News / Africa

Election Mania Sweeps Across Congo’s Troubled East

In the final week before Congo's elections, campaign trucks - like this one for the ruling party that at one time enjoyed immense popularity in the east - drive down the dirt roads of the North Kivu regional capital, Goma, November 2011.
In the final week before Congo's elections, campaign trucks - like this one for the ruling party that at one time enjoyed immense popularity in the east - drive down the dirt roads of the North Kivu regional capital, Goma, November 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Heather Murdock

Tensions and spirits are running high in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as voters and politicians gear up for the second set of post-civil war elections. In the war-torn province of North Kivu, campaigners have taken to the streets, and some activists say only political change will bring peace to this region.  

Next to a market on the dirt roads in downtown Goma, this truck is festooned with campaign posters, and dancers in traditional garb stomp on the flat bed.

Every candidate in next week's presidential and parliamentary elections is assigned a number. One man said voters should and will choose number three, the current president, Joseph Kabila.

Revitalizing a devastated region

He said North Kivu has been a war zone for decades. He also said Kabila needs to stay on top and be given time to implement a 2008 power-sharing agreement that was designed to bring calm to the east.

Kabila once enjoyed massive popularity in this province, but a few streets over, supporters of candidate number five, Vital Kamerhe, gather outside his local campaign headquarters waving their hands, fingers spread wide, shouting “number five.”

Kamerhe is among the top three out of 11 contenders for the presidential seat, and is particularly popular in the east. Standing on a street corner asking passersby about the elections, it takes just minutes to draw a crowd declaring their support for Kamerhe.

When asked what will happen if the president wins, this pro-Kamerhe crowd yells out, saying it would be proof that the ruling party rigged the elections. They say only fraud could make their man lose, and if he does, they will take to the streets.

Support for opposition candidate

Christian Badose is candidate number 100 of about 1,800 running for parliament. He supports Etienne Tshisekedi, perhaps the most formidable opposition candidate for President Kabila. Tshisekedi already has declared himself the winner, and called for the release of political prisoners.

Badose said his candidate will sweep the elections if they are done right. But he said the electoral commission has neither the will nor the capacity to hold transparent, free elections.

He said the commission is made up of the same people that ran the 2006 elections, which were marred by violence and rumors of fraud.

But at the president’s regional headquarters, Cyrille Muhongya, who leads the ruling party’s local campaign, said the electoral commission is an independent body preparing to conduct fair and democratic elections on November 28, as scheduled.

Hoping for positive change

Muhongya said the elections are being watched closely by international observers. He said he is confident the president will be re-elected fairly. He added, though, that Kabila and his supporters are prepared to step aside quietly in the unlikely event that they lose at the polls.

Many Congolese aid workers say they also supported the president in his 2006 bid - the first Congolese elections in 40 years. But they say this province was promised a lot of desperately needed resources and development, and nothing has changed.

Justine Masika is the director of the aid organization Synergy of Women for Victims of Sexual Violence in Goma. She helps rape victims get medical, legal and psychological aid. She said political change and development is the only way to stop the rape and looting that is still crushing villages in the Congolese countryside.

Like many activists in the east, Masika said the old regime made promises that were never kept. New leadership, she said, may have the political will to develop government institutions, like much-needed additional courts, or provide basic services like water and electricity - and offer some relief to the region.






You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid