimes violent protests. Were the DRC a country in which the rulers and the security forces respected the rule of law, millions of Congolese would also descend in the streets of our cities and towns to enact what their compatriots living in liberal democracies are doing. During the electoral campaign, when it was relatively easier to manifest their political sentiments, Tshisekedi was the single candidate to draw the largest number of people at his rallies all over the Congo, in each of its eleven provinces, including supposedly hostile areas like Katanga and Maniema. On 26 November, the last day of campaigning, the police held him hostage for nearly six hours at the airport, and prevented him for holding his final rally in Kinshasa. Over ten opposition supporters were killed on that day by the security forces.

The DRC is a country in which approximately six million people have been killed as a result of the Congo wars of 1996-97 and 1998-2003, together with their economic and social consequences in the affected areas. Other parts of the country have also known episodes of state-sponsored terrorism, notably the brutal repression of the politicoreligious group Bundu-dia-Kongo (BDK) in Lower Congo, ethnic cleansing of peoples from KasaÃ&hibar; in the Katanga province, and retaliatory killings for anti-state and communal violence in Equateur. A comprehensive record of the most important of the crimes committed between 1993 and 2003 has been compiled in the mapping report published on October 1, 2010 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. State responsibility for some of the criminal acts is well established, and this includes the wanton killing of BDK adherents, and the assassinations of journalists such as Bapuwa Mwamba in 2006 and of human rights activists such as Floribert Chebeya in 2010.


By recognizing Kabila as DRC president after fraudulent electoral results, Western powers and the international community are showing that their strategic interests are more important than their avowed commitment to democracy and justice. Recently, the international community did recognize Alassane Ouattara as president of Côte d'Ivoire in spite of the decision of that country's Constitutional Court in favor of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo. Following a UN Security Council resolution calling for the protection of Libyan civilians against the regime of the late Muammar Qaddafi, major Western powers led by NATO recognized the Libyan rebels as legitimate representatives of the Libyan people and their aspirations for change. Refusal to recognize Tshisekedi as the winner of the presidential election and the legitimate representative of the deepest aspirations of the Congolese people for democracy and social progress amounts to both hypocrisy and double standards, particularly for those states claiming to stand for democracy and human rights. It will at least let us know who our true friends and enemies are in the world today.

In remaining in office based on fraudulent electoral results, Kabila has usurped power in the DRC. He is therefore in violation of both our country's constitution and the African Union's Resolution against unconstitutional change of government. In accordance with Article 64 of the DRC constitution, which recognizes the right and the duty of Congolese citizens to resist the usurpation or seizure of power by unconstitutional means, peaceful manifestations of resistance will continue at home and in the diaspora against the illegal Kabila regime. To prevent further violence and unnecessary loss of life due to the current impasse, Kabila must be pressured to accept an honorable exit similar to the way that Fredrick De Klerk did in post-apartheid South Africa, by becoming President of the Senate, which is the second highest office in the country. He must accept the verdict of the ballot box and the people's choice of Tshisekedi as the person who must preside over the process of change and reconstruction in the Congo. A power sharing formula similar to those in Kenya or Zimbabwe is simply not workable, given the history of the last twenty years since the National Conference. Sharing cabinet posts, state enterprises, and ambassadorships among the different political groupings is not necessarily a way of solving the most important issue facing our country today, namely, the restructuring of the state to strengthen its capacity for order and security, revenue mobilization internally, service delivery, and economic development.

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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