This Congo election has a different feel to it. Yes, there is widespread chicanery at the polling places. Yes, the current administration has done its best to rig the polling in its favor. Yes, the foreign governments with major economic interests in Congo have trained the security forces to keep a lid on dissent. But you can’t look at the pictures in the gallery displayed here and turn away thinking this is just another sham election in Congo.
Certainly the uprisings worldwide of people demanding a say in how they are ruled have also made a difference. The
Congolese are starved for news of world politics and even lack reporting on developments in Congo with great impact on their lives. But what has happened this year in Libya, in Tunisia and Egypt and most recently in Russia demonstrates the power of the people when they demand to have a say and the Congolese have never been known for their silence. Members of the Congolese diaspora have angrily protested rigging of this election in favor of the incumbent and his foreign backers in Toronto, Johannesburg, Washington, London and Brussels. This is a milestone election no matter the outcome. If not this time, then the next election (and there will be another election in five years or greater mayhem will surely ensue) the result will be a government elected by the majority of the people.
But there is another reason this election feels different. There seems to be greater awareness this time of what is at stake for the world with an election in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This time, several commentators have noted the
grotesque injustice of the “richest nation on earth” having the lowest ranking in the Human Development Index ranking of the nations of the world. More international observers seem to be asking how long do we humans who champion democracy and self rule allow such a shameful oppression of a people to continue? Not much longer if the Congolese people have anything to say about it has to be the response and they will have a say in the aftermath of this election and in the results of the next election.
The massive turnout for this year’s election and the protests already registered over lack of polling places, “stuffed” ballot boxes, and attempts to disenfranchise supporters of the opposition UDPS Tshisekedi party all point to a new day in Congo politics if not now then soon. The people of Congo with their unrest over the handling of the election and the likely results of this election are demonstrating a vision of their part in bringing to reality the day when as the Psalmist says,
“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet,
Righteousness and peace shall kiss each other.” Ps 85:10 NRSV translation